There's no strong scientific evidence that specific foods can impact psoriasis, but there is evidence that losing extra weight can ease symptoms. Nutritionists and physicians recommend a healthy, balanced diet to control your weight and your psoriasis, as well as lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke (which are elevated in people with psoriasis). The foundation of a healthy diet is lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, says Heather Mangieri, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
1. Fish and seafood
Omega-3 fatty acids—abundant in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna—are the foundation of a heart-healthy diet. Fish oils are thought to reduce inflammation and help the immune system, which is overactive in people with psoriasis. Given that psoriasis is also linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, it's a good idea to eat fish at least twice a week.
2. Carrots and squash
"A diet that's high in fruits and vegetables can have an anti-inflammatory effect," says Mangieri, who is a Pittsburgh-based registered dietician. And although there are no studies connecting fruits and vegetables specifically with a reduction in psoriasis symptoms, psoriasis is an inflammatory condition. Specific vegetables that might have inflammation-fighting properties include carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and broccoli.
Grains such as whole-grain bread, cereal, and pasta; oatmeal; and brown rice are another component of an overall healthy diet. Like fruits and vegetables, grains also contain a variety of anti-inflammation antioxidants and are high in fiber, which has been linked with lower inflammation levels and better regulation of blood sugar. Legumes such as beans and lentils also have antioxidants and fiber, so include them in your diet as well.
4. Lean meats
If you eat meat, choose lean types such as white-meat chicken or turkey. Some people with psoriasis report anecdotally that their condition seems to improve if they limit red meat. Fatty red meats have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. If you want to occasionally eat red meat, try less fatty cuts like lean flank steak or sirloin.
5. Nuts and avocados
Fats in general get a bad rap, but there are such things as "good fats." These include the polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils, and avocados, and monounsaturated fats found in soybean oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and certain fish. They're good for you in general (when taken in moderation, of course—they still can pack in the calories). Stay away from saturated fats and trans fats, which may increase inflammation in the body.
Not only do blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties, but also lots of vitamin C, manganese (good for bone health), and fiber. All this while low in fat. Other fruits that may have anti-inflammatory properties include mangoes, strawberries, and figs. But you really can’t go wrong with any fruits, which are right up there with vegetables on the “good-for-you” list. Scientists are only just beginning to uncover other healthful properties of fruits. Blueberries, for instance, may also boost memory and fight heart disease.
Some people with psoriasis report that cutting back on dairy products also eases their symptoms. Scientists haven't found a reason why this might be true, but trial-and-error may give you an idea if dairy should be off your list. If you find dairy is okay for you, make sure you pick fat-free, 1% fat, or low-fat milk, cheese, and other dairy products—they're better for your heart health. Some people with psoriasis have found that soy milk is a good substitute for cow's milk.
Some people find that eliminating gluten from their diet helps improve their psoriasis symptoms. This makes sense if you have an underlying intolerance to this protein, which is found in wheat, rye, or barley. A gluten-free diet can be tricky to follow (and expensive), so ask your doctor to screen you for gluten intolerance before eliminating this from your diet. Cutting gluten out of your diet if you don't have a gluten intolerance can end up costing you money and making it more challenging to follow a healthy diet.
3. Fried foods
Let's face it. We can't think of any reason why fried foods are good for you. Keep clear of fried foods either at home or at fast-food joints. If you want to semi-splurge, do it occasionally. These types of foods are known to promote inflammation in the body, which may be one reason they are also associated with a higher risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
4. Refined sugar
Processed sugar is a villain for health in general and possibly for psoriasis. Excess sugar intake may not only promote inflammation, it's also a major contributor to weight gain and as we know, being overweight can aggravate your psoriasis. Stay away from added sugar, but be aware: This may require careful reading of food labels as sugar is added to a wide variety of packaged foods.
Alcohol is thought to trigger psoriasis outbreaks, possibly by increasing inflammation. And drinking can interfere with how well your medications are working and may even be dangerous when mixed with certain psoriasis treatments such as methotrexate. If your psoriasis is uncontrolled, consider cutting back or eliminating alcohol to see if symptoms improve.
Along with potatoes and peppers, tomatoes are a nightshade vegetable. Some people with psoriasis find these veggies aggravate their skin condition. There's little scientific evidence to support this, but if you notice a link between these types of vegetables and worsening of psoriasis symptoms, cut them out of your diet to see if your skin improves.
Have you noticed any impact these foods have on your psoriasis symptoms?
Can you add other elements to this list?