What You Should Know About Psoriasis and Your Diet

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on February 15, 2023
4 min read

If you have psoriasis, you might take medication and keep close tabs on the weather, your stress level, and other triggers. Should you also watch what's on your plate?

A healthy diet -- lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein, and whole grains -- is a good idea for just about everyone. But some people who have psoriasis say their eating habits can affect their skin.

There's no scientific proof that staying away from certain foods or following a specific diet will help your condition. But what you eat and drink may make a difference.

The link between alcohol and psoriasis isn't clear, but experts say that if you drink, be moderate. For men, that means no more than two drinks a day, and for women, no more than one.

Studies show that men who drink heavily don't respond to psoriasis treatments as well. And some research suggests that people who have psoriasis and drink heavily may find that their skin gets better when they stop.

If your condition is especially severe or you take certain medications, like methotrexate and acitretin, your doctor may tell you to stay away from alcohol completely.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition. Research is limited, but some people who have psoriasis say they can manage it better if they eat more inflammation-fighting foods.

Some studies suggest that antioxidants, like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and selenium, may make a difference. And some research suggests fatty acids from fish oil can be helpful. More research is needed.

Anti-inflammatory foods are generally healthy, so it shouldn't hurt to give them a try. They include:

  • Fruits and veggies, especially berries, cherries, and leafy greens
  • Salmon, sardines, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Antioxidant-rich herbs and spices like thyme, sage, cumin, and ginger
  • Heart-healthy sources of fat, like olive oil, seeds, and nuts

Some foods can make inflammation worse. Eat less of these:

  • Processed foods and refined sugars
  • Fatty cuts of red meat
  • Dairy

People who are overweight or have obesity have a higher chance of getting psoriasis, and their symptoms tend to be worse. Studies suggest that your skin may get better if you shed extra pounds. This may be because fat cells make certain proteins that can trigger inflammation and make the condition worse.

You might eat smaller portions, limit carbs or fat, or follow a combination of diet strategies your doctor recommends.

One effective way you can lose weight is to combine regular physical exercise with a healthy, balanced diet made up of whole grains, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and veggies in your daily routine. Not only will this help you shed a few pounds, but it can help ease some of your psoriasis symptoms, too. 

Before you start any new exercise or diet plan, check with your doctor to see if it's right for you. If you're not sure how to get started, talk to a certified physical trainer or a registered dietitian or nutritionist. They can help you come up with a plan that will best suit your needs and lifestyle. 

You may wonder whether your psoriasis would get better if you ate a gluten-free diet. Although you may hear about success stories from others who have tried it, so far studies aren't clear that it helps. More research is needed.

This kind of eating plan is needed if you have celiac disease, which, like psoriasis, is an autoimmune disease. This plan may be useful when you have gluten sensitivity. Research suggests that people with psoriasis are more likely to also have another autoimmune disease.

If you go gluten-free, it means you have to cut out foods that have grains like wheat, barley, and rye. The downside is that those foods are also heart-healthy, and psoriasis raises your chance of getting heart disease. Talk to your doctor before you make any changes in the food you eat.

You'll find that there are dozens of psoriasis diets described in books and on various blogs or websites. While there are many theories about certain foods that might cause flare-ups, there isn't enough evidence so far to back up such theories.    

If you're thinking about trying a psoriasis diet, talk to your doctor first. You can also speak with a registered dietitian or a licensed nutritionist. Ask any questions about certain trending or "psoriasis-friendly" diets you might have come across online.

As a rule of thumb, it's always best to stay away from extreme diets that claim to cure psoriasis with things like fasting or enemas. They might not work and, in some cases, can be dangerous. As for dietary supplements, some might not be as safe or helpful as the labels claim. That's because they're not as well regulated by the FDA as prescription medications are. Some might even interfere with your psoriasis medications. Check with your doctor before you add supplements or alternative medicines to your diet.   

Don't ignore your own experience with psoriasis. If your skin gets worse after you eat certain foods, stop eating them and see what happens. That food could be a trigger for you. Also, keep track of it in a food diary. This could help you bring it up at your next doctor's appointment.