Psoriasis and Chronic Inflammation: Understanding the Link


Psoriasis is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease that affects up to 3% of adults in the United States. It causes skin symptoms, such as raised plaques and discoloration, and can also impact other parts of the body, such as the joints and eyes. Inflammation is at the root of this condition, and immune system dysfunction causes inflammatory cells to build up in the middle layer of the skin. This condition also speeds up the growth of skin cells in the outer skin layer.

While there is currently no cure for psoriasis, certain medications to treat psoriasis work by reducing inflammation. Additionally, lifestyle and dietary changes may help reduce psoriasis-related inflammation and increase a person’s chances of experiencing remission.

Eating a Nutritious Diet

Diet is strongly linked to systemic inflammation, and studies suggest that certain inflammatory dietary patterns can increase the risk of psoriasis and worsen symptoms. A nutritious diet looks different for everyone, but avoiding inflammatory foods and considering an anti-inflammatory diet may help establish one.

Examples of inflammatory foods to avoid include soda and ultra-processed foods such as salty snacks, sweets, and processed meat products. On the other hand, diets that are rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods consistently reduce psoriasis symptoms. For example, a 2018 study of 35,735 people, including 3,557 with psoriasis, suggested that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had less severe psoriasis compared with people who did not.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Obesity is a risk factor for psoriasis development, and people with psoriasis who have overweight or obesity may also experience more severe symptoms than people with a moderate weight. Weight loss may reduce inflammatory markers and help reduce psoriasis symptoms in people with excess body weight.

A 2020 study found that people with psoriasis and overweight or obesity who reduced their body weight by 12% through a 10-week program experienced a 50–75% reduction in psoriasis severity. Participants experienced an average weight loss of 23 pounds.

Implementing Other Healthy Habits

Several habits can help reduce inflammation and improve psoriasis symptoms. Avoiding or quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, staying active, getting enough sleep, and managing stress levels are all important.

Smoking significantly harms a person’s health and worsens inflammatory diseases, including psoriasis. Excessive drinking can contribute to inflammation and worsen psoriasis symptoms. Avoiding long periods of sitting may help with reducing psoriasis symptoms. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a pro-inflammatory state in the body, and studies suggest poor and inconsistent sleep can increase inflammation markers in the blood. Experts recommend adults get 7–9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. Prolonged stress makes the immune system overactive and contributes to a pro-inflammatory state. Up to 88% of people with psoriasis report stress as a trigger for their symptoms. Using stress-reducing techniques such as meditation and yoga may help.

In conclusion, while there is no cure for psoriasis, certain lifestyle and dietary changes may help reduce psoriasis-related inflammation and increase a person’s chances of experiencing remission. Anyone experiencing a psoriasis flare who is interested in learning ways to reduce psoriasis symptoms and inflammation may wish to consider speaking with their healthcare team, including their dermatologist. They can recommend treatment methods based on symptom severity and provide recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes that may help lower inflammation and reduce psoriasis symptoms. They may also suggest taking vitamins or supplements.