Nutrition affects every aspect of health. Psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that features dry, itchy, and scaly skin, may be one condition to which diet can make a difference.
When you have psoriasis, reducing triggers is an important part of managing your condition and avoiding flare-ups. Psoriasis flare-ups can be caused by a variety of triggers. These triggers may include bad weather, excess stress, and also watching what's on your plate!
A healthy diet -- lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein, and whole grains -- is a good idea for just about everyone. But some people who have psoriasis say their eating habits can affect their skin.
Limit Alcohol The link between alcohol and psoriasis isn't clear, but if you drink, be moderate. For men, that means no more than two drinks a day, and for women no more than one.
Studies show that men who drink heavily don't respond to psoriasis treatments as well. And some research suggests that people who have psoriasis and drink heavily may find that their skin gets better when they stop.
If your condition is especially severe or you take certain medications, like methotrexate and acitretin, your dermatologist may tell you to stay away from alcohol completely.
Food that fight inflammation Some studies suggest that antioxidants, like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and selenium, may make a difference. And some research suggests fatty acids from fish oil can be helpful.
Anti-inflammatory foods are generally healthy, so it shouldn't hurt to give them a try.
- Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
- Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and arugula
- Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, cherries, grapes, and other dark fruits.
Fatty fish A diet high in fatty fish can provide the body with anti-inflammatory omega-3s. The intake of omega-3s has been linked to a decrease of inflammatory substances and overall inflammation.
Fish to eat include:
- Salmon, fresh and canned
Heart-healthy oils Like fatty fish, certain vegetable oils also contain anti-inflammatory fatty acids. It’s important to focus on oils that have a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
Oils to eat include:
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- flaxseed oil
- safflower oil
Processed foods Eating too many processed, high-calorie foods can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and a variety of chronic health conditions. Certain conditions such as these cause chronic inflammation in the body, which may be linked to psoriasis flare-ups.
Foods to avoid include:
- Processed meats
- Pre-packaged food products
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Any processed foods high in sugar, salt, and fat
- Both red meat and dairy, especially eggs, contain a polyunsaturated fatty acid called arachidonic acid. Past research has shown that by-products of arachidonic acid may play a role in creating psoriatic lesions.
Nightshades One of the most commonly reported triggers for psoriasis flare-ups is the consumption of nightshades. Nightshade plants contain solanine, which has been known to affect digestion in humans and may be a cause of inflammation.
Foods to avoid include:
Nutritional supplements Fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and selenium have all been researched for psoriasis.
Benefits of supplementation with these nutrients may include a decrease in the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
Lose Weight People who are overweight or obese have a greater chance of getting psoriasis, and their symptoms tend to be worse. Studies suggest that your skin may get better if you shed extra pounds. This may be because fat cells make certain proteins that can trigger inflammation and make the condition worse.
Gluten-Free Diet You may wonder whether your psoriasis would get better if you ate a gluten-free diet. Although you may hear about success stories from others who have tried it, so far studies aren't clear that it helps. More research is needed.
Foods to avoid include:
- Wheat and wheat derivatives
- Pasta, noodles, and baked goods containing wheat, rye, barley, and malt.
- Certain processed foods.
- Certain sauces and condiments.
- Beer and malt beverages.
The vegan diet: This may also benefit people with psoriasis. This diet is naturally low in inflammatory foods such as red meat and dairy. It’s high in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, and healthy oils.
The Mediterranean diet: This diet is well known for its numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. This diet focuses on foods that are high in antioxidants and healthy fats. It limits foods that are often considered to be pro-inflammatory.
The Paleo diet: This diet places an emphasis on eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods. Since many whole foods contain anti-inflammatory compounds, this diet may prove to be beneficial for people with psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a life-long condition, and its severity can fluctuate. Medical treatment often aims to reduce skin cell production in order to minimize flares, or the periodic worsening of symptoms. Some lifestyle changes may also help.
In combination with medicine, nutrition may be a potent player in the fight against psoriasis.
Contributed by Dr. Sravya Chowdary Tipirneni, Consultant Dermatologist, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield