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There is growing interest in using over-the-counter dietary supplements to achieve better health outcomes, including for psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic, long-lasting disorder, and continual use of certain medications or therapies may lead to an increased risk of side effects. Many people, therefore, seek alternatives or complements for managing their psoriasis symptoms. Common supplements among people with psoriasis include turmeric, vitamin D, probiotics, and fish oil.
Although scientific research has not consistently found a clear connection between certain supplements and psoriasis symptom relief, understanding what options are available and their potential health benefits is worthwhile.
Remember, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves supplements to be safe for general consumption, but it does not approve them as treatments for medical conditions. Always seek professional medical advice before adding supplements to your diet.
Vitamin D is one of many vitamins required for general health, helping with calcium absorption and bone health. Vitamin D is also known to be an important chemical in regulating inflammation. Because inflammation is a contributing factor to psoriasis flare-ups, some topical creams for psoriasis, such as Dovonex (calcipotriene), contain chemicals closely related to vitamin D.
Vitamin D is abundant in fortified foods and is made by the body in response to sunlight, but people with psoriasis are often vitamin D deficient. As a result, vitamin D supplementation has become an important consideration for managing psoriasis symptoms.
Several early studies showed relief of psoriasis symptoms when taking vitamin D. However, two recent studies concluded that there was little to no added benefit of vitamin D supplementation in treating psoriasis in comparison to placebo treatment. With mixed evidence, it’s difficult to say for sure whether vitamin D supplements are beneficial for psoriasis.
“I've taken the [vitamin] D supplements and they seemed to help a little,” wrote a MyPsoriasisTeam member.
Vitamin D supplementation is generally safe when taking 400-800 international units (or IU) per day, depending on age. However, it has been shown to be harmful in large doses, causing nausea, constipation, and other ailments, such as harm to the kidneys.
Taking vitamin D supplements can also interfere with some medications. Vitamin D supplements may lead to risky health effects when taken in combination with:
If you’re thinking of adding vitamin D supplements to your diet, remember to consult with your dermatologist and discuss any medications you may be taking.
Turmeric is a widely used yellow spice derived from a plant in the ginger family, the root of which has been traditionally used to treat many illnesses. The main chemical compound in turmeric is curcumin, which is often sold as a dietary supplement. Consumption of up to 12 grams of curcumin per day is considered safe.
“Turmeric latte — soy milk, manuka honey, and, yes, a good helping of turmeric,” shared a MyPsoriasisTeam member. “Delicious drink before bed and great for my psoriasis.”
Turmeric has a long-standing history in the management of conditions that involve pain and inflammation. Modern studies of turmeric and curcumin support their effectiveness, as well. Three recent studies have reported that the addition of turmeric or turmeric extract to standard topical treatments led to modest improvements in clinical symptoms for participants, compared to those who received a control treatment.
Results like these are promising but do not address the benefits of turmeric as a dietary supplement. Larger and more sophisticated studies are needed to verify the use of turmeric as an effective psoriasis treatment.
Side effects from taking turmeric may include nausea and diarrhea, though turmeric is generally well tolerated. If you’re considering the addition of turmeric as a dietary supplement, make sure to consult with your health care provider first to rule out potential interactions or side effects.
Another popular supplement is fish oil. Fish oil is rich in several molecules important for your health, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids.
“I've recently been advised to take fish oil supplements by one of my clients at work,” wrote a MyPsorasisTeam member. “Her husband suffers bad with psoriasis and by taking a fish oil supplement daily, his has cleared up!!!”
EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, which provide a rationale to use fish oil for the symptoms of psoriasis. Research is mixed when it comes to the benefits of fish oil supplements for psoriasis treatment, however.
Two studies in the late 1980s showed an improvement in psoriasis symptoms for patients who received omega-3 fatty acids. However, similar studies also show no improvement of symptoms with fish oil treatment for individuals with psoriasis.
Although fish oil alone may not be beneficial for psoriasis, it may be useful as a complement to other treatments. For example, in one study, when participants took oral omega-3 supplements along with a topical vitamin D treatment, they experienced better symptom improvements compared to participants who used topical treatment alone.
Fish oil has been shown to interact with certain blood pressure medications and contraceptives, and high doses may increase the risk of stroke. More research is needed to fully understand the benefits and potential risks associated with fish oil supplementation for psoriasis. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about fish oil or any other supplements you are thinking of taking.
One of the newest, most exciting areas of research that may be relevant to psoriasis treatment involves how microorganisms in the gut influence the health of other parts of the body, like the skin. “Probiotics” is a catch-all term for the many microscopic organisms that are beneficial for your overall health, either by making substances your body needs or by keeping other microorganisms in check.
“I would strongly recommend to everyone to eat fermented foods [or] probiotics to heal the gut ... especially those who are on antibiotics frequently,” a MyPsoriasisTeam member suggested.
In addition to being found naturally in foods such as yogurt and cheese, probiotics are available as dietary supplements. Research into using probiotic supplements for psoriasis treatment is limited, but it offers promising results.
In one case report, a woman with pustular psoriasis showed a remission of symptoms after four weeks of treatment with a probiotic supplement. Another study showed that the use of probiotics reduced symptoms of psoriasis, though it was preliminary research done in animals. More large-scale studies are needed to address the use of probiotics for treating psoriasis.
Although probiotics may hold the potential to treat psoriasis, more work needs to be done to determine the safety and effectiveness of probiotic supplements. Remember to talk with your doctor if you are considering adding probiotic supplements to your diet.
The conflicting studies about the benefits of certain supplements can be especially frustrating for anyone seeking relief for a health condition. It could be easy to conclude that scientists simply don’t know what they’re doing. That’s certainly not the case.
What’s important to remember is that the studies and case reports mentioned here aren’t inherently flawed; they’re just different from one another. In each instance, researchers tested slightly different doses, application methods, numbers of participants, and types of psoriasis. They also use different outcome measurements to determine the effectiveness of the various supplements they studied. These differences make it difficult to draw comparisons between them all.
This doesn’t mean that supplements don’t work, or that they won’t work for you. It means that more large-scale studies need to be done before a health care provider can say with certainty which supplements work, who they would benefit from, and what those benefits may be.
If you’re thinking of trying supplements for your psoriasis — or any other reason, remember to first consult with your doctor.
MyPsoriasisTeam is a community of over 89,000 people living with psoriasis. Members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.
Have you used any of these supplements to manage your psoriasis symptoms? What tips do you have to share? Leave a comment below or start a conversation on MyPsoriasisTeam.