A grimacing man with an large patch of plaques on his arm. Stemming from the plaques is wheat in the shape of a fire.

Could a Gluten-Free Diet Improve My Psoriasis?

A frequent question I am asked is if I’ve tried to change diets to help my psoriasis. That question brings up a number of emotional responses.

I’ve felt irritated that I need to answer the diet question once again. I’ve shuddered when thinking about some of the strange diets and supplements I had to take as a child. (The snake powder made me feel ill and did not work.) I might feel hopeful wondering perhaps there is a cure-all diet that could end my lifelong battle with psoriasis.

Diet and psoriasis is a common topic

However I might feel, it’s clear that diet is a popular topic for those living with psoriasis. It’s been a favorite topic for my family over the years as well. Growing up, my parents regularly consulted Chinese medicine doctors or herbalists for an ancient psoriasis remedy. I vividly recall trips to San Francisco Chinatown to fill prescriptions consisting of a bagful of bitter herbs to boil and drink.

A few years ago, my dad was diagnosed with psoriasis. At first, he asked me about treatments his dermatologist prescribed for him. I shared with him my experience with those therapies and directed him back to his doctor as appropriate.

Not too long after he mentioned taking a biologic and tried phototherapy but did not feel satisfied with the results. He then told me he finally found the answer to treating his psoriasis: a new diet.

Does gluten-free diet help with psoriasis?

My dad had read some articles about gluten-free diets and psoriasis. Before talking to me about it, he tried it for a number of months. The diet seemed to improve his psoriasis to the point he felt compelled to share his results with me.

Some data did back up his claims. I had read from trusted sources like the National Psoriasis Foundation that up to 25 percent of people who have psoriasis could be sensitive to gluten.1 On their website, they state, “While a gluten-free diet may not be the answer for everyone, if you are one of the individuals who are sensitive to gluten, it may make a noticeable difference for you.”

Should I try a gluten-free diet again?

I felt more irritated than hopeful when I first heard about my dad’s newfound psoriasis diet. I told him that in the early 2000s, I actually tried a gluten-free diet for a number of months. Back then my wife and I hunted gluten-free products all over town. I worked very hard at maintaining the diet while spending a small fortune but to no avail.

He reasoned I didn’t try it long enough the first time, and that I could find gluten-free products at a much more reasonable price more easily now than before. The reason he gave that made me more hopeful, though, is that we are related.

Psoriasis affects each person differently

I remember a column in an old psoriasis newsletter titled something like “It Works for Me.” People could share about what helped calm their psoriasis in an anecdotal way. This column highlighted the individual nature of how psoriasis affects each person without saying something works for everyone.

I enjoyed reading success stories of others living with psoriasis without feeling pressure to necessarily try what they did. With my dad, however, I felt that if something worked for him, it had a higher probability of working for me. It wasn’t a sure thing as I am not a carbon copy of my father, but definitely worth a try.

Taking gluten sensitivity tests

At my next visit with my dermatologist I talked to her about diet, particularly the gluten-free diet. Instead of moving forward with the diet, she decided to test for IgG and IgA antibodies in my blood. Those tests would reveal if I have gluten sensitivity or not. If they came back positive, then I could begin a gluten-free regimen.

Later in the week, she messaged me to say that the results were negative and that I could forego trying to eat gluten-free. I called my dad to tell him that even though we are related, what appeared to work for him would probably not work for me.

A final word about diet and psoriasis

I’m not at all against trying diets to see if they improve psoriasis symptoms or not. I have tried those that avoid particular foods like pork or dairy, and/or those that prescribe eating more of certain food like fish. I’ve been mostly disappointed by them, but others, like my dad, believe certain food or diets greatly affect their psoriasis. Now I try to eat a balanced diet while keeping an open mind and look out for how diet might affect my psoriasis for better or for worse.

If you are interested in learning more about diet and psoriasis, I found the article “Psoriasis and diet: researchers examine the relationship between food and disease” at the National Psoriasis Foundation website a helpful start.2

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