Psoriasis is a chronic condition that causes dry, scaly, reddish areas on your skin. While it can affect numerous body parts, the scalp is a common trouble area. Psoriasis affects more than 6 million Americans, 5 percent of whom also develop psoriatic arthritis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In addition to medical treatments, a healthy diet may help minimize psoriasis symptoms. The dietary recommendations are the same whether your symptoms affect your scalp or other areas.
Though dietary changes won't cure scalp psoriasis, they may help prevent or reduce the intensity of your symptoms. Since excess body weight increases your risk for psoriasis outbreaks, your diet should also support healthy weight management, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. An appropriate diet may also help delay or reduce symptoms of psoriatic arthritis and should meet your basic nutrient and energy needs.
Your diet should include healthy foods from all vital food groups, including complex carbohydrates, lean protein sources and healthy fats. Oil in salmon, albacore tuna and other fatty fish provides anti-inflammatory benefits and, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, may help reduce itching and redness linked with psoriasis. Whole grains are low-glycemic, meaning they have a mild impact on your blood sugar levels and may improve appetite control and hormonal levels and lead to improved symptoms. Whole grain breads and cereals also provide folic acid -- a synthetic form of the B-vitamin folate. If you take the psoriasis medication methotrexate, you may need increased folic acid. Colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, bell peppers and leafy greens, provide antioxidants that help strengthen your immune system. Healthy protein-rich foods include skinless white-meat poultry, fish, low-fat dairy or soy-based products and legumes. In addition to fatty fish, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and avocados provide healthy fats.
Foods to Avoid
Since foods affect people with psoriasis differently, take note of foods that seem to worsen or trigger your symptoms. Some people with psoriasis notice improvements after omitting gluten -- a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye -- from their diets, according to professor and chairman of the department of dermatology at the University of Rome Dr. Sergio Chimenti. In his book, "Psoriasis," Chimenti recommends avoiding or limiting animal-derived foods and beverages since a vegetarian or plant-based diet may help improve your symptoms. Animal products most likely to worsen inflammation include fatty red, fried and processed meats, dark-meat poultry, whole milk, heavy cream, butter and high-fat cheeses. Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as breads, pasta, cereals and snack foods that contain high amounts of enriched flour and/or added sugars, which may also trigger inflammation and leave less room in your diet for healthier fare.
If you have difficulty meeting your nutritional needs through foods or have an additional medical problem that keeps you from properly absorbing nutrients, your doctor may suggest dietary supplements. Other supplements believed to help manage psoriasis include shark cartilage, high-dose prescription vitamin A and D supplements and various herbal supplements, such as aloe and coleus forskohlii. Since supplements may pose side effects and may lack evidence of effectiveness, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends discussing their use with your doctor before taking them.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Psoriasis
- National Psoriasis Foundation: Living Well: Healthy Eating
- "Psoriasis"; Sergio Chimenti; 2005