Can Diet and Lifestyle Changes Help Heal Psoriasis?

Learn how body weight, alcohol use, and gluten affect psoriasis

Weight loss and psoriasis

Since psoriasis is a lifelong inflammatory disease, many people wonder if changing their diet will help control their symptoms over the long term. Medical research is only just starting to catch up with concerns about nutrition and diet as they relate to chronic illnesses and so there is some (but limited) evidence about the role of your diet in the treatment of psoriasis.



Most of us know that maintaining a healthy weight is important.

The heart, vascular system, blood sugar, liver, and joints can all be harmed by weighing too much. Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control report that almost 70% of Americans are overwieght and about a third are obese.

Psoriasis and weight gain can create a vicious cycle. We know that increasing weight and body fat levels increase the risk of psoriasis, possibly by creating more overall inflammation. We also know that having psoriasis can promote weight gain as joint problems and embarrassment over skin lesions lead to less exercise and stress eating.

On the positive side, we also know that losing weight with a lower calorie diet and exercise can improve both the skin symptoms of psoriasis and improve the quality of life of patients. Weight loss (bariatric) surgery and subsequent weight loss have also shown improvement in skin symptoms and a decreased need for psoriasis medications.

Several systemic medications for psoriasis improve their effect when patients lose weight, even if the patient did not originally improve with that medication.

Weight loss seems to make these treatments more effective. A study of different factors affecting how well medications worked found that being overweight or obese was the #1 cause of poor response to some common psoriasis treatments.

We all know that losing weight and keeping it off can be difficult.

Taking slow but sure steps to exercise regularly and to decrease your calorie intake can help. Try to cut back on heavily processed foods, especially those with a lot of added sugar or corn syrup. Eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nut, and other “whole foods” can replace high-calorie snacks like chips, granola bars, and candy. Try to avoid empty calories like sugary drinks/soda or alcohol. Consult with your doctor if exercise is difficult. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and water aerobics may be easier on your joints.

The evidence suggests that working to keep off extra pounds will help enable your psoriasis to improve on its own and may also make your treatments more effective. Since we know that psoriasis alone can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, keeping your weight at a healthy level may also help control your risk of these serious conditions and lead to a longer, healthier life.



Patients with psoriasis are more likely to abuse alcohol and the more severe their psoriasis is, the higher this risk. It is not known if the alcohol is the cause or an effect (or both). There is some evidence that heavy alcohol use can worsen psoriasis. It also stands to reason that some people with psoriasis may try to dull the challenges associated with the disease by drinking.

Alcohol can harm the liver, which can be a problem with a number of psoriasis treatments like methotrexate or acitretin (Soriatane) that can also affect the liver.

 Abusing alcohol can be dangerous in a number of ways including alcohol poisoning, car accidents, liver and heart damage, and even cancer. Studies suggest that psoriasis patients who abuse alcohol are at increased risk of death, even compared to alcoholics who do not have psoriasis.

Controlling or eliminating your alcohol consumption may not only directly improve your psoriasis but also make more treatment options available. If you are not sure if your alcohol consumption is healthy, be honest with your doctor about how much you drink and seek his/her advice.


Supermarkets have recently seen an explosion of gluten-free foods. Gluten is a protein in wheat and some grains (like rye and barley). It is also found naturally in a wide variety of foods from bread to beer to soy sauce.

There is early evidence of an increased risk of celiac disease (intolerance to eating gluten) in patients with psoriasis. In those patients who do have both conditions, a gluten-free diet has been shown to help improve their skin.

If you have other symptoms of gluten intolerance, like diarrhea, gas, persistent fatigue, or low iron and anemia, discuss these with your doctor. Blood and other tests are available to check for celiac disease. A gluten-free diet can take some getting used to, and you have to be careful because many prepared or restaurant foods can have hidden sources of gluten. Usually three months of following the diet strictly should be enough to see if it will help your psoriasis.

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