The idea that a certain diet could treat your psoriasis may sound appealing. After all, the skin problem can be uncomfortable, and drugs for it may cause side effects.
Some web sites suggest that diet fixes are effective for psoriasis. But this disease can go away on its own for months or even years, says Joel M. Gelfand, MD. When people change their diet right before their symptoms vanish, they may think they've found a fix, says the University of Pennsylvania psoriasis expert.
The truth is, research hasn't shown that any specific foods cause psoriasis. Eating certain foods won't cure it, either.
That said, research suggests that some people with psoriasis might benefit from changing the way they eat and drink.
The Psoriasis-Obesity Connection
Studies show that losing weight may relieve your psoriasis symptoms:
- In one study, most people who were obese found psoriasis relief when they lost weight over 6 months. All were taking the drug cyclosporine. The researchers thought the weight loss helped them respond better to the drug.
- In another study, 10 people with psoriasis had weight-loss surgery. Six months later, seven people's psoriasis had gone away.
- For others, a low-calorie diet was linked to fewer symptoms and a better quality of life.
Your fat cells make a lot of 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 promotes inflammation in the body. Some psoriasis drugs, like Enbrel and Humira, work by blocking the effect of TNF-alpha.
Gelfand doesn't point to any special weight-loss diet, but he does suggest shedding pounds if you're overweight. Cut calories and exercise more to trim down. It may help your psoriasis treatment work better.
Gluten-Free Diets and Psoriasis
When it comes to diet and psoriasis, "the most common thing people ask about is a gluten-free diet. There's been some anecdotal evidence about gluten-free diets being helpful," Gelfand says. But the research is still scarce, and "absent strong evidence, I don't recommend it."
However, McCusker says, people who have both psoriasis and celiac disease may see symptoms improve if they avoid gluten. If you have celiac disease, your immune system becomes overactive when you eat gluten, a protein found in certain grains like wheat. An overactive immune system may lead to psoriasis in some people.
In a few studies, people with psoriasis and signs of gluten-related immune problems saw their skin improve with a gluten-free diet.
Consider talking about gluten sensitivity with your doctor, who may check you for it with a blood test.