Many people living with the burden of psoriasis believe that what they eat can modify the severity of their psoriasis symptoms. Some connect certain foods to symptom relief, while others purposefully avoid certain food groups that may act as a ‘trigger’ and cause the condition to worsen. Despite beliefs that there is a connection between psoriasis and diet, we remain uncertain as to whether a psoriasis diet plan will effectively reduce the symptoms of the skin condition. Regardless of the impact that diet may have on you, it is important to stress that any psoriasis dietary plan should be made in partnership with a qualified health care professional or a registered nutritionist or dietician.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a serious autoimmune disease that can lead to severe wider health problems and impact an individual’s physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. The condition is long-lasting and often develops from childhood where by people typically experience red scaly patches which appear on the surface of the skin, leading to severe itchiness and irritation on any area of the body or scalp.
Due to a lack of understanding and public awareness of psoriasis, there is a common misconception that the disease is contagious and can be passed on from one person to another through physical contact. This false misunderstanding causes a great deal of social exclusion, discrimination and stigma, a factor which can be hugely challenging for individuals living with psoriasis.
The World Health Organisation has reported that younger people who suffer with severe psoriasis are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease or a stroke. Far from being ‘just a skin condition’, psoriasis can also seriously impact the emotional wellbeing of an individual. The condition can prompt feelings of anger or helplessness and have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Those living with the condition are also reported to have an increased risk of being diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder.
How can diet affect psoriasis?
While diet is not currently recognised as a treatment for psoriasis, dietary intervention can be an effective and healthy way to help people feel in control of the condition. There are a number of tips which dermatologists believe can help manage psoriasis:
Anti - inflammatory psoriasis diet
As psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, you may benefit from avoiding foods which are proven to increase inflammation. These types of food include dairy products, fatty red meats and processed foods which are high in salt content. Often hard to digest, these foods are likely to cause swelling and can potentially worsen the symptoms of psoriasis. Instead people with psoriasis are encouraged to stick to heart-healthy eating which includes a diet of fruit, vegetables, fish and meats that are low in fat.
Heart healthy approach
Researchers have found that an accumulation of body toxins can lead to psoriasis development. In order to detoxify the body from harmful toxins, it is important to also make positive changes to both diet and lifestyle. Regular physical activity, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption are all factors than can improve heart health and counteract symptoms of psoriasis.
As part of a heart healthy diet, eating fish twice a week has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation. According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, patients who observed a pescetarian diet saw a great improvement to their skin condition. Regular consumption of oily fish which are rich in ‘omega-3 fatty acids’ alongside a balanced, healthy diet which is low in fat and salt can result in a positive impact on psoriasis.
Weight loss approach
Researchers looking into the importance of diet and lifestyle have identified an association between weight loss and a reduction in the symptoms of psoriasis. The results of a 2014 study found that the more a person’s weight decreased, the more their symptoms of psoriasis improved. In addition to this, research has found that the effects of weight loss can have a ‘long-lasting improvement’ on psoriasis symptoms and amongst people who are able to lose 10% to 15% of their body weight, a significant improvement on quality of life is likely to be witnessed.
What’s more, weight loss can significantly reduce the weight-bearing impact on the hips and knee joints, as well as reduce the likelihood of developing other diseases associated with psoriasis, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Gluten - free approach
Gluten is a protein found in common cereal grains including wheat and barley. Excluding gluten is often an important decision to make and appears to be a factor for many individuals considering a psoriasis treatment diet. There is no published evidence that going on a gluten-free diet can improve psoriasis, however many people who eliminate the protein do see an improvement.
According to new research, it is estimated that as many as 25% of people living with psoriasis are also sensitive to gluten, an illness known to be twice as common amongst people with psoriasis. There are strong claims that a gluten-free diet is helpful in reducing inflammation around the skin and may see a reduction in symptoms of guttate psoriasis. In creating a gluten-free diet for guttate psoriasis, it is advised that individuals work with a qualified nutritionist to identify which foods may be beneficial.
Vitamins and supplements
A diet high in vitamins and minerals can naturally help chronic indigestion and constipation, allowing for healthy digestion and a reduction in the build-up of body toxins which are likely to accelerate psoriasis development. While there is no proven link between vitamins and psoriatic disease, by eliminating foods which are hard to digest and instead increasing intake of nutrients which are high in antioxidants, many experience easing of the symptoms of psoriasis. It is advised that people with psoriasis eliminate toxins from the body by avoiding manufactured foods which are high in chemicals, and instead including a diet of fresh, organic foods which are high in vitamin A and vitamin C.
Vitamins such as B12 and vitamin D are believed to counteract the body's response to inflammation associated with psoriasis, however more long-term studies are required in order to determine the true impact of these supplements.
National Psoriasis Foundation (2016). Vitamins and Supplements. Available from https://www.psoriasis.org/treating-psoriasis/complementary-and-alternative/diet-and-nutrition/vitamins-and-supplements
This content is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.
UK/IE MAT-09232 Date of prep: May 2017