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Lifestyle Changes for Psoriasis

Posted on February 18, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Nyaka Mwanza

Embracing a healthier lifestyle may make a difference in the progression of psoriasis. The condition can be unpredictable, and it affects different people in different ways. The good news is, you have power over several aspects of your psoriasis, including making changes to avoid your triggers and to reduce flare-ups.

“After 40 years … I have cleared most of the psoriasis up by giving up alcohol [and] smoking, [eating] good healthy food, [and] plenty of ocean-swimming,” wrote one member of MyPsoriasisTeam.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes inflammation and the accelerated production of skin cells. The inflammation causes discolored patches, or plaques, to appear on the skin. Managing your diet, exercise habits, and stress are important steps in managing your psoriatic disease and improving your quality of life — while also adhering to your provider-recommended treatment plan.

Diet and Psoriasis

There isn’t any one diet that’s recommended for people with psoriasis, but a healthful diet may help control symptom severity and reduce the risk of other conditions linked to psoriasis, including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. A healthy diet that contributes to weight loss may help decrease flares in people with psoriasis who are overweight, as well. To determine the diet most likely to help your psoriasis, talk to your health care providers.

“Day nine of my diet change: fresh meats, fish, veggies, some frozen veggies — [and] no sugars, dairy, processed foods. … Seeing some improvement. It could be Stelara kicking in, but still going 12 weeks on the diet. I haven't killed anyone yet without my sugar, so that's a plus too,” wrote a MyPsoriasisTeam member.

Foods To Avoid If You Have Psoriasis

In a survey of more than 1,200 people living with psoriasis, the most common self-reported dietary triggers were sugar, alcohol, and gluten. After reducing their intake of certain foods and beverages, participants reported seeing improvements to their skin conditions, as follows:

  • Avoiding alcohol benefitted 53.8 percent of participants.
  • Eating less gluten helped the symptoms of 53.4 percent of respondents.
  • Consuming fewer nightshades (e.g., tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes) yielded positive results for 52.1 percent.
  • Cutting back on “junk food” (e.g., cookies, chips, french fries) led to improvement in 50 percent.
  • Eliminating or avoiding white-flour products helped with symptoms for 49.9 percent of the respondents.

As noted, reducing alcohol had the most significant impact. Importantly, excessive alcohol intake is linked to the onset of psoriasis and associated with severity of its symptoms. Drinking alcohol can make psoriasis treatment less effective and lead to shorter, fewer, or no remissions (periods without psoriasis symptoms).

Foods To Include When You’re Living With Psoriasis

A diet that comprises lots of anti-inflammatory foods may help improve psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis symptoms. Anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of psoriasis flares, though more research is needed.

In the aforementioned study looking at diet’s impact on psoriasis symptoms, participants reported improvements when they added more foods with anti-inflammatory properties to their diets. Specifically:

  • More vegetables led to improvements in 42.5 percent of participants.
  • Introducing more organic foods benefitted 38.4 percent of respondents.
  • Increasing fruit consumption yielded positive results for 34.6 percent.

In addition to these foods, whole grains can help with psoriasis symptoms. Also, a study published in Alternative Medicine Review found that turmeric improved inflammation-related conditions.

Dietary Supplements

Evidence suggests that people with psoriatic disease have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency than other people. A survey of people with psoriasis found that around 41 percent experienced improvements to their skin-related symptoms after taking an oral vitamin D supplement.

Additionally, adding more fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids (found naturally in flax, walnuts, and other plant-based foods) had positive results for 44.6 of the participants. Introducing probiotics (found in many types of fermented foods) helped 40.6 percent of participants.

Dietary supplements may help some people; others may see no difference or a worsening of their condition. The addition of dietary supplements does not supplant the treatment regimen prescribed by a medical expert.

Exercise and Psoriasis

Exercise can be helpful for psoriasis symptoms and your overall health by reducing stress and helping to maintain a healthy weight.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a recommended part of a holistic psoriasis-management strategy. Being overweight is linked with more severe psoriasis symptoms, as well as the development of psoriatic arthritis. If you have psoriatic arthritis, excess weight is a greater stress on joints that are already under attack by the body’s overresponsive immune system. Additionally, many of psoriasis’ frequently co-occurring conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression, are also linked to or compounded by being overweight.

Just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day — 150 minutes per week — can help reduce your risk of developing other conditions sometimes associated with psoriasis, such as fatty liver disease and heart disease. Doing something you enjoy, like yoga or walking the dog, can make getting your daily recommended exercise in feel like less of a chore.

Stress Management and Psoriasis

Stress can trigger psoriasis flares and exacerbate symptoms of psoriasis. Living with a chronic disease is in itself stressful and can compound the risk of other mental-health issues, such as anxiety. It’s likely impossible to eliminate all stress from your life, but practicing strategies to better cope with life’s stressors may help reduce your psoriasis symptoms — though research is mixed.

Find what works best for you. Stress-reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, or getting a massage, may be enjoyable. You may find that activities like tai chi and yoga offer extra benefit by being both relaxing and a good form of exercise.

Find Your Support Network

A strong community of support is an invaluable tool in managing a chronic condition like psoriasis. MyPsoriasisTeam is an online community of people living with and caring for others with psoriasis. Members provide an outlet, real-life information, and a listening ear.

Psoriasis affects everyone differently. What works for one person may not work for everyone. What lifestyle changes have you adopted to help prevent flare-ups? Leave a comment below or start a conversation on MyPsoriasisTeam to share your tips.

References

  1. Psoriasis — Symptoms and Causes — Mayo Clinic
  2. Healthy Diet and Other Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Psoriasis — American Academy of Dermatology
  3. What Should I Eat if I Have Psoriasis? — American Academy of Dermatology
  4. Dietary Modifications — National Psoriasis Foundation
  5. Dietary Behaviors in Psoriasis: Patient-Reported Outcomes from a US National Survey — Dermatology and Therapy
  6. The Impact of Diet on Psoriasis — Cutis
  7. Anti-inflammatory Properties of Curcumin, a Major Constituent of Curcuma longa: A Review of Preclinical and Clinical Research — Alternative Medicine Review
  8. Vitamin D and Its Role in Psoriasis: An Overview of the Dermatologist and Nutritionist — Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders
  9. Plant Sources of Omega-3s — Cleveland Clinic
  10. How to Get More Probiotics — Harvard Health Publishing
  11. Life with Psoriasis — National Psoriasis Foundation
  12. Psoriatic Arthritis — Arthritis Foundation
  13. Can Psoriasis Affect More Than My Skin? — American Academy of Dermatology Association
  14. Can Stress Reduction Interventions Improve Psoriasis? A Review — Psychology, Health & Medicine
  15. Lifestyle changes for treating psoriasis — Cochrane
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Nyaka Mwanza has worked with large global health nonprofits focused on improving health outcomes for women and children. Learn more about her here.

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