Psoriasis sufferers may want to try these dietary modifications, but more study is needed
People with psoriasis have been known to try a number of remedies to treat their psoriasis symptoms, including modifying their diet and taking supplements. But is there a diet for psoriasis that will prevent flare-ups of the disorder?
While there's some evidence that a few interventions might help, there's no dietary "silver bullet" that can control psoriasis. Before you try any of the following, talk with your doctor or a psoriasis specialist about changing your diet or taking any supplements.
Vitamin D & Psoriasis
Topical treatments for psoriasis containing vitamin D have been widely used for years. However, studies of oral vitamin D supplements as a treatment for psoriasis have yielded mixed results. While some published reports have shown that vitamin D resulted in significant skin clearing, other studies found no benefit. Researchers have theorized that some people may benefit from vitamin D supplements because of their genetic make-up, while others derive little or no benefit.
Bottom line: People with psoriasis may want to ask a doctor to check their blood levels of this important nutrient—research has revealed that vitamin D deficiency is a common condition that can cause or aggravate a number of health problems beyond psoriasis.
Low-Calorie Diets & Fasting for Psoriasis
Some studies have suggested that autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can be improved by a calorie-restricted diet. There's some evidence that the same could be true for psoriasis–especially among people who are obese—perhaps because of the drop in oxidative stress that accompanies a calorie-restricted diet.
Bottom line: More study is needed before making any recommendations about fasting or calorie restriction as a means of managing psoriasis. Weight-management practices might be useful, however, for people with psoriasis who are overweight or obese. Speak to a doctor or nutritionist to get a sense of what calorie range you should be aiming for.
Alcohol & Psoriasis
Alcohol and psoriasis have been linked in several studies, though it's difficult to say whether drinking alcohol contributes directly to psoriasis flares, or if alcohol use is associated with other psoriasis-related lifestyle issues like obesity, poor diet and stress. Some experts think that because alcohol stimulates the release of histamine, it can aggravate skin lesions.
Bottom line: If you have psoriasis, try restricting your alcohol intake to moderate amounts (a wise tip, psoriasis or not) or avoid it altogether.
Vegetarian Diet & Psoriasis
In one small study published in 2001, people with psoriasis who fasted and then ate a vegetarian diet experienced some improvement in their condition. It's unclear what might have caused the improvement, and the issue hasn't been studied much since then. Some have theorized that a vegetarian diet would result in a decreased intake of arachidonic acid, which is found in psoriasis lesions and has been linked to inflammation.
Bottom line: There's no clear evidence that a vegetarian diet will relieve psoriasis; more study of this issue is needed before it can be recommended.
Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Psoriasis
Fish oil and the omega-3 fatty acids that fish oil contains are believed to have many health benefits, largely because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Some early studies have found that people with psoriasis had some improvements in symptoms with fish oil supplements containing the fatty acids EPA and/or DHA, but later studies were inconsistent and found little or no benefit.
Bottom line: While a diet that's rich in fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids may have considerable health benefits, as yet there's no firm proof that it will relieve psoriasis.
Gluten-Free Diets & Psoriasis
There's some evidence that a gluten-free diet may help to alleviate psoriasis symptoms in some people, particularly in those with high levels of immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin A antigliadin antibody in their blood (this is more common in autoimmune diseases like celiac disease and psoriasis).
Bottom line: Talk with your doctor about trying a gluten-free diet for a few months to see if this might help you manage your psoriasis.
Antioxidants & Psoriasis
It's been theorized that antioxidants would benefit psoriasis sufferers because of their anti-inflammatory properties and their defense against oxidative stress. Clinical studies, however, have found no real evidence of this—supplements containing the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E were shown to increase blood levels of these compounds, but there was no resultant improvement in psoriasis symptoms.
Bottom line: There's no evidence that antioxidants will improve psoriasis symptoms, though antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.
It's unfortunate that there hasn't been more research into the possible benefits of dietary modifications to relieve psoriasis, because these could be very simple and inexpensive ways to control the symptoms of psoriasis. If you'd still like to try these or any other means of managing your psoriasis, talk with your doctor or a psoriasis specialist to see if there's any reason to avoid a particular dietary intervention. Some drugs and foods interact, for example, and supplements, such as selenium, can be dangerous when taken in slightly elevated amounts.
Ricketts JR et al. "Nutrition and psoriasis." Clinical Dermatology. 2010 Nov-Dec;28(6):615-26.
Wolters, M. "Diet and psoriasis: experimental data and clinical evidence." British Journal of Dermatology. Volume 153, Issue 4, pages 706–714, October 2005.