Psoriasis: Foods that may help — or hurt

A Mediterranean style of eating may be associated with a reduction in psoriasis severity.

Andy De Santis, RD 3 minute read December 4, 2020
Fish and skin health

Fish are rich in Vitamin D which may help you manage psoriasis Getty

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that is usually identified by the presence of flakes and red patches — commonly found on the knees, lower back, elbows and scalp.

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, the skin disorder affects up to one million Canadians. Psoriasis put you at greater risk of developing other conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints, eye conditions, like conjunctivitis, blepharitis and uveitis, type 2 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases like celiac and Crohn’s disease.

And while there are a number of treatment and management options available for psoriasis, reports the Mayo Clinic, including topical creams, shampoos, light therapy and oral and injectable medications, my curiosity as a dietitian always turns to the nutritional science.

Is there a connection between food choices and the severity of psoriasis?

Diet and psoriasis — the Evidence

Whenever we question the connection between nutrition and any condition, we are really asking to differentiate between the foods that may help, and the foods that may hurt.

Let’s start with the positives.

The Mediterranean Diet A closer adherence to a Mediterranean style of eating may be associated with a reduction in psoriasis severity. Foods to consume more of — think daily — include nuts, seeds and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc). Others that should be eaten less include red meat, dairy and poultry.

Omega-3 fatty acids Given the inflammatory nature of psoriasis it should perhaps come as no surprise that omega-3 fatty acids have an important role to play in managing psoriasis. Sources include plant-based foods such as flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, as well foods that come from animals, such as  salmon, trout, sardines. Those who do not consume these foods should consider supplementation.

Vitamin D Since psoriasis is considered an auto-immune condition, and given the recent increasing interest around vitamin D and the immune system, it seems reasonable that nearly half of all psoriasis sufferers surveyed reported an improvement in symptoms after supplementation with vitamin D3. Fish is the only truly rich source of dietary vitamin D, and since many Canadians don’t eat that much of it, supplementation may be necessary.

Cholesterol lowering foods People living with psoriasis may be more likely to have elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. One of the best ways to fight back against this is to incorporate more soy protein in their diet, like tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and edamame, as well as more soluble fibre rich foods, such as most fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, barley and quinoa.

Foods that may hurt

Alcohol Minimizing or completely avoiding alcoholic beverages is protective against psoriasis and a wide array of other health conditions.

Gluten People with psoriasis may be more likely to have a significant immune response to gluten-containing foods like most types of bread, cereal, cookies, crackers and beer. While I do not recommend the wholesale avoidance of these foods without just cause, it is a topic that merits exploration and discussion with your healthcare provider.

Final thoughts

If you are living with psoriasis, there are a number of dietary management strategies at your disposal and it is possible to utilize the power of nutrition to reduce the severity of the condition.

Even if food alone won’t fix the problem, it can certainly help.

Andy is a registered dietitian and author who has operated a private practice in Toronto since 2015. He spends his free time eating, writing and talking about kale @AndyTheRD. He can be reached at

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