Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes thick, scaly red blotches that can be itchy, uncomfortable, and painful. While there’s no cure for the condition, what you eat can often help the condition. New research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that eating a more balanced diet can improve gut health and decrease skin inflammation.
The study, led by researchers at the University of California, Davis found that when people eat a typical “western diet,” rich in sugar and fat, it creates an imbalance in the gut microbiome and worsens inflammatory skin conditions, like psoriasis. When people with these conditions switched toa healthy, balanced diets, it helped restore the gut’s health and reduced inflammation.
“There’s a huge link between diet and inflammation,” says Dr. Amy Kassouf, MD, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. “We definitely know that processed foods, simple sugars, things like that tend to be very pro-inflammatory. Natural foods, especially, all those good brightly colored fruits and vegetables have a very anti-inflammatory effect.”
If you have psoriasis, here’s a look at some of the foods you should avoid and which ones you should add more of to your diet.
How does diet affect psoriasis?
A healthy diet may make psoriasis symptoms that impact your quality of life less severe, says Dr. Melissa Prest, DCN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“A western-style diet is typically a pro-inflammatory diet that can negatively impact the symptoms of health conditions, like psoriasis,” she says. “Psoriasis is a chronic health condition that causes widespread and sustained inflammation in your body. Our diets should be helping to lessen inflammation not to create more of it.”
Related: 50 Best Probiotic-Rich Foods
People with psoriasis also have an increased risk for cardiovascular events, Dr. Kassouf says. Losing weight can often decrease the severity of psoriasis, enhance the effectiveness of psoriasis medications, lessen skin flare-ups, and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
“It’s very hard to cure your psoriasis with food alone,” she says. “Having said that generally speaking, diets that are very good for cardiovascular health are actually good for psoriasis as well.”
What foods should you avoid if you have psoriasis?
Highly processed foods, such as hot dogs, chips, crackers, and baked goods, should be eaten less often if you have psoriasis, Dr. Prest says, “These foods are typically higher in unhealthy fats and are lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals which can increase inflammation.”
Related: 20 Foods High in Soluble Fiber
Dr. Prest emphasizes that it’s OK to eat “treat foods” occasionally, but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet.
Added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids, and refined carbohydrates can also increase inflammation, according to Cleveland Clinic. Some research suggests that eating a gluten-free diet if you have psoriasis and a gluten sensitivity can lead to less psoriasis and reduce flare-ups.
What foods should you eat more of?
Anti-inflammatory foods, like fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins, fish, nuts, and seeds, should make up most of your diet if you have psoriasis, Prest says.
“Make your plate plant-forward by filling at least half of it with fruits and vegetables and choosing a smaller portion of plant-based or lean animal-based protein,” she says. “Fruits and vegetables are nature’s anti-inflammatory agents because they are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals.”
Swap saturated and trans fat for healthier options, like olive oil, avocados, cold-water fish, soy, and nuts, she adds. Add vinegar, herbs, and spices in place of added salt, and go for the lower-fat dairy.
Related: 110 Foods You Can Eat on the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meats, is anti-inflammatory and could lead to less psoriasis on the skin.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are also fiber-rich, and fiber helps feed your healthy gut bacteria, Dr. Prest says. Probiotics, including yogurt and fermented foods, and prebiotics, such as fruits and vegetables, also improve gut bacteria. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria reduces inflammation and can minimize symptoms of psoriasis.
If your diet hasn’t been as healthy as it should be, it’s never too late to make changes. Dr. Prest says making healthy diet changes could improve your psoriasis symptoms within a few weeks.
“Go slow with the changes and focus on changing one or two things at a time,” she says. “Once those changes have become a new sustained habit, make another change. Going slow sets yourself up for successful permanent changes.”
Next, read about the best essential oils for psoriasis.