Can Diet Help Treat Psoriasis?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

With too many cells rising to the surface of skin, the body can’t slough them off fast enough. They pile up, forming itchy, red patches.

Psoriasis can develop at any age, but it usually occurs in people between ages 15 and 35 years old. The main symptoms include itchy, red patches of thick skin with silvery scales on the:

  • elbows
  • knees
  • scalp
  • back face
  • palms
  • feet
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Psoriasis can be irritating and stressful. Creams, ointments, medications, and light therapy may help.

However, some research suggests diet might also alleviate symptoms.

Diet

So far, research on diet and psoriasis is limited. Still, some small studies have provided clues into how food may affect the disease. As far back as 1969, scientists looked into a potential connection.

Low-calorie diet

Some recent research shows that a low-fat, low-calorie diet may reduce the severity of psoriasis.

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The study group not only lost weight, but they also experienced a trend in decreased severity of psoriasis.

Researchers speculated that people who have obesity experience inflammation in the body, making psoriasis worse. Therefore, a diet that increases the chances of weight loss may be helpful.

Gluten-free diet

What about a gluten-free diet? Could it help? According to some studies, it depends on the person’s sensitivities. Those with celiac disease or wheat allergies may find relief by avoiding gluten.

A 2001 study found that people with gluten sensitivities on gluten-free diets experienced improvement in psoriasis symptoms. When they returned to their regular diet, the psoriasis worsened.

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A 2005 study also found some people with psoriasis had an elevated sensitivity to gluten.

Antioxidant-rich diet

Though fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet, it may be especially important for patients with psoriasis.

A 1996 study, for instance, found an inverse relationship between an intake of carrots, tomatoes, and fresh fruit and psoriasis. All of these foods are high in healthy antioxidants.

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant found in garlic, onions, broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, and cauliflower. Scientists speculated that a diet rich in antioxidants may help.

Fish oil
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According to the Mayo Clinic, a number of studies have shown that fish oil may improve symptoms of psoriasis.

In a 1989 study, participants were put on a low-fat diet supplemented with fish oil for 4 months. Over half experienced moderate or excellent improvement in symptoms.

Avoid alcohol

A 1993 study showed that men who misused alcohol experienced little to no benefit from psoriasis treatments.

A 1990 study compared men with psoriasis to those without the disease. Men who drank about 43 grams of alcohol a day were more likely to have psoriasis, compared with men who drank only 21 grams a day.

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Though we need more research on moderate alcohol consumption, cutting back may help ease psoriasis symptoms.

Current treatments

Current treatments focus on managing the symptoms of psoriasis, which tend to come and go.

Creams and ointments help reduce inflammation and skin cell turnover, reducing the appearance of patches. Light therapy has been found to help reduce flare-ups in some people.

For more severe cases, doctors may use medications that suppress the immune system, or block the action of specific immune cells.

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However, medications can have side effects. If you’re looking for alternative treatments, some studies show promising results with certain types of diets.

Takeaway

Dermatologists have long recommended that a healthy diet is best for those with psoriasis. That means lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

In addition, maintaining a healthy weight may provide significant relief.

A 2007 study found a strong connection between weight gain and psoriasis. Having a higher waist circumference, hip circumference, and waist-hip ratio were also associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.

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Try to eat healthy and keep your weight within a healthy range to help reduce psoriasis flare-ups.

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