Top 6 Foods That Cause Excessive Ear Wax
February 01, 2022

It’s no secret that the food you eat on a daily basis impacts how your body functions. The human body is constantly utilizing energy and nutrients from food, but some foods can have the ability to alter the way in which the body functions.

A prime example of this is when you look at how a poor diet can increase the prevalence of things like acne. It is widely believed that foods associated with poor diets like refined sugar actually interact and change the level of sebum production, composition, bacteria on the skin and contribute to the increased prevalence of acne. All of this leads many people looking for clear skin to adopt a few dietary habits. 

Another way that diet is thought to impact your bodily function is through the production of earwax. Ear wax is an orange-tinted substance that is excreted from the ear canal and is utilized to help protect the ear from foreign objects getting trapped in the ear and help to ward off infection thanks to its antimicrobial properties.

Ear wax serves many important functions, but it is not infallible. One aspect of earwax that some people have to deal with is the overproduction of earwax and subsequent blockages that may arise as a result. Blockages can even be enough to cause conductive hearing loss. The amount of earwax you create as an individual can vary based on your genetics, environment, and diet.

Here is a closer look at different categories of food that could contribute to the increased production of earwax. 

Gluten

Gluten is a chemical compound that is found in a number of different products, but it is mainly associated with baked food items like bread or grains such as rye and barley. The molecule of gluten acts as a binder. While it is tolerable to many people, some people have an intolerance or even allergy to it. 

If you are not already eating gluten-free, the fact that gluten may increase your ear wax production could help you to finely make the switch. Below is a closer look at some foods that contain high amounts of gluten so you have a better understanding of the foods you should avoid. 

Baked Goods

Everybody enjoys a nice sweet treat every once in a while, but what if that tasty danish behind the glass at your local bakery is contributing to your elevated ear wax production and causing you ear blockages?

Most people are able to forgo sources of gluten like barley, but baked goods tend to be the kryptonite for those that are trying to be gluten-free. Bread, croissants, bagels, muffins, and cake are all delicious in their own right. Yet, they might come with a hefty price to pay in terms of their gluten content. 

While this can be torturous for some, it is essential to note that there are plenty of gluten-free baked items available to help curb your cravings. 

Pasta

Pasta is food that can contain gluten. If you have ever made homemade noodles, you are most likely familiar with the fact that flour plays a pivotal role in a good noodle. Standard flour inherently contains gluten. As a result, you may have to forgo authentic Italian cuisine. 

While wheat-based pasta may not be allowed, there are a number of different pasta alternatives that have popped up in recent years that utilize ingredients such as lentils and beans. Not only do these contain no gluten, but they also provide more protein and nutrition. 

Lactose

At some point or another, you have likely heard of lactose intolerance, but you may have wondered what exactly it means. Lactose is a specific type of sugar molecule that is present in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and other animal-based milk.

An intolerance is essentially a difficulty digesting, and those with lactose intolerance can have a difficult time properly digesting lactose. 

According to the NIH, it is estimated that nearly 68% of the world’s population has some level of difficulty properly digesting lactose. Lactose intolerance may present itself in a number of gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and an upset stomach, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Countless people claim that lactose appears to be a contributing factor to increased ear wax production. If you are looking to decrease that production, you may want to consider pairing down on foods with lactose or choose alternatives and avoid lactose altogether.

Read on for a closer look at foods that are high in lactose that you may want to limit or avoid.

Milk

Milk is an integral part of many people’s day. Having a little cream in your coffee, starting off the day with a bowl of cereal, or having a nice latte at your favorite coffee shop are all ways that milk sneaks into the diets of many. 

Milk contains a quite large source of lactose, and it can be a challenging food to kick. Dry cereal is not exactly a popular menu item. Luckily, not all milk is created equal, and there are some wonderful lactose-free alternatives.

Milk that comes from animals almost always contains some degree of lactose unless otherwise stated. You can buy specialty animal milk or opt for an option like almond milk or oat milk. 

Cheese

If you were to ask most people who quit dairy, they would likely tell you that cheese was one of the hardest things to give up. There are so many types of cheese, and they are found in countless recipes and delicious meals. Harder cheeses tend to have a lower amount of lactose, but it can still cause problems for those that are lactose intolerant. 

Cheese substitutes do exist, but they are not as widely available as standard cheeses. The best method to curbing cheese would be to take it slow. Gradually decrease your intake and slowly transition to eating less and less of it. 

Caffeine

Caffeine is a molecule that is all too familiar to many people across the world. Caffeine is considered a stimulant. People across the world utilize this to their advantage to help them stay alert, focused, and energized. 

While many people find that caffeine benefits their ability to stay productive, it can come with its fair share of downsides. Aside from potentially contributing to feelings of anxiety and restlessness, caffeine can also impact your ears. Caffeine can be a trigger for tinnitus, and it is thought that it may impact earwax production. 

Coffee

Coffee is one of the most globally utilized beverages. In the past decade alone, it is estimated that its yearly consumption has increased by nearly 1.2 billion pounds. People enjoy a cup of coffee as a part of their morning ritual to get them energized for the day or as they get work done in the comforts of a cafe. 

As coffee plays an important part in many people’s lives, it can be quite difficult to quit entirely. Rather than trying to quit cold turkey, you may want to slowly decrease your caffeine consumption. Every person responds slightly differently to caffeine. Finding the balance between getting the energy benefits without side effects such as tinnitus can allow you to still enjoy your morning cup of joe and not have to deal with annoying side effects. 

Chocolate

Many people enjoy chocolate as a comfort food or as a sweet treat to finish off the day and while there is nothing wrong with it in moderation, it is essential to note that chocolate does naturally contain caffeine.

If you are trying to single out the food in your diet that may be contributing to your excessive ear wax production, you may want to try limiting your chocolate consumption and see if it changes anything. 

Other Reasons for Excess Wax

While diet could certainly be a contributing factor in your ear wax production, it is only one small factor. Many other factors could make you more susceptible to ear wax buildup, and below is a closer look at a few of them. 

Genetics

Genetics is something that determines a lot about who we are, and it can even impact your propensity to have excess earwax.

Some people just happen to be born with more active ceruminous glands, while others may be born with more narrow ear canals that are unable to let wax escape effectively. 

Ear Bud and Hearing Aids

Another factor that could lead to a buildup of wax is the frequent use of devices that block the entrance of the ear canal. The ear is able to drain wax from the ear all on its own. When devices like hearing aids block the canal, it can cause the wax to build up.

This could give you the illusion that you are producing more wax. But, in reality, your body is just unable to remove it.

Nutrition and Ear Health

In summary, the exact science behind nutrition and ear wax production are not entirely understood. Yet, there are certain foods that people believe cause excessive earwax.

If you do happen to have excess ear wax, trying to limit these foods won’t likely do any harm and could potentially help. As always, if you have a question about your health, including nutritional habits, reach out to your physician for advice.


Sources

What is Gluten? | Celiac Disease Foundation.

Definition & Facts for Lactose Intolerance | NIDDK.

Global coffee consumption, 2020/21 | Statista

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Drew Sutton M.D.

Drew Sutton, MD is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has extensive experience and training in sinus and respiratory diseases, ear and skull base surgery, and pulmonary disorders. He has served as a Clinical Instructor at Grady Hospital Emory University for more than 12 years.

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