Lessons Learned: Going Vegan for Psoriasis
If you have ever asked advice on natural healing in multiple facebook communities, then you have probably come across the recommendation that you go vegan for your psoriasis.
There are many plant-based advocates promoting the vegan diet for healing, and with the obvious benefits of increasing fruit and veg intake, I thought I would give it a try.
Vegan diet for psoriasis
If you are thinking of trying a more plant-based diet to improve your psoriasis - then some of the lessons here will help you avoid some of the mistakes I made so you can get off to a flying start.
This isn't a detailed analysis of whether veganism helped my psoriasis. I am currently eight months pregnant, which is not a great time for testing a change in diet. Several reasons include the inability to separate pregnancy symptoms from changes in diet and the nutritional requirements of pregnancy.
Therefore I embarked on this as a provisional two week trial out of curiosity, and I share this with you now because in this short time I learned some very interesting lessons.
Vegan recipes commonly don't include enough protein
On the first day of the diet, I cooked some seriously Instagram worthy meals. I wanted to photograph the ingredients as I prepared them as the vibrant colors were striking as they sat lined up on the chopping board. The problem? I nearly fainted at the end of the day. On reflection, while I had followed recipes I felt inspired by, none of the methods had an obvious source of protein.
No chickpeas, no tofu, no lentils, just the small amount of protein naturally present in the vegetables themselves. My husband gave me a blueberry smoothie with pea protein supplement added, and within 40 minutes, I was fine. My pregnant body needs protein, so this was a focus for the rest of the month. Lesson learned: Swap smug rainbow love for a practical source of protein.
Food prepping for a vegan diet
It's so much easier to make quick meals when the ingredients are familiar. Egg on toast, fried salmon stir fry, steak, and salad! Opening the fridge to find shelves of raw vegetables and unprepared salad when your hungry is disheartening. Twice a week, I roasted sweet potato, courgettes/zucchini, aubergines, chickpeas in different spices, and cauliflower. I boiled pearl barley (for my husband as I am gluten-free) and quinoa so there were cooked grains in the fridge.
Then all I had to do was heat some of the ingredients at lunchtime and for vibrancy, throw in some chopped parsley, tomato or basil pesto, hummus or falafel balls to make a range of speedy meals. The first week I cooked every meal from scratch at every mealtime, and I was exhausted by week 2. Lesson learned: Meal planning and batch cooking is your best friend.
Aren't nightshades bad for psoriasis?
I don't usually eat nightshade vegetables. Tomatoes, in particular, make my psoriasis lesions itch. Still, I found that many vegan recipes rely on tomatoes and chili to give them flavor so I ended up giving in and eating them. I was too tired to try and keep trying recipes without them.
My kids rebelled against non-tomato based dishes and so classics such as vegetable lasagna and bean chili nachos became a staple meal in our house. Lesson learned: You can eat vegan without nightshades, but meal planning and preparation is essential. Especially if you are also cooking for kids.
Tofu is awesome
I have tried to cook tofu several times and many more times than that it has resided in my fridge until the time came to relocate the opened packet to the trash. I now love tofu. Even after the two weeks, it remains a staple in my diet. I am currently cooking a mushroom and tofu passman curry. It's incredibly versatile, and even though it looks processed, its a pretty unprocessed food.
I have used it to make desserts, white sauce for lasagna and as a protein source in vegetable dishes and soups. Lesson learned: Just because you fail to prepare a new food once or twice, doesn't mean its not any good. Keep experimenting if you have a good reason to - like a cheap source of clean protein.
So, how did a vegan diet affect my psoriasis?
As I mentioned before this is a provisional test, and it's hard to separate the changes in my skin from other changes going on. I will say this - psoriasis on my arms is much, much worse.
Interesting enough, there is little change elsewhere on my body and I feel much more energetic in the mornings. I believe this is due to the increase in nutrients I have from more vegetables and also from not eating heavy meat-based meals at night. It's allowed my digestive system to heal.
My arms are also the place that itches most when I eat tomatoes - so it is possible that the worsening of my psoriasis is not from the exclusion of animal-based products, but the inclusion of other foods like a tomato. Just as the increase in energy may be more from what was added - not just those things are taken away.
Final thoughts on going vegan for psoriasis
Trying a vegan diet has been a fascinating experience and has changed the way I eat. I now eat vegan lunches every day, and my family is keeping the meals we all loved like chili nachos (though I will have to have a go at a tomato-free sauce) and vegetable lasagna. My kids didn't notice the Quorn chicken in a korma, so we are keeping that in our diet too.
I will try full veganism again once I have finished breastfeeding so I can test more effectively whether this works for me. Still, I suspect the key benefits of the diet are the increased intake of whole foods - more than the absence of animal-based products, which is something we can all do without much bother.
Can you find somewhere to make a swap? You could try meat-free Mondays!
Has psoriasis affected your ability to sleep well?