Psoriasis

Psoriasis a painful skin condition that affects millions of Americans every year. Many top studies now show us that a plant-based diet high in anti-inflammatory foods can alleviate psoriasis symptoms and reduce severity. Discover the foods and lifestyle habits scientifically proven to help below.

Cases per year

3.0% of the US adult population 1

General frequency

More than 7.5 million US adults are living with psoriasis1.

Risk

People suffering from psoriasis live approximately five years less than healthy people, often because the disease is accompanied by comorbidities such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Treating psoriasis with a whole-food plant-based diet and lifestyle changes

Eating a whole food plant-based diet can help psoriasis sufferers because it is naturally low in inflammatory foods, such as meat and dairy, and rich in vegetables, fruits, and fiber which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Dr Yashoda Bhaskar

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Here are some top scientific studies that support the results our clinicians have seen first-hand:

Anti-inflammatory diet may relieve psoriasis symptoms

Association Between Mediterranean Anti-inflammatory Dietary Profile and Severity of Psoriasis: Results From the NutriNet-Santé Cohort 

An anti-inflammatory, plant-predominant dietary pattern (mediterranean diet) is associated with significantly less severe psoriasis in a study of 3557 individuals with psoriasis 2.

Plant-rich diets improve the severity of psoriasis

Nutrition and psoriasis: is there any association between the severity of the disease and adherence to the Mediterranean diet? | Journal of Translational Medicine

This study assessed the relationship between adherence to a Mediterranean diet, a plant-predominant dietary pattern, and severity of psoriasis. The severity and extent of psoriasis significantly improved when patients adhered to a Mediterranean diet, and ate more virgin olive oil, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts. Whereas patients who had a higher consumption of red meat had more severe psoriasis 3.

Stress management reduces psoriasis flare ups  

Stress and psoriasis 

In this review of the literature studying psoriasis and stress, the researchers found that in up to 88% psoriasis cases patients reported stress as a trigger for their psoriasis. They also identified several controlled studies that showed relaxation, and behavioral and cognitive stress management therapies have been effective in people with psoriasis.

Diet and exercise intervention halves psoriasis presentation  

Diet and physical exercise in psoriasis: a randomized controlled trial - Naldi - 2014 - British Journal of Dermatology 

303 overweight or obese patients with moderate-to-severe chronic plaque psoriasis were randomized to either a 20-week dietary plan and physical exercise for weight loss or simple informative counseling about using weight loss to manage psoriatic disease. In the dietary intervention group, the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) scores decreased, on average, by 48%, a huge reduction in psoriasis display and severity. This was a significantly better increase than the control group who were just given informative counseling 4.

Find out more about psoriasis below

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that presents as dry, red, and scaly patches of skin anywhere on the body.

What causes psoriasis?

What causes psoriasis is not fully understood, but is believed to involve a problem with the immune system that causes inflammation and the body to make too many skin cells. The overproduction of skin cells leads to the formation patches of skin that are dry, red and covered in silver scales. Patients often experience spontaneous regression followed by relapses of their psoriasis. Whilst psoriasis mostly affects the skin, it is increasingly considered as a part of the metabolic syndrome and a systemic disease 5

Genetic factors and many environmental (lifestyle) factors are involved in psoriasis. Lifestyle factors affect how severe the individual’s case can be, they are modifiable and an important way that psoriasis can be managed, they include 6

  • Stress 
  • Medications 
  • Diet 
  • Tobacco smoking 
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Being sedentary 

diagram shows how Various factors can contribute to the development of psoriasis , these include infection, genetics, stress, obesity, environmental factors, and medications
Various factors can contribute to the development of psoriasis

Symptoms 

The main symptoms of psoriasis are red, scaly patches on the skin that can be itchy and painful. These patches, also known as plaques, typically appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back, but can develop anywhere on the body.

Other symptoms of psoriasis include 

  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed 
  • Thickened, pitted, or ridged nails 
  • Swollen and painful joints (in cases of psoriatic arthritis) 
  • Itching, burning, or soreness around affected areas 

Psoriasis can also cause other devastating health problems, such as psoriatic arthritis, depression, anxiety, and heart disease. 

Diagnosis

To diagnose psoriasis, your healthcare provider would first perform a physical examination of the skin, looking for characteristic symptoms such as red, scaly patches. The provider may also ask about your medical history, including any family history of psoriasis and any other medical conditions.

In some cases, the provider may order additional tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. These tests may include a skin biopsy, in which a small sample of skin is removed and examined under a microscope, and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, to check for joint damage in cases of psoriatic arthritis.

Treatment

If psoriasis is suspected, it is important to work with a healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that addresses the individual's specific needs and preferences. This should include lifestyle interventions, such as changes in diet and stress management.

Lifestyle changes are an important part of managing psoriasis, as the evidence has shown. They can significantly relieve skin lesions and make living with psoriasis much more bearable.  

The chronic inflammation associated with psoriasis can be well managed with a plant-based diet, thanks to the abundance of anti-inflammatory compounds such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, flavonoids, and selenium which are lacking in other dietary patterns like the standard American diet 6

Psoriasis can be associated with significant comorbidities including obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease, all which would greatly benefit from dietary changes to reduce comorbid disease risk. A plant-based diet significantly reduced the risk of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. 

Nutritional therapy should be tailored to the individual’s case to best support their case of psoriasis, this is best done with the help of a lifestyle medicine physician. 

Useful links

Think you may be suffering with this and need help making the right changes? Get in touch to make a change. 

References 

1. Armstrong, A. W. et al. Psoriasis Prevalence in Adults in the United States. JAMA Dermatol. 157, 940 (2021).

2. Phan, C. et al. Association Between Mediterranean Anti-inflammatory Dietary Profile and Severity of Psoriasis: Results From the NutriNet-Santé Cohort. JAMA Dermatol. 154, 1017 (2018).

3. Barrea, L. et al. Nutrition and psoriasis: is there any association between the severity of the disease and adherence to the Mediterranean diet? J. Transl. Med. 13, 18 (2015).

4. Naldi, L. et al. Diet and physical exercise in psoriasis: a randomized controlled trial. Br. J. Dermatol. 170, 634–642 (2014).

5. Fusano, M. Veganism in acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis: Benefits of a plant-based diet. Clin. Dermatol. S0738081X22001249 (2022) doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2022.09.008.

6. Garbicz, J. et al. Nutritional Therapy in Persons Suffering from Psoriasis. Nutrients 14, 119 (2021).

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