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Psoriasis Diet: Fact or Fiction?

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  • Psoriasis is a Prevalent Autoimmune Disease

    Psoriasis is a Prevalent Autoimmune Disease

    According to the , psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the United States. It can develop at any age, but usually occurs in people between 15 and 25 years old. The main symptoms include itchy, red patches of thick skin with silvery scales on the elbows, knees, scalp, back, face, palms, and feet.

    Psoriasis can be irritating, stressful, and embarrassing. Creams, ointments, medications, and light therapy may help. However, some research suggests diet may help. Click through the slideshow to find out which foods to avoid.

  • What Causes Psoriasis?

    What Causes Psoriasis?

    Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissues in the body. This reaction leads to swelling and a quicker turnover of skin cells. With too many cells rising to the surface of skin, the body cannot slough them off fast enough. They pile up, forming itchy, red patches.

    Scientists don’t know what causes the immune system to malfunction in the first place. That makes treatment difficult.

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  • Current Treatments

    Current Treatments

    Current treatments focus on taming 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 patients. For more severe cases, doctors may use medications that dampen the immune system, or block the action of specific immune cells.

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

  • Can Diet Help?

    Can Diet Help?

    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. Researchers published a study in the journal that showed no link between a low-protein diet and psoriasis flare-ups. More recent studies, however, have found different results.

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  • Low-Calorie Diet

    Low-Calorie Diet

    Some recent research shows that a low-fat, low-calorie diet may reduce the severity of psoriasis. In a 2013 study published in , researchers gave participants a low-energy diet of 800-1,000 calories a day for eight weeks. They then increased it to 1,200 calories a day for another eight weeks.

    Participants not only lost weight, but experienced a decrease in the severity of psoriasis. Researchers speculated that obesity increases inflammation in the body, making psoriasis worse. Therefore, a diet that results in weight loss may be helpful.

  • Fish Oil

    Fish Oil

    According to the , a number of studies have shown that fish oil may improve symptoms of psoriasis. In a , participants were put on a low-fat diet supplemented with fish oil for four months. Over half experienced moderate or excellent improvement in symptoms.

    A more recent study also showed positive results. Patients receiving fish oil supplements for 15 weeks had a significant decrease in total body surface area of psoriasis.

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  • Gluten-Free Diet

    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 found that patients with gluten sensitivities on gluten-free diets experienced improvement in psoriasis symptoms. When they returned to their regular diet, the psoriasis worsened. A also found some people with psoriasis had an elevated sensitivity to gluten.

  • Antioxidant-Rich Diet

    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 , 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.

    Another found that patients with psoriasis had lower blood levels of glutathione. 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.

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  • Avoid Alcohol

    Avoid Alcohol

    A showed that men who abused alcohol experienced little to no benefit from psoriasis treatments. An 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 to men who drank only 21 grams a day.

    An also found a relationship between heavy drinking and severe psoriasis. Though we need more research on moderate alcohol consumption, cutting back may help ease psoriasis symptoms.

  • Healthy Diet, Healthy Weight

    Healthy Diet, Healthy Weight

    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 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 for the disease.

    So eat clean and stay lean to reduce psoriasis flare-ups.

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References:

  • Gibson, L.E. (2011, February 10). Psoriasis diet: Can changing your diet treat psoriasis? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Gupta, A.K., et al. (1989, June). Double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy of fish oil and low-dose UVB in the treatment of psoriasis. British Journal of Dermatology, 120(6), 801-807. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Gupta, Madhulika A., et al. (1993). Alcohol intake and treatment responsiveness of psoriasis: A prospective study. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 28(5), 730-732. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Jensen, Peter, et al. (2013). Effect of Weight Loss on the Severity of Psoriasis: A Randomized Clinical Study. JAMA Dermatol., 149(7), 795-801. JAMA Network. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Kokcam, I. & Naziroglu, M. Antioxidants and lipid peroxidation status in the blood of patients with psoriasis. Clinica Chemica Acta, 289(1-2), 23-31. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Kragballe, K. & Fogh, K. (1989). A low-fat diet supplemented with dietary fish oil (Max-EPA) results in improvement of psoriasis and in formation of leukotriene B5. Acta Derm Venereol., 69(1), 23-28. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Michaelsson, G., et al. Psoriasis patients with antibodies to gliadin can be improved by a gluten-free diet. British Journal of Dermatology, 142(1), 44-51. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Monk, B.E. & Neil, S.M. (1986). Alcohol Consumption and Psoriasis. Dermatology, 173(2), 57-60. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Naldi, L., et al.  (1996, January). Dietary factors and the risk of psoriasis. Results of an Italian case-control study. British Journal of Dermatology, 134(1),101-106. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Poikolainen, K. et al. (1990, March 24). Alcohol intake: a risk factor for psoriasis in young and middle aged men?. British Medical Journal, 300(6727), 780-783. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Psoriasis statistics, prevalence, severity, age of onset and psoriasis research. (n.d.). National Psoriasis Foundation. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Setty, A.R. et al. (2007, August 13/27). Obesity, Waist Circumference, Weight Change, and the Risk of Psoriasis in Women: Nurses' Health Study II. Arch Intern Med., 167(15), 1670-1675. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Wolters, M. (2005, October). Diet and psoriasis: experimental data and clinical evidence. British Journal of Dermatology, 153(4), 706-714. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
  • Zackheim, H.S. & Farber, E.M. (1969, May). Low-Protein Diet and Psoriasis: A Hospital Study. Arch Dermatol., 99(5), 580-586. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from
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