Psoriasis is a skin disease marked by inflammation across the body and dense, scaly patches. Some practitioners suggest that dietary choices can improve or worsen the severity of the condition.
While the immune system has a key role to play in causing its characteristic scaly patches, researchers have often linked psoriasis to diseases that increase the risk of heart problems, known as metabolic diseases.
Preventing these diseases involves a balanced nutrient intake. Some vitamins, such as vitamin A, D, E, and K, are essential for life and wellbeing.
Although there is little evidence to confirm the direct benefits of these vitamins for treating people who have psoriasis, some studies suggest that integrating vitamin therapy into a psoriasis treatment plan may be helpful.
In this article, we explore the available evidence to support the use of vitamins in managing psoriasis and compare them to conventional treatments.
The major fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Water-soluble vitamins include the B vitamins and vitamin C.
The method through which the body absorbs a vitamin helps define its intended effect.
Aside from vitamin D, people can obtain most vitamins only from the diet. The body synthesizes vitamin D after exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun.
Chemical compounds containing vitamin A, also known as retinoids, are essential for the production of healthy skin cells, Yellow and orange vegetables are often excellent sources of vitamin A.
People sometimes apply vitamin A directly to the skin to treat sun damage. In psoriasis, the body produces too many skin cells. Vitamin A can help improve psoriasis symptoms by reducing this overproduction.
Using retinoids on the skin can reduce inflammation in plaque psoriasis. The body absorbs topical vitamin A creams more slowly than oral vitamin A-based supplements, resulting in fewer side effects.
Vitamin A supplements can help psoriasis. However, it is always better to consume nutrients from food. Speak with a doctor before taking supplements to managwe a particular condition.
Practitioners sometimes treat psoriasis using light therapy.
The therapeutic effect of sunlight lies in its ability to help the body produce vitamin D. This is a powerful hormone that plays a role in hundreds of metabolic reactions.
A study from 2013 showed that using both oral and topical vitamin D preparations improved psoriasis symptoms.
Another more recent study has shown that taking or applying supplemental vitamin D with a steroid cream produces more favorable results than taking only vitamin D.
Oxidative stress occurs when levels of disease-triggering free radical molecules and protective antioxidant substances are imbalanced. Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin that also serves as a powerful antioxidant, may be helpful for psoriasis in reducing the action of free radicals.
Get vitamin C from the diet, from supplements, or both. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and berries.
People with psoriasis often have low serum levels of selenium, a potent antioxidant.
In one study, vitamin supplements helped to improve selenium concentrations in people with psoriasis. However, there is no significant evidence that this reduces the severity of psoriasis symptoms.
However, as vitamin E and selenium are both antioxidants, they can help to protect against some of the oxidative stress that occurs with psoriasis.
People can take oral vitamin E supplements with the advice of a qualified physician. Pumpkin seeds and spinach are two good sources of vitamin E.
Other nutrients for psoriasis
Vitamins are not the only types of nutrient that might help reduce psoriasis symptoms.
While people often recommend the above vitamins to treat psoriasis, the most reliable solution is to eat a nutritious, balanced diet, free from processed food, alongside conventional treatments.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements. It can be difficult to make sure that all ingredients in a supplement are both of a high quality and mentioned on the packaging.
Ask a doctor to recommend reliable brands that include the ingredients on the label.
Supplements that contain unnamed ingredients may interfere with other medications a person is taking.
The cornerstone of psoriasis treatment is prevention. Avoiding certain triggers can prevent psoriasis from flaring up. This can help to reduce reliance on over-the-counter and pharmaceutical medications.
Some prevention tips to keep in mind include:
- minimizing stress levels
- keeping the skin moisturized, as outbreaks are more likely to occur on dry skin
- staying inside as much as possible during the winter, as cold weather can dry the skin
- using a humidifier during the colder months to help keep the skin moist and prevent outbreaks
People commonly use topical creams, oils, and preparations to treat psoriasis. Creams that contain certain steroids can help to reduce inflammation, minimize itching, and slow down the production of skin cells.
Light therapy and oral medications may also be part of the treatment.
Currently, there is limited evidence to suggest diet affects psoriatic symptoms.
One study found that a Mediterranean diet might have a beneficial effect on psoriasis. This is because it helps to prevent other metabolic inflammatory conditions that can influence psoriasis, such as obesity and diabetes.
Fish is a major component of the Mediterranean diet and contributes large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory agent.
Dietary methods for controlling psoriasis often focus on reducing inflammation.
Getting rid of refined carbohydrates and sugar and replacing these foods with more vegetables, nuts, seeds, and low-sugar fruits may be helpful for accomplishing this goal.
The debate continues, however, about whether certain foods can reduce psoriatic inflammation. If symptoms do not respond to dietary changes, seek medical assistance.
Vitamins are no replacement for conventional psoriasis treatments, but vitamins A, E, D, and C may help to reduce symptoms and prevent severe flare-ups.
Speak to a doctor before supplementing vitamins to manage a medical condition. Vitamin intake is more effective in the diet than in supplement form.
Which foods make psoriasis symptoms worse?
It is difficult to say that certain foods will make your psoriasis worse because what works for one person may not work for another.
Some more common foods that have been reported to make psoriasis worse are alcohol, gluten, and nightshades – members of the plant family that includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and pepper.
However, the best way to find out if food is making your symptoms worse is to keep a food journal and take a trial-and-error approach.
Make a journal of what you are eat and record any psoriatic symptoms. This will help you discover which foods to avoid.
Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.