If you’re living with psoriasis you may have wondered how food affects your skin – or you might feel that some foods seem to make your psoriasis worse.
But what does the science say?
What do we know about diet and psoriasis?
Understanding how diet affects psoriasis is complex, because we don’t eat single foods by themselves, but a mixture of foods in meals, so separating the effects of one food from another is tricky.
It’s also hard to detach the effects of food from some of our other habits. For example, in the 1980’s scientists thought they had found a link between coffee and psoriasis, but they later realised people who drank lots of coffee were also more likely to smoke, and when they separated coffee drinking from smoking, the link disappeared.
"In some people with psoriasis, omega-3 supplements have helped reduce redness, itching and scaling of skin."
These challenges make it hard for us to identify strong links between food and psoriasis, but we do have some clues about what sort of foods may help psoriasis.
For instance, the number of people with psoriasis is lower in some Mediterranean regions. Researchers think this might be because some foods in the Mediterranean diet (like olive oil, oily fish and nuts) help to reduce inflammation.
The inflammation link
Because psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, eating foods with anti-inflammatory effects may ease symptoms.
For example, omega-3 (a type of fat found in oily fish) can slow the release of inflammatory hormones. In some people with psoriasis, omega-3 supplements have helped reduce redness, itching and scaling of skin.
Being overweight also increases inflammation in the body, and the risk of developing psoriasis. We know that psoriasis severity seem to get worse as body weight increases. Some foods that may worsen psoriasis (like alcohol and sugar) are also linked to weight gain.
If you are overweight, losing weight can improve symptoms, and may even help your psoriasis medications work more effectively.
Can eating more or less of one food help, or do I need to change my whole diet?
Some studies have shown impressive results when people with psoriasis follow strict diets that eliminate red meat, junk food and alcohol, and encourage fruits, vegetables and fish. However, making lots of changes can be overwhelming, and it might not be possible to change everything at once.
The good news is that making even one or two important changes to your diet could make a big difference. These changes include;
Losing weight if you need to
Eating fewer sugary foods
Drinking less alcohol
Including more omega-3 rich foods
Eating more anti-inflammatory foods
In some people with psoriasis, following a gluten free diet may also be helpful.
What are the pros and cons of changing my diet?
If you’re living with psoriasis, you may feel as though the disease is out of your control. Changing your diet can be empowering, because it is something you can make a decision about.
Although there is no single psoriasis diet, making changes to your eating habits can make a difference to more than your skin. Lots of the foods we think are good for psoriasis (such as olive oil, oily fish and nuts) are also good for your body in general, and can help protect against heart disease and diabetes.
"It’s important to remember that diet is not a cure-all.."
Eating healthier foods can also have a positive effect on other aspects of your life, such as your mood, energy levels and sense of wellbeing. This means you may see positive changes in your body and mental state as well as your skin if you change your diet.
Bear in mind that changing your diet can be challenging – you might have to give up or eat less of the foods that you enjoy, for example alcohol or sugary foods, which can be hard work. Changing your diet may also mean you need to spend more time preparing meals and shopping.
It’s important to remember that diet is not a cure-all - and there is no specific psoriasis diet - but it may contribute positively to the management of your psoriasis, and as a natural therapy that you can choose three times a day, it’s a great place to start.