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How Does Diet Improve or Trigger Psoriasis?

Sharon Palmer

How does diet improve or trigger symptoms in psoriasis and other autoimmune conditions? I’m answering some of your top questions on the connections between diet and psoriasis today. So, get ready to learn more about how a healthy, plant-based diet can help improve psoriasis and autoimmune conditions in this discussion.

Psoriasis can be a troublesome condition for lots of people; 10-30% of the population have psoriasis, which is a skin disorder that causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. It is thought that psoriasis is a systemic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease, as your body thinks its own tissues are foreign invaders that must be attacked. The skin builds up into bumpy red patches covered with white scales. They can grow anywhere, but most often they appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Let’s look at how diet may impact this condition.

How Does Diet Improve or Trigger Psoriasis?

Question: Is there a link between diet and psoriasis/other autoimmune conditions? Can diet exacerbate and spur symptoms associated with skin conditions? If so, how and why?

Sharon’s Answer: Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease, so it’s recommended to eat a generally anti-inflammatory diet. There is not a great deal of evidence to suggest that diet has a big impact on this condition, but there are those that experience improved symptoms with a more anti-inflammatory approach to eating. This style of eating is high in whole plant foods, and low in highly processed foods and animal foods. Ultimately, research has shown that medical treatments are more successful at treating psoriasis than diet. However, diet may help symptoms as well as other health problems that may come up in addition to psoriasis, such as heart disease or diabetes. There is a link between weight and symptoms severity, because obesity is basically a pro-inflammatory state. A healthy anti-inflammatory diet can also help with the co-morbidities that crop up, such as heart disease and diabetes. Diets like gluten-free diets do not have scientific support for this condition. Adequate vitamin D intake may be helpful for this condition too.

Diets rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are linked with lower inflammation.

Question: The Pagano diet emphasizes alkaline foods and limits acidic foods to “heal the gut.” What is the thinking behind this? Is there evidence that avoiding food groups like dairy, red meat, gluten, nightshades, and caffeine can alleviate autoimmune and psoriasis symptoms?

Sharon’s Answer: One survey found that people reported improvements in symptoms with the Pagano diet, which is made up of fruits, vegetables, lean meat/seafood, and grains, though similar improvements were reported with a vegan and Paleo diet. However, the National Psoriasis Foundation does not endorse this diet for treatment. There is little research to prove that the alkalinity or acidity of foods impacts health. The human body has the ability to maintain a steady pH in the body despite diet intake. Though people in the survey reported improvements by cutting out nightshades, which are high-alkaline, this isn’t backed by science. In fact, many nightshade vegetables are anti-inflammatory. There is little research to support other statements made in the Pagano diet, however at the end of the day, the diet is rich in grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lower amounts of sodium and sugar, an eating pattern linked with lower inflammation. It may be that these healthful foods are behind any reported improvement of symptoms, however we would need a lot more research to understand if there are any significant improvements linked with this eating style overall, and there are other recommendations in the book that are definitely not backed by science. I wouldn’t recommend the Pagano diet for psoriasis. Instead, I would recommend an anti-inflammatory eating style, such as the Mediterranean diet or a plant-based diet, which would also help achieve a healthy weight, an important step to improving symptoms.

Learn more about my recommendations for eating a healthy plant-based anti-inflammatory diet here.

Read more about diet and psoriasis here:

What You Should Know About the Pagano Diet for Psoriasis
Dietary Behaviors in Psoriasis: Patient-Reported Outcomes from a U.S. National Survey
The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?
How Does Your Diet Affect Psoriasis?

Check out other nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:

Does Roasting Veggies Ruin Nutrients?
Is “Clean Eating” a Healthy Lifestyle?
How to Prepare Dried Beans to Avoid Antinutrients

About Ask Sharon:

As part of my program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my blogFacebookTwitter or Instagram to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question via my blog, or other social media.

Main image: Pistachio Turmeric Rice Power Bowl

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