Alcohol and Psoriasis: Why They Don't Always Mix

If you have psoriasis, your doctor may have told you to limit your alcohol consumption due to the possible effects on your condition and on the medications you are taking for psoriasis treatment. But does this mean you have to forgo that occasional glass of wine at dinner?

“If someone has a glass of wine or one beer a day, it won’t significantly worsen his or her psoriasis,” explains Colby Evans, MD, a dermatologist in Austin, Texas, and a member of the National Psoriasis Foundation Board of Trustees. But drinking more than that amount can have some potentially serious effects on your psoriasis and your overall health.

Alcohol Effects on Psoriasis

Alcohol consumption can have a variety of effects on your psoriasis, including:

  • Psoriasis flares. Many psoriasis patients find that when they drink alcohol, their psoriasis flares. This seems to be an issue more with men than women who have psoriasis. “It’s not entirely clear why there’s a connection between psoriasis outbreaks and consuming substantial amounts of alcohol,” says Dr. Evans, “but the evidence suggests there is.”
  • Dry skin. Psoriasis plaques are patches of dry, flaky, red skin. Alcohol has the effect of further drying your skin. It’s important to keep your skin moist when you have psoriasis.
  • Lower psoriasis treatment response. Alcohol can slow the effects of the drugs you’re taking and possibly stop them from working at all, Evans says.

The type of drink you choose may also make a difference. In a recent study, only consumption of non-light beer seemed to be associated with the development of psoriasis. Drinking more than five non-light beers per week nearly doubled the risk. Light beer, white or red wine, and liquor did not, which led the researchers at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Boston University to suspect the gluten in the barley in beer may be the issue. Although light beer does contain gluten, smaller amounts of grain are used in the production of light beer.

In addition to making psoriasis worse in some people, alcohol consumption may also increase your risk for developing the autoimmune skin disease in the first place.

Alcohol Effects on Your Body

Alcohol consumption can also affect other areas of your body — and your life. It can:

  • Cause you to gain weight. People with psoriasis are already at risk for obesity, although the explanation for that is not well understood, Evans says. Beer and wine have a lot of calories — empty calories — that can cause weight gain. Weight gain can lead to depression, and depression can be an issue for people with psoriasis because they may already be feeling down due to a fear that their psoriasis makes them hard to look at, he explains.
  • Cause liver damage. One of the drugs used to treat severe psoriasis is methotrexate, which has a long-term side effect of liver damage. Excessive alcohol consumption, even without methotrexate, can damage your liver. Liver damage is serious and can be deadly. “It’s important that people talk to their doctor about any new psoriasis treatment and, if they like to drink, what treatments may be safer for them,” Evans says.

Keep in mind that moderation is the key. You may be able to safely have seven drinks a week — if you spread them out and have one a day. “But if you have all seven in one night, that’s binge drinking,” Evans warns, “and it can do some serious liver damage.” Follow your doctor’s recommendations as to how much alcohol consumption is safe for you. If you find that alcohol worsens your psoriasis symptoms, the answer is simple: Stop drinking.

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