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Diet and Psoriasis

Watch what you eat. Watch your weight. Both can affect the symptoms of psoriasis.

Food doesn’t cause or cure this skin disease, but research shows it may calm itchy soreness and even clear up outbreaks.

What Does Weight Have To Do With It?

If you have a lot of extra weight, losing some of those pounds may help. Some studies show that losing weight may relieve your symptoms. In one of them, 10 people with psoriasis had weight-loss surgery. Six months later, seven people’s skin troubles had gone away.

Your fat cells churn out a protein called TNF-alpha, which is "a driving force of psoriasis," says Meagen McCusker, MD, a University of Connecticut dermatologist. "When people lose weight, they have less TNF-alpha."

This protein causes inflammation of the skin.

Should You Go Gluten-Free?

Joel M. Gelfand, MD, a psoriasis expert at the University of Pennsylvania, hears this question a lot. He says some people tell personal stories about benefits they've noticed after ditching gluten, but there’s not enough research to say one way or the other if it helps with psoriasis. Without strong evidence, “I don’t recommend it,” Gelfand says.

Of course, if you have celiac disease (which, like psoriasis, is an immune system condition), you need to totally avoid gluten.

If you think you are sensitive to gluten, ask your doctor to check to see if you should take a blood test to find out if you might have celiac disease.

 

Cut Down on Alcohol

If you drink too much, it may make your psoriasis worse, and it can keep treatments from working as well as they could. So if you drink more than a "moderate" amount (up to 1 drink a day for women or 2 daily drinks for men), it’s a good idea to cut back.

Nutrients You Need

It’s wise to eat a balanced diet loaded with veggies, fruit, whole grains, lean protein, and “good” fats (which mainly come from plant sources). That eating pattern is good for your whole body, and it should cover your nutritional needs.

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Two specific things you may want to check on are:

Vitamin D : A study from Spain found that people with psoriasis had lower levels of vitamin D. This vitamin helps keep your immune system working correctly. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels, McCusker says. You may need a prescription-strength supplement.

Fish oil : This can help your body tame inflammation. "I don't think fish oil can turn off psoriasis," McCusker says, but "people who take it tend to be a little less itchy, and their plaques tend to be a little less red." You can also get the omega-3s that are in fish oil by eating fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel a couple of times a week.

Small studies also found that fish oil may reduce some side effects of medicines used to treat psoriasis, such as:

  • High triglycerides from a type of drug known as retinoids, such as Soriatane (acitretin ), Aceret, Acetec, and Zoratame
  • Kidney problems from cyclosporine, such as Neoral, Sandimmune, Restasis, Gengraf Capsules, and Gengraf Oral Solution

 

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on November 02, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Joel M. Gelfand, MD, associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Meagen McCusker, MD, assistant professor of dermatology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington.

NIH: "Questions and answers about psoriasis."

Farias, M. Obesity Surgery, June 2010.

Jensen, P. JAMA Dermatology, July 2013.

Lakdawala, N. Clinics in Dermatology, November-December 2013.

Cassano, N. International Journal of Dermatology, November 2011.

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