Psoriasis is a skin disorder, characterised by red and silvery white scaly patches on the skin which can be itchy and be painful at times. Despite intensive research the mechanism of psoriasis and the process by which a flare-up is triggered is not fully known. However there is evidence showing that diet can help control the skin condition.
Nutrients that suppress the inflammatory system have been proven to be the most successful in controlling psoriasis. In particular omega 3 – a polyunsaturated fat, has been found to be beneficial. Rich food sources of omega 3 include oily fish and flaxseed. Also important is the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 in the diet, the recommended ratio is between 4:1 – 1:1 omega 6:3. While omega 6 is essential in the diet excessive intakes can prevent omega 3 functioning optimally and thereby exacerbating the problem of insufficient omega 3. The western diet is increasingly shifting towards higher levels of omega 6 so it is important to balance out your diet with an adequate intake of omega 3.
Also proven to be very successful in trials for preventing psoriasis are low calorie diets, but do not just halve your daily calorie intake after reading this! Permanently eating a low calorie diet is not realistic and may have other health consequences. However if you are overweight aim to bring your calorie intake down to a level that will bring you within a healthy weight range (as a guide men should aim to eat 2500 calories a day and women 2000). Also if you are having a particularly bad psoriasis flare-up perhaps avoid that blow out meal and cut down on your calories for a few days.
Links have also been found between gluten intolerance and psoriasis. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley, so try cutting these out of your diet for a short period to see if you notice a difference – or have a gluten intolerance test. Gluten is found in many foods and must be cut out completely if you decide to self test. It is not just a case of omitting bread from your diet, it is important to read ingredient lists on food labels. If you do notice a significant improvement, then speak to your GP and request to be tested. If diagnosed gluten intolerant, your diet will be limited but there are gluten replacement products available. Gluten replacement products (e.g. Free From) tend to be more expensive than traditional products but if diagnosed gluten intolerant you may be entitled to receive an annual allowance of gluten replacement products free (on prescription). If you are not gluten intolerant do not follow a gluten free diet, as this will limit your nutrient intake and may have other health implications.
Nutrition is one of the important parameters involved in skin health and condition. Aim to eat a healthy balanced diet. Do not eat excessively, include a minimum of 5 fruit and vegetable portions a day, eat oily fish 2- 3 times a week (if vegetarian include flaxseed in your diet), limit saturated fat and to keep the skin well hydrated drink 8 glasses of water a day.
Finally just a few words on fish as I know many people are daunted when standing in front of a fish counter. Don’t be, ask the fish monger to prepare the fish for you (i.e. fillet it, or chop of the head if the eyes put you off!) and ask for advice on how to best cook it. Fish really is the ultimate fast food and can be cooked simply in less than 5 minutes. Below is a list of popular oily fish (i.e. the type of fish that are rich in omega 3) and simple ways to cook them.
Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, Herring, Sardines, Pilchards, Kipper, Eel, Whitebait, Tuna (fresh only), Anchovies, Swordfish.
Guidelines on simple ways to cook fish
Grill Preheat grill to a medium setting. Place fish on a grill pan and under grill. Some fish will need to be turned halfway through cooking time. Baste (brush with juices/oil) white fish during grilling.
Poach Add 70ml (1/8th pint) water and a few drops of lemon juice to a pan. Add the fish, simmer gently. Fish can also be poached in milk.
Bake Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF, Gas mark 5 (unless otherwise stated). Place the fish in a suitable dish, sprinkle with lemon juice, cover and place in the centre of oven.
Steam Place the fish in a steamer over a large pan of boiling water.
Microwave Time based on 800 Watt microwave. Place fish in a suitable container, add 2 x 15ml spoons (2 tablespoons) liquid (water). Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Standing time 2-3 minutes after cooking.
Fish can also be fried in oil or butter but this will add unnecessary calories.
Fish is fully cooked when it loses its slightly translucent appearance and turns white or opaque in colour. A simple test is to see if a fork or skewer passes easily into the flesh.
Helen Money, written for www.challengeoxfordshire.co.uk