Changing your diet is rarely considered a primary treatment modality for most diseases, except diabetes, certain digestive disorders (such as celiac disease), and other specific health conditions. There is insufficient clinical research to suggest that dietary changes will cure psoriatic arthritis (PsA). But many people with psoriatic arthritis report that changes in diet improved their symptoms. Some research data supports these claims that eating and avoiding certain foods helps alleviate some PsA symptoms. So, what are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, and what type of eating plan is said to help improve this chronic (long-term) condition?
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a long-term (chronic) inflammatory disorder that attacks the skin and joints. The first symptoms of psoriatic arthritis (PsA) typically appear between ages 30 and 50, though it can occur at any age. Other facts about psoriatic arthritis include:
- Approximately 1 in 3 people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis.
- Approximately 85% of those with PsA develop skin symptoms such as red, flaky patches (known as plaques) before they develop joint symptoms
- Although psoriatic arthritis is nearly 50% less likely to occur in Blacks than Caucasians, the condition has a worse psychological impact on Blacks than in Caucasians (according to a study in Clinical Rheumatology).
- Black people with psoriatic arthritis are less likely to use medication to relieve skin symptoms than Caucasian people. Still, in studies, only one in four people achieved significant relief of symptoms (including those who took medication).
Diets For Psoriatic Arthritis Symptom Relief
Three eating plans, including a low-calorie, anti-inflammatory, and gluten-free diet, have been shown to improve symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. There are several possible explanations for why these diets work for some people with PsA. For example, certain foods may worsen inflammation associated with psoriatic arthritis. Furthermore, taking charge of your diet and other aspects of your health (such as exercising regularly) is known to reduce inflammation associated with PsA, improve the immune system, and lower stress that often exacerbates (worsens) the symptoms of the disease.
Besides contributing to the development of psoriatic arthritis, obesity may increase flare-ups or make them worse. The body releases inflammatory substances, such as cytokines, from fat tissue, which increases inflammation associated with psoriatic arthritis. A 2015 study published by the British Journal of Dermatology concluded that eating low-calorie meals and exercising three times per week reduced the severity of psoriatic symptoms in 48% of those in the study. Here are some tips for reducing calories in your daily diet:
- Remove skin and trim fat from meat and poultry
- Bake or broil foods instead of frying or deep frying
- Using fresh herbs can help replace some of the flavor lost by reducing grease and fat
- Exchange complex carbohydrates (sugars) found in white sugar, white flour, white pasta with whole grains, and other complex carbohydrates (such as whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, and barley)
- Avoid sugary drinks and processed foods loaded with sugar and salt
- Use a healthy, low-calorie natural sweetener (such as stevia)
- Avoid chemically made sweeteners such as NutraSweet, aspartame, and other brands
- Eliminate saturated fats and trans fats (often found in processed and fast foods)
- Substitute saturated fats for healthy fats such as those from wild-caught salmon and avocados
- Fill your plate with 50% fresh fruits and vegetables and a quarter of the plate for a lean protein (such as baked chicken), and the remaining quarter for whole grains.
- Use a small amount of healthy oil that doesn’t break down when frying (such as avocado oil)
- Use homemade salad dressings (such as those made with virgin olive oil) in place of store-bought versions
- Avoid foods loaded with mayonnaise and other types of hidden fats (read labels)
Certain foods can cause inflammation, so avoiding them can help you manage psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The anti-inflammatory diet includes foods rich in antioxidants (such as berries and other bright-colored fruits and vegetables) and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods to avoid on the anti-inflammatory diet include processed sugary, high saturated fat (such as red meat), and foods high in omega 6 fatty acids (found in many cooking oils and processed foods).
Foods to Eat on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Wild-caught fish with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna)
- Low saturated fat protein sources (such as chicken with the skin removed or lean turkey)
- Bright colored fruits and vegetables with antioxidants to help lower inflammation
- Bright green leafy vegetables (such as kale and spinach)
- Foods that are high in antioxidants (such as fresh berries and cherries)
- Whole grains (including ancient grains such as farro, millet, and quinoa, as well as cheaper varieties that have nutritional value like oats, brown rice, and whole wheat)
- Beans and legumes (such as garbanzo beans, lentils, navy beans, cannellini beans, and other beans (low in fat, high in fiber and B vitamins, serve as a suitable replacement for reducing fatty meat such as beef)
- Nuts (walnuts, pecans, pepitas, Brazil nuts, and more)