Psoriatic Arthritis and Your Diet

Turn on the evening news, and you’ll likely see the commercial with golfer Phil Mickelson talking about his psoriatic arthritis (PsA). It’s a type of swelling in the joints that happens in people who have psoriasis. That’s a skin condition that causes red, scaly (and itchy) patches on the elbows, knees or scalp. About 30% of the people who have psoriasis get PsA.

Could changing your diet help you feel better? The Psoriasis Foundation says there’s no real evidence it’ll have a major impact. It did find that many people with psoriasis had milder symptoms when they ate healthier foods, though.

With that in mind, let's look at some of the most popular diets and how they might help if you have psoriatic arthritis.

Weight Loss

This is a basic diet to help you shed extra pounds. A 2014 study found that people who were overweight had a greater risk for psoriatic disease. Another study found that people who lost weight had less-severe psoriasis. Doctors aren’t sure why this is, but they do know that fat tissue releases proteins that cause swelling.

In a weight-loss diet, you limit fats, sugars, and carbohydrates. You eat more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy items. When you lose weight, you’ll not only feel better -- you’ll lower your risk for getting other diseases, too, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Anti-Inflammatory

PsA causes swelling. So do certain foods, like fatty red meats, dairy, refined sugars, processed foods, and vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants.

Avoid them and choose fish, like mackerel, tuna, and salmon, which have omega-3 fatty acids. Those have been shown to reduce inflammation. Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and blueberries are good choices, too.

Paleo

Also called the "caveman diet," this way of eating favors meat, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. You’ll avoid all grains, beans, sugary snacks, and dairy (all items cavemen never ate).

Doctors have no proof that the Paleo diet stops the symptoms of PsA. But you could have less swelling because you’re not eating fatty foods and dairy products.

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Gluten-Free

Research shows that as many as 25% of people with psoriasis may be sensitive to this protein that’s found in wheat and barley. It's used in processed foods as a thickener. It’s not found in fruits and vegetables, rice, meat, beans, potatoes, and dairy.

Talk to your doctor before you start this diet. He may test your blood to see if you’re allergic to gluten.

Mediterranean

A 2014 study showed that eating a diet high in extra-virgin olive oil could make psoriasis symptoms less severe. That’s because it has omega-3s. It also contains oleocanthal, which relieves swelling. If you choose this way of eating, you’ll get to have lots of cold-water fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Don't get started with any of these diets until you get your doctor's OK. That way he can keep track of the changes you’re making and determine whether they’ll help or worsen your PsA symptoms.

Also, get exercise along with any food changes you make. It’s good for your joints and will also ease swelling and arthritic pain.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on December 02, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?"

National Psoriasis Foundation: "Diet and Nutrition"; "Researchers study how diets affect psoriatic disease."

Celiac Disease Foundation: "What Can I Eat?"

Barrea, Luigi. Journal of Translational Medicine, published online January 2015.

Arthritis Foundation: "The Ultimate Arthritis Diet."

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