Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that results in red, flaky, and itchy skin. Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease, meaning it is the result of the immune system overreacting. In the case of psoriatic arthritis — one of several types of psoriasis — the condition manifests as inflammation of the joints and the connective tissue between the joints, not the skin.
Treatment of psoriasis includes oral anti-inflammatory or antirheumatic drugs and biologic therapies that are injected or infused. However, there are several things you can do to help improve your general health and the symptoms of psoriasis that don’t involve medication. Regular physical activity, eating healthy foods, and managing your stress levels can help control psoriasis and its symptoms. An added bonus: diet and exercise don’t just impact your psoriasis, they have a positive affect on your overall health and quality of life.
It is important to consult a health care professional before starting any new diet or exercise regimen, and to assist with managing psoriasis symptoms.
This article is written in collaboration with MyHealthTeams (MyHealthTeams creates social networks for communities of people facing chronic conditions).
This article is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options. The information here should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional.
Diet and Psoriasis
A healthy, balanced diet does everybody good. When you have psoriasis, a healthy diet may help you by:
- Reducing psoriasis flare-ups
- Lowering the risk of developing related diseases
- Improving general quality of life
Special Diets That Help Psoriatic Inflammation
While no single diet has been proven to treat or cure psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, an anti-inflammatory diet is often recommended for people living with psoriatic disease. An anti-inflammatory diet — for instance, the Mediterranean diet or a vegan or plant-based diet — includes foods like fruits, vegetables, salmon, and olive oil. These may help reduce inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet is generally rich in antioxidants, dietary fibre, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Anti-inflammatory diets minimize or exclude processed grains, refined sugars, and saturated fats which cause or worsen inflammation. A psoriatic arthritis diet may help minimize inflammation and other symptoms like joint pain or swelling.
The Importance of a Healthy Body Weight
Being overweight is linked with more severe psoriasis symptoms, as well as the development of psoriatic arthritis. If you have psoriatic arthritis, excess weight is greater stress on joints that are already under attack by the body’s over-responsive immune system. Many of psoriasis’ frequently co-occurring conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression, are also linked to or compounded by being overweight.
Sometimes, excess weight can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications used to treat psoriasis. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It can also benefit your cardiovascular health.
How Exercise Helps Psoriasis
Research has proven that regular exercise helps people with psoriatic disease maintain a healthy weight, stay flexible, reduce inflammation, manage stress, and improve emotional well-being. All of these things help keep you in your best overall health, which can help you better manage your psoriasis and any other health conditions you may have.
Good for the Body
Exercise can help you live your best life with a chronic condition like psoriasis. Just 20 to 30 minutes per day, or 150 minutes per week, can reduce the risk of developing other conditions linked to psoriasis, such as fatty liver and cardiovascular disease. Your doctor can help you identify types of exercise that may work for you. They may recommend you see a physical therapist to help you.
Research has shown that people who have psoriasis tend to exercise less than those who don’t. Embarrassment and stigma, pain, stiffness, and swelling may all lead some people with psoriatic disease to stop exercising and become increasingly sedentary — much to the detriment of their physical and mental health. Lack of physical activity can lead to increased stiffness and worsening of other psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
Regular physical activity does the opposite. It also helps the body recover from injury more quickly and remain in psoriatic remission longer.
Good for the Mind
Regular exercise has also been shown to aid stress management, combat depression, decrease anxiety, increase self-esteem, and improve mood. Reducing or managing stress may have benefits for people with psoriatic disease.
Stress is a common trigger for psoriasis flares. Inflammation and stress together can increase the frequency or severity of your flares. Yoga and tai chi are low-impact exercises that can improve strength, flexibility, and balance, as well as promote relaxation.
- Psoriasis Resource Center — American Academy of Dermatology Association
- Dietary Modifications — National Psoriasis Foundation
- Healthy diet and other lifestyle changes that can improve psoriasis — American Academy of Dermatology Association
- Psoriasis Types, Symptoms & Causes — National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- About Psoriasis — National Psoriasis Foundation