Laura Krebs-Holm, a dietitian living with psoriasis, digs into what the research says about dairy and psoriasis.
Many people who live with psoriasis turn to diet changes to help manage their symptoms, with some noticing that what they eat makes a difference in their skin symptoms.
One question that many people with psoriasis seem to have is whether consuming dairy products has an effect on psoriasis severity.
In recent years, there have been some conflicting messages about dairy and its overall impact on health. Many people think it’s necessary to avoid dairy entirely because it may have negative impacts on health. This may not be true for people with psoriasis.
There is little research on dairy and psoriasis specifically. Research does however show that psoriasis severity increases when people eat more red meat. It is thought this could be due to arachidonic acid in red meat that may irritate the lining of the intestine and cause inflammation.
Dairy also contains high amounts of arachidonic acid, but there are no studies specifically looking at this connection.
Some people may see an improvement in psoriasis symptoms if they remove dairy from their diet.
This may be due to casein, which is a protein in dairy that some people have difficulty digesting. For those that are lactose intolerant, and cannot process casein effectively, consuming dairy may cause inflammation.
If you live with psoriasis, you may have been recommended an anti-inflammatory diet. This means a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Research has not found a link between dairy and inflammation. Dairy does not increase the concentration of biomarkers of inflammation in the bloodstream.
In one study, when looking at people who were “healthy” or had “metabolic abnormalities,” milk and dairy products had anti-inflammatory effects.
A review of 52 clinical studies found that dairy seemed to have anti-inflammatory effects in people, except for one group: people with an allergy to cow’s milk. The review also noted that both high fat and low fat dairy produced anti-inflammatory activity.
So, unless you are lactose intolerant, have a dairy allergy, or have noticed a specific impact that dairy has on your health, you are likely safe to continue consuming dairy.
Cow’s milk and dairy products are a great source of calcium. Studies have found that those with psoriasis generally have low levels of calcium.
One study in 98 patients with psoriasis found that over a third of these patients were hypocalcemic, meaning they had low amounts of calcium in the blood.
A study of 1,206 survey respondents observed that people with psoriasis consumed less dairy and less calcium than control groups. Most respondents also reported using dietary modifications to help control their skin health.
Yet, most patients actually reported the greatest skin improvement when they reduced alcohol, gluten, and nightshade vegetables in their diet and increased consumption of fish or omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, and vitamin D.
Like so many things with psoriasis, every person’s experience is different.
Perhaps you have noticed that your skin looks and feels better when you eliminate dairy from your diet. If that is the case, then there is no reason to add it back into your diet.
However, if you haven’t noticed that dairy bothers you, then there is no research that suggests you should avoid dairy entirely. Dairy contains a host of nutrients and has been shown to help curb inflammation, which may be helpful to people living with psoriasis.
If you are trying to figure out exactly how diet affects your psoriasis, talking with your doctor or starting a food journal can help.
Keeping a log of your symptoms and the food you eat can help pinpoint foods that may cause issues for you. Taking progress photos over this period and sharing them with your doctor can also help you work together to determine the best diet choices for your body.
Medically reviewed on July 31, 2022
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