Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes dry, red, and itchy patches on the skin’s surface. Although there is no diet specifically for psoriasis, many patients often report relief from their symptoms when they make simple adjustments to their diet.
When devising a psoriasis diet plan, there are four main approaches a patient can take: weight loss, heart health, anti-inflammatory, and gluten free. The rationale behind this is, psoriasis is usually worse in those who are overweight, it can take a toll on the heart, and it is accompanied by inflammation leading to other complications, and research suggests going gluten-free may also offer relief for psoriasis symptoms.
Below we will discuss dietary adjustments based on the above approaches, along with foods to eat and to avoid when you have psoriasis.
Foods to eat with psoriasis
Research has shown that those who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for psoriasis. Maintaining a healthy weight lowers your risk of developing psoriasis in the first place, and helps you control and manage the skin condition if you’ve got it.
Dr. Luigi Naldi, lead author of the psoriasis and weight-loss study, said, “There was a clear correlation between the amount of weight loss and the improvement of psoriasis. Patients who lost more weight experienced a larger improvement in psoriasis.” The researchers found even a small weight loss was helpful in improving the condition.
A weight-loss diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats like poultry and fish, foods low in saturated fat, increase in healthy fats, reducing or avoiding refined sugars and processed foods, and limiting cholesterol and salt.
For optimal weight loss results, you should complement your healthy diet with regular exercise. And always remember to never skip breakfast! It is considered the most important meal of the day for a reason. Research has found that those who eat breakfast are leaner than those who don’t.
Psoriasis, like heart disease, is an inflammatory condition, so reducing inflammation can also save your heart. A heart-healthy diet involves eating fish and other lean meats, as well as fat-free dairy, while eliminating trans fats, reducing saturated fat intake, keeping sodium intake below 1,500mg, limiting alcohol consumption, limiting processed foods, and keeping an eye on your portions.
An anti-inflammatory diet is similar to the heart health diet. Avoiding foods to promote inflammation can also save your heart and other vital organs in the long run. Such foods include fatty red meats, dairy, processed food, refined sugar, and nightshade vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.
Instead, swap those foods out for cold-water fish, flaxseed, olive oil, pumpkin seeds and other nuts, and colorful fruits and vegetables. Examples of nutritious foods that combat inflammation include carrots, kale, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, mangoes, and strawberries.
A gluten-free diet is known to aid in celiac disease, but it may also be able to improve your psoriasis . In preliminary studies, researchers examined if psoriasis patients were more likely to have gliadin antibodies. Gliadin is a wheat protein that people who are sensitive to gluten can’t ingest. Some studies revealed psoriasis patients do carry such antibodies, while others did not.
The most notable study on gluten and psoriasis was conducted based on the Nurses’ Health Study, involving questionnaires completed by over 82,000 nurses. The study found that women who drank beer five times a week were more likely to develop psoriasis, compared to those who didn’t. You may not think beer has anything to do with gluten, but it contains barley, which triggers gluten sensitivities.
Here are some points to consider when embarking on a gluten-free diet.
- Going gluten-free has potential to relieve symptoms:You won’t know if you’ll benefit from going gluten free unless you try (and there isn’t much a harm in trying). As mentioned earlier, many patients have noticed a reduction in their symptoms while following a gluten-free diet, so it may be worth the try.
- You’ll eat healthier:Food items with gluten often tend to be unhealthier options, so you will find you’re eating healthier once you start eliminating gluten.
- You’ll likely notice an energy boost:Patients note that eliminating gluten has increased their energy levels because they no longer are plagued by digestive issues.
- Gluten-free diet is difficult to follow:Beginning a gluten-free diet can be difficult as you will always have to read labels carefully. Eating out may pose a challenge as well.
- You can’t cheat:Don’t think that slipping in a meal with gluten is okay – it’s not. The moment you consume gluten you will begin feeling horrible once again (if you are sensitive to gluten).
- Gluten-free foods may contain empty calories and more sugar:Just because it is labeled gluten-free doesn’t necessarily make it healthier. Once again, carefully read food labels to ensure you’re not consuming unnecessary sugar or empty calories.
- Shopping time will increase:Now that you’re focusing on gluten-free items, you’ll find you’re spending more time in grocery stores – you may have to do some homework to cut down on your time!
- You can’t drink beer:Although gluten-free beers are becoming more popular now, as a general rule, you should steer clear of this beverage.
Gluten-free options include rice, soy, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and arrowroot, as well as corn and cornmeal.
Foods that might cause psoriasis flare-ups
Now that you’re aware of the foods you should be eating if you’re living with psoriasis, there are some foods you should avoid because they could trigger psoriasis flare-ups. These foods and beverages include alcohol, junk food, red meat, dairy products, nightshade plants (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers), citrus fruits, gluten, condiments, and some spices.
Because every person is different, not all of these may apply to you. The above items are generally known to act as triggers. It’s important that you uncover your own specific triggers and document them in a food/symptom diary to help you create a diet plan that works.
Tips and strategies to help soothe psoriasis
Here are some additional tips and strategies to help you soothe your psoriasis with diet.
Know the essentials: Be aware of the foundation to a balanced and healthy diet and try to include plenty of omega fats, which can be found in fish and oils. These fats help reduce inflammation and, in turn, aid in psoriasis.
Eat antioxidant-rich meals: The more colorful the dish the better. Fill your plate with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like carrots and greens.
Limit alcohol intake and smoking: Smoking and drinking have been linked to worsened psoriasis symptoms.
Don’t overeat: Overeating leads to weight gain – and as mentioned, extra weight aggravates the skin condition.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Although food can go a long way to help improve your psoriasis, adopting an overall healthy lifestyle can help take your psoriasis improvements and overall wellbeing a step further.