A balanced diet is crucial for overall health. But do certain foods also have specific benefits for managing psoriasis? Many people with the disease believe so. However, research has yielded mixed results. Here’s what’s known about diet and psoriasis—and what’s not.
Catch the benefits of fish
Fatty types of fish—such as salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, and sardines—are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help fight inflammation. And that might mean they’re helpful for psoriasis, which is an inflammatory skin condition. Numerous studies have tested this theory. Unfortunately, the results didn’t always show that omega-3s led to a clear-cut improvement in psoriasis.
There’s stronger evidence that eating fish is good for your heart. The American Heart Association recommends consuming fish—particularly fatty fish—at least twice a week. (Children and pregnant women should avoid types of fish that are more likely to have high levels of mercury contamination, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.) Your heart and blood vessels will thank you for that fish filet. And if it turns out to also help your psoriasis, that’s a nice bonus.
What about wheat?
Some people with psoriasis believe that wheat worsens their symptoms. It’s possible that they’re sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. A 2008 study, published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, supports this theory. It found that psoriasis patients had increased levels of certain antibodies in their blood that are signs of gluten sensitivity.
If you have both psoriasis and gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet might help control your psoriasis symptoms. This type of diet rules out wheat, rye, and barley, which are found in most breads, pastas, and cereals as well as many processed foods. Look instead for gluten-free products, made with potato, rice, soy, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, or bean flour.
Other food for thought
Some people report that red meat or fatty foods aggravate their psoriasis. No research clearly supports this connection. But it’s possible that food triggers vary from person to person. If you suspect that certain foods might be making your psoriasis worse, test it out: Stop eating those items and see what happens.
Smart food choices—such as eating more fruits and veggies and limiting saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugar—promote general health. Combined with regular exercise and adequate sleep, a healthy diet also helps manage stress and fend off infections, both of which may trigger psoriasis. Plus, a balanced diet helps control your weight. And that’s important, because research has linked a higher level of body fat with more severe psoriasis symptoms.
When you have psoriasis, eating well and enhancing wellness go hand in hand.