If you're living with psoriasis, you’re likely familiar with the raised, scaly patches or plaques that characterize this chronic autoimmune disease. These symptoms often develop on the knees, elbows, and scalp, and they may flake, itch, burn, or sting.
“My feet are itchy and burn all the time,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “Some days, I itch all over,” said another. “It drives me nuts.”
In addition to seeking treatment from a doctor who specializes in psoriasis, like a dermatologist or rheumatologist, some people find relief in other ways — such as by drinking kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink found at many grocery and health food stores. If you’ve noticed it in the dairy case and heard about its health benefits, you might be wondering if kefir is good for psoriasis.
“I can’t say for sure, but I have been drinking kefir on the advice of my doctor for stomach reasons, and my psoriasis seems to be clearing,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member.
Indeed, some research suggests kefir may help with psoriasis symptoms — plus it has other potential health benefits. Read on to learn more about kefir and to see if it may be a good addition to your psoriasis treatment regimen.
Kefir is a fermented dairy product that originated in the Caucasus Mountains, located between Asia and Europe. People have consumed kefir for its health benefits for hundreds of years. This drink is usually made from cow’s or goat’s milk, though it can also be prepared with milk from animals such as buffalo and sheep, as well as plant-based milks, like soy or coconut. Making it with kefir grains and water is also an option.
Milk kefir is different from other fermented dairy products — like yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream — in that kefir grains are added during fermentation. Kefir grains are a combination of yeast and bacteria and have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-allergy benefits. They can also reduce milk’s cholesterol levels.
Although kefir resembles yogurt, it has a thinner consistency. You can drink it from a glass instead of eating it with a spoon. Kefir is packed with calcium, protein, B vitamins, and probiotics — it supplies even more “good” bacteria than yogurt does.
Sometimes you need to keep bacteria out of your body, like if you have a cut or an open wound that could get infected. But some types of bacteria are beneficial. These good or friendly bacteria can aid digestion, attack cells that cause disease, and help make vitamins. They can also protect you from “bad” bacteria — the kind that can make you sick — and support a healthy gut. Two types of good bacteria found in kefir are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
These good types of bacteria are known as probiotics. In addition to drinking kefir and eating yogurt, you can consume probiotics in other fermented foods, like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut. You can also take probiotic supplements to increase your gut bacteria, promote gut health, and support your gut microbiome, which is an essential part of your immune system.
Your body needs a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria, but you may not need to supplement your natural levels of probiotics. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements for psoriasis or starting a probiotic-rich diet.
Although some foods trigger psoriasis symptoms, your gut microbiome might not spring to mind when psoriasis makes you itchy and uncomfortable. However, research has shown a connection between intestinal health and skin health. Probiotics are often used to treat other types of autoimmune conditions, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, known simply as lupus), rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
In a 2021 study, scientists evaluated the benefits of homemade kefir for symptom relief in people with inflammatory skin conditions. They divided participants into two groups — those with atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema) and those without any skin conditions. At the end of the study, people in both groups who consumed kefir had improved skin barrier function, meaning their skin was stronger and better protected from harmful substances such as allergens, toxic chemicals, and infection-causing agents. Those in the atopic dermatitis group also experienced symptom relief.
Researchers believe that people with psoriasis are more likely to have a leaky gut than the general population. Leaky gut is not a recognized medical diagnosis, but this condition is often associated with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. When health care providers refer to “leaky gut syndrome,” they mean that toxins are getting through your intestinal lining, which could trigger an inflammatory response.
More studies are needed to explore the benefits of kefir for people with psoriasis, but the probiotics in kefir with anti-inflammatory properties may be able to help relieve skin inflammation and scaling by improving intestinal health.
One of the benefits of joining MyPsoriasisTeam, or a psoriasis support group in your area, is the opportunity to share with and learn from others living with psoriasis. This is what MyPsoriasisTeam members said about their experience with kefir:
Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for psoriasis, dietary changes are also not likely to have the same impact on everyone. While some people with psoriasis have had success with different types of diet, no diets have been scientifically proven to treat or cure the condition. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about taking kefir for psoriasis.
In addition to relieving symptoms in some people with inflammatory skin conditions, kefir may have antitumor properties that could contribute to cancer prevention and treatment, according to researchers. Findings also suggest that kefir may improve:
Kefir is usually consumed as a beverage but may also have topical benefits. One study found that a gel made from kefir grains, when applied to the skin of rats, improved wound healing. Other research has found that topical probiotics may help with some skin conditions, but more research is needed.
Kefir is readily available and generally safe to drink, but some people may want to avoid it or limit their intake. If you are prone to intestinal issues, need to avoid even trace amounts of alcohol, or get frequent infections, consider these risks and side effects:
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate probiotic supplements or foods the way it does with psoriasis medications, so you’re unlikely to see kefir on an approved list of psoriasis treatments. Although it appears to help some people, kefir may not work for everyone. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about kefir, probiotics, or changing your diet to address psoriasis symptoms.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 115,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Have you tried kefir? Did it seem to have an effect on your psoriasis symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.