If areas of your body are covered in thickened, reddened skin with flaky, silver-white patches that resemble scales, chances are, you have psoriasis.
Scientists now consider psoriasis an auto-immune disorder that is passed on genetically. And though it most often strikes individuals between the ages of 15 and 35, there is reason to believe that you can use nutrition to control psoriasis at any age. Although, it also helps to avoid known psoriasis triggers. We’ll start by discussing the foods, and their nutrients, that can help you keep psoriasis at bay.
Psoriasis Fighting Foods
- sweet potatoes
- oat groats
- red cabbage
- turmeric (curcumin)
- chia seeds
- nuts (especially almonds)
This list could also be called ‘Inflammation Fighting Foods’, since it is systemic inflammation (SI) that leads to psoriasis outbreaks, and only by arresting that inflammation may one successfully decrease and halt those outbreaks. This list is just a starting point. There are many more anti-inflammatory foods, too many to list here.
Psoriasis Fighting Nutrients
All cruciferous vegetables are anti-inflammatory, not just broccoli, cauliflower, kale and red cabbage, which I have listed above. Why? Because cruciferous vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants, as well as chemicals known as glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are several biologically active compounds that are currently being studied for their anti-inflammatory properties, in the hope that someday synthetic (patentable) glucosinolates can be used medicinally to treat illnesses caused by inflammation, specifically cancer.
All berries are great for inflammation, whether they are red, blue, violet or black. They are loaded with antioxidants that not only fight oxidative damage (free-radicals) but inflammation as well.
Garlic and onions are superb inflammation fighters; both contain the chemical compound allicin and the phytonutrient quercetin, which neutralizes inflammation and oxidative damage. Numerous studies have shown that the chemical compounds in garlic and onions work similarly to NSAID pain medications – like aspirin and ibuprofen, effectively shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation.
The spice turmeric has become an anti-inflammatory rockstar. Scientists not only claim that it is the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory, but that it’s been shown to influence more than 700 genes and can inhibit both the activity and synthesis of enzymes linked to inflammation. As for the rest…
Basil, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and mangoes all contain polyphenols, which naturally lower inflammation and help prevent oxidative damage in the body, and mangoes contain proteolytic enzymes that are not only anti-inflammatory but anti-ulcerative (prevents ulcers) and anti-microbial as well.
Researchers discovered long ago that omega-3 fatty acids could lower inflammation in the body, and chia seeds, nuts – particularly almonds, and avocados are among the best plant sources.
Oat groats contain avenanthramides – a group of naturally occurring polyphenols found only in oats. Studies have shown that avenanthramides not only act as antioxidants, but they also suppress secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This makes oat groats a must have food for psoriasis sufferers, because, as I mentioned before, systemic inflammation can lead to psoriasis outbreaks.
What is systemic inflammation?
SI results from the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines from immune-related cells and the chronic activation of one’s immune system. Cytokines, a group of signaling proteins, are released by the immune system when the body experiences inflammation or is exposed to inflammatory agents. Keep in mind that some inflammation is necessary to remain healthy, as it allows one’s white blood cells, cytokines and other immune system chemicals to fight off foreign invaders like bacteria and viral agents. The trouble comes when continuous exposure to inflammatory agents leads to dysregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which, in turn, contributes to the development and/or progression of auto-immune conditions, like psoriasis.
According to a study published in Drugs of Today,
“Recent data indicate that T cells and cytokines are of major importance in the pathophysiology of this frequent immune disease. The cutaneous and systemic overexpression of several proinflammatory cytokines, particularly type-1 cytokines such as IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-12, IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, has been demonstrated. The overexpression of these proinflammatory cytokines is considered to be responsible for initiation, maintenance and recurrence of skin lesions. … The new pathophysiologic understanding of psoriasis offers the opportunity for well-targeted therapeutic interventions which should be more effective and better tolerated than the approaches used thus far. In fact, the cytokine imbalance represents an interesting target.”1
So, basically, scientists realized back in 1999 that targeting the cytokine imbalance in psoriasis sufferers could effectively treat psoriasis. But, of course, they needed a patentable method of delivery, to make it worthwhile (profitable). Meanwhile, there are many delicious, whole foods that can do the same thing, both then and now.
- Bacterial and viral infections, including strep and upper respiratory infections
- Dry air
- Dry skin injuries, including cuts, scratches, burns, surgery and insect bites
- Some medications, particularly beta-blockers, lithium and anti-malaria drugs
- Emotional stress
- Too little sunlight
- Too much sunlight / Sunburn
- Too much alcohol
All of these things cause inflammation in the body, or directly on the skin’s surface, so avoiding these will help prevent psoriasis outbreaks. Psoriasis also tends to be worse in people who have a weak immune system, HIV/AIDS, auto-immune disorders and those undergoing chemotherapy. In addition, you should avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body. The medical community has yet to publicly announce that certain foods can indeed trigger psoriasis outbreaks, despite it being common knowledge among many sufferers and dermatologists. Dairy and most meats have long been known to cause inflammation in the body, but some whole foods can as well. These inflammatory whole foods belong to a class of plants called nightshades.
Beware of Nightshades
Nightshade is the common name used to describe more than 2,800 species of plants. To call nightshades a diverse group of plants would be an understatement; it includes fruits, vegetables, flowering plants, medicinal plants and roots, even tobacco. Nightshade fruits and vegetables include potatoes (sweet potatoes and yams are NOT nightshades), tomatoes, peppers (red, green, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, cayenne, pimento) and eggplants (aubergine). While these foods do contain antioxidants, they also contain inflammatory elements that can cause inflammation, and therefore psoriasis outbreaks, in those who are sensitive.
Firsthand Accounts / Anecdotal Evidence
It’s never too late to use an inflammation fighting diet to decrease or eliminate one’s psoriasis outbreaks. A sexagenarian named Louise changed her diet and lifestyle, and saw very good results. She developed psoriasis at the age of 10 and, at that time, the only treatments available were sunlight and coal tar ointment.
In addition to eliminating any foods that she suspected might be causing her inflammation, and eating more inflammation fighting foods, Louise also tried to avoid infections and other potential causes of inflammation. To her surprise, it worked. Her skin was improving steadily until she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy. The chemo caused a severe outbreak of guttate psoriasis, which appear as small, red, and scaly teardrop-shaped spots. Three years after Louise beat her cancer, her skin is now 99% percent clear. She said,
“I never thought there was anything I could do other than take a drug, which I didn’t want to do. I didn’t realize it was in my hands to clear myself up. It’s like you have been in a leper colony and all of a sudden you see the way out.”2
Raw vegans seem to get even better results. YouTuber Braddock Baskett interviewed his friend James, who was able to completely clear up his psoriasis by adopting an “all you can eat” raw vegan diet. He started in January of 2011, going 95% raw. By March 2011 his psoriasis had begun to clear. In July of 2011 his psoriasis was almost completely gone. Once it was completely gone, James started wondering if he could go back to eating some of his old favorite foods and remain psoriasis free. Turned out he couldn’t. When he returned to his old eating habits his psoriasis returned as well. Having learned his lesson, James went back to his raw vegan diet and by July 2012 his psoriasis was disappearing once again.
The moral of both of these real life psoriasis success stories is that you can defeat psoriasis, if you’re willing to change your lifestyle to avoid inflammation triggers and commit to an inflammation-fighting diet.
1 Asadullah K, Docke WD, Volk HD, and Sterry W. “The Pathophysiological Role of Cytokines in Psoriasis”. Drugs Of Today (Barcelona, Spain: 1998). December 1999. Web. September 2016
2 Stork, Amy. “Can Diet Heal Psoriasis?” National Psoriasis Foundation, September 10, 2015. Web. September 2016
Chilton, Floyd H, PhD, and Tucker, Laura. “Win the War Within: The Eating Plan That’s Clinically Proven to Fight Inflammation – The Hidden Cause of Weight Gain and Chronic Disease.” Rodale, Inc., January 1, 2006. Print.
Braddock Baskett. “Heal Psoriasis Naturally – Raw • Vegan • Fruititarian • Plant-Based Cure.” YouTube, July 31, 2012.
K Reich. “The Concept of Psoriasis as a Systemic Inflammation: Implication for Disease Management.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, February 22, 2012. Web. September 2016
Axe, Josh, MD. “Top 15 Anti-inflammatory Foods”. Dr. Axe, n.d. Web. September 2016
MacMillan, Amanda. “14 Foods That Fight Inflammation” Health, n.d. Web. September 2016
“Foods that Fight Inflammation”. Harvard Health Publications / Harvard Medical School, July 2014. Web. September 2016
McLaughlin, August. “Nightshade Vegetables and Psoriasis”. Livestrong, June 17, 2015. Web. September 2016