Does the Psoriasis Diet Really Work?
8 minute read
Living with psoriasis is inconvenient, to say the least. Flare ups can occur sporadically or go into remission for months at a time.
If you’re looking for a natural way to manage your psoriasis, take a look at your diet. What we eat can have powerful effects on our health and can make a difference with chronic diseases.
Though there is no official “psoriasis diet,” certain foods may help reduce your symptoms by addressing possible underlying causes of psoriasis.
What Is Psoriasis?
First, we’ll take a quick look at what psoriasis is and things that can trigger a flare up.
Psoriasis is a chronic disease that can take several different forms. In general, it is characterized by raised red patches of skin that have silvery scales that may itch or be painful.
| Related: Skincare Tips for Older Adults |
These red patches, called plaques, are caused by skin cells that multiply up to 10 times faster than normal.
This happens because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. Skin cells then reproduce too rapidly and rise to the surface too quickly, creating the plaques.
Up to 30% of people who have a type of psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis, which is the painful swelling of joints.
| Related: Managing Arthritis Pain With Turmeric |
While there is no cure for psoriasis, treatments are available which are mostly concerned with reducing inflammation and clearing the skin.
Psoriasis can be unpredictable, but certain factors may cause a flare up to be more likely.
Psoriasis triggers include:
Skin injury: This includes everything from cuts and scrapes to bug bites and scratching too much.
Infection: Strep is a very common trigger for guttate psoriasis, which usually occurs in children and young adults. Other examples of infections include flu, cold, earache, and bronchitis.
Medications: Some medications like antimalarials and drugs that treat high blood pressure, heart disease, and bipolar disorder may aggravate psoriasis.
Stress: Your immune system may respond to stress in the same way that it responds to an infection or injury.
| Related: How to Relieve Stress and Inflammation |
Smoking: Smoking not only doubles your chance of getting psoriasis, but it also makes some treatments less effective.
Weight: People who are obese are at a higher risk and studies have shown that they’re also more difficult to treat.
Diet, which we’ll look at next, is a key factor in weight loss and can help reduce inflammation.
What You Eat Matters
Part of the reason you might develop psoriasis has to do with your genes. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, being overweight or obese can increase your chance of getting it if you’re already genetically at risk.
Losing body fat can also decrease overall inflammation and make treatments more effective.
| Related: Exercise and Weight-Loss Tips for All Ages |
Weight loss isn’t just good for the treatment and management of psoriasis. Severe psoriasis makes it more likely that you’ll develop cardiovascular problems. Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese will significantly decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, which may already be elevated from psoriasis.
It’s no mystery that diet and weight loss go together. As to which weight-loss diet to follow, that’s a different story.
There are a plethora of weight-loss diets to choose from, from low-calorie to paleo to vegan to ketogenic to low-carb. It can be overwhelming, but it’s really about finding something that you can stick to and that produces results.
| Related: Should You Try a Pescatarian Diet? |
No matter which diet you decide is right for you, keep these things in mind:
♦ Focus on whole foods like fruits and vegetables rather than processed convenience foods
♦ Limit processed sugars and sweets
♦ Stay hydrated
♦ Eat slowly
♦ Keep a food journal to get started
Talk to your doctor about developing a diet and exercise plan.
Diet for Inflammation
Red, itchy, scaly plaques and painful joints are caused by inflammation. Adding more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet could help make your symptoms less severe and help prevent flare ups.
Anti-inflammatory foods generally have one or more of these traits:
♦ Antioxidants - Protect the body from harmful free radicals
♦ Vitamins and Minerals - Boost the immune system and reduce inflammation, especially vitamins C, D, and E
♦ Essential Fatty Acids - Help reduce the body’s inflammatory response and may help keep your gut flora healthy
A variety of fruits and vegetables will help you check off the first two.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and swiss chard are good sources of vitamins A, C, and E and have high levels of antioxidants. Added bonus: they’re also a great addition to a weight-loss diet.
Vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables, such as beets, berries, and carrots, also contain high levels of antioxidants and are low-calorie but nutrient-dense.
Essential fatty acids, like the famous omega-3s and omega-6s, are found in foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), fish or krill oil supplements, and egg yolks.
Vegetarian or vegan? Plant-based sources include flax seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts.
Vitamin D is best gotten from being in the sun. Just be careful to avoid sunburn, which is a psoriasis trigger. If you are looking for dietary sources, try fatty fish, liver, beef, egg yolks, and fortified milk.
Diet for Leaky Gut
Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is often diagnosed by alternative health practitioners. The theory is if the intestinal lining becomes damaged, then waste products, including bacteria and toxins, can leak into the bloodstream.
This then sparks an inflammatory response by the body and is thought to be the underlying cause of a variety of chronic health problems, including psoriasis.
The same antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables that are anti-inflammatory also play a role in managing leaky gut.
In addition, you can support a healthy digestive system and gut flora by taking probiotic supplements or eating probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, or other fermented foods.
Dietary fiber also helps keep your digestive system on track and keeps things moving. Added bonus: dietary fiber can also help keep you full longer, which can help with a weight-loss diet. Extra-added bonus: dietary fiber is readily found in the same fruits and vegetables that you’re already consuming for their antioxidants and vitamins.
The Bottom Line
Psoriasis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease that may be managed, in part, by a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids.
If you’re overweight, eating a healthy diet could help you lose weight, thus decreasing your chance for flare ups and increasing the effectiveness of treatments.