Psoriasis is said to affect around 2% of the population in the UK and is considered to be an autoimmune disease. It is a chronic skin condition that usually appears in those under 30[I].
Psoriasis is thought to be linked to the immune system and can be categorised as an autoimmune disease. In this condition, the body releases inflammatory chemicals to attack its own cells, mistaking them for foreign pathogens.
Various aspects of your life, such as your diet and stress levels, can affect your immune system.
Psoriasis is closely linked to the immune system which protects our body against infections and pathogens. When a virus enters our body, the immune system releases inflammatory chemicals and sends immune cells to the affected area to repair damage and destroy the virus. However, if the immune system becomes overactive, it can release too many inflammatory chemicals causing skin irritation and psoriasis symptoms.
In most cases, psoriasis outbreaks are caused by T-cells. T-cells identify potential antigens and produce cytokines that can increase inflammation. In psoriasis, T-cells attack healthy skin cells, triggering inflammation. The cause of T-cells attacking skin cells is still unclear, but it's believed that genetics may play a role in the behaviour of the immune system.
Genetics: Genes play a significant role in psoriasis development. Family history and certain genetic variations increase the risk. HLA genes are important for identifying foreign substances and variations increase the risk. Other genes involved in the immune system, skin cell growth, and inflammation are also linked to psoriasis. However, environmental factors may also contribute to its development[iii].
Age: Psoriasis can develop at any age, but it most commonly begins in early adulthood.
Stress: Stress can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis symptoms.
Infections: Bacterial or viral infections can trigger psoriasis or make symptoms worse.
Injury to the skin: Psoriasis can develop in areas of the skin that have been injured or traumatised.
Certain medications: Some medications, such as lithium and beta-blockers, have been known to trigger or worsen psoriasis.
Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of psoriasis, as well as more severe symptoms.
Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing psoriasis and make symptoms worse [ii].
Psoriasis typically presents as red, raised patches of skin that are covered with silvery-white scales. These patches, or plaques, can be itchy and painful, and may occur anywhere on the body, although they most commonly appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.
Other symptoms may include dry or cracked skin that may bleed, joint pain, and nail abnormalities. The severity of symptoms can vary widely between individuals, and some people may experience only mild symptoms while others may be severely affected.
It is worth considering that the severity of psoriasis symptoms can vary from person to person. There are also 10 known subtypes of psoriasis.
Naturopathic approaches to psoriasis management often include dietary changes. Some naturopaths recommend a diet designed to reduce inflammation. They may also recommend avoiding certain foods that are believed to trigger or exacerbate psoriasis symptoms.
Beneficial foods for psoriasis:
If you have psoriasis, there are certain foods that may help manage your symptoms. These include fish, lean protein, or plant-based proteins such as tofu or tempeh, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. Legumes like beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and olive oil are also recommended. While it's best to limit dairy intake, small amounts of low-fat dairy can be included in the diet. Whole grains are also an important part of a psoriasis-friendly diet. By incorporating these foods into your diet, you may be able to reduce inflammation and manage your psoriasis symptoms[iv].
Foods to Avoid With Psoriasis:
Alcohol: Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can result in long-term inflammation if you drink heavily or regularly. Additionally, alcohol can harm the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which can lead to inflammation in your colon and intestines[v].
Refined carbohydrates: highly processed carbohydrates (such as: white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries and some breakfast cereals) are often processed to remove the fibre and they usually have high sugar content, which can cause a quick spike in your blood sugar levels. Consuming refined carbohydrates can also increase the levels of advanced glycation end products in your blood, which can lead to inflammation[vi].
Inflammatory fats: Fried food, margarine, fast food, and many processed snacks contain fats that are known to cause inflammation in the body. These fats can increase the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your blood, commonly known as "bad cholesterol." Research suggests that there may be a connection between excess body fat and the development or worsening of psoriasis symptoms[vii].
Allergens: Allergens such as gluten and dairy may trigger psoriasis in some people.
Gluten: Studies indicate that individuals with psoriasis have a higher incidence of celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains, triggers an immune response that attacks the tissues in the small intestine. People with celiac disease must avoid gluten completely, while some individuals without the disease have reported that reducing gluten in their diet reduces the severity of psoriasis flare-ups[viii].
Dairy: Dairy products have been linked to psoriasis in some psoriasis sufferers. Dairy contains a protein called casein, which has been reported to trigger an immune response that can cause inflammation in some people. However, the link between dairy and psoriasis is not clear-cut, and some individuals with psoriasis may not experience any negative effects from consuming dairy products. Arachidonic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that can be found in red meat, dairy, and eggs. Previous research has indicated that by-products of arachidonic acid may contribute to the development of psoriatic lesions[ix].
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation associated with psoriasis.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a role in regulating the immune system and may help reduce inflammation in individuals with psoriasis.
Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut health. Some studies suggest that improving gut health may help reduce inflammation and improve psoriasis symptoms[x].
Saccharomyces boulardii is a type of probiotic yeast that has been studied for its potential health benefits, including its use in the management of various skin conditions, including psoriasis[xi].
Turmeric: Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation associated with psoriasis[xii].
Oregon Grape: The active ingredients in Oregon grape are thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may be beneficial for people with psoriasis[xiii].
Chaga: Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) has been studied for its health benefits. There is some emerging evidence for the use of chana for the alleviation of psoriasis symptoms. A study involving mice with intestinal inflammation found that Chaga extract was administered to them, resulting in the suppression of TNF-alpha. TNF-alpha is a protein used by the immune system for cell signalling and is known to be a significant factor in causing psoriasis flare-ups[xiv].
Moisturisation is an important part of managing psoriasis, as it can help to alleviate symptoms such as dryness, itching, and scaling.
Try: Weleda Skin Food
Smoking: Smoking cessation is said to benefit psoriasis[xv].
Psoriasis: ways to calm the nervous system and relieve stress, as psoriasis is strongly linked to psychological stress[xvi].
Obesity: Obesity has been shown to be a risk factor for psoriasis, and weight loss has been associated with improvements in psoriasis symptoms[xvii].
[i] NHS. (2021). Psoriasis. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/...
Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance (PAPAA). (n.d.). About psoriasis. Retrieved from http://www.papaa.org/resources...
[ii] M. Risk Factors for the Development of Psoriasis. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 5;20(18):4347. doi: 10.3390/ijms20184347. PMID: 31491865; PMCID: PMC6769762.
[iii] Elder JT, Nair RP, Voorhees JJ. Epidemiology and the genetics of psoriasis. J Invest Dermatol. 1994 Jun;102(6):24S-27S. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12386091. PMID: 8006429.
[iv] Kanda N, Hoashi T, Saeki H. Nutrition and Psoriasis. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jul 29;21(15):5405. doi: 10.3390/ijms21155405. PMID: 32751360; PMCID: PMC7432353.
[v] Svanström C, Lonne-Rahm SB, Nordlind K. Psoriasis and alcohol. Psoriasis (Auckl). 2019 Aug 21;9:75-79. doi: 10.2147/PTT.S164104. PMID: 31687362; PMCID: PMC6709030.
Szentkereszty-Kovács Z, Gáspár K, Szegedi A, Kemény L, Kovács D, Törőcsik D. Alcohol in Psoriasis-From Bench to Bedside. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 May 7;22(9):4987. doi: 10.3390/ijms22094987. PMID: 34067223; PMCID: PMC8125812.
[vi] van der Lugt T, Weseler AR, Gebbink WA, Vrolijk MF, Opperhuizen A, Bast A. Dietary Advanced Glycation Endproducts Induce an Inflammatory Response in Human Macrophages in Vitro. Nutrients. 2018 Dec 2;10(12):1868. doi: 10.3390/nu10121868. PMID: 30513810; PMCID: PMC6315629.
[vii] Shih CM, Chen CC, Chu CK, Wang KH, Huang CY, Lee AW. The Roles of Lipoprotein in Psoriasis. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jan 29;21(3):859. doi: 10.3390/ijms21030859. PMID: 32013194; PMCID: PMC7036823.
[viii] Acharya P, Mathur M. Association between psoriasis and celiac disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020 Jun;82(6):1376-1385. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2019.11.039. Epub 2019 Dec 4. PMID: 31809817.
[ix] Park, M.K., Li, W., Paek, S.Y., Li, X., Wu, S., Li, T., Qureshi, A.A. and Cho, E. (2017), Consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of incident psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis from the Nurses’ Health Study II. Br J Dermatol, 177: 302-306. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjd.15059
[x] Zeng L, Yu G, Wu Y, Hao W, Chen H. The Effectiveness and Safety of Probiotic Supplements for Psoriasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials and Preclinical Trials. J Immunol Res. 2021 Dec 13;2021:7552546.
[xi] Chen, L., Li, J., Zhu, W., Kuang, Y., Liu, T., Zhang, W., Chen, X., & Peng, C. (2020). Skin and Gut Microbiome in Psoriasis: Gaining Insight Into the Pathophysiology of It and Finding Novel Therapeutic Strategies. Frontiers in Microbiology, 11, 589726.
[xii] Zhang S, Wang J, Liu L, Sun X, Zhou Y, Chen S, Lu Y, Cai X, Hu M, Yan G, Miao X, Li X. Efficacy and safety of curcumin in psoriasis: preclinical and clinical evidence and possible mechanisms. Front Pharmacol. 2022 Aug 29;13:903160. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.903160. PMID: 36120325; PMCID: PMC9477188.
[xiii] Janeczek M, Moy L, Lake EP, Swan J. Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Topical Mahonia aquifolium for the Treatment of Psoriasis and Atopic Dermatitis. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018 Dec;11(12):42-47. Epub 2018 Dec 1. PMID: 30666279; PMCID: PMC6334833.
[xiv] Mishra SK, Kang JH, Kim DK, Oh SH, Kim MK. Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Sep 28;143(2):524-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.07.008. Epub 2012 Jul 20. PMID: 22819687.
[xv] Pezzolo E, Naldi L. The relationship between smoking, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2019 Jan;15(1):41-48. doi: 10.1080/1744666X.2019.1543591. Epub 2018 Nov 6. PMID: 30380949.
[xvi] SECTER II, BARTHELEMY CG. ANGULAR CHELOSIS AND PSORASIS AS PSYCHOSOMATIC MENIFESTATIONS. Am J Clin Hypn. 1964 Jul;7:79-81. doi: 10.1080/00029157.1964.10402395. PMID: 14179395.
[xvii] Kunz M, Simon JC, Saalbach A. Psoriasis: Obesity and Fatty Acids. Front Immunol. 2019 Jul 31;10:1807. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01807. PMID: 31417571; PMCID: PMC6684944.
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