Many people diagnosed with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis find that what they eat makes their condition better or worse. While different people with these conditions seem to be triggered by different foods, some note that gluten is a significant problem.
Though there is no conclusive scientific evidence directly linking gluten to psoriasis symptoms, some members on MyPsoriasisTeam find that avoiding the protein makes their psoriasis better. “I have recently discovered cutting out gluten has helped me,” one member noted.
Another wrote, “My son went gluten free, and it helped tremendously.”
“I went gluten free (totally, with no cheating), and it helped clear some of my psoriasis spots!” shared a third member.
Avoiding gluten does not benefit everyone with psoriasis, though other dietary adjustments can. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with psoriasis, consider speaking with a health care provider about diet changes, including reducing or eliminating gluten. Here’s what you need to know when assessing whether going gluten-free is a good option for you.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease, meaning it occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own healthy tissues. Skin cells multiply faster than normal in certain areas, causing scales and itchy, discolored areas characteristic of psoriasis. People diagnosed with psoriasis may experience periodic flare-ups throughout their lives after exposure to triggers.
Gluten refers to a certain type of protein found in many whole grains. Wheat, barley, and rye are the most common culprits, though you can also find gluten in spelt, farro, and other grain products. Gluten helps foods hold together and maintain their shape. It can also be separated from the foods it occurs in naturally and used as an additive, so gluten can end up in many processed foods where you might not expect to find it.
There is no simple answer to the role a gluten-free diet could play in managing psoriasis. There is no scientific evidence that gluten functions as a trigger, meaning it does not cause psoriasis to develop, nor does it exacerbate psoriasis after it has been diagnosed.
However, there is evidence that psoriasis is connected to celiac disease — an autoimmune condition triggered by eating gluten. Although research into this connection is still preliminary, it seems that celiac disease and psoriasis may share the same inflammatory pathways and may even be connected genetically.
People with psoriasis who also have celiac disease, markers for celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance are most likely to benefit from avoiding gluten. If you’re sensitive to gluten, the protein can adversely affect your digestive system and your ability to absorb nutrients. Avoiding gluten can help your digestive system perform better, which in turn can lead to skin improvements.
You can talk to your doctor or a dermatology expert about blood tests and other tests for diagnosing celiac disease, though false-positive test results for celiac disease are common among people diagnosed with psoriasis. You may prefer to ask your doctor whether they would advise eliminating gluten to see if it helps improve your psoriasis.
Evidence suggests that trying a gluten-free diet for 90 days gives you enough time to determine whether this dietary change will help your psoriasis. Note that a gluten-free diet can only prove itself effective or ineffective if you stick to it carefully, without any cheating, for 90 days. You will need to learn about all the foods with hidden gluten, like soy sauce, salad dressing, and more.
Many MyPsoriasisTeam members recommend giving a gluten-free diet a try. One wrote, “I think you have to try to see what works best for you. Gluten doesn’t affect everyone the same.”
Another explained that even though eliminating gluten didn’t offer improvement, it was still worth a try. “Avoiding gluten helps some of us with psoriasis,” they wrote. “I tried it for a few months and celebrated when it didn't work — cakes and beer were back on the menu!”
In short, the best diet for psoriasis is the one that works for you. If you are concerned about eating gluten or you wonder if there is a dietary component to your psoriasis, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. They will help you determine which foods trigger your symptoms and help you plan how to avoid them.
Finding out which foods, if any, trigger your psoriasis symptoms can take time and persistence. You may want to keep a food diary, taking note of what you eat and how your symptoms change, if at all. Over time, this will reveal patterns and potential connections between types of food and your condition. You may also want to consult your doctor about eliminating other types of food, beyond gluten, for up to 90 days at a time to see if the symptoms of psoriasis improve.
MyPsoriasisTeam members have identified all sorts of foods that make their psoriasis symptoms worse. “I've noticed that gluten, dairy, sugar, and meat seem to cause me to flare, so I've cut them out so far,” wrote one member.
Another member found a drastic parallel between certain foods and their symptoms, writing, “I experience psoriasis flares almost immediately after eating any type of refined sugar.”
Other people find that a healthy diet with anti-inflammatory properties improves psoriasis symptoms. As one member pointed out, however, you’ll need to stick to your diet exclusively to maintain any potential benefits: “I am keeping a very strict anti-inflammatory diet. If I go off of it just a little bit, the symptoms come back quickly.”
Anti-inflammatory diets include foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. The Mediterranean diet is one example of an anti-inflammatory diet. You can ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist if you want help determining whether you should try this diet — and, if you do, how to go about doing so in a safe, healthy way.
You may find that dietary changes don’t work for you. In that case, there are other ways to treat psoriasis, including topical treatments and oral or injected medications. Ultimately, dietary changes cannot replace psoriasis treatment, but they may help you manage your symptoms better alongside your prescribed treatments.
Identifying and eliminating triggers can be challenging — especially on top of the other daily concerns of life with psoriasis. The right support can make a big difference.
At MyPsoriasisTeam, the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, you’ll find more than 89,000 members ready to offer advice and support. Members from across the world come here to meet others who understand life with psoriasis.
Have you found that gluten makes your psoriasis worse? Have you tried gluten-free diets? Let others know about your experience. Start the conversation by leaving a comment below, or by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.