Psoriasis: Can anti-inflammatory foods help to fight flare-ups?
Published 27 Nov 2020 • By Gilda Teissier
Avoiding flare-ups and reducing triggers are the main goals for people living with psoriasis. Nutrition can be both one of the easiest and most complicated ways to do so. Although there is no scientific research supporting the benefits and drawbacks of a specific diet, the National Psoriasis Foundation has reported that food can be a trigger.
What should you eat if you have psoriasis? Which foods should you avoid?
We tell you all about it in our article!
Which foods are effective in preventing flare-ups?
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease that causes inflammation in the body, mainly in the form of scales and plaques. A key indicator of this condition is flare-ups, or periods during which plaques appear or are exacerbated; these can last from several weeks to several months. Flare-ups are usually caused by triggers, which vary from person to person, however common triggers include: stress, injuries to the skin, illness, weather, obesity, infections, smoking, and certain medications and foods.
Because psoriasis causes inflammation, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) recommends an anti-inflammatory diet which is beneficial for overall health and can help manage flare-ups. In essence, this is not a specific regimen, but a style of eating.
The anti-inflammatory diet mainly favours:
- Fruits and vegetables: they have zero cholesterol and are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to remove toxic substances from the body, which help to lower the risk of flare ups. Fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cherries have a high concentration of antioxidants.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: they help reduce the levels of inflammatory proteins in the body and have many immunomodulating properties. These fatty acids are often present in fish, plants, eggs and to a lesser extent, grass-fed animals. Oily and cold-water fish like salmon and sardines are the best source. Omega-3 can also be found in walnuts, leafy green vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts), soya and hemp.
- Heart-healthy oils: certain vegetable oils also contain anti-inflammatory fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. When choosing your cooking oils, you should look for those that have a higher concentration of omega 3 and 6 such as olive oil, coconut oil and flaxseed oil.
- Fibre and lean protein: such as fish, tofu and beans. These will help you to have a better metabolism and process food faster without any added fat. All with the goal of maintaining healthy body weight and therefore keeping flare-ups at bay.
Some diets that are popular nowadays are based on anti-inflammatory principles, such as the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. So, if you want more ideas for specific plans, these are a good place to start.
Which foods should be avoided?
In 2017, a survey was conducted in which half of the respondents stated that they had noticed improvement in their symptoms after reducing their consumption of alcohol, gluten and nightshades. In addition to these, other products such eggs, red meat, sausage, bacon and processed red meats are also blacklisted by people trying to manage their psoriasis.
A more detailed list and explanation can be found below:
- Nightshade vegetables: in the psoriasis community, this is the most commonly reported trigger. Solanine is present in nightshade vegetables and is a glycoalkaloid poison known to affect digestion and cause inflammation, among other symptoms. Foods containing it are tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, paprika, peppers and tobacco.
- Gluten: some people with psoriasis have been found to have a gluten sensitivity. Therefore, it is recommended to cut back on wheat and wheat derivatives, barley, malt, pasta, noodles, rye and certain processed foods. Drinks such beer and malt beverages also contain gluten. For an extensive list of all the foods that have gluten you can access the Celiac Disease Foundation's list.
- Red meat and dairy products: there is a polyunsaturated fatty acid called arachidonic acid which converts into inflammatory compounds and plays a role in creating psoriatic lesions. This fatty acid is present in both red meat and dairy products, especially eggs.
- Alcohol: this substance has disruptive effects on the various pathways of the immune system. Given that autoimmune flare-ups are linked to the immune system health, then avoiding alcohol can help reduce trigger risks.
- Citrus fruits: grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes are a common allergen. Sometimes an allergic reaction can cause psoriasis to flare. Ask your physician to recommend a test to find out if you are allergic to citrus fruits, as this kind of information can help you with your flare-ups.
- Processed and high-calorie food: these can lead to obesity and other chronic health conditions that can cause inflammation in the body. Processed food tends to be high in saturated and trans fats as well as refined starches and sugars, all of which can promote inflammation. Canned fruits and vegetables, processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat and pre-packaged foods should be avoided.
A colourful plate is not only pretty to look at, if it is full of antioxidants and other nutrients, it will also help you to feel good on the inside and may help reduce your psoriasis flares.
There are many tips, tricks and claims about food that may or may not help, but most research indicates that in most cases it is a case-by-case situation that each person must figure out for themselves. So, why not give it a try? Even if changing your diet doesn’t help you reduce your number of flare-ups, it can at least help you live a healthier lifestyle.
Always remember that it is important to talk with your health care provider before you begin any diet or make a major nutritional change.
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Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
- “Diet and Psoriasis.” JAAD
- “Dietary modifications.” National Psoriasis Foundation
- “Anti-Inflammatory Diet Do's and Don'ts.” Arthritis.org
- “The Effects of the Mediterranean Diet on Biomarkers of Vascular Wall Inflammation and Plaque Vulnerability in Subjects with High Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. A Randomized Trial.” US National Library of Medicine
- “Psoriasis diet: Can changing your diet treat psoriasis?” Mayo Clinic
- “Alcohol and the Immune System” US National Library of Medicine
- “Double‐blind, placebo‐controlled study to evaluate the efficacy of fish oil and low‐dose UVB in the treatment of psoriasis.” Wiley Online Library
- “Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Psoriasis: What the Dermatologist Needs to Know” American Journal of Clinical Dermatology
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