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Will a Mediterranean Diet Help Your Psoriasis?

French scientists found that psoriasis patients whose diets conformed least to a Mediterranean pattern had the worst skin problems. Perhaps a Mediterranean diet would help your psoriasis.
Will a Mediterranean Diet Help Your Psoriasis?

Following a Mediterranean style diet with lots of vegetables, extra-virgin olive oil, whole grains and fruit is good for your heart and your metabolism. A French study suggested this way of eating might even help your psoriasis (JAMA Dermatology, Sep. 2018). Now scientists have confirmed this through research with mice (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, July 2021).

Western Diet Boosts Inflammation:

How does a high sugar and moderate fat diet affect inflammation? A new study found that when mice are put on such a regimen to mimic a Western diet, they develop skin and joint inflammation. These changes are accompanied by alterations in the gut microbiome.

Even a short time on a Western diet can result in dysbiosis: unhealthy changes in the types of intestinal bacteria. Under these conditions, people (or in this case mice) produce more inflammatory compounds such as cytokines. The scientists had designed this inflammatory state to mimic psoriasis.

When they treated the mice with broad-spectrum antibiotics, that suppressed the inflammation. More encouraging, however, was that switching the animals to a diet low in sugar and high in vegetables and fruits also reduced inflammation. It seems very likely that a low-sugar, high-produce diet could help your psoriasis.

The authors conclude that

“modifications toward a healthier dietary pattern should be considered in patients with psoriatic skin and/or joint disease.”

How Could Diet Help Your Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which skin cells turn over far more rapidly than usual. As a result, plaques of red, itchy skin with silvery scales may appear on elbows, knees, scalp, back and other regions of the skin. People with psoriasis may also notice thickening or pitting of their nails. Some people with psoriatic skin patches also develop the inflamed joints of psoriatic arthritis. They may be more susceptible to other inflammatory conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

Reducing Inflammation with Diet:

A Mediterranean-type diet seems to lower inflammation (Bonaccio et al, Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders Drug Targets, 2015). Consequently, the French scientists were curious whether it would help your psoriasis. The web-based survey (NutriNet-Santé) of more than 35,000 people identified 3,557 individuals with psoriasis. All of the volunteers filled out detailed questionnaires on eating habits and lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise. They also answered questions about their symptoms.

The scientists rated the diets according to how closely they followed an ideal Mediterranean pattern. Participants who adhered most closely to the healthful high-veggie diet were 29 percent less likely to have severe psoriasis than those whose diets did not conform. An observational study of this type cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship between diet and skin inflammation. However, it is a low-risk recommendation to add a Mediterranean diet to other psoriasis treatments.

According to the scientists,

“The Mediterranean diet may slow the progression of psoriasis, so an optimized diet should be part of the multidisciplinary management of moderate to severe psoriasis.”

Learn More:

A Mediterranean diet is not just pasta and pizza. If you would like some details on how to follow this eating plan to help your psoriasis, you’ll find them in our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies. 

You may also wish to listen to Dr. Barry Sears describe how the Zone Diet compares to a Mediterranean pattern. It is Show #989: The Mediterranean Zone Diet.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Shi Z et al, "Short-term Western diet intake promotes IL-23‒mediated skin and joint inflammation accompanied by changes to the gut microbiota in mice." Journal of Investigative Dermatology, July 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.jid.2020.11.032
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