This condition is an autoimmune skin disease, where the immune system attacks healthy tissues because it mistakes them for unhealthy ones.
Symptoms of psoriasis, include skin rashes, dryness, flakiness, peeling, small bumps, skin thickness, and redness.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, up to 25 percent of people with psoriasis are sensitive to gluten. These people could consider a gluten-free diet to help them to manage symptoms of psoriasis.
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The connection between psoriasis and gluten
Gluten is contained in wheat and other grains, making it a common ingredient in many everyday foods, such as breads, cereals, and pasta.
Gluten is the name given to a group of proteins found in wheat and other similar grains, including rye, barley, and oat. Gluten is what physically shapes certain foods, in a similar way to how glue binds things together.
Gluten is found in a range of foods, including breads, cereals, pasta, cakes, and cookies. And because it is in so many foods, the best way to avoid it is to read the food labels.
One 2013 survey from the NPD Group found that at least 30 percent of American adults are trying to cut down or have completely removed gluten from their diets.
Most people can tolerate gluten, but for others, especially those with serious health conditions, gluten causes problems. Some people have celiac disease, which is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system treats gluten as a foreign invader and attacks the gluten and lining of the stomach.
Someone with psoriasis may not have celiac disease but can still be sensitive to gluten. If someone is gluten sensitive but does not have celiac disease, they have a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
According to some research, as many as 13 percent of people are gluten-sensitive. However, as little is known about gluten sensitivity, it is possible that the true percentage is higher.
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include:
If a person has any bothersome symptoms after eating gluten, a doctor will first need to rule out allergies and celiac disease.
- stomach pain and cramping
- lactose intolerance
- weight loss
There is no specific way diagnose gluten sensitivity. If a person experiences problems after eating gluten, a doctor will first need to rule out celiac disease and other allergies before diagnosing gluten sensitivity.
Many people with psoriasis wonder whether a gluten-free diet can help improve their symptoms. Recent studies show gluten may play a part in the severity of psoriasis and that a gluten-free diet may help improve symptoms in some people.
One study, included in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, reported on the impact of a gluten-free diet in 33 psoriasis patients with raised levels of a certain type of antibody called anti-gliadin antibodies.
Antibodies are formed when your body is trying to fight foreign invaders. Gliadin is one of the main proteins in gluten and mainly responsible for gluten sensitivity.
After 3 months on a gluten-free diet, anti-gliadin antibody levels were lower in 82 percent of the study participants, suggesting gluten-free diets may help some psoriasis patients.
Another study published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology found that more than a third of participants had elevated antibodies to gliadin in blood samples taken from them.
Do gluten-free diets help?
Research does seem to suggest that gluten-free diets may help people to manage symptoms of psoriasis. However, some experts don't believe that gluten sensitivity is a real condition. Instead, they believe that symptoms are likely caused by other conditions.
One 2015 study looked at 400 people who claimed to be sensitive to gluten and examined whether their symptoms improved with a gluten-free diet. From the group of 400, only 27 were diagnosed as gluten sensitive. The researchers concluded that the symptoms the other participants were experiencing might be explained by other conditions.
Research is mixed as to whether gluten-free diets help people control psoriasis symptoms. But people who are eating gluten-free diets with psoriasis seem to experience fewer symptoms and complications.
Pros and cons of a gluten-free diet
Some possible benefits of a gluten-free diet are reduced psoriasis symptoms, eating a more healthful diet, and having more energy. By eating gluten-free, people tend to remove certain junk foods from their diet.
Since gluten is such a common ingredient, it is important to read the packaging carefully on grocery items.
The following foods all typically contain gluten:
- luncheon meats
- salad dressings
People on a gluten-free diet are limited to foods that are 100 percent gluten-free. To ensure that everything they buy is completely gluten-free, it is important to read the packaging carefully.
This can be challenging for many people. When shopping for food, people should focus on areas selling fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy.
Some people who are strictly gluten-free may find themselves deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients. These include, but are not limited to:
People may want to ask their doctor to test for deficiencies and suggest ways to get more of these key vitamins and nutrients. They can be obtained through dietary supplements and non-gluten foods.
A person who has psoriasis and who decides to eat gluten-free should persevere with the diet for at least 3 months. Sometimes it may take this amount of time for any improvements in the psoriasis symptoms to occur.
After 3 months, people can start adding gluten back into their diet to see if there is any increase in symptoms of psoriasis, such as:
- skin patches
- joint pain
If there is no clear difference in symptoms, it is probably fine to add gluten back into the diet.
Anyone considering a gluten-free diet should talk to their doctor or a dietitian about the best way to go about it. The Celiac Disease Foundation is a great source for information about gluten-free diets. Their website contains lists of foods to avoid and include as part of a gluten-free diet.