Psoriasis, a skin disorder characterized by dry, itchy, and scaly skin, is one condition that may be helped by improving the diet.
Although the research is far from conclusive, there is evidence that eliminating gluten, swapping calorie-rich foods for low-calorie options, and choosing anti-inflammatory foods where possible could improve the symptoms of psoriasis.
In combination with medicine, nutrition may be a potent player in the fight against psoriasis.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis involves red, raised patches that can be itchy.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition with symptoms that include drying, scaling, itchy skin. It is usually seen in adults, but children can also experience it.
The characteristic plaques of red, scaly skin result from a quicker-than-normal production of skin cells.
Psoriasis is a life-long condition, and its severity can fluctuate. Pharmacological treatment often aims to reduce skin cell production, in order to minimize flares, or the periodic worsening of symptoms.
Topical and oral medications help to slow down the growth of skin cells, relieve irritation, and reduce inflammation.
Research suggests that exposing the skin to small amounts of sun every day may benefit patients with psoriasis.
Vitamin D, a hormone produced by the body upon exposure to sunlight, may play a pivotal role in reducing symptoms.
There is also some evidence to suggest that diet can have an impact on psoriasis.
The effect of diet on psoriasis
There is little scientific data confirming that a particular diet can benefit people with psoriasis, but many of those with the condition claim that changing their diet brought beneficial effects.
Weight loss, a decrease in inflammation, and increased consumption of antioxidants are factors that may be associated with a reduction in symptoms following dietary intervention, but these have not been proven or replicated in all patients with psoriasis.
Below are some reasons why diet may help ease the symptoms of psoriasis in some patients.
Diet assists weight loss efforts
Psoriasis has been linked with metabolic disorder, features of which include obesity. Losing excess weight through dieting efforts, for example, may help to reduce the severity of psoriasis, according to one study.
Diet improves symptoms for people with celiac disease
Another study suggests that a number of patients with psoriasis also have celiac disease, a condition in which a person is intolerant to the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The exclusion of gluten-containing foods may help to ease symptoms in such cases.
Some foods lower inflammation
Inflammation associated with obesity may worsen the symptoms of psoriasis. Findings published in Clinical Nutrition have indicated that a calorie-restriction diet with the addition of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can help reduce inflammatory markers and potentially improve psoriasis symptoms.
Promotes a healthier lifestyle
Many individuals who improve their diet are also more motivated to exercise. Physical activity may help to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Results published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that a 20-week program of dietary intervention, as well as increased physical exercise, led to an improvement in psoriasis symptoms. This benefit may be because exercise enables a person to lose weight, to minimize inflammation, or both.
Patients with psoriasis may also experience a psychological benefit by taking control of their dietary choices as a way to manage their disease.
Stress reduction, for example, can help to prevent a psoriatic flare. If a person knows that they are choosing healthier foods, and that these foods may potentially alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis, this may provide a mental and emotional relief that could help reduce the symptoms.
People with psoriasis should aim maintain a balanced diet, including all the foods they enjoy on a moderate basis.
Diet tips for people with psoriasis
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving psoriasis.
Water is important for hydrating the whole body.
However, some diet tips may help people with psoriasis to reduce inflammation and enhance weight loss efforts, if necessary.
These tips include:
- Avoiding sugar: Excess sugar in the diet can worsen inflammation, so reducing or eliminating added sugars may be an important first step.
- Drinking plenty of water: Water provides hydration to every part of the body, including the skin. Consuming enough fresh, clean water throughout the day may help improve the texture, look, and feel of the skin.
- Avoiding gluten, if appropriate: For some people, eliminating gluten from the diet may help.
- Eliminating trans fats: Hydrogenated oils, sources of trans fats, are common in today's packaged and fried foods. It is best to cut out all types of trans fats, as these can lead to inflammation.
- Choosing anti-inflammatory foods: Vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and spices are all anti-inflammatory. There is a lack of research to show whether or not these can improve psoriasis, but they may be a helpful addition for any person seeking to reduce inflammation.
Weight loss is an important lifestyle component for reducing inflammation, potentially helping to minimize symptoms associated with psoriasis.
Incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into the diet and reducing junk foods can assist in reducing excess weight and other metabolic parameters associated with excess inflammation.