When a psoriasis flare-up erupts, seeking a soothing solution can become your top priority. But if a medicine cabinet full of lotions and creams isn’t cutting it, can adding a vitamin to your supplement stash help you heal?
What are the benefits of vitamin D for psoriasis?
It’s not fully clear why vitamin D can help treat certain types of psoriasis. But studies suggest it’s probably due to how vitamin D can help strengthen a weakened immune system that comes with psoriasis.
You can get vitamin D from food or supplements, but your body mainly creates Vitamin D from the sun ☀️.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to develop a vitamin D deficiency if you live in a cloudy climate (especially if you have darker skin). It’s estimated that about 41 percent of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to a weak immune system.
Research also suggests psoriasis may be linked to vitamin D deficiency. Those with psoriasis often have low levels of vitamin D. And because vitamin D helps keep your immune system in tip-top shape, not getting enough can leave you vulnerable to skin and health probs.
Fortunately, boosting your vitamin D intake may help relieve or eliminate psoriasis symptoms.
An easy way to get a daily dose of D are supplements that come in both liquid and pill forms. Just make sure you chat with your doctor before adding a supplement to your routine. They can test your vitamin D levels and help you pick the right dosage.
For adults, the daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 15 micrograms (600 IU).
It’s best to opt for a lower dose at first and gradually increase your amount over time with your doc’s blessing. Just make sure you’re not exceeding the upper limit of 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) a day. Too much vitamin D can be toxic.
Supplements not your thing? You can also get that sweet D through foods, like:
A 2018 randomized controlled trial found vitamin D3 topicals can raise vitamin D levels just as effectively as oral supplements.
This type of treatment is applied directly to the skin and may help ease inflammation, reduce itching, and prevent dryness. But it probably won’t keep psoriasis from coming back.
Vitamin D topicals are available in a variety of forms, including:
According to the American Academy of Dermatology topicals in general can be helpful in treating psoriasis for those with less than 5 percent of the body affected. If you have more severe psoriasis, they suggest combining topicals with other psoriasis treatments.
A vitamin D analogue is synthetic vitamin D that usually comes in topical form and requires a prescription.
When applied directly to affected skin, analogue vitamin D topicals help slow cell growth and thin out any plaques.
Popular vitamin D analogues include:
- tacalcitol (Curatoderm, Bonalfa)
- calcipotriene (Calcitrene, Sorilux, Dovonex)
- calcitriol (Vectical, Rocaltrol)
- maxacalcitol (Oxarol)
In more severe cases, your doc may recommend using both an analogue vitamin D option and a corticosteroid for symptom relief.
Light therapy (aka phototherapy) uses the power of ultraviolet light to help reduce inflammation and slow skin cell production in psoriasis patients. During a phototherapy sesh, the affected area is exposed to artificial UVB light — which penetrates the skin to help ease symptoms.
With light therapy, consistency is key. It’s important to follow a regular treatment schedule to up your chances of seeing results. Just note, you may also be upping your risk of skin cancer.
Research has shown that ultraviolet light can significantly improve psoriasis symptoms. But some studies have also found this is likely thanks to more than just vitamin D. Bottom line: More research is needed to fully determine why light therapy is so darn effective in treating psoriasis and other skin conditions.
There can be a dark side to vitamin D. While adding a bit of D to your day may help ease psoriasis symptoms, it’s not without potential side effects.
A 2016 study found that using vitamin D topicals can cause skin to become:
No matter how you prefer to take vitamin D, it’s important to use in moderation (don’t take more than 10,000 IU a day!). Taking too much can lead to hypervitaminosis D (aka vitamin D toxicity), a condition where calcium builds up in your blood.
Symptoms of overdoing it on the vitamin D supplements include:
Vitamin D is a popular vitamin that can help boost your immune system and may help treat immune conditions like psoriasis. While not fully understood, there’s also a link between vitamin D deficiency and psoriasis.
Vitamin D can be effective when taken as an oral supplement or topical. Light therapy options may also be helpful. Always talk with your doctor before starting a vitamin D supplement or treatment. You can also get D naturally through sunlight or a vitamin D-rich diet.
While often effective, vitamin D is not an end-all-be-all solution for psoriasis. It doesn’t work for every case, and some folks need to use other treatment methods on top of vitamin D to treat their psoriasis symptoms.