Is There A Link Between Diet & Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition with symptoms that appear on the skin. People with the condition have an immune system that is overactive, triggering an excess amount of inflammation that causes too many new skin cells to be produced. The new skin cells push the old cells to the surface of the skin before they can be shed naturally, which causes plaques to form.
Researchers have not yet found evidence of a direct link between diet and psoriasis, and there is no certain type of diet that will cure psoriasis. However, some people with psoriasis find that dietary changes that improve their overall health can sometimes have a positive impact on their symptoms.
Three types of dietary changes are sometimes beneficial for people with psoriasis:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Eating a diet to help reduce inflammation
- Eating a diet that can help with weight loss
It is very important to talk with your healthcare provider before making any type of dietary changes, particularly any involving vitamins, herbs, and supplements, to make sure that the changes are safe and appropriate for your specific condition.
What is a heart-healthy diet?
Eating a heart-healthy diet can help to improve the way your heart and cardiovascular system function. People with psoriasis have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems, which are also caused by inflammation, so it is particularly important to try and maintain good cardiovascular health1.
For heart-healthy eating, try to have a range of nutritious foods in your diet and focus on eating healthy portion sizes that are not too big. Nutritious foods include fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, whole grains, beans, and low-fat dairy products. Eating fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids (such as mackerel, salmon, herring, freshwater trout, and albacore tuna) twice a week has been shown to lower the risk of coronary artery disease2.
Try to avoid eating too many foods containing red meat, saturated/trans fats, and sugar (including sugary beverages). It is best to try and limit your intake of salt to no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day. Avoiding fast food and heavily processed food will also benefit heart health3.
People with psoriasis are often advised to limit their alcohol intake; this is generally part of the heart healthy diet as well. If you choose to drink occasionally, women are generally advised to have no more than one drink a day and men are advised to have no more than two drinks a day3,
What types of dietary changes affect inflammation?
Certain dietary changes are thought to help reduce the amount of inflammation in the body, which some people find has an effect on their psoriasis symptoms. Certain foods can tend to cause or increase inflammation, while others can reduce inflammation. Avoiding “trigger” foods and eating more inflammation-reducing foods may be helpful for some people1.
Foods that can cause or worsen inflammation include:
- Dairy products
- Processed foods
- Refined sugar
- Fatty red meats
- Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, for example)
Foods that may help to reduce chronic inflammation include:
- Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids (such as olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts)
- Cold water fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids (mackerel, salmon, herring, freshwater trout, and albacore tuna)
- Brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables
What are some recommendations for weight loss?
Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for overall health, and can reduce your chance of developing conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. People with psoriasis are more likely to be overweight, and researchers think that there may be a link between the inflammation that causes psoriasis and inflammation that make certain people more likely to be overweight or obese. People with psoriasis who are overweight are also more likely to have severe symptoms because fat cells in the body produce proteins that are linked to inflammation1.
Together with a program of regular exercise, making certain dietary changes to lose weight can be helpful for people psoriasis who are overweight. Studies have shown that losing weight can improve psoriasis symptoms and severity. Maintaining a healthy body weight can also make certain types of psoriasis medications work more effectively.
Put simply, losing weight requires burning more calories through exercise and activity than you consume in food and beverages. People who lose weight slowly at a rate of about one or two pounds a week are more likely to maintain their weight loss over the longer term than people who go on a “crash diet” and lose a lot of weight very quickly3.
Your healthcare provider can provide advice about the safest way for you to lose weight in a healthy way. You may be referred to a specialist dietitian or nutritionist who can help you to create a dietary plan for weight loss. Typically, this type of dietary plan will be similar to the heart healthy diet described in the previous section.
Other tips for weight loss include keeping track of all the food that you eat and being informed about the amount of calories in food that you consume. Websites such as MyFitnessPal.com can help you keep track of calories. Planning meals ahead of time can help take the guesswork out of eating healthily and make you less likely to eat unhealthy foods. Eating breakfast can make you less hungry throughout the day, as can drinking lots of water.