Coffee may have anti-inflammatory properties, but it can depend on how much you drink.
If you have psoriasis, it’s possible you’ve heard mixed messaging about coffee, or caffeine, being a trigger for certain skin conditions. You may have found yourself wondering if your daily cup of joe is causing your psoriasis to flare or making the condition worse.
The answer is a bit more nuanced than a simple “yes” or “no.”
But for those who love coffee and live with psoriasis, you probably don’t have to sacrifice your morning cup altogether. Still, it may not be the best idea to keep chugging it all day long, either.
Let’s take a look at what the research says.
Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and many people enjoy it daily.
However, just because the beverage is commonplace, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a powerful substance. Coffee has many biologically active compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Coffee has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.
Specifically, the caffeine in coffee has been found to reduce the growth of Th1 and Th2 cells that function as part of the immune system to promote inflammatory responses. Caffeine in coffee has also been seen to prevent the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammatory cytokines are closely linked to psoriasis flares.
Additionally, coffee contains anti-inflammatory polyphenols, which may also help to reduce inflammatory cytokine proliferation.
Furthermore, coffee contains arabinogalactan proteins, which are known to have an immunosuppressive effect and has specifically been linked to reducing skin inflammation.
Since psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder marked by inflammation and increased cytokine activity, limiting pro-inflammatory activity can help lessen the severity of symptoms caused by inflammation.
Biologic drugs that some people take to reduce psoriasis activity actually target these same cytokines.
Not everyone agrees that coffee is always anti-inflammatory. While several studies have found that coffee can play an anti-inflammatory role and act as an immunosuppressant, some research has suggested that coffee consumption may increase inflammation in the body.
According to a 2004 study, coffee drinkers who consumed more than 200 mL/day experienced increased levels of inflammatory markers, which may contribute to increased psoriasis severity.
Research from 2020 suggested it may be the amount of coffee you drink that determines whether it has a positive or negative impact on psoriasis symptoms.
One 2018 study found that psoriasis patients who drank coffee reported lower scores on the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) compared with those who did not drink coffee.
The researchers also looked at the presence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and smoking. The study found that participants who drank an average of 3 cups of coffee per day had the lowest PASI score and prevalence of MetS.
On the other hand, participants reporting the highest scores of psoriasis severity, who drank an average of over 4 cups of coffee daily.
Overall, the group that reported the lowest psoriasis severity scores were non-smokers who drank 3 cups of coffee per day.
According to the research, drinking up to 3 cups of coffee per day may help alleviate psoriasis symptoms through inhibiting inflammatory activity, but drinking over 4 cups a day may actually exacerbate symptoms of psoriasis.
While coffee, in the right amounts, may be beneficial to those living with psoriasis, it’s also important to consider how you take your coffee.
Espresso beverages from your favorite café may use sweetened syrups and sweetened whipped creams to add more sugar and calories than you realize.
Adding a lot of sugar or flavored creamers may negate the possible benefits of coffee. Sugar is known to be pro-inflammatory, and many coffee creamers that are high in fats and oils have also been linked to inflammation.
As you prepare your daily cups of java, consider taking it black, or adding a bit of cream, milk, or unsweetened milk alternative to get the most benefit from your coffee.
It’s also important to remember that, at the end of the day, everybody is different. Some people tolerate coffee differently than others. If you think caffeine may be triggering your symptoms or making flares worse, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor.
Medically reviewed on March 24, 2022
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