People with psoriasis may find that certain foods seem to trigger flare-ups. There is no scientific evidence that any special psoriasis diet is beneficial, says Paul Yamauchi, MD, of the Dermatology Institute and Skin Care Center in Santa Monica, Calif. However, as long as you eat a healthy diet, he adds, there’s no harm in exploring whether avoiding some foods and eating others might help you manage psoriasis flares and reduce inflammation.
Gluten and Yeast
The link between psoriasis and gluten-intolerance is not fully understood, but some research suggests that people who have celiac disease, which is marked by a sensitivity to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley), may be at increased risk for psoriasis. For these people, a gluten-free diet could lead to improvement in psoriasis symptoms. For everyone else, however, “while some skin conditions are worsened by wheat, no scientific studies support a gluten-free diet for psoriasis,” Yamauchi says. Some patients also feel yeast plays a role in worsening psoriasis. Again, no studies support the theory, but it couldn’t hurt to eliminate yeast for awhile and see if it helps.
Psoriasis is a disease of inflammation, so it makes sense that an anti-inflammatory diet might help reduce symptoms. One food group commonly associated with inflammation is high-fat dairy. Try cutting out whole milk and full-fat cheeses and opt for lower-fat versions instead. Even if it doesn’t improve your psoriasis, low-fat dairy is better for your heart, and people with psoriasis are at higher risk for heart and vascular diseases, Yamauchi says.
Fatty Red Meats
Like dairy, fatty red meats can cause inflammation, and some people with psoriasis find an anti-inflammatory diet helps control their symptoms. “While fatty red meats might not necessarily worsen psoriasis,” Yamauchi says, “a diet heavy on fatty red meats can promote heart disease, and people with psoriasis have a higher risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases.” On occasions when you want to eat beef, choose leaner cuts.
Fish and Omega-3s
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids (essential fatty acids found in some fish) help reduce inflammation. In addition, the American Heart Association recommends that people eat fatty fish, such as albacore tuna, mackerel, salmon, herring, and lake trout, at least two times a week to protect against heart disease. Because people with psoriasishave more risk of heart disease, it makes sense for them to include anti-inflammatory omega-3s in their diet, Yamauchi says. However, no studies have found a benefit from fish oil for psoriasis.
A person with psoriasis should eat foods rich in antioxidants, substances that protect against heart disease and cancer. Good sources of antioxidants are fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. “Again, the benefit of eating antioxidants is not necessarily for making psoriasis better,” Yamauchi says, “but they are important for protecting against heart disease and cancer, which people with psoriasis are at higher risk for.”
“A lot of my patients tell me if they consume too much alcohol, it makes their psoriasis worse,” Yamauchi says. While no scientific studies prove the link, you may want to explore whether limiting alcohol consumption reduces flare-ups for you. The theory is that alcohol dilates the blood vessels, giving white blood cells and other substances in the blood easier access to the skin, thus promoting the inflammatory response that triggers psoriasis flares. Alcohol also dehydrates your body and can dry the skin, worsening psoriasis symptoms.
Vitamins A and D
Fruits and vegetables that provide vitamin A help promote healthy skin. Good sources of vitamin A are cantaloupe, carrots, mango, tomatoes, and watermelon. Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin because the body produces it through sun exposure, can be helpful for treating psoriasis. “Back in the ’30s, vitamin D was shown to help psoriasis if taken by mouth,” Yamauchi says. “However, people needed such high levels that it caused side effects.” You can get enough vitamin D from 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine daily.Some people with psoriasis find their skin condition responds to herbs used to enhance the body’s immune system and reduce inflammation. While no scientific evidence supports the use of herbs or herbal supplements, some psoriasis patients report success with evening primrose oil, milk thistle, and oregano oil. Turmeric also has been used by a number of patients, but studies have not shown it to be effective in psoriasis treatment
One of the worst things you can do for your psoriasis is follow a fad or extreme psoriasis diet. A fad diet can rob your body of the nutrients it needs. “People with psoriasis hear of something that works for someone and want to try it, too,” Yamauchi says. “But if they follow extreme diets, it hurts rather than benefits them.” Talk to your doctor before making any diet changes. The best psoriasis diet is a healthy one — low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.