What to Eat When You Have Psoriasis

Dietary Recommendations for Better Management

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For some people with a type of psoriasis—an autoimmune disorder that causes dry, itchy, and flaky skin—diet and other lifestyle factors may play a role in managing their condition. For example, some have found that a calorie-restricted diet improves psoriasis symptoms. Following a gluten-free diet works for others, and certain nutritional supplements show potential in the treatment of the psoriasis as well. However, there is no singular dietary approach for the condition that has been supported by overwhelming scientific evidence.

For that reason, experts advise that medical treatments are still the primary line of defense in tackling psoriasis. But if you have trouble managing the condition, you may want to discuss personalized dietary and lifestyle interventions.

Benefits

In 2018, the National Psoriasis Foundation conducted a comprehensive research review that included over 50 studies and 4,500 patients. The results, published in JAMA Dermatology, concluded that when prescribed alongside standard medical treatments and tailored to individual patients' needs, certain dietary changes can be beneficial for people with psoriatic conditions. 

Weight Loss

If you are overweight or obese, reaching a healthy weight may provide relief from psoriasis symptoms. In a research review exploring the relationship between body weight and psoriasis, researchers explain that excess body fat is known to promote inflammation. Inflammation causes psoriasis flare-ups and the joint pain associated with psoriatic arthritis. Reducing body fat may help to limit these symptoms, and a low-calorie diet plays a key role in reaching that goal.

A 2019 study in PLoS Medicine found that for every 1 kg/m2 increase in body mass index (BMI), the risk of psoriasis symptoms increased by 9%. This was true for both children and adults.

Scientists concluded that obesity wasn’t necessarily the cause of psoriasis, but seemed to promote the flare of symptoms in people with a genetic predisposition for the disorder.

A 2014 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology looked at people who had treatment-resistant psoriasis. More than 300 people enrolled in the study and were randomized to take part in either a 20-week diet and exercise plan or a plan that included only counseling about the importance of weight loss for clinical control of psoriatic disease.

At the end of the study, the severity of psoriasis in people who participated in the diet and exercise plan was reduced by 48%. The group who received counseling saw a 25.5% average reduction in the severity of their psoriasis. 

Other research reviews have investigated the use of a low-calorie diet (approximately 1,200 calories per day), a very low-calorie diet (800 calories per day), or weight loss surgery to reduce excess weight. However, study authors acknowledge more extensive clinical studies are needed to further understand the efficacy of diet and weight-loss interventions in psoriasis improvement.

Reducing caloric intake in people with a healthy weight has not shown to be effective.

Reduced Inflammation

A review of studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that following a gluten-free diet can be beneficial in some patients with psoriasis, particularly those who test positive for gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

The benefit likely stems from a reduction in inflammation, but the relationship between gluten consumption and psoriasis is still unclear. Researchers have noticed that people with psoriasis frequently have, or go on to develop, other inflammatory conditions, particularly celiac disease. But antibodies found in people with psoriasis may not be stimulated by gluten the way they are in people with celiac disease. 

Because there may be a link, experts advise that patients with psoriasis discuss potential symptoms with their healthcare providers. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease include (but are not limited to) diarrhea, constipation, bloating, fatigue, and abdominal pain. Your provider may order diagnostic tests and, if results indicate celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet may be advised.

It is important to note that there is no evidence to suggest that a gluten-diet is helpful for anyone who has not tested positive for markers for celiac or gluten sensitivity. 

Healthier Skin

Certain dietary supplements including vitamin D, selenium, fish oil, and vitamin B12 have been associated with relief from psoriasis relief. These supplements may boost overall skin health and lead to relief from symptoms.

According to the dietary recommendations published in JAMA Dermatology by the Medical Board of the National Psoriasis Foundation, there is weak evidence to support vitamin D supplementation. Topical use of vitamin D is sometimes used as an effective therapy, but taking it orally is not likely to provide a benefit unless you are deficient. The paper suggests that patients continue standard care but speak to their healthcare provider about experimenting with one month of vitamin D supplementation.

Other research reviews have found moderate evidence supporting the use of an omega-3 supplement for psoriasis.

A 2014 research review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that while fish oil supplements sometimes relieved erythema (patchy redness) in people with psoriasis, it did not seem to have any effect on scaling, itching, or plaque formation. The report examined 12 trials (six controlled studies, six uncontrolled studies) showing a clinical benefit and three trials (two controlled, one uncontrolled) showing no benefit. Study authors note that supplementation may be more effective when combined with other treatments.

Those authors also noted that there are few studies supporting the efficacy of selenium or vitamin B12 supplementation in the treatment of psoriasis, but added that available study results were often contradictory. They concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the use of vitamin B12 or selenium supplements.

Because strong clinical evidence is limited regarding the use of any supplement for psoriasis, they are not considered standard care for treatment of the condition.

How It Works

Based on current evidence, there isn’t a single established psoriasis diet. But researchers have found that 73% of patients with psoriasis also manage at least one other condition such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, hypertension, atherosclerosis, or diabetes. As such, experts advise that management of the diet should take into account not only psoriasis but also these other conditions.

For example, low-fat foods and lower-calorie foods may be helpful for those who are overweight or obese. Avoiding gluten will be important for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Limiting processed foods that are high in added sugar and sodium can help manage diabetes or hypertension.

It is still unclear, however, whether or not these foods have a direct impact on psoriasis symptoms. Also, what works for one person may not work for another.

If you choose to experiment with one or more of the proposed dietary changes for managing psoriasis, keep in mind that the research is still largely inconclusive. 

If you aren’t sure which (if any) of the psoriasis diet recommendations are right for you, it may be helpful to work with a registered nutritionist or dietitian.  

Duration

Some studies investigating dietary recommendations for psoriasis suggest trying a one-month trial when adding or subtracting foods. But you should work with your healthcare provider to determine an appropriate duration for testing different interventions.

Eventually, you may find that you need to make some permanent changes to your diet to manage your symptoms. For example, if you are found to have gluten sensitivity, going on a gluten-free diet would be a change you’d likely want to stick with for the long term for your overall health. 

However, you may find that your diet doesn’t help prevent the onset of symptoms, but may help to reduce the severity of a psoriasis flare. For example, when you have active symptoms, you may choose to avoid coffee, alcohol, and foods with a lot of sugar. 

You may need to experiment with your psoriasis diet and make changes from time to time, particularly if you develop another health condition or start taking a new medication. 

What to Eat

As you’re creating your own psoriasis diet, focus on nutritious, fiber-rich produce, minimally processed sources of protein, and healthy fats. Look for ways to include a range of anti-inflammatory foods and drinks as well.

The psoriasis diet recommendations of limiting and avoiding fatty meat, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and full-fat dairy products will be doubly helpful to you if you're also working to reach weight loss goals.

Compliant

  • Organic fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, cod)

  • Lean poultry

  • Herbs and spices

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Beans, legumes, and lentils 

  • Probiotic yogurt, kefir 

  • Plant-based oils

Non-Compliant

  • Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants)

  • Heavily processed foods

  • Baked goods and pastries 

  • Red meat

  • Eggs

  • Dairy 

  • Caffeine

  • Alcohol 

  • Pork

  • Shellfish

  • Citrus

  • Gluten, wheat, barley, rye, malt (if also diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity)

Fruits and vegetables: Look for organic produce, if possible. Research studies have indicated that when participants choose organic fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to experience a decrease in symptoms. However, nightshades (particularly tomatoes), should be limited or avoided completely as they may trigger symptoms in some. Other nightshades include white potatoes, peppers, and eggplant, as well as the spice paprika.

Additionally, some people find citrus fruit to be irritating and choose to limit oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. You can experiment with these fruits and see if they influence your symptoms. 

Dairy: Full-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and ice cream tend to be high in fat and sugar, so they are typically limited or excluded on a psoriasis diet, especially by those who are overweight or obese. Some people can tolerate low-fat dairy, but it can trigger a flare-up in others. Certain foods such as probiotic-rich yogurt and kefir are approved and may help reduce symptoms.

Grains: Unless you are diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you do not need to go on a gluten-free diet if you have psoriasis. However, you may want to limit or avoid bread, pasta, and crackers made with refined white flour as it has been identified as a potential trigger in some people with psoriasis. You may also want to avoid pre-packaged oats, granola, and cereals, which can be high in added sugar. 

Protein: When choosing protein for your meals, consider fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, or anchovies, which provide omega-3 fatty acids. There is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in the treatment of psoriasis and in reducing the risk of other conditions such as heart disease.

If you do want to include animal protein, go for lean cuts of poultry such as turkey or chicken breast. Try to avoid processed meat products like sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meat on the psoriasis diet. Eggs are also occasionally cited as a trigger for psoriasis, so you may want to limit them until you know how your body reacts.

Desserts: One of the main goals of the psoriasis diet is reducing your sugar intake. You'll want to avoid sugar-based sweeteners including honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, and others. You’ll also want to avoid most baked goods like cookies, cakes, and pastries, as well as chocolate, candy, and sweet beverages. You can add flavor to many dishes with ingredients such as ginger and cinnamon. 

Beverages: Alcohol is avoided on the psoriasis diet, and you may want to experiment with limiting your caffeine intake too. Try to avoid sugary sodas, fruit juices, as well as sweet, milk-based coffee drinks.

Recommended Timing 

The psoriasis diet can be adjusted to your normal schedule, but you may want to experiment with the timing of your meals and snacks if you are trying to lose weight. 

One study investigated different weight loss interventions on psoriasis symptoms. A group that was given a specific diet that included three meals and no more than two snacks per day reported the greatest relief from symptoms. The diet was low in calories and was comprised of 55% carbohydrate, 30% fat, and 15% protein, plus 40 minutes of exercise three times a week.

Some people with psoriasis also try intermittent fasting. A 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients explored whether circadian intermittent fasting (followed by those who observe Ramadan) had any impact on people with psoriatic disease—specifically psoriatic arthritis (PsA). 

The researchers found that participants in the study seemed to benefit from this type of fasting even if they didn’t lose weight. However, more research is needed to better understand the link proposed by the study and to determine if specific practices related to Ramadan (such as the tendency to take medications at a specific time of day during fasting) may have affected the results.

Cooking Tips

When planning meals for your psoriasis diet, keep in mind that you may be able to make food suitable for your meal plan depending on how you prepare and cook it. 

For example, choosing lean cuts of meat and grilling instead of frying them can help reduce calories (for weight loss). Healthy plant-based oils can be used when cooking fish and pasta or drizzled on a salad. 

You can even make desserts using baking swaps for milk, egg, fats, and refined flour and sugar. In moderation, these healthier treats can satisfy your sweet tooth without interfering with the goals of your psoriasis diet. 

Modifications

Those who follow specialized diets (such as a vegetarian or vegan diet) should have no problems adjusting their food plan to accommodate their psoriasis symptoms. Although, pescatarians may want to choose seafood higher in omega-3s and avoid shellfish. Those following a gluten-free diet will want to choose grains such as quinoa, millet, or oats.

Also, as you adjust your food plan, you may want to consider adding exercise to your daily routine. There has been some preliminary research suggesting that regular physical activity can help reduce weight and psoriatic symptoms.

The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests following the recommended guideline of 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week. If pain from psoriatic arthritis gets in the way, the organization recommends water exercise.

Considerations

Changing how you eat impacts more than your grocery list. Your home life, work life, and social life may also be impacted. Take the time to think through these changes and make a plan to adapt.

Knowing how you will adjust, and making sure you have the support you need to do so, will make the process easier. It will also help you stick to your plan for the long haul, even if it becomes frustrating at times. 

General Nutrition

The overall nutrition of your psoriasis diet will be unique based on what you choose to include, limit, or avoid. But you should be able to reach nutritional guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) when creating a psoriasis diet.

Most people will be able to consume vegetables, fruit, grains, proteins, and healthy plant-based oils. Those who choose not to consume dairy can substitute soy beverages. Limiting saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium will not only help you meet recommended nutritional guidelines, but it may also help you reduce psoriasis symptoms.

Flexibility

Your choice of meals and snacks on a psoriasis diet might be a little more limited than you’re used to, but you’ll still have quite a bit of variety. 

The main challenge of following a special diet, especially one that restricts or eliminates certain food groups, is figuring out what to do when dining out. 

You may have to look a little more closely at restaurant menus or request additional information, such as ingredients lists or how a meal is prepared. You may be able to get substitutions for some items to make a dish that works for your psoriasis diet, or you can order items à la carte to make your own meal.

Support and Community

Psoriasis can be frustrating to manage, especially if you need to make major changes to your lifestyle. While your doctor and other members of your healthcare team will be able to answer your questions about the condition and give you advice about putting together a psoriasis diet, there may be times when you just want to talk to someone who really knows what you’re going through firsthand.

You might find it helpful to join a psoriasis support group, either in person or online. These, as well as message boards, forums, and social media groups, can be a way for you to connect with other people who have psoriasis, many of whom may have tried various versions of a psoriasis diet themselves.

While what has worked for someone else may not be right for you, it can help to talk to others to get ideas, stay motivated, and help you cope with your feelings. 

Side Effects

It’s not uncommon to notice some digestive changes when you modify your diet or eating routine. These symptoms are usually temporary and will gradually improve as your body adjusts.

If you experience constipation or diarrhea while adjusting to your psoriasis diet, adjusting your fiber intake may provide some relief. However, if your digestive discomfort doesn’t get better or seems to get worse, tell your doctor. Your symptoms may indicate that you have a food allergy or be a sign of an underlying health problem, such as gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. 

Dietary Restrictions

Talk to your doctor before making changes to your diet, especially if you have been prescribed psoriasis treatment. Some of the medications used to treat autoimmune disorders should not be mixed with certain foods or herbal supplements. 

If you have other health conditions or are taking medication for another condition, you may need to adjust your psoriasis diet. Always work with your healthcare provider to get personalized advice.

Additionally, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your overall nutritional needs will be increased. Proper nutrition is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, and while it may be fine for you to change your diet to help manage psoriasis symptoms (especially if they seem to get worse during this time), you'll want to ensure you are getting what you need from what you eat.

A Word From Verywell

Psoriasis is a common condition. While there is no cure, you can manage the condition with medication and possibly with dietary changes. Experiment with changes to your food plan to see if it helps. Keeping a food journal may be helpful in this process. Make changes gradually and then take notes about whether or not you experience relief from your symptoms.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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