Sep. 21. 2018
Health Conditions
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Is there a connection between diet and psoriasis? If so, what is the best diet to eat to keep psoriasis symptoms calm?

Just like any other health condition, there are so many factors we can look at in an attempt to get to the root cause of an issue with our health, psoriasis is one of them. We have an article on common autoimmune diseases and some of those health conditions we’ve received a lot of emails requesting entire articles about including psoriasis.

It makes sense that so many of you are interested in this autoimmune condition because psoriasis is estimated to affect 6.7 million adults shown by the NHANES analysis. (1) It’s most common among people aged 15-35 and can present itself during certain life events such as more stress than normal, food allergies or intolerances, and certain types of health conditions that cause inflammation in the body can also exacerbate psoriasis.

What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, meaning that part of the body’s immune system becomes overactive and attacks normal tissues in the body. It affects the skin causing thick red rashes and silvery scales which are irritating and at times can be painful.

Psoriasis most commonly appears on the elbows, hands, feet, scalp, knees, and hairline. In addition to rashes on the skin, there also is a type of arthritis related to psoriasis that occurs in 10-20% of people who are diagnosed with psoriasis. (1)

There are several types of psoriasis including: (2)

  1. plaque psoriasis – which is the most common causing thicker patches of dead skin which can sometimes be very painful and bleed
  2. guttate – which are smaller red dots similar to the looks of chickenpox which can be triggered by strep, which is common in younger people with psoriasis
  3. inverse – which are smooth and shiny and often appear in the folds of skin such as knees or armpits
  4. pustular – which often occurs on the hands and feet and contain white pustules which contain pus made up of white blood cells (not infectious)
  5. erythrodermic – which is the rarest form of psoriasis affecting about 3% of those diagnosed. It’s widespread over the body, causing severe itching and pain

What’s the difference between hives and psoriasis? Well, that’s why it’s best to seek a professional dermatologist to help you diagnose it since it can easily be confused with eczema, hives, or a short-term skin reaction.

These professionals also look at other health conditions that are often seen in people with psoriasis including diabetes, heart disease, Crohn’s, cardiovascular disease, and depression. (3) There are also risk factors such as family history of psoriasis, environmental factors, diet, obesity, smoking, stress levels, and alcohol use. (8)

Typically how psoriasis is managed involves medications, topical creams such as mineral oil and moisturizers and emollients, and UV phototherapy (sunlight). There are fewer studies on the connection between diet and psoriasis, but some show the Mediterranean diet, one that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA) have shown to help reduce inflammation in the skin. (4) (5) (6)

The wellbeing component with psoriasis

Just like any health condition, everyone is unique and has a different journey navigating a health condition. Because psoriasis is on the skin and it’s unlike some autoimmune conditions where it’s “hidden” inside, psoriasis shows up on the skin for others to see, leaving some people with the condition feeling a bit anxious, self-conscious, or depressed.
I can’t speak to personal experience with psoriasis, but I reached out to one of my dear friends and crusader in the world of empowering women, Nitika Chopra. She shares some of her personal story living with psoriasis. I hope that if you’re living with this health condition and need extra love and care, she’ll be a great guide and resource for you to look to.
Nitika says “after having psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis for over 27 years, I have been through an intense amount of ups and downs with my body. I am stronger, more empathetic and more mindful of self-care because of what it’s taught me, but I am not immune to the struggle of it even after all of this time. Imagine having every single one of your greatest wounds, all over your body for the world to see. Sounds painful, right? That’s just a tiny snapshot of what it can feel like when you have psoriasis.” 

How Diet And Psoriasis Are Linked

If you’ve learned anything from Nutrition Stripped, it’s that the food we eat and how we take care of ourselves has the power to impact the outcome of our overall wellbeing. That means helping calm and in some cases reverse health conditions we may be experiencing. Psoriasis is no exception linking potential positive outcomes with our diet.

As mentioned earlier, the people at risk for psoriasis include those who also have cardiovascular disease, and those who are obese are also at risk for psoriasis. Several studies have shown correlations between increased levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) which is an acute phase protein associated with obesity and is one of the most sensitive markers for inflammation and cardiovascular disease. (7)

While there isn’t a specific medical nutrition therapy or diet for psoriasis, there are some things we know and don’t know about how diet may be involved as part of the treatment plan.

Food Components That May Help Psoriasis

Based on some studies showing fish oil (DHA and EPA) can help reduce psoriasis symptoms along with other treatments, fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel are great sources of these omega-3 fatty acids.

In addition, working with a dietitian alongside a dermatologist can help you get to the root cause of potential food triggers you may have that make symptoms worse. Popular food triggers may include dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, etc.

Similarly to other inflammatory diseases that are chronic, diet and more specifically food components (minerals, vitamins, antioxidants) may help reduce the oxidative stress seen in psoriasis. (9)

Some of these include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: the source of DHA and EPA
  • Vitamin A, E, and C: antioxidant
  • Vitamin D: used as a topical treatment option it slows the growth of inflamed cells and encourages the separation of new cells. (10) Vitamin D inhibits the activation of T cells, which release proinflammatory cytokines — resulting in reduced inflammation. (11)
  • Minerals: Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese
  • Selenium: Antioxidant

What You Can Do Today

Everyone has to start somewhere, here are a couple actionable steps to try out today!

Professional guidance:

Make an appointment with your dermatologist and dietitian to make sure you’re supported in your journey to feeling better. A dietitian can help you come up with a food meal avoiding any potential food triggers you may have and properly walk you through a way to do this.

I only take 4 new clients a month, so if we have a waitlist for that month, I’m more than happy to refer you to a colleague! Just apply here.

Food journal:

If working with a dietitian isn’t something you can do right now, get a head start by making a food journal. This will help you track what you’re eating and potentially link any flare-ups you may have. This is also great data to show your dermatologist and dietitian.

Eat antioxidants:

Try eating more antioxidant-rich foods — the good thing is that you’re in the best hands here at NS! We have hundreds of recipes all rich in antioxidants, all fairly allergy-friendly (all dairy-free and gluten-free). Try eating more colorful fruits and vegetables with each meal to get started, your dietitian may recommend certain supplements as well.

Anti-oxidant rich foods contain a compound called glutathione which is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant often found in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and garlic. One study showed that people who have psoriasis have lower levels of glutathione in their body. (12)

Contribute to your extended family!

When it comes to bettering our health and improving happiness in life, we all need support. That’s why speaking to professionals is just as important as your tribe — the people who are there for you when times get challenging and you need mental and emotional accountability and support.

We have such an amazing community here. If you have a story you’d like to share about nutrition, diet, or lifestyle changes you’ve made that have helped psoriasis, then please share with your community so you can also help others!

  1. Psoriasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published June 28, 2018.
  2. About Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation | Locations: Hands, Feet & Nails.
  3. Wolf-Henning Boehncke, Michael P. Schön. Psoriasis. Lancet. 2015 Sep 5; 386(9997): 983–994. Published online 2015 May 27. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61909-7
  4. Sowmya Kaimal, Devinder Mohan Thappa. Diet in dermatology: revisited. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2010 Mar–Apr; 76(2): 103–115. doi: 10.4103/0378-6323.60540
  5. Bruna Guida, Anna Napoleone, Rossella Trio, Annamaria Nastasi, Nicola Balato, Roberta Laccetti, Mauro Cataldi. Energy-restricted, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids-rich diet improves the clinical response to immuno-modulating drugs in obese patients with plaque-type psoriasis: a randomized control clinical trial.Clin Nutr. 2014 Jun; 33(3): 399–405. Published online 2013 Sep 28. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2013.09.010
  6. P. M. Collier, A. Ursell, K. Zaremba, C. M. Payne, R. C. Staughton, T. Sanders. Effect of regular consumption of oily fish compared with white fish on chronic plaque psoriasis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1993 Apr; 47(4): 251–254.
  7. Beygi S, Lajevardi V, Abedini R. C-reactive protein in psoriasis: a review of the literature. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2014 Jun; 28(6):700-11.
  8. Huerta C, Rivero E, Rodríguez LA. Incidence and risk factors for psoriasis in the general population. Arch Dermatol. 2007 Dec; 143(12):1559-65.
  9. Millsop JW, Bhatia BK, Debbaneh M, Koo J, Liao W. Diet and psoriasis, part III: role of nutritional supplements. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Sep; 71(3):561-9.
  10. Lowe KE, Norman AW. Vitamin D and psoriasis. Nutr Rev. 1992;50:138-142.
  11. Shapiro SS, Saliou C. Role of vitamins in skin care. Nutrition. 2001;17:839-844.
  12. Antioxidants and lipid peroxidation status in the blood of patients with psoriasis.