You don’t have to cut all meat from your diet, but research shows that cutting back may help your psoriasis symptoms.
There is a lot of news about eating more plants and less meat, which may have led you to wonder if eating meat will make your psoriasis symptoms worse.
We know that eating more fruits and vegetables can benefit your psoriasis by providing a lot of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Fish and some dairies can also be anti-inflammatory, and therefore, may help your psoriasis.
However, research suggests that eating red meat may increase your likelihood of a psoriasis flare or make your skin lesions worse.
Red meat is the flesh of mammals that have a higher proportion of red muscle fibers. This includes:
Chicken, turkey, and hens are not red meat, as they are poultry or fowl.
Processed red meat refers to red meat that people preserve by smoking, curing, drying, or salting it. Examples include:
Many types of red meat can be high in saturated fat. These types of fats link to increased inflammation and the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in your body (also called “bad cholesterol”). Some research suggests a link between oxidized LDL (a particularly harmful type of LDL that worsens inflammation) and the development of psoriasis and worsening symptoms.
Red meat also contains arachidonic acid, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid. A 2016 study showed that the byproducts of this arachidonic acid may play a role in developing psoriasis lesions on the skin.
Saturated fatty acids, like palmitic or stearic acid, are at high levels in red meat. Consuming a lot of these saturated fatty acids is a risk factor for obesity, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases.
In a 2017 study on mice, a high fat diet rich in saturated fatty acids made psoriatic dermatitis worse. These fats activate macrophages, which are cells involved in “turning on” inflammation in the body.
Saturated fats may also activate the TNF-alpha and IL-23/IL-17 pathways, which are inflammatory mediators that many biologic therapies used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis may inhibit.
While this research may cause you to consider a plant-based diet, you don’t have to completely cut out red meat forever.
Consider how often you eat red meat. Keeping a food diary for a few days or a week can help with this. If you eat beef, pork, or other red meats regularly, you may want to cut back. (Bonus: cutting back on red meat leaves more room for foods known to be helpful for psoriasis symptoms, like vegetables, fruit, and fish.)
Perhaps you eat bacon with your eggs most mornings, take a ham and cheese sandwich to work, and eat beef or pork for a few dinners a week. You can look for some alternatives to these, like switching to a veggie omelet for breakfast, taking a salmon salad sandwich to work, and only eating red meat once a week at dinner.
After a few weeks, you may notice a difference in your skin health.
If you love a good steak, you don’t have to make a drastic change in your diet and eliminate meat. You can still enjoy small portions of beef, pork, or other red meat in moderation.
If you’re looking for a place to start, first cut back on processed red meat like bacon, sausage, and deli meats, as research shows that these can have a negative impact on overall health. Instead, make a psoriasis-friendly swap by enjoying whole cuts of your favorite red meat sparingly.
Medically reviewed on November 18, 2022
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