7 Diet Tips for Psoriasis Sufferers
There is increasing interest in whether a link between psoriasis and diet exists and whether specific dietary habits, vitamins and minerals can affect and help control psoriasis symptoms. This page aims to provide psoriasis sufferers with useful dietary tips, grounded in recent findings on diet and psoriasis.
Important notice: The information on this website is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical or health advice. You should always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before making significant modifications to your diet.
#1: Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods
If you suffer from psoriasis, make sure that your diet contains plenty of antioxidant nutrients including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, and selenium. Antioxidants have a positive impact on the skin as they protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage healthy cells) which has been linked to skin inflammation in psoriasis. People with psoriasis have been found to have an impaired antioxidant status.
In an Italian study with 316 patients with psoriasis and 366 controls, dietary habits were assessed by a food frequency questionnaire. Those who ate the most carrots, fresh fruit, and green vegetables were much less likely to suffer from psoriasis than people who followed a diet poor in these foods. Carrots, fresh fruit, and green vegetables are known to contain high amounts of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Also zinc and selenium play an important role in the antioxidant system of the body: these two trace minerals are essential for the production of certain enzymes involved in antioxidant defense.
#2: Be Sure to Eat Plenty of Foods Rich in Folate
Research suggests that people with psoriasis may have an increased need for folate (vitamin B9). One study found that 44 percent of patients in the test group had reduced serum levels of folate. The scientists speculated that the folate deficiency frequently observed in psoriasis patients could be a result of an increased utilization of folate by the abnormally rapidly regenerating skin cells.
Folate is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin that occurs naturally in a wide range of foods, including spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, asparagus, mustard greens, turnip greens, lentils, calf's liver, and parsley.
#3: Eliminate Food Allergens
Food allergies (e.g. gluten allergy aka coeliac disease) may trigger psoriasis flare ups in some people. What causes an allergic reaction in one person, however, may not cause the same reaction in another person. An elimination diet can be used to identify which foods and substances may aggravate psoriasis symptoms in an individual. This diet involves removing any food or substance that is suspected of causing an allergy or intolerance from diet for a period of two to four weeks. If, after the elimination period, symptoms have cleared or improved significantly, the suspected foods and substances can be re-introduced to the diet, one food or substance at a time (the so-called "challenge" phase of the elimination diet). During this phase, the dieter systematically goes through all the suspected allergens, one by one, by consuming a suspect food or substance several times a day and then returning to the elimination diet for a few days. If the symptoms re-occur or worsen during these days, the dieter may be allergic to the food or chemical that was re-introduced.
Although an elimination diet is fairly simple to complete, the whole process can take several months. An alternative way to go about finding out which foods may aggravate psoriasis in an individual is to have an allergy test performed.
#4: Reduce Omega-6 Fatty Acids in Your Diet, Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs), and a certain amount is necessary to maintain the proper functioning of the human body.
Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs), and a certain amount is necessary to maintain the proper functioning of the human body. However, excessive amounts of these fats can aggravate symptoms of psoriasis. Excess omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation associated with psoriasis by producing substances like inflammatory prostaglandins. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, have anti-inflammatory effects.
Many experts believe that our ancestors consumed omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in roughly equal amounts. Today, most modern diets in Western countries contain too much of the potentially inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and not enough anti-inflammatory omega-3 acids. Simply consuming less refined vegetable oils like corn oil and safflower oil that are high in omega-6 fatty acids and consuming more food that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, and cold water fish like salmon, cod, and halibut) might provide relief to people suffering from psoriasis.
#5: Step up Your Zinc Intake
Another good diet tip for psoriasis sufferers is to eat more foods that contain zinc. Several studies have associated low serum zinc levels with psoriasis, and some studies suggest that an increase in the zinc intake could alleviate psoriasis symptoms. One study found that psoriasis lesions improved after one month of treatment with zinc supplementation, and the effect was even more pronounced during the second and the third month, when also itching and scaling disappeared or were significantly reduced.
Zinc, which requires vitamin B6 for proper absorption in the intestines, is found in a variety of foods, the best dietary sources being oysters, red meat, and poultry. Zinc from plant sources such as nuts, legumes, and grains is of a different type than that found in animal sources and is not readily used by the body, although oats are a good source of zinc that the body can easily use.
#6: Limit High Glycemic and Sugary Foods
There is some evidence that a diet high in sugary and high-glycemic foods (which rapidly raise blood sugar levels) can increase inflammation. One study revealed that women, particularly overweight women, eating large amounts of high glycemic foods such as potatoes, white bread, muffins, and white rice had elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a substance that the body releases in response to inflammation, and therefore CRP levels act as a measurement of inflammation in the body.
Furthermore, sugary foods are thought to promote the (over)growth of the Candida yeast in the body, which has been linked to psoriasis. One study found that the presence of Candida was much more common in the saliva of psoriatic patients (detected in 78% the patients) than in the saliva of healthy people (in 50% of the healthy subjects).
#8: Consume Foods That Contain Quercetin
Quercetin, a bioflavonoid that is found in high concentrations in yellow and red onions, has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and may therefore help treat psoriasis. Quercetin inhibits the action of phospholipase, an enzyme that generates free arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid, in turn, increases the levels of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which are potent mediators of inflammation.
In addition to onions, good dietary sources of quercetin include capers, apples, lovage, broccoli, red grapes, cherries, citrus fruits, tea, and many berries, including raspberry, lingonberry, and cranberry.
#7: Count on Curcumin
Curcumin is a phytochemical that gives turmeric its intense yellow pigment. Curcumin has been used, in the form of turmeric, in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries due to its beneficial effects on a wide range of diseases and conditions. Curcumin has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties, and anecdotal evidence suggests that this extraordinary compound might also be effective at alleviating psoriasis symptoms. However, large, placebo-controlled trials are still needed to shed more light into the potential of curcumin in the treatment of psoriasis.
Dr. John Pagano has gained international fame with his ground-breaking book, Healing Psoriasis, which has been translated into numerous languages. In this compelling book, Dr. Pagano presents an all-natural regimen designed to alleviate and heal psoriasis without steroid creams, tar baths, injections, or ultraviolet treatments. Packed with invaluable diet and lifestyle tips, recipes, case studies, and before-and-after photos, Healing Psoriasis is a great resource for anyone interested in a drug-free treatment for psoriasis. Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Make it a habit to visit HealWithFood.org's online Guide to Healing Psoriasis on a regular basis. Updated once a week, the sidebar on the home page of the guide contains tons of links to interesting nutrition-related articles hand-picked for psoriasis sufferers. It also contains a weekly smoothie recipe featuring ingredients with psoriasis-fighting potential, as well as a book tip.