What Are Vitamins or Dietary Supplements That Can Help Improve Psoriasis Symptoms?
Some people with psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition, find that taking certain types of vitamins or dietary supplements can have a positive impact on their symptoms. However, vitamins and dietary supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration to ensure their safety and there have not yet been scientific studies to prove the vitamins or supplements can directly affect a person psoriasis symptoms1. It is very important to talk with your healthcare provider about any vitamins or supplements that you plan to take because some of them can interact with your topical or systemic psoriasis medicines and make them work less effectively or cause side effects.
Dietary supplements are available in a wide range of different forms to be taken by mouth. These include liquids, extracts, tablets, capsules, or powders. Some of those supplements that people with psoriasis use include2:
- omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin D
- glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
Other supplements, such as ginger and folic acid, may sometimes be recommended to help counteract some of the side effects that taking the systemic medicine methotrexate can cause.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
The symptoms of psoriasis on the skin are caused by an excess amount of inflammation inside the body. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids could have an effect on the inflammation that causes psoriasis symptoms, but more studies are needed to better understand its effect1. Omega-3 fatty acids may also have some benefit for the body’s immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, soy, and vegetable oils.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linolenic acid: found in soy beans, vegetable oils, flaxseed, walnuts, leafy green vegetables, and hemp
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): found in certain types of fish and algae
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): found in certain types of fish and algae
The most common way that people take omega-3 fatty acid supplements is in the form of fish oil, which is also available in capsules, which may be refrigerated. The recommended dose is usually 3 g per day, but be sure to check with your healthcare provider about the appropriate dose for you4.
Taking fish oil is generally safe, but can cause serious side effects such as thinning of the blood. People who are taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin, may not be able to take fish oil. Fish oil can also cause nausea and diarrhea in some people6.
What is vitamin D?
Several different topical treatments for psoriasis contain a form of synthetic vitamin D that is made in a laboratory, including Dovonex and Vectical. The form of vitamin D is medicine different in important ways from the form of vitamin D is contained in the foods that we eat. Researchers are still trying to determine if taking vitamin D supplements may help improve psoriasis symptoms1. One study found that it may help by affecting the process of inflammation that causes psoriasis symptoms to develop, and others have found that it may contribute to moderate improvement in symptoms for some people5.
It’s very important to talk with your healthcare provider before starting to take a vitamin D supplement. Taking too much vitamin D can be dangerous and cause serious side effects such as an increased level of calcium in the blood which can lead to kidney stones and weakening of the bones6. The best way to get more vitamin D is to eat more foods that contain vitamin D, rather than taking it in a pill or tablet. Many different foods contain vitamin D, including:
- sockeye salmon, mackerel, and canned tuna
- cod liver oil
- Swiss cheese
- fortified cereals
- Milk, yogurt, and orange juice that are fortified with vitamin D
What are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate?
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are relatively new supplements taken by people with psoriasis and are often taken together. Both are substances that occur naturally in human cartilage, and the supplements are made from shrimp shells, lobster shells, and shark cartilage. There is some evidence to suggest that they may be helpful in reducing psoriasis symptoms, perhaps by reducing inflammation7.
People who are allergic to shellfish cannot take either of these supplements. They can also be harmful to some people with diabetes or people who are taking calcium supplements, so be sure to ask your healthcare provider’s advice before taking them8. Children and women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should not use these supplements.