Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune skin disease that causes inflammation and scaling of the skin that affects approximately 2 percent to 2.6 percent of the U.S. population. (1) Normal, healthy skin experiences cell turnover about once a month, but when you have psoriasis, the skin cells rise way too fast and actually pile up on top of each other. Thankfully, you can help combat this condition with by following a proper psoriasis diet treatment plan.
We know that psoriasis begins in the immune system and involves a type of white blood cell called a T cell. (2) When you have psoriasis, the T cells are put into action by mistake and become overly active, leading to unhealthy swelling and fast turnover of skin cells.
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A major dermatology focus in the realm of skin diseases, psoriasis symptoms can vary according to the form of psoriasis (of which there are several – more on that below). You might be thinking psoriasis is just an annoying skin condition, but it can also result in psoriatic arthritis, an inflammation of the joints that affects approximately 30 percent of all psoriasis patients.
Conventional psoriasis treatment might work, but it often doesn’t or is only a temporary fix that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. There are many natural remedies for psoriasis, with a psoriasis diet making the very top of the list.
Why is a psoriasis diet so important? Studies have shown that intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome is very common in psoriasis patients. Making the right food choices can make a world of difference when it comes to psoriasis. As the National Psoriasis Foundation says, “Happy diet, happy life.” (3) I couldn’t agree more!
Psoriasis Symptoms and Causes
The most common psoriasis symptoms, especially those seen in people with plaque psoriasis, include: (4)
- plaques of red skin, sometimes also covered with a crust of scales that tend to be silver or white
- loose skin or lesions that can be sensitive, itchy and painful
- dandruff on the scalp
- cracked, discolored skin that easily bleeds and bruises
- discoloration in the finger and toenails or growth of toenail fungus
- nails that detach from the nail beds and can be painful or bloody
- many people with psoriasis also suffer from emotional problems due to feeling embarrassed and hopeless about their skin (5)
Psoriasis is most often found on the elbows, legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms and soles of the feet. However, it can also occur in other locations, such as the fingernails, toenails, genitals and inside the mouth. Scalp psoriasis affects about 50 percent of people with psoriasis, making it one of the most obvious concerns in people with the condition.
Most doctors are unsure about what causes psoriasis, but many natural physicians have found contributing factors. Psoriasis causes include:
- Overactive immune system (psoriasis is an autoimmune disease)
- Poor diet
- Abnormal small intestine permeability
- An increased number of T cells in the blood, dermis and epidermis
- Difficulty digesting protein
- Emotional stress
- Hormonal changes
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Poor liver function
If you want to overcome psoriasis, you can see great improvements by following a healthy and healing psoriasis diet.
Conventional Treatment vs. Natural Treatment of Psoriasis
Psoriasis is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly detects its own tissue as foreign and attacks itself. When it comes to conventional treatment, doctors take into consideration how serious your case is, the type of psoriasis and the size of the psoriasis patches. Doctors will often switch conventional treatments if one isn’t effective, you have a bad reaction or if it stops working all together. (6)
Conventional treatment is often difficult, and currently the most common remedies are retinoids or immunosuppressant drugs. The latter are often steroids or cyclosporin, which come with concerning side effects even if they’re effective in treating psoriasis.
Topical treatment is very common and involves applying a cream or ointment to the problem areas. Another conventional option is light therapy, also called phototherapy, which uses a combination of natural ultraviolet light from the sun and artificial ultraviolet light. PUVA is a form of light therapy treatment that uses a combination of a drug that makes skin more sensitive to light and exposure to ultraviolet A light.
When psoriasis is severe, doctors will likely use systemic treatment, which means prescription drugs or medicine given through a shot. Combination therapy for psoriasis uses topical, phototherapy and systemic treatments in unison, all of which come with side effects that a natural remedy like a psoriasis diet does not.
Natural Treatment Options for Psoriasis
Natural or holistic treatment aims to get at the root of the problem. For many people, anti-inflammatory foods combined with a healing psoriasis diet is one of the best ways to naturally treat psoriasis.
Studies have been looking at the link between intestinal structure and function in the development of psoriasis for decades. (7) Some experts believe that psoriasis is actually caused by intestinal permeability, specifically in the area between the duodenum and the jejunum. Consequently, the body seeks to eliminate the toxins through the skin. In this model, psoriasis represents the body’s desperate attempt to cleanse itself.
Here are some natural ways to help combat psoriasis:
1. Reduce Stress
Stress is also known to play a big role in psoriasis, which is why mind-body therapies and stress management can really help naturally heal psoriasis. Prayer, meditation and hypnosis can all help. Studies actually show that people who meditate before receiving light therapy have better outcomes than people who had light therapy alone. (8)
2. Exercise and Drink Water
It may sound too simple, but exercise and drinking plenty of water are two easy and effective ways to help heal psoriasis. When it comes to bathing, you definitely don’t want to use water that’s too hot because this can further dry and inflame your skin. Soaking in a lukewarm bath containing dead sea salts, Epsom salt or oats for around 15 minutes can help remove scales and calm itching. Be sure to apply moisturizer to your skin as soon as you get out of a bath or shower — this way you can seal some water into your skin, which can help to calm and heal psoriasis patches.
3. Apply Nature-Based Topical Remedies
There are three nature-based topical remedies that have shown positive effects on psoriasis: Oregon grape (10 percent) cream, avocado and vitamin B12 cream, and aloe (0.5 percent) cream. Research has shown that using Reliéva, a homeopathic cream containing Oregon grape extract, is effective and well-tolerated in patients with mild to moderate psoriasis. (9) Early research suggests that a proprietary cream containing avocado oil and vitamin B12 may decrease psoriasis symptoms. Several studies have shown that a cream containing 0.5 percent aloe vera extract is superior to a placebo with no negative side effects. (10)
4. Try Homeopathy and Other Alternative Treatments
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine may also help some people with psoriasis. In Chinese medicine, psoriasis is viewed as a health issues caused by the stagnation of blood. Some herbs a Chinese medicine doctor may prescribe include turmeric, zedoria (similar to ginger), dang gui, red peony and sarsaparilla. Dittany, sophora and tribulus may also be prescribed to relieve psoriasis-related itching.
If you’re a fan of Ayurvedic medicine, you may want to try Panchakarma therapy, which involves plant-based remedies and dietary changes aimed at detoxifying the body. A vegetarian diet is often recommended as well. The Panchakarma treatments include consuming ghee and medicated enemas.
5. Eat a Psoriasis Diet (see more below)
A psoriasis diet is crucial. If you have a leaky gut, then partially digested protein and fat can seep through your intestinal lining, making their way into your bloodstream and causing allergic responses. If left unrepaired, it can lead to more severe health issues like psoriasis as well as depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, muscle pain and chronic fatigue. Studies have shown a link between abnormal small intestine permeability and psoriasis. (12) A psoriasis diet can help heal your gut, which in turn can end your suffering with psoriasis as well as psoriatic arthritis.
The Psoriasis Diet
Wondering how to get rid of psoriasis naturally? As I always say, your diet is the basis for good health, and it’s no different when it comes to psoriasis. Not only is your diet a treatment for active psoriasis, but it’s also a way to prevent psoriasis in the first place.
When it comes to natural treatment for psoriasis, these are some of the best foods to consume on a regular basis. I also recommend these food choices for anyone looking for a psoriatic arthritis diet. The more you consume healing, anti-inflammatory foods, the more improvement you will see in your skin’s health.
Probiotic foods — Consuming foods high in probiotics can support digestion, reduce inflammation and boost immunity. Look for organic, raw, cultured dairy like kefir, yogurt and cultured vegetables. There have been many, many personal accounts of probiotics clearing up stubborn psoriasis that did not respond to conventional treatment. One sufferer had psoriasis on his heels for about 10 years that did not respond to topical treatment. He started taking probiotics for a different condition, and his heels cleared up and stayed clear. (13)
High-fiber foods — By upping your intake of high-fiber foods you can help to keep your digestive system healthy, which helps avoid constipation and keep your natural detoxification processes on track. Fruits, vegetables, beans and seeds are all rich in fiber.
Foods high in antioxidants — Similar to the lineup for fiber-rich foods, foods high in antioxidants include vegetables, fruits, herbs, beans and nuts. Some choices that top the list when it comes to antioxidants include goji berries, wild blueberries, pecans, cilantro and kidney beans. Antioxidant consumption is especially important since psoriasis sufferers are at a greater risk for cancer and heart disease.
Foods high in zinc — Zinc is critical for keeping skin healthy. Some evidence shows that zinc helps reduce pain and joint swelling for psoriasis sufferers. (14) Grass-fed beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, kefir and chickpeas are all great sources of zinc.
Foods high in vitamin A — Think orange, yellow and dark leafy green vegetables. By adding these winners to your diet on a daily basis, you will increase your vitamin A, which is critical for skin healing. Good sources of vitamin A includes cantaloupe, carrots, mango, tomatoes, kale, collard greens and watermelon.
Wild-caught fish — Fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are excellent sources of vitamin D as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which are both key to improving psoriasis. Vitamin D is clinically proven to help fight psoriasis. (15) If you have psoriasis, fish should be the new leading protein in your life rather than meat and conventional dairy products. Studies have shown that eating fewer protein-rich foods, primarily meats and dairy products, may help ease psoriasis flare-ups.
Raw dairy — Raw milk is a much healthier choice than conventional milk. Rich in vitamin D and enzymes, raw dairy products can be therapeutic to psoriasis.
Herbs and spices — Herbs and spices are anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidants. Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice known as turmeric, is known for its potent health properties. A 2012 scientific review specifically notes turmeric’s ability to alter TNF cytokine expression, which are known to play an essential role in the start and continuation of psoriatic lesions. This is probably why patients find turmeric helpful in minimizing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flare-ups. You can liberally add this spice to your food, keeping in mind that the FDA considers 1.5 to 3.0 grams of turmeric per day safe. (16)
Aloe Vera — Applied externally and taken internally, aloe vera is very soothing to the body, especially to the digestive system and skin.
When you’re on a psoriasis diet, you definitely want to avoid processed foods, simple sugars, alcohol, conventional dairy, conventional meats, hydrogenated oils and fried foods. You should also keep caffeine intake low. For some sufferers, a gluten-free diet helps improve symptoms.
If you or your doctor think that you might have a gluten allergy or any other type of food allergy, then food allergy testing or an elimination diet can help guide you toward what to avoid in your diet.
Top Supplements and Essential Oils for the Psoriasis Diet
If you’re wondering how to treat psoriasis naturally, a psoriasis diet is most crucial, but supplements can also be very helpful.
These are the top five supplements I recommend for internal treatment of psoriasis:
- Hydrochloric acid (1–3 capsules per meal)
Helps with protein digestion and decrease psoriasis flare-ups.
- Fish oil (1,000–2,000 grams daily)
Fish oil is anti-inflammatory and can aid in the healing of psoriasis.
- Vitamin D3 (5,000 IU daily)
Low levels of vitamin D may be associated with psoriasis.
- Milk thistle (250 milligrams three times daily)
Milk thistle helps promote liver detoxification and reduces cellular growth.
- Probiotics (50 billion units daily)
Probiotics improve digestion by increasing good bacteria and crowding out bad bacteria. Digestive issues are linked to psoriasis.
Other home remedies for psoriasis that can reduce symptoms include cleansing, bone broth, vitamin B12 and digestive enzymes. Also, getting 20 minutes of sunshine a day can greatly improve vitamin D levels naturally and is very therapeutic to psoriasis.
Essential oils for psoriasis like tea tree, lavender, frankincense, myrrh and geranium essential oil can bring relief to inflamed skin and support the healing process.
Tea tree oil — When you use tea tree for your psoriasis, you prevent infection while also reducing inflammation and stimulating the immune system to support your skin health. Scientific research has confirmed the psoriasis-reducing effects of tea tree oil. (17)
Lavender oil — With calming and anti-inflammatory properties, it helps soothe the skin while also promoting new skin growth and healing.
Frankincense oil — With antiseptic, antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, frankincense can help provide relief for stubborn psoriasis patches.
Myrrh oil — Excellent at healing the chapped, flakey and cracked skin of psoriasis patches.
Geranium oil — Geranium is great at improving circulation and decreasing inflammation. It also helps relieve stress.
Coconut oil — It’s not an essential oil, but it’s a great choice for a base oil. You should always dilute essential oils in a base oil before applying them to problem areas. Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory, very gentle and moisturizing.
EO recipe idea: Mix three drops of lavender oil and three drop of frankincense oil with on teaspoon of coconut oil and rub onto affected area.
It’s also a great idea to use these essential oils in aromatherapy for psoriasis. You can diffuse these oils as a natural method of stress relief.
Psoriasis Overview, Types and Complications
Psoriasis causes and symptoms can be a tricky subject because of the various types of psoriasis and psoriatic disease complications that can occur – this isn’t just one of the skin diseases. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the signs and do what you can to treat your condition naturally and with the supervision of your doctor.
The main types of psoriasis include: (18)
Plaque psoriasis (also known as psoriasis vulgaris) – This is the most common form of psoriasis, found frequently on the knees, elbows, lower back and as scalp psoriasis. People with scalp psoriasis generally have psoriasis on other areas of their body as well, but this location can be particularly frustrating because it can cause a dandruff-like appearance and may even lead to temporary hair loss.
Guttate psoriasis – Unlike the large, raised lesions common with plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis is characterized by small dots and seen frequently in childhood or early adulthood. This form of psoriasis can be brought on by a case of strep throat.
Inverse psoriasis (may be referred to as flexural psoriasis or intertriginous psoriasis) – Body folds, such as behind the knee or in the groin, are the prime location for the smooth and shiny red areas of inverse psoriasis. In dermatology, it is commonly understood that this form of psoriasis probably occurs during an outbreak of plaque psoriasis somewhere else on the body.
Pustular psoriasis – The bumps of pustular psoriasis look like blisters or pimples but are actually filled with white blood cells. Often, people assume this is a contagious infection, but it is not. These pustules are usually surrounded by red skin and occur most frequently on the hands and feet.
Erythrodermic psoriasis (sometimes called exfoliative psoriasis) – The most severe of the psoriasis types, erythrodermic psoriasis is usually found in people with unstable plaque psoriasis. It is known by the wide, fiery outbreak and is accompanied by severe itching and pain. During an outbreak of erythrodermic psoriasis, skin often comes off in “sheets.” Only about three percent of people with psoriasis have this type of psoriasis, and it requires immediate medical attention because it can cause increased heartrate and body temperature changes. Some cases, particularly if left untreated, can lead to protein and fluid loss, shivering episodes, pneumonia and even congestive heart failure.
Psoriatic diseases including psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis have an elevated risk of related conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease, depression, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, osteoporosis, uveitis (an inflammatory disease of the eye) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (19)
Any psoriasis overview would be incomplete without noting the underlying mechanisms of this conditions and the related issues. A combination of genetic predisposition and an extreme action of the immune system lead to these unsightly, uncomfortable and even painful conditions. No wonder it’s associated with the autoimmune issues common in leaky gut syndrome!
Scalp Psoriasis vs. Seborrheic Dermatitis
Certain skin diseases look like psoriasis but actually fit another diagnosis. One example of this is seborrheic dermatitis, a red, itchy rash that appears most often (but not always) on the scalp.
Seborrheic dermatitis (or “seborrhea”) seems to have roots in stress, genetic factors, a particular yeast that lives on skin, certain diagnoses or medications and cold, dry weather. Newborns, men and people with oily skin are at the highest risk of this particular form of dermatitis.
Dandruff is caused by seborrhea. Infants with the condition are often referred to as having “cradle cap,” as well as given an improper diagnosis of diaper rash when the redness occurs around the groin.
Like psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis most often clears and flares throughout the lifetime. If you have symptoms of these disorders, see a dermatologist for a confirmed diagnosis and treatment options. Since seborrhea is not an autoimmune disease, treatment looks different – although many of the same items and supplements on my psoriasis diet are similar for those with seborrhea.
Precautions Regarding Psoriasis
If you already use conventional treatment for your psoriasis, check with your doctor before adding any supplements or other natural remedies to your regimen. Also, check with your doctor before taking any supplements if you have any ongoing health concerns or are currently taking medication. Some supplements and herbs may interact with common prescription medications, such as blood thinners and birth control pills.
If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, ask your doctor before using any conventional or natural treatments for psoriasis.
When using essential oils for psoriasis, always perform a small patch test to make sure you don’t react badly to any essential oil. Also, always dilute the essential oils in a base oil like coconut. If you generally have sensitive skin, be even more careful when using essential oils.
Final Thoughts on the Psoriasis Diet
- There are many natural, home remedies that have been scientifically shown to improve psoriasis.
- Psoriasis is an immune system issue so anything you can do to improve your immune system will be helpful to improving psoriasis symptoms.
- One of the best ways to get to the root of the problem is through a healthy, healing, anti-inflammatory psoriasis diet.
- People with psoriasis may find that certain foods seem to trigger flare-ups so speak to your doctor about food allergy testing or try an elimination diet.
- When it comes to how important a psoriasis diet is to healing any type of psoriasis, remember this: “Happy diet, happy life!”