Can diet help treat psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disorder that causes the body to attack its own tissues and organs. It causes the overproduction of skin cells, and the result is scaly, red plaques that are painful and itchy. Many people that have psoriasis of the skin can also have an inflammatory bone and joint condition called psoriatic arthritis.
No diet can cure psoriasis. Psoriasis has no cure, and only symptoms can be treated. However, there is a link between psoriasis and diet. Many foods can help to decrease the symptom severity and lower the risk of developing comorbidities.
On the other hand, many foods cause inflammation in the body, and the irritation makes psoriasis worse. A recent study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that the traditional US diet alters the microbial state of the gut. This leads to problems that induce psoriatic inflammation. A Western diet like that of the US has vast amounts of sugar and fat. The combination enhances exposure to a protein called interleukin (IL)-23 which causes inflammation in psoriatic disease. The resulting imbalance makes psoriatic flares worse.
Several of the foods that increase the risk of diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and obesity are the same ones that cause inflammation. Foods that irritate psoriasis include:
- Dairy products
- Alcoholic beverages
- Saturated fats and trans fats
- Refined carbohydrates
- Foods with added sugar
Psoriasis is a product of being predisposed by genetics, and external triggers. While you cannot alter your genes, you can control what you eat. By applying changes at the initial indication of psoriasis, you could reduce your risk of developing joint disease. Weight loss combined with dietary change can further limit the risk.
Instead of triggering inflammation, many foods help to alleviate it. A healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet, can reduce psoriatic flares and decrease symptom severity. Foods that are good for you, if you have psoriasis include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Seeds and nuts
- Beans and lentils
- Lean protein and fish
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
- Olive oil
Though there is no cure for psoriasis, there are treatments that block the skin cells from multiplying so rapidly, therefore, reducing inflammation and new plaque formation. Cream and ointments like topical steroids and tar coal are used on persistent plaques, and when other treatments fail. They slough off dead skin cells. They also reduce itching and inflammation. Other topicals include vitamin D creams, topical retinoids, Dritho-creme, and calcineurin inhibitors.
Ultraviolet light rays are used in light therapy to reduce inflammation and scaling. This includes artificial UVA light, artificial UVB light, and even sunlight. If other treatments fail, your doctor may prescribe pills or injections. Some have side effects so they can only be used for a short period. Some examples are methotrexate, retinoids, biologics such as Humira and Remicade, hydroxyurea, and cyclosporine.
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