Psoriasis is an immune-mediated skin disease marked by chronic systemic inflammation. It has been consistently linked with metabolic diseases which are characterized by obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
It has been suggested that what a person eats may increase or decrease the severity of the condition.
Vitamins, such as vitamin A, D, E, and K, are essential for life and wellbeing. There is some speculation as to whether or not these nutritional components can ease psoriasis symptoms.
Although there is little evidence to confirm the benefits of these vitamins, some studies suggest that integrating vitamin therapy into a psoriasis treatment plan may be helpful.
What vitamins affect psoriasis?
The major, and essential, fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Water-soluble vitamins include the B vitamins and vitamin C.
Except for vitamin D, most vitamins can only be obtained from the diet. Vitamin D is synthesized when the body is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun.
Vitamin A, commonly found in yellow- and orange-colored vegetables, is essential for the healthy production of skin cells.
Vitamin A, or retinoids, have been used topically to treat photodamage as well as psoriasis by reducing the overproduction of skin cells that occurs with psoriasis.
Additionally, topical retinoids can reduce skin inflammation in plaque psoriasis. Topical vitamin A creams have a lower absorption rate compared to oral vitamin A-related drugs, resulting in fewer side effects for patients.
A vitamin A supplement can be used for psoriasis; however, this should always be coordinated by a doctor.
Psoriasis has historically been treated by light therapy via the sun. Researchers believe the therapeutic effect lies in the sun’s ability to help the body produce vitamin D, a powerful hormone that plays a role in hundreds of metabolic reactions in the body.
Recent studies have shown a direct benefit of using both oral as well as topical vitamin D preparations for alleviating psoriasis symptoms safely and effectively.
Additionally, one study has shown that the use of supplemental vitamin D, combined with a steroid cream, produces more favorable results compared with vitamin D alone.
Antioxidants can be a powerful adjunct in the treatment of psoriasis, by preventing damage associated with oxidative stress.
Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin that also serves as an antioxidant, may be helpful for psoriasis.
Vitamin C can be obtained from diet, from supplements, or both. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and berries.
Many patients with psoriasis experience a reduced serum level of selenium, a potent antioxidant produced by the body.
Vitamin E supplements in one study helped to improve selenium concentrations in psoriasis patients. However, there is no evidence that this reduces the severity of psoriasis symptoms.
As that vitamin E and selenium are both antioxidants, they can help to protect against the oxidative stress that occurs with psoriasis.
Vitamin E can be taken in oral form with the advice of a qualified physician. Pumpkin seeds and spinach are two good sources of vitamin E.
Before taking vitamin supplements, people should seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Risks and considerations
Dietary supplements are not regulated for safety by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it is difficult to determine the quality of the ingredients used in all supplements.
Receiving brand recommendations from a doctor is essential to ensure that a supplement includes what it says on the label.
Supplements that contain ingredients other than what is on the label may interfere with current medications, so it is important to know what a product contains before taking it.
Taking a vitamin supplement with the advice of your doctor, or on a prescription can help to minimize health risks associated with the disease or other disorders.
Other potentially beneficial nutrients for psoriasis
Vitamins are not the only types of nutrients that may benefit patients with psoriasis.
Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish and flax seeds, glucosamine and chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) may help to reduce inflammation and assist skin health.
Conventional treatments for psoriasis
The cornerstone of psoriasis treatment is prevention. Avoiding certain triggers can prevent psoriasis from flaring up. This can help to reduce reliance on over-the-counter and pharmaceutical medications.
Some prevention tips to keep in mind include:
- Keeping your stress levels low
- Keeping the skin moisturized, as outbreaks are more likely to occur when the skin is dry
- Staying inside as much as possible during the winter, as cold weather can dry the skin
- Using a humidifier during the colder months, to help keep the skin moist and prevent outbreaks
Topical preparations are commonly used in treatment. Creams containing certain steroids can help to reduce inflammation associated, to minimize itching, and to halting the overproduction of skin cells.
Retinoid creams containing vitamin A are also typically used for psoriasis.
Light therapy and oral medications may be part of the treatment.
Nutrition and psoriasis
Currently, there is limited evidence to suggest diet affects psoriatic symptoms.
One study found that a Mediterranean diet may have a beneficial effect on psoriasis. This is because it helps to improve other metabolic inflammatory parameters, like obesity and diabetes, which are associated with psoriasis.
The Mediterranean diet also contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, due to the regular consumption of fish. Omega-3 has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory agent.
Dietary methods for controlling psoriasis often center around reducing excess inflammation.
Eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugar, and replacing these foods with more vegetables, nuts, seeds, and low-glycemic fruits may be helpful for accomplishing this goal.
There is still much debate, however, about whether anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis.