Last week I shared a post with you on Instagram, listing the top ten potential triggers for eczema. The comments below the picture were a mix of 'I can't do this', 'what's left to eat' and 'could you please do one of these posts for psoriasis'!!
Today I do want to share something similar for psoriasis, but as well as discussing the foods which might be triggering your skin flares, I'm equally mindful to share with you the foods we should be focusing on including lots more of.
I also want to highlight that taking certain things out of your diet does not equal 'boring and bland'. Making dietary changes to heal our skin is intended to be a lifelong program, so ensuring it's exciting and sustainable is equally important.
Remember, the information I'm posting here is intended as a guide to help you find your main trigger culprits. This doesn't mean never eating a slice of cake again or forever forgoing sweets and chocolate. It's about finding a workable balance to heal your skin and stay healthy. As individuals, one food group may have a more significant impact on some of us compared to others. It can take a little trial and error, plus some food journaling to work out what most impacts your skin.
A Doctors Take on Psoriasis Diets
If your Doctor or dermatologist is still insisting diet will play no role in improving or worsening your psoriasis, they're offering outdated advice. For decades, it was thought that many common dermatological conditions had no relationship to diet. Studies from recent years, however, have made it clear that diet can absolutely have an important impact in treating psoriasis.
This 2014 report highlights that dietary suggestions should indeed form a crucial component of patient education for dermatological diseases. Research suggests that your doctor should at least cover the basics, such as suggesting you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. The report goes on to recommend that patients should limit sugar and saturated fats. Enjoying lots of natural plant-based foods over highly processed junk is also really important, as well as eating plenty of whole grains instead of processed carbs.
If you're looking to make simple changes to benefit your skin, and don't want to get too specific right now, this snapshot offers a fantastic starting point. More healthy plant-based foods, whilst reducing the junk and processed stuff. We can of course dig a little deeper and take a more in depth look at the foods which can potentially exacerbate or calm psoriasis. If you're keen to learn more after reading this post, this is covered in much more detail in both my books Radiant and Skin Healing Expert.
Five Foods to Reduce for Psoriasis
Nightshades are group of fruits and vegetables that make up part of the deadly nightshade family of plants. Scientific evidence is still a little hard to come by when it comes to nightshades. Remember, someone has to pay for these studies and nobody is going to benefit from you eliminating tomatoes from your diet! That said, the anecdotal reports of nightshades being problematic for autoimmune conditions is overwhelming. So, whilst potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergine and goji berries are super healthy for most, those of us with psoriasis should consider limiting them.
This US study found that over half of all patients seeing improvement from cutting out certain food groups, did so through eliminating nightshades. If you'd like to learn more about them and why they might be triggering your psoriasis, check out my article on nightshades and skin here.
NOTE: Tobacco is also a nightshade. You don't need me to tell you smoking is bad for your skin, but if you're still doing it, see this as yet another incentive to quit.
You might find the following studies interesting
I don't need to remind you sugar isn't ideal for your health. It's also highly addictive. Breaking sugar cravings can be really tough, so if you find you can't cope without that sweet treat after dinner, switching to alternatives such as fruit, dark chocolate and maple syrup or honey would be a great first step.
It's commonly acknowledged that psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, it therefore stands to reason that an anti-inflammatory diet is going to be beneficial.
Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods we can eat. This study of 29 healthy people found that consuming just 40 grams of added sugar by drinking a single can of fizzy pop each day, led to an immediate increase in inflammatory markers.
Another study conducted in September last year by UC Davis Health researchers suggests that a Western diet rich in fat and sugar may lead to, or exacerbate, inflammatory skin problems such as psoriasis.
Lead author on the study Zhenrui Shi explains, "Eating an unhealthy diet does not affect your waistline alone, but your skin immunity too." His research suggests that dietary components, rather than simply being overweight, may lead to skin inflammation and the development of psoriasis.
If you're looking to follow a psoriasis healing diet, lowering inflammation is really important. It's key to focus on anti-inflammatory foods. When it comes to sweet stuff, fresh or dried fruit would be best, alongside a small amount of dark chocolate. Limiting sweets, candy, jellies, chocolate and other desserts crammed with added sugar will help to lower inflammation and support good gut health.
Firstly, what do we mean by 'refined carbs'? They're pretty much all the beige stuff stocked in the kitchen cupboard; white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, snacks, pasta, pizza, bagels and breakfast cereals.
Not all carbs are created equal, there are lots of different carbohydrates and many of them can in fact be beneficial for us. The good ones are usually referred to as 'whole' or 'complex' carbohydrates.
Refined carbs tend to cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which as we know from the study on fizzy drinks above can increase inflammatory markers. Whole carbs on the other hand maintain a slow release of insulin, which keeps us feeling fuller for longer and does not cause that same problematic spike.
A really simple way to check whether the carbs you're eating might be likely to trigger inflammation is by checking out the 'Glycemic Index'. Googling it will bring up a chart, which ranks carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 based on how quickly and how high they raise blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a high glycemic index (white bread, pizza, pasta) are rapidly digested and cause substantial fluctuations
- Foods with a low glycemic index (quinoa and whole oats) are digested more slowly, prompting a more gradual rise in blood sugar
Try to focus on incorporating plenty of low-glycemic foods with a rating of 55 or less. Foods rated 70-100 are considered high-glycemic foods, and these are the ones you might want to think about reducing.
I know, I know! Unless you're already a non-drinker, this one will sting. In Western culture, alcohol is such an ingrained part of our social lives, it's difficult to imagine a world without it. I was very definitely a regular drinker, but after temporarily giving up booze seven years ago, I never went back.
There is a definite link between alcohol and psoriasis. This study for example records a higher than average rate of alcohol consumption among individuals with the skin condition.
Alcohol can be both an initiating and aggravating factor in inflammation. Remember, through making dietary changes to heal psoriasis, we're trying to take the burden off our major organs. Alcohol is a poison, and it's the liver that has to work extra hard to process it. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is found in 20 - 30% of the general population, but it's found in a massive 50% of all patients with psoriasis. Chances are, our liver is already feeling the strain, adding to the workload is unhelpful. Taking a good quality Milk Thistle Tincture like this one can help support the liver.
You might wonder what our liver has to do with our skin? This study explains how alcohol-induced liver injury can result in an impairment of the skin barrier function. When our skin barrier isn't functioning properly, we leave ourselves more prone to developing dry, rough, scaly patches, with itchy or discoloured areas.
Alcohol consumption has not only been associated with a more severe and a higher prevalence of psoriasis, but studies reveal a distinctive pattern of the disease in drinkers. Patients with psoriasis who over-consume alcohol, tend to have more severe inflammation, with minimal scaling, often affecting the face, but also creases and folds of the body, such as the armpits, groin and underneath boobs.
A huge study of 82,869 women over a period of fourteen years, showed that those who consume more than two to three alcoholic drinks each week are more likely to experience the onset of psoriasis.
If alcohol is a big part of your life right now, it can feel tough to quit. You might be surprised to learn however that going teetotal is becoming a trend. In fact last year 30% of British adults classed themselves as non-drinkers and there are so many amazing no or low alcohol alternatives on the market these days.
- Bax Botanics I love these no alcohol spirits and their story
- No Alcohol Gordons Gin hard to distinguish from the real thing
- Nozeco Tesco's alcohol free fizz
- Seedlip one of the first and most popular no alcohol spirits
- Becks Blue for the lager drinker who's keen to go alcohol free
If you struggle to go without alcohol, ensuring you stay super hydrated by taking on board plenty of fresh water and adding a Milk Thistle supplement like this one to your daily routine can help to give your liver and kidneys the extra support they need.
When it comes to dairy and skin conditions, there are plenty of studies connecting the possible correlation between dairy, eczema and acne. Research referencing psoriasis however is less easily available. That said, if we're concentrating on a plant-based diet, rich in lots of anti-inflammatory ingredients, dairy has the potential to be somewhat problematic.
Just like red meat, dairy products contain a natural inflammatory acid called 'arachidonic'. Arachidonic acid is an inflammatory omega-6. Our bodies produce this nutrient, and too much of it may lead to inflammatory diseases and even mood disorders.
Cow’s milk and whey protein are the dairy products best avoided if you have psoriasis, as they also contain the protein 'casein'. Research shows that casein can trigger an inflammatory response, and when we're talking about making dietary changes to support healing psoriasis, we're wanting to concentrate on reducing that inflammation.
Fortunately for us, dairy alternatives are plentiful. There is so much non-dairy choice in the supermarkets these days. Almond, coconut, hazelnut and oat, all offer fantastic alternatives to cow's milk. There are also excellent milk-free ice creams such as Booja Booja and you might like this recipe if you're wanting an alternative to cheese.
Five Foods to Include for Psoriasis
Leafy Greens, Veg and Fruit
The simplest and most effective change I made when it came to healing my psoriasis, was massively upping my intake of fruit and veg! That might sound as though I'm oversimplifying things a little, but aside from excluding nightshades (see above) these vegetables are going to give your body a whole ton of vitamins and nutrients, which will support you in your skin healing journey.
To support the fact, this JAMA Dermatology study shows that sticking to a Mediterranean diet high in anti-inflammatory nutrients may lessen psoriasis severity. According to the studies author Emilie Sbidian, M.D., Ph.D., of Mondor Hospital in Paris, "The key point for the Mediterranean diet is a high proportion of fruits and vegetables and extra-virgin olive oil."
There are advocates of raw food diets, but I find only eating raw vegetables can be quite taxing on the digestive system, so mixing it up with cooked, steamed, grilled or sauteed options works well for me.
If you think candida might be a problem for you, choose low sugar fruit such as berries rather than mango or bananas.
Each vegetable and fruit comes with its own specific benefit, but go with what's available seasonably, locally and within your budget. Most importantly .. choose vegetables you enjoy. If you think you don't like certain greens, it might be that changing the way you prepare them helps. For example, I know lots of people who would say they don't enjoy kale .. but try blitzing it into a pesto and this green superfood becomes game changingly tasty!
If you really can't get on with eating fruit and veg, trying juicing them instead (see below).
Fermented Foods and Probiotics
I'm not the only one waxing lyrical about the incredible benefits of probiotics! These little gut miracle-workers are a game changer when it comes to skin conditions. The great news is, scientific evidence is now reflecting what dieticians and nutritionists have been saying for a long time - our skin is a visible map of our gut - it literally reflects how healthy we are internally - and probiotics play a huge role.
The simplest way to ensure you're getting plenty of that healthy microbiome boosted is by adding a good quality probiotic like this one into your daily routine. This is the easiest method to make sure you're getting a diverse range of the good stuff.
There are lots of amazing probiotics in fermented foods, so including some of the following in your diet can also really help;
- Kimchi (take care as often contains nightshades)
This review of research highlights the importance of probiotics when it comes to treating psoriasis. It acknowledges that diet greatly affects the gut microbiome and that the foods we eat can drastically alter gut bacteria communities. The study concludes that probiotic supplementation has a potential role in the management and prevention of various skin conditions.
Fresh Water and Herbal Teas
Drinking water to stay well hydrated might sound like the most ridiculously simplistic solution to psoriasis yet! But you'd be amazed at how few of us - myself included at times - actually manage to drink the recommended two litres of fresh water each day.
Water is the main component of our cells and tissues - we are 60% water! We lose so much water from the body in everyday things like breathing, sweating and of course weeing! Keeping our cells well maintained through replenishing fresh water intake seems obvious, but most of us don't drink enough.
The results of this research confirm that drinking more water in our regular diet, might positively impact normal skin physiology.
If you find drinking water a bit boring, livening it up with fresh fruit such as lemon and lime can give it some flavour. I like to add fresh herbs like basil leaves or mint. Berries make a great addition too.
You might prefer herbal tea to water during colder months. Herbs such as burdock root, dandelion and red clover have the added benefit of being particularly supportive when it comes to achieving clear skin. My Skin Purity Tea is a great option to benefit from specific psoriasis supporting herbs in one simple blend.
Cold Pressed Juices
I often rave about the difference juicing can make to our skin and overall health. It was a real game changer for me when I first changed my diet seven years ago. Juicing is the action of cold-pressing vegetables and fruit to extract juice. It's different to chucking everything in the blender and whizzing it up, since it literally separates the pulp and insoluble fibre from the soluble stuff, leaving you with a delicious juice that's neither thick nor sludgy to drink!
You can pick up a decent juicer for around £30. Check out my article on how to do that here. Most people don't stick to juicing greens each day, not because juicing itself is difficult, but mostly because washing the juicer can be such a faff. We are currently offering pre-boxed juice cleanses on the website to take that hassle away for you!
The reason juicing is so effective is because it's essentially fasting whilst flooding the body with a ton of nutrients. When we give our gut a break from digestion, research shows it can work miracles in terms of health. This
If you're considering a juice cleanse for the first time, there are some suggested rules to follow which can make things easier.
- Embark on the cleanse when you have plenty of time to rest and relax
- Ensure you're drinking at least three 500ml juices per day
- Mix up the vegetables and fruit you're cold pressing
- Go organic where possible
Nuts, Seeds and Good Oils
When it comes to skin conditions which leave skin feeling dry and taught, replenishing our bodies omega 3 reserves is vital. Hemp Seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds are great sources of plant-based omega 3, and really easy to incorporate into our diet.
As well as omegas, many nuts and seeds are a fantastic source of zinc and magnesium, both of which are important for skin health.
Here are some quick and simple ways to enjoy more nuts and seeds in your everyday meal plan;
- Snack on them between meals
- Use them in salads
- Add them to porridge
- Sprinkle them on muesli
- Include them in smoothies
- Enjoy nut butters on rice cakes
- Toast them with salt and maple
It might seem like nothing to sprinkle a handful of pumpkin seeds into a salad, but you'll be gaining a whole lot of magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, copper and vitamin K in that meal.
Skin can massively benefit from zinc and selenium, both present in brazil nuts. Eating just 6 a day provides us with our recommended selenium intake, so these would provide a great snack.
The only nuts I'd suggest avoiding are peanuts, which can be problematic for certain skin complaints.
Making Dietary Changes to Treat Psoriasis
Whether you're ready to dive all-in and make massive dietary changes to heal psoriasis, or prefer to take things a little more slowly with step by step diet amendments, altering what you eat can undoubtedly impact your skin.
Concentrate on eating as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible, whilst reducing those foods that can spike insulin, overburden the liver and trigger or exacerbate inflammation.
Take a good quality probiotic each day to support gut health, and make sure you're drinking plenty of fresh water to keep skin well hydrated.
These changes sounds very simple, but they can be incredibly effective. You only need to check out some of the inspirational healing stories on my Instagram page to see the difference diet can make when it comes to our skin. Keep doing more of the good stuff and reduce those foods that aren't supporting your skin healing journey and I guarantee you'll soon see the difference.
Have you tried making these changes yet? I'd love you to share your experience in the comments below.