Published on | by redblob5
Gluten and Psoriasis: Cutting It Out Stopped Me Flaking
Going gluten free is supposed to stop you farting, reduce bloating and give you the energy of a Duracell bunny. But does it help with psoriasis?
Before we get to that, here’s a brief rundown on what it is. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat and grains like barley, rye and oat.
Some people cannot digest gluten properly, which leads to celiac disease. Research also shows that more than 33% of people with psoriasis also have trouble with it, and particularly a protein in gluten called gliadin which makes bread rise.
When they eat it, their bodies treat gliadin as a foreign body and send in antibodies to kick its ass and boot it out of the system. This raises inflammation and ta-da, we have psoriasis!
Studies Show People With Psoriasis Are More Sensitive To Gluten
The evidence that gluten is bad news for psoriasis is really piling up.
Study 1: In 2010, researchers from Egypt published a study in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology that looked into the link between P and gluten sensitivity. They tested 41 people with psoriasis and found that 34.1% had higher levels of antibodies to gliadin, compared to only 2.4% in the healthy group. Their bodies wanted gluten to GTFO because they are sensitive to it.
Study 2: These results were replicated in another 2010 study, this time in the Journal of Clinical Laboratory Analysis, which tested 56 patients with psoriasis and also concluded that they were more sensitive to gluten. That foot-long Subway might be delicious but its no good for you.
Study 3: Going back further, scientists from the Medical University of Silesia in Poland conducted a study in 2008. This time they tested 67 people with “intensified psoriatic lesions” (also known as “flaky as hell”) if they could stomach gluten. Once again, their results showed that people with psoriasis produced more antibodies against gluten, suggesting a gluten intolerance.
Going Gluten Free: Psoriasis Disappears In One Month
Here’s where we get to the juicy part: does going on a gluten free diet actually help psoriasis? The answer is, if you’re sensitive to it, then it appears to be yes!
In one case study, which came out in 2003 in Digestion, a 53 year-old man with coeliac disease and severe psoriasis (see right, ouchies) was put on a gluten free diet. He had suffered with psoriasis since 1980 but had never managed to stick to a diet, despite repeated attempts in the past. This time round he finally got sick enough and cut it out, and the result?
After just one month his scales completely disappeared.
The study goes on to state that his vitamin D levels also returned to normal (and as we know vitamin D3 is important for P).
Going Gluten Free: 90% Of Flakers Improve In Sweden
Now onto the next study. In 2000, researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden published a study in the British Journal of Dermatology looking into whether eliminating gluten could help psoriasis.
They asked 33 people with psoriasis who were sensitive to gluten to cut it from their diet for three months, followed by their regular, McDonalds, fried chicken, anything-goes diet. Of the 30 that completed the challenge, everyone showed “a highly significant” reduction in symptoms. After resuming their ordinary diet, more than half saw their skin deteriorate again. Interestingly, six patients who were not sensitive to gluten did not see any improvements.
Why I Said Goodbye To Gluten
In 2014, I had to go to Mumbai on a work trip. I didn’t drink tap water or eat dodgy samosas from street vendors, but despite that, something made my guts turn inside out. The next few months were spent by the side of my trusty sidekick, Mr Toilet, and my skin became terrible. I looked like a red pepper with hair.
My doctor was equally terrible (case in point, he gave me a prescription of 100mg prednisone by mistake, over twice the normal dose), but he did do one thing right – he ordered a barrage of tests, one of which was for gluten intolerance.
I soon found out that I had raised inflammation markers for gluten. I read before that gluten was associated with psoriasis, and now had a good enough reason to drop it from my diet. If it could heal my skin and stop my mad dashes to the bathroom, I would give it a go.
What Can’t You Eat?
Wheat and gluten are everywhere, even where you’d least expect them (for example, the glue on postage stamps can have gluten!) It was a bit depressing, but I stopped eating the following:
- Delicious freshly baked bread, croissants, donuts, muffins, rolls
- Pasta, ravioli, gnocchi – Italian food is very gluteny
- Noodles (Love Chinese ramen, udon and chow mein? Fuggedaboutit homie.)
- Baked goodies – cakes, brownies and cookies are out
- Breakfast cereals (goodbye Coco Pops and Kellogs!)
- Most sauces since they use wheat as a thickener
- Beer (but this is good since alcohol is bad for the P)
- Tortillas (I love burritoes and Mexican food so this was a bummer)
- Pizza – I’m sorry
- 90% of what you love (just in case it wasn’t clear)
How Long Does It Take To See Results?
Everyone wants to eat salad for a few days and POOF the psoriasis disappears, but in reality it takes up to 3 months to see the benefits, as the studies above demonstrated.
It takes time to regenerate new cells. Red blood cells live up to four months, skin can take up to 30 days to be renewed (of course, us flakers are the lucky few stuck in fast-forward), and intestinal tract cells can take up to 15 years!
So, don’t diet for one week and give up. It’s fine to fall of the bandwagon and indulge in a gloriously greasy burger on Friday night, but start again on Saturday.
In my experience, and from speaking to other people, what generally happens is this:
- In the first four weeks the number of scales begins to freefall.
- Next, the plaques become flatter and come together, forming larger blobs.
- They then smoothen out and become even more flush with the skin.
- Now the fiery-red colour comes down into hues of salmon-coloured/light pinkish skin.
That’s what happened to me – my palms cleared completely as did my armpits. The total improvement was probably in the high 70% to low 80%, although it hovers according to how well I stick to the diet.
Will It Work For Everyone?
Going gluten free won’t work for every flaker on the planet, but it doesn’t hurt to try – especially if you’ve noticed that eating wheat turns on the flake sprinkler in your body.
The fact is, there are many people who are sensitive to gluten (1 in 100 people in the US are estimated to have coeliac disease), studies show that people with psoriasis are statistically more likely to be gluten intolerant, and following a gluten-free diet has benefited many people.
Before I close this out, I do want to say, if you try it, don’t load up your shopping cart with gluten-free substitutes. There’s gluten free cupcakes, breads, pastas, dressings… everything! A lot of which are loaded with an ungodly amount of crap.
You need to eat wholesome foods – vegetables, meats and fruits that don’t come in a box or can. The only thing you have to lose is three months, why not give it a try?