We Don’t Know If Changes in Diet Can Reduce Psoriasis, But Some Foods May Affect Severity
Patients shouldn't treat their psoriasis with diet alone - it should be an add on to a dermatologist-approved treatment.
There is no cure for psoriasis, which is an inflammatory disease that causes raised red patches on the skin. The condition usually occurs on the scalp, knees or elbows, though it can occur anywhere on the body. Psoriasis can be painful, itchy, and overall uncomfortable. The cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it’s safe to say that genetics and environmental factors play a part. A flare up of psoriasis the result of an overactive immune system. This causes inflammation which leads to the production of too many immune cells. Environmental triggers can include stress or certain medications, though it varies from patient to patient.
Although there is little scientific data to support the claim that changes in diet can reduce psoriasis, some patients do notice that certain foods and ingredients can affect the severity of their condition. Studies have found that a high Body Mass Index (BMI) is associated with a higher risk of developing psoriasis, as well as increasing the severity of the disease. Another study found that overweight patients who lost weight experienced a noticeable improvement in their psoriasis.
Integrate Non-Harmful Foods in Your Diet
I recommend that patients integrate certain foods into their diet, as there is certainly no harm in exploring healthy eating habits. I advise many of my psoriasis patients to reevaluate their diet, and make healthy, balanced food choices throughout their treatment journey. Before making any diet changes, patients should always check with their physicians first.
Fruits, Vegetables and Psoriasis
Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is key, as the nutrients from both can have an anti-inflammatory effect, while providing key vitamins and nutrients to the body. Other anti-inflammatory foods include grains like whole grain bread and oatmeal, which provide a healthy dose of fiber as well. Olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and cold-water fish (salmon or albacore tuna), sweet potatoes, spinach, and strawberries are more examples of nutritious food that can reduce inflammation. All of these ingredients can be easily added to most diet plans.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and walnuts help reduce inflammation as well. Omega-3 is also known to aid the immune system, which could be beneficial during psoriasis treatment, since an overactive immune system results in flare-ups. Omega-3 is also found in vegetable oils, and seeds, and can also be ingested via fish oil supplements for convenience. Patients should always ask their physician before trying a new supplement.
As always, there are foods and ingredients that should be avoided in order to potentially reduce psoriasis flare-ups. Psoriasis patients should limit their intake of cholesterol, while increasing the amount of lean meats, fish, eggs and nuts that they consume, to promote a healthy heart. Since psoriasis is associated with cardiovascular health, it is plausible that preventing any cardiovascular issues can reduce psoriasis flare-ups. Psoriasis and heart disease are both inflammatory diseases, so taking care of your heart is mutually beneficial.
Eliminating alcohol from your diet is helpful and recommended, as alcohol can interfere with medications, and even lower treatment response. Alcohol opens up blood vessels in the skin, allowing T cells to get to the outer layers of the skin more easily, which is the last thing psoriasis patients need. Plus, alcohol is dehydrating and not good for the skin in general, and excessive amounts can cause inflammation. Psoriasis patients should avoid smoking, because it is known to make psoriasis worse. I advise all of my psoriasis patients to stop smoking immediately. Smoking is an aggravator, plus cigarettes are filled with many toxic ingredients that can cause cell damage.
Avoid These Fruits and Vegetables Connected To Psoriasis
Avoid fruits and vegetables that are a part of the nightshade family, which may have a connection to psoriasis breakouts. Again, there is little evidence to prove this, but switching them out for non-nightshade options is a simple step. Tomatoes and eggplants are part of the nightshade family. A full-fat dairy is known to trigger inflammation, and should be avoided when possible. Try switching for low-fat dairy products, or soy-based products.
It’s also advised to avoid saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar, all of which promote inflammation. It’s best to avoid foods that have limited nutritional value, which tend to contain the previously mentioned ingredients. Red meat is known to be inflammatory as well; it’s best to stick to lean meats.
Finally, practice portion control, stay hydrated, and always consult a doctor when considering making a drastic change in your everyday diet. It’s helpful to keep a food diary to track any flare-ups, and potentially find a correlation among the food you’re eating.
In most cases, a healthy diet will only make a difference if it is being followed alongside a psoriasis medication or treatment. There are many treatment options out there for psoriasis conditions ranging from mild to severe, and the first step is to visit a dermatologist. Treating psoriasis is critical and what works for one patient might not work for another. Depending on the severity of psoriasis and type, treatments include topicals like creams and lotions, light therapy, oral drugs, and injectables. Topicals are usually the first treatment option that patients try, followed by oral treatments and injectables.
For those who have tried just about everything to treat their psoriasis with limited results, there are new biologic injectable treatments available which have shown amazing results. One of the treatments, SILIQ, is the only psoriasis treatment available that has demonstrated 100% improvement in the psoriasis area during clinical trials as a primary endpoint. This is impressive considering that most treatments clear up psoriasis significantly, but rarely offer 100% clearance. SILIQ works differently than other psoriasis medicines by blocking a specific group of proteins at the site of inflammation.
Dr. Green is a Dermatologist in Rockville, MD. He has been voted a top dermatologist by Washingtonian Magazine in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2011,2014, and 2015. He has been selected as a Washington DC area "Super Doctor," has been listed in the national edition of Castle Connolly Top Doctor's directory, and is also listed in the Global Directory of WHO's WHO as a top doctor in Washington DC. Dr. Green is frequently interviewed by national television networks, radio, and large circulation newspapers and magazines.