If you’re dealing with psoriasis, you’re all too familiar with scaly patches of itchy skin. But can the promises of a detox diet really help you avoid these scratch attacks?
Unfortunately, a psoriasis detox diet or master cleanse won’t cure the condition. (Not great news for the nearly 8 million people in the U.S. who have it.) But, dietary changes may help you find some sweet symptom relief.
Here’s what to know.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and skin cells to multiply faster than normal. This causes those scaly, red patches of skin.
The main concept of a psoriasis detox diet is to limit the number of inflammatory foods eaten, which could potentially limit inflammation.
Certain recommendations may vary, but a detox diet typically suggests removing foods such as:
- red meat
- added sugars
- refined carbs
- nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers)
- fried foods
- gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, and rye)
🛑 Hold up on a detox diet!
While in theory this might seem promising, detox diets aren’t recommended.
Strictly eliminating food items can be restrictive and sometimes even dangerous to your health.
While “detoxing” from potential psoriasis triggering foods, the idea is you’d then “cleanse” with antioxidant and nutrient dense foods. This includes foods such as:
This cleanse can also involve drinking juices or various liquid-only diets for a period of time. These might be marketed as a psoriasis master cleanse, psoriasis liver cleanse, body cleanse for psoriasis, or colon cleanse for psoriasis.
🛑 Halt on that cleanse!
You’ve probably already guessed, but this approach isn’t exactly healthy if you’re just drinking juice and restricting a ton of foods.
Strict cleanses are also not generally recommended and could make you sick.
Sometimes things are too good to be true, and in this case that “thing” is the promise of a psoriasis detox diet or master cleanse.
Our body comes with built-in detox organs such as our liver, lungs, kidneys, skin, and digestive system. Their role is to rid our body of harmful chemicals and compounds without the assistance of a detox diet.
Not only that, but all of us react to certain foods in different ways. Some people may find success eliminating gluten or nightshades, while others won’t.
Following a balanced and nutrient-dense diet is often a better approach than completely eliminating certain food groups or choosing a restrictive diet.
A 2020 review found that high intakes of fruits and vegetables lowered the frequency of psoriasis flare-ups. But when this increase was only over a few weeks, there was no significant impact. That’s why it’s important to find an eating pattern that can be sustained in the long term.
Bottom line on detoxes and cleanses for psoriasis
You shouldn’t follow a detox or cleanse for psoriasis unless you have your doctor’s blessing.
A restrictive diet without necessary evidence can be dangerous and potentially eliminate necessary calories and nutrients.
Not all psoriasis detoxes are marketed the same, but they do share some similarities, which includes eliminating certain foods. This could lead to unhealthy eating habits and a negative relationship with food. You can also put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies.
For example, if you’re testing out the gluten-free option you need to plan it thoughtfully or work with a registered dietitian to make sure you’re meeting your micronutrient needs. A 2016 review found that gluten-free diets could restrict you from important vitamins and minerals such as:
- vitamin B12
Again, following a restrictive diet can also be tough to maintain, which may lead to the return of your regular diet and psoriasis symptoms.
According to a 2019 clinical review, of more than 1200 psoriasis patients surveyed, 86 percent stated that they modified their diets to improve their skin condition. The most common diets tried included:
- low carbohydrate/high protein
Many of the same surveyors found benefits by adding fish oil/omega-3 and vitamin D supplements.
More research needs to be done, but specific diet changes have shown promising results.
One 2018 observational study found that participants with psoriasis following a Mediterranean diet had fewer flare ups. The association is believed to be due to the anti-inflammatory foods that are consumed on the diet.
Since detoxes and cleanses are unnecessary, instead try to pinpoint what specific foods seem to trigger your psoriasis symptoms and focus on eating nutrient-dense foods.
To find out what foods might be buggin’ your skin, create a food log or journal and make note of when psoriasis symptoms seem to get worse. With the help of your doctor and registered dietician, you can find out which foods are aggravating your symptoms.
If that seems like too much work but you want some structure, you might want to consider a Mediterranean diet. This diet is a nonrestrictive option compared to gluten-free and keto.
While not a proven psoriasis treatment, the Medical Board of the National Psoriasis Foundation found people with psoriasis may want to consider trying a Mediterranean diet. However, keep in mind this is based on low quality evidence.
At a glance, a Mediterranean diet involves:
- extra virgin olive oil as main fat (instead of butter or margarine)
- 3 servings of fruits
- 2 servings of vegetables
- 3 servings of fish/seafood
- nuts and legumes weekly
A 2017 study also found obesity and high abdominal fat may increase your risk of psoriasis. So certain nutrition strategies that can help weight loss (and aren’t restrictive!) may also benefit psoriasis symptoms.
Let your organs do the detoxing, and instead focus on a healthy nutrient-rich diet that may help relieve symptoms of psoriasis. Detoxes and cleanses in general can be really dangerous.
When in doubt, always turn to your doctor or dermatologist to help you manage your psoriasis. A registered dietitian may also be a helpful addition to your psoriasis team.
And remember: changes won’t happen overnight.