Nutrition Expert: Sana Saiyed, Practicing clinical dietitian and Certified diabetes educator, Mumbai.
Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune skin disease. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis.
It’s thought to affect 2 to 4 percent of the world’s population and can lead to many other ailments.
Psoriasis is fundamentally a defective inflammatory response. The proliferation of skin cells is triggered by inflammatory chemicals produced by specialized white blood cells called T-cells. Psoriasis commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees, and scalp.
Psoriasis is considered an incurable, long-term (chronic) inflammatory skin condition. It has a variable course, periodically improving and worsening.
It is not unusual for psoriasis to spontaneously clear for years and stay in remission. Many people note a worsening of their symptoms in the colder winter months.
Psoriasis is thought to be an immune system problem that causes the skin to regenerate at faster than normal rates. In the most common type of psoriasis, known as plaque psoriasis, this rapid turnover of cells results in scales and red patches.
Just what causes the immune system to malfunction isn’t entirely clear. Researchers believe both genetics and environmental factors play a role. The condition is not contagious.
Psoriasis signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
- Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed or itch
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
In addition to eating the foods we’ve mentioned, taking nutritional supplements may improve your psoriasis symptoms and overall health. Psoriasis has been linked to vitamin deficiencies, so it may be a good idea to discuss supplements with your doctor.
Research indicates that vitamin D supplements help with psoriatic symptoms. But make sure not to take too much of it, or kidney stones could be in your future.
Vitamin B-12 supplements may be beneficial since deficiencies have been linked to psoriasis. But research on their effectiveness is still inconclusive.
A 1989 study found moderate evidence that fish oil supplements improved psoriasis symptoms, especially if participants were also undergoing UVB therapy.
Many people with psoriasis have selenium deficiencies, and supplements have proven mildly effective in reducing symptoms.
More specific research is needed to see how effective omega-3s can be, but don’t let that stop you from taking a daily supplement and adding salmon or tuna to your diet. More on that in a second.
Healthy fats include:
- fatty fish like salmon, trout, herring, tuna, and sardines
- walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and nut butters
- flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds
- extra-virgin olive oil