The longer you live with psoriasis, the more you'll learn about the triggers that set off bouts of itchy, flaky skin. Stress, smoking, and infections are just a few of the known psoriasis triggers. For some people, alcohol might aggravate symptoms, too.
Experts don't yet know the exact link between alcohol and psoriasis. They haven't confirmed whether alcohol makes psoriasis worse or figured out how much someone would need to drink to see more symptoms.
But there is evidence that people with psoriasis drink more alcohol than those without it. Some people who drink to excess seem to have more flares and more severe disease.
How Does Alcohol Affect Psoriasis?
There are a few reasons why drinking might make flares worse. Long-term or heavy alcohol use:
- Increases inflammation in your body
- Makes you more likely to get infections, which are a known psoriasis trigger
- Causes the skin cells that form plaques to multiply faster
Drinking could also make psoriasis harder to treat. Biologic drugs may not work as well when you drink alcohol, but the reason for this isn't clear. Alcohol also doesn't mix well with psoriasis medicines like methotrexate. Combining them could lead to more side effects from your medication.
Alcohol can also worsen other conditions that are linked to psoriasis, including:
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
- Certain types of cancer
How Does Psoriasis Affect Alcohol Use?
Psoriasis is more than just a skin disease. It also causes stress, embarrassment, depression, and anxiety. Around 79% of people surveyed by the National Psoriasis Foundation said psoriasis had a negative effect on their lives.
Almost 1 in 3 people with psoriasis drink too much alcohol, possibly as a way to cope with their disease. But drinking can actually have the opposite effect. Heavy drinkers tend to have more severe psoriasis and worse anxiety and depression than nondrinkers.
Is Alcohol a Psoriasis Trigger for You?
Psoriasis triggers are different for each person. Some people notice more skin plaques when they're under stress. Others have lots of flare-ups in cold, dry weather.
Tracking your alcohol use and symptoms is a way to learn whether drinking is one of your triggers. Keep a symptom diary for a few weeks. Each day, write down the number of drinks you have and how your symptoms change.
Over time, if alcohol is a trigger, you should be able to see patterns in your drinking and psoriasis symptoms. Share the diary with your doctor and talk about whether you should cut back or stop drinking.
How Much Alcohol Is Safe to Drink?
If you're going to drink, experts recommend doing it in moderation. This means no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
One drink is equal to:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of liquor
This is general advice. It's always best to ask your doctor how much is safe for you to drink based on your health, your symptoms, and the medicines you take.
Alcohol use disorder means you can't cut back on your alcohol use or stop drinking. Having psoriasis increases your risk for the disorder. If you do have a problem with drinking, there are medications and therapy that can help you quit.
If you decide to give up drinking, you might feel awkward in social situations or other places where you are used to having a drink in your hand. But you can still make yourself drinks that look like cocktails. Try one of these healthier non-alcoholic drinks:
Sparkling water with cranberry juice. Water keeps your body hydrated and helps to flush out the toxins that trigger inflammation. Add a splash of cranberry juice to make it taste like a cocktail. Plus, cranberries are high in natural chemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Orange-pineapple-carrot juice. Fruit and vegetable juices like these are high in antioxidants that fight inflammation. Pick your favorite combo of juices to pour over or blend with ice. Just don't overdo it on the fruit juice because it is high in sugar. Ask your doctor whether you should avoid grapefruit juice, which can interact with some psoriasis medicines.
Iced green tea with fresh mint. Tea, and especially green tea, is rich in natural anti-inflammatory compounds called polyphenols.
If you're going to a party or another event where alcohol will be served, you might want to bring your own non-alcoholic drinks and mixers. Ask a friend to abstain with you, so you won't have to go it alone.
Other Ways to Cope
When psoriasis stresses you out, there are healthier coping strategies than pouring yourself a glass of wine or a beer. Instead, you might take a walk outside, meditate, or read a book to relax.
Your emotions can show on your skin. Feeling anxious or depressed could make your flares worse or make your psoriasis treatment less effective. See a therapist or other mental health professional for help managing your emotions. This can, in turn, ease your symptoms.
If you find that you can't control how much you drink, or if other people have told you that you drink too much, your doctor can suggest ways to quit or cut back.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Austin Daniels / Getty Images
American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Are Triggers Causing Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups?"
Arthritis Foundation: "Best Drinks for Arthritis."
Frontiers in Medicine: "Association of Psoriasis With Anxiety and Depression: A Case-Control Study in Chinese Patients."
Frontiers in Psychology: "Emotions, Alexithymia, and Emotion Regulation in Patients with Psoriasis."
Indian Dermatology Online Journal: "The Association of Alcohol Use Disorder and Chronic Plaque Psoriasis."
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Understanding Alcohol use Disorder."
National Psoriasis Foundation: "Causes and Triggers," "Life with Psoriasis."
National Health Service (U.K.): "Psoriasis Causes."
Psoriasis: Targets and Therapy: "Psoriasis and alcohol."
Redox Report: "Proanthocyanidins: Novel treatment for psoriasis that reduces oxidative stress and modulates Th17 and Treg cells."
Therapy and Practice: "Alcohol and Psoriasis for the Dermatologist: Know, Screen, Intervene."