Can Your Diet Affect Psoriasis?

Annette McDermott
Colorful fruits and vegetables

If you have psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that causes dry, red, scaly patches of skin, you will do almost anything to find relief. Taking control of your diet may help minimize symptoms.

Psoriasis and Diet

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), there's little scientific evidence that proves a connection between diet and psoriasis. This doesn't mean a connection doesn't exist, but more research is needed to prove it one way or another. However, a few studies support the theory that diet affects psoriasis.

Weight Loss

Losing weight may help relieve psoriasis symptoms. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found a high body mass index (BMI) increases your psoriasis risk and its severity. Another study published in Dermatology Research and Practice supports the obesity/psoriasis link. The study investigated the impact of moderate weight loss in obese people with chronic plaque psoriasis. Ten patients were treated for 24 weeks with a low-calorie diet and topical psoriasis treatment. Fifty percent of patients experienced a 50 percent or more improvement in psoriasis area and severity.

Weight loss usually improves quality of life and may lead to better overall health and less stress. Since, according to NPF, stress is a major psoriasis trigger, weight loss that helps relieve stress may also improve psoriasis symptoms.

The Gluten Connection

If you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by gluten intolerance, some evidence suggests a gluten-free diet may help psoriasis.

A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology determined psoriasis patients with antibodies to gliadin, a protein found in wheat and other cereals, may benefit from a gluten-free diet. In the study, 33 percent of patients who tested positive for gliadin antibodies followed a gluten-free diet for three months. Thirty showed a "highly significant decrease" in psoriasis area and severity.

Following a gluten-free diet is challenging because gluten "hides" in many foods. As a result, it's important to educate yourself about gluten and its derivatives. If you attempt a gluten-free diet to help psoriasis, be patient. NPF suggests avoiding all gluten for at least three months to see a benefit.

Alcohol and Smoking

According to a review published in the International Journal of Dermatology, drinking alcohol may trigger psoriasis or worsen symptoms, especially in young men. In addition, alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver disease is prominent among psoriasis patients. Alcohol may also interact with some psoriasis medications.

Smoking isn't a food, but it is often part of the eating experience. One study showed heavy smokers have twice the risk of developing psoriasis than non-smokers. How long you smoked also matters. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine concluded past and current smokers have an increased psoriasis risk. Study results suggest stopping smoking may help prevent and manage psoriasis.

Diets to Avoid

Do a quick internet search on "diets for psoriasis," and you'll end up with thousands of results suggesting what you should and should not eat. WebMD advises caution when considering anecdotal diet approaches that promise a cure. Some recommended psoriasis diets, such as those that include enemas, fasting, or extreme supplementation, may be expensive and even dangerous. Use common sense and consult your doctor before starting any new diet.

What You Should Eat

NPF suggests a healthy diet for people with psoriasis is the same as a healthy diet for people who don't have the disease. It should avoid refined sugars and processed foods and encourage a healthy weight and BMI. Include whole foods in your diet such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy
  • Lean meats and poultry
  • Fish
  • Beans and nuts

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Since psoriasis causes skin inflammation, some people benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet which includes:

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries and leafy greens
  • Foods rich in carotenoids, such as sweet potatoes, mangoes, carrots, and squash
  • Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts
  • Cold-water fish

You should avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body, such as fatty red meats, processed foods, refined sugar, fried foods, and dairy products.

An Ongoing Debate

When it comes to determining if diet affects psoriasis, the jury is still out. More research is needed. However, some evidence suggests there's not much to lose and potentially a lot to gain by eating an overall healthy diet if you have psoriasis. Talk to your doctor before changing your diet and ask for a referral to a nutritionist to help map out an eating plan that's right for you.

Can Your Diet Affect Psoriasis?