Although many people assume -- and some are utterly convinced -- that their diet affects their psoriasis, no studies have shown a connection. That's not to say that there might not be one. It's just that so far, there is no proof.
According to most experts, the best dietary advice for people with psoriasis is the same as it is for anyone else: eat a sensible diet, low in fats and sweets and high in fruits and vegetables. While you're at it, get regular exercise.
In the 1960s and '70s, discovery of the immune system’s role in psoriasis led to several effective psoriasis treatments, among them corticosteroids, cyclosporine, and methotrexate. For the next few decades, though, treatment for psoriasis was mostly stuck in neutral.
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Still, you shouldn't ignore your own experience with psoriasis. "I always say to patients that if you notice that your skin condition worsens after you eat certain foods, then stop eating those foods and see what happens," says Bruce E. Strober, MD, PhD, co-director of the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Center at New York University. While he agrees that no studies have shown any real connection between psoriasis and diet, he believes that some people may have food triggers specific to them.
Beware Miracle Diets for Psoriasis
Despite the absence of scientific evidence, you'll find that there are dozens of psoriasis diets described in books and on web sites. Just about everything has been blamed for psoriasis by somebody -- sugar, junk food, wheat products, tomatoes, coffee, and eggs, to name a few. There are also plenty of theories about what foods might be good, among them herbal teas, some fruit juices, and fish oil supplements. Unsurprisingly, psoriasis diets tend to disagree on what's good and what's bad.
Jeffrey M. Weinberg, MD, Director of the Clinical Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, believes that trying a moderate psoriasis diet is okay, within limits. "When people ask about diets, I tell them that I don't have proof that any diets work or don't work," he says. "As long as people aren't trying diets that are harmful, I don't have a problem with it." No doctor would argue with a psoriasis diet that cuts down on the amount of junk food and alcohol you consume.
But you should be wary of any extreme diets that make amazing claims, like "curing psoriasis," since they won't work. Also be careful of diets that require you to fast, have routine enemas, or take other extreme measures. Extreme diets can be time-consuming, difficult to stick with and, in some cases, even dangerous. Similarly, don't assume that supplements you purchase in the supermarket are helpful or even safe. Taking supplements in extremely high doses, which is recommended by some dubious psoriasis diet gurus, can be toxic. Always talk to your doctor before going on any diets or using any supplements or alternative medicines.
You may feel so frustrated with your psoriasis that you're ready to try anything. Be careful. Never let desperation make you gullible.
SOURCES: Bruce E. Strober, MD, PhD. associate director of Dermatopharmacology, Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine; co-director of the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Center; consultant for Amgen, Biogen, Genentech, Fujisawa, NexGenix Pharmaceuticals Holdings, Inc., and 3-M. Jeffrey M. Weinberg, MD, director of the Clinical Research Center, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York City; assistant clinical professor of Dermatology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; consultant for Amgen and Genentech. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases web site. American Academy of Dermatology web site. WebMD Medical Reference with Healthwise: "Psoriasis." American Academy of Dermatology, PsoriasisNet web site. National Psoriasis Foundation web site. Abel, E. "Dermatology III: Psoriaisis," ACP Medicine, April, 2005.