Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches that can be itchy and painful. There is no one singular reason for psoriasis, but research and what I have seen in my office working with patients who have psoriasis, indicates a strong connection between gut health and the development and severity of this condition. Today’s article digs into the relationship between psoriasis and gut health, focusing on the concepts of leaky gut, food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis, and gut inflammation and the role each of these play when you suffer with psoriasis. By understanding these various gut problems, we can better explore treatment approaches aimed at managing and treating psoriasis.
Leaky Gut and Psoriasis
Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a condition where the lining of the intestinal wall becomes more permeable than it should be. Normally, the lining of the intestine acts as a barrier, allowing the absorption of nutrients while preventing larger particles, toxins, and harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream. (*)
In a leaky gut, the tight junctions between the cells of the intestinal wall become weakened or damaged. This allows larger molecules, such as undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria, to pass through the gut lining and enter the bloodstream.
When these larger molecules enter the bloodstream, they can trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation and potentially causing a wide range of symptoms, including digestive issues, food sensitivities, skin problems, fatigue, mood disorders, and autoimmune conditions.(*)
There are several causes of leaky gut. poor diet high in processed foods, chronic stress, certain medications (such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics), infections, imbalances in gut bacteria, and excessive alcohol consumption. Research suggests that individuals with psoriasis often have increased intestinal permeability. This can trigger an immune response, leading to systemic inflammation and potential exacerbation of psoriasis symptoms. If you suspect you may have a leaky gut consider scheduling a 15 minute consult with our office or taking the Leaky Gut Quiz right here on the website.
Food Sensitivities, Food Allergies and Psoriasis
Food sensitivities and food allergies are other Root causes when it comes to psoriasis. Food sensitivities are delayed immune-mediated reactions to certain foods. They can cause a range of symptoms, including skin problems like psoriasis. When someone has a food sensitivity, their immune system recognizes certain components of the food as foreign or harmful. This triggers an immune response in an attempt to protect the body. The immune system produces antibodies, such as IgG, or IgA antibodies, to target the perceived threat.
In the case of food allergies, the immune system releases histamine and other chemicals, leading to immediate allergic reactions like hives, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis. In the case of allergies the immune system produces IgE antibodies.
In both these cases, testing for food sensitives or testing for food allergies can be a great tool to identify these hidden immune culprits when it comes to psoriasis. As just mentioned, When and If the gut lining becomes compromised, as in Leaky Gut, food particles can pass into the bloodstream before being fully broken down, triggering an immune response and its this immune response that plays a role with psoriasis. While leaky gut is not the only source of food allergies, and psoriasis it is an important ares to consider. Additionally, genetic factors, imbalances in gut microbiota, and environmental factors may also contribute to the immune response to food sensitivities. While there are certain foods that are more prone to contributing to psoriasis, in most cases it’s best to test. If you are wondering what foods tend to be most inflammatory, I recommend you read this article and this article on 8 tips to reduce chronic inflammation. Food sensitivities and food allergies vary from person to person, and it can be challenging without testing to pinpoint specific foods that may be triggering psoriasis.
Foods That Can Worsen Your Psoriasis Symptoms
Gluten: Gluten is a known autoimmune trigger. Individuals with psoriasis have a higher prevalence of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease compared to the general population. (*) Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Eliminating gluten from the diet may help improve symptoms in individuals who are sensitive or intolerant.
Dairy products: Dairy products, particularly cow’s milk, have been associated with triggering or worsening psoriasis symptoms in some individuals. The specific components in dairy that may contribute to this are not yet fully understood, but cow’s milk proteins, such as casein, have been suggested as potential triggers.
Nightshade vegetables: Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants, contain a compound called solanine.(*) Some individuals with psoriasis report that avoiding or limiting nightshade vegetables can lead to a reduction in symptoms. However, scientific evidence is limited, and more research is needed to establish a definitive link.
Alcohol: Alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of developing psoriasis and worsening of symptoms in individuals with existing psoriasis. Alcohol can promote inflammation and immune system activation, potentially contributing to psoriasis flare-ups. It is advisable to limit or avoid alcohol if you have psoriasis.
Lectins: It is suggested that lectins, especially those found in gluten-containing grains and legumes, can bind to the gut lining and trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation and potentially exacerbating psoriasis.
It is crucial to remember that the response to food sensitivities can vary from person to person. Keeping a detailed food diary and working with a functional medicine practitioner who is certified, can help you identify and manage any potential triggers specific to your individual case.
Gut Dysbiosis and Psoriasis
Gut dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the gut microbiota, the collection of microorganisms residing in the digestive tract. Many factors can influence intestinal microbiota composition and functions, including dietary patterns, antibiotics, as well as the mode of delivery at birth having an essential role in the bacterial diversity [*),(*),*]
Research suggests that individuals with psoriasis have alterations in their gut microbiome known as gut dysbiosis. The imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to excessive growth of certain harmful bacteria and a decrease in beneficial bacteria. This dysbiosis can trigger an inflammatory response that may contribute to the development and progression of psoriasis and plaques. (*). Numerous studies associate gastrointestinal health to skin homeostasis, with both the composition and function of the gut microbiota being disrupted in psoriasis patients (*),(*).
Staphylococcus aureus: Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium commonly found on the skin and mucous membranes. In individuals with psoriasis, an overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus, particularly in the affected skin lesions has been identified. This overgrowth can contribute to skin inflammation and the severity of psoriasis symptoms.
Streptococcus pyogenes: Streptococcus pyogenes is a bacterium associated with strep throat and other infections(*). Some individuals with psoriasis may experience worsening of symptoms following a streptococcal infection, a phenomenon known as the “guttate flare.” It appears that the immune response triggered by Streptococcus pyogenes can lead to the activation and exacerbation of psoriasis.
Enterobacteriaceae: Enterobacteriaceae is a family of bacteria that includes E. coli and Klebsiella species. Studies have shown alterations in the abundance and composition of Enterobacteriaceae in individuals with psoriasis (*). Some studies have also suggested a link between specific strains of these bacteria and psoriatic arthritis, a condition that commonly co-occurs with psoriasis.
Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes: The relative abundance of these two major phyla of bacteria in the gut (Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes) has been found to differ between individuals with and without psoriasis. Alterations in these bacterial populations may contribute to the inflammation and immune dysregulation observed in psoriasis.(*)
Gut Inflammation and Psoriasis
Psoriasis is characterized by chronic inflammation in the skin, and emerging evidence points to gut inflammation and its role in this process. Dysbiosis and leaky gut can lead to increased gut inflammation, which can subsequently contribute to systemic inflammation and worsen psoriasis symptoms. By reducing gut inflammation through various lifestyle and dietary interventions, individuals with psoriasis may experience a reduction in the severity and frequency of flare-ups.
Managing Psoriasis through Gut Health Optimization
Optimizing gut health can be a promising approach for managing psoriasis symptoms. Promoting a healthy gut can involve various strategies such as:
- Following an anti-inflammatory diet: Incorporating whole, unprocessed foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber can help reduce inflammation in the gut and throughout the body.
- Identifying and eliminating trigger foods: identifying and eliminating potential food sensitivities or food allergies, can alleviate inflammation and potentially improve psoriasis symptoms.
- Restoring gut integrity: Supplementing with nutrients like glutamine, zinc, and quercetin may help restore the integrity of the gut lining and reduce leaky gut symptoms.
- Balancing gut microbiota: Incorporating probiotic-rich foods, Probiotic supplements, and consuming prebiotic fibers can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and help restore a healthy gut microbiome.
Heres what You Should Remember
Understanding the connection between psoriasis and gut health offers valuable insights into managing this chronic skin condition. Leaky gut, food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis, and gut inflammation are interrelated factors that can contribute to the development and severity of psoriasis symptoms. By optimizing gut health through anti-inflammatory dietary choices, identifying trigger foods, restoring gut integrity, and balancing the gut microbiota, individuals with psoriasis may find relief from their symptoms and achieve improved overall well-being. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to develop an individualized approach that takes into account specific needs and circumstances.
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