“You are what you eat.” This popular phrase truly describes the important role that diet plays in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Research increasingly suggests that certain food, nutrients or diet plans may have beneficial effects on the skin, while others may act as triggers of certain skin conditions or disease.
Psoriasis is a debilitating skin disorder which negatively impacts the individual’s quality of life. Even though it is presumed to have an immune-based etiology, some genetic and environmental factors may also play a role in its development.
A survey published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy in May 2017 suggested that food has an important part in the presentation of psoriasis. While certain food/diets escalated the symptoms, many other diets played a pivotal role in overcoming the symptoms.
Mediterranean diet. Image Credit: gorillaimages / Shutterstock
Around 50% of the study participants reported that consuming less alcohol, gluten and nightshades led to drastic improvement in their skin condition. Consumption of vegetables, fish and vitamin D also had beneficial effects on the symptoms. The researchers also observed that specialized diets such as the vegan diet, the Paleo diet, the Mediterranean, gluten-free diet and the Pagano diet helped to alleviate some of the bothersome symptoms.
Psoriasis Vulgaris. Image Credit: Lipowski Milan / Shutterstock
Losing weight as an adjunct to psoriasis treatment
Obese or overweight psoriasis patients are at an increased risk of disease aggravation. Increased BMI is associated with an increased incidence and severity of psoriasis. This is mainly attributed to the proinflammatory role of body fats, which leads to aggravation of symptoms and impaired response to therapy. Losing weight is thus regarded as being of universal benefit to psoriatic patients.
Does a hypocaloric diet help obese psoriasis patients?
A hypocaloric diet focuses on losing weight by consuming food with really low calories. A recent systematic review by Ford et al. indicated thatahypocaloric diet could have beneficial effects on obese patients. The authors further added that the administration of Vitamin D along with the hypocaloric diet may be helpful in patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis. The study concluded that such dietary interventions should always be practiced along with the standard prescribed medications.
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of a high proportion of vegetables and fruits. Fish and olives are also an integral part of the diet.
These dietary constituents possess high anti-inflammatory properties, which are believed to have favourable effects on psoriasis symptoms. Recent research suggests that a Mediterranean diet can slow the progression of psoriasis, finding a positive correlation between the diet and symptom severity.
The gluten-free diet
Gluten sensitivity has been associated with psoriasis. The sensitivity, often marked by celiac disease, is more common in individuals suffering from psoriasis. Shared etiological factors, such as genetics and common inflammatory pathways, are considered to be responsible for this observation.
Various studies, especially epidemiological studies, have demonstrated a positive association between celiac disease markers and psoriasis. This has led to the assumption that a gluten-free diet can provide some benefits for people suffering from psoriasis. However, the data is mostly from preliminary studies and further studies are warranted to strengthen this claim.
Diet is suspected to be pivotal in the care of psoriatic patients. However, before deciding upon a diet, collaboration with a nutritionist and clinician is highly recommended. A suitable diet plan should be worked out after considering the individual’s medical history and personal preferences.