Psoriasis is a global health problem prevalent among people of all ages, affecting 100 million individuals worldwide. Previous studies have suggested that a high-fat and high-sugar diet can lead to disruption in the gut's microbial community, contributing to inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis. Recent research shows that switching to a balanced diet can restore gut health and reduce inflammatory symptoms.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that causes the skin cells to multiply faster than normal. This leads to an overgrowth of skin cells that leads to scaling on the skin's surface. The red, itchy, scaly patches are usually found on the elbows, scalp, knees, and lower back. Abnormalities in the immune system, emotional stress, blood pressure medications, hydroxychloroquine, and strep infections may trigger psoriasis.
Over time, 10-20 percent of affected individuals develop psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory type of arthritis. It is associated with symptoms similar to arthritis-like joint pain, stiffness, swelling, etc.
The Link Between Food, Gut Microbiome, And Inflammation
Western diets include high intakes of red meats, processed foods, fatty foods, refined grains, potatoes, high sugar drinks, and low intakes of vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and whole grains. On the other hand, a balanced diet is a healthier option. It includes fresh vegetables and fruits, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins, and nuts.
Previous studies show that a western diet characterized by high sugar and fat content leads to significant skin inflammation and psoriasis.
Food is a major regulating factor of the microorganisms living in our intestines. Consuming a western diet can cause rapid change to this microbial community and its functions. This disruption in microbial balance contributes to gut inflammation. It also affects skin immunity, leading to skin inflammation.
Influence of a diet switch on gut microbiota
A study led by Dr. Hwang and his team of researchers at UC Davis Health examined if switching to a balanced diet can restore the gut microflora and help reduce skin and joint inflammation.
The team used mouse models to study the effect of diet on psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The researchers subjected the mice to the following:
- An initial western diet plan for six weeks.
- Interleukin-23 (IL-23) injection - IL23 is a protein generated by the immune cells responsible for inflammatory autoimmune reactions. It induces a response mimicking psoriasis-like skin and joint diseases in the mice.
The researchers then randomly divided the mice into two groups; one group continued the western diet for another four weeks, and the other group switched to a balanced diet for the same period.
The following were observed at the end of 10 weeks:
- Consuming a high-fat and high-sugar diet for ten weeks increased the risk of joint and skin inflammation in mice.
- Mice that switched to a balanced diet had reduced psoriasis-like symptoms than those that were continued on a western diet.
The study also reported some additional findings
- A short-term western diet is sufficient to disrupt the microbial balance in the gut.
- The microbial imbalance leads to increased susceptibility to IL-23-mediated skin inflammation, illustrating a clear link between gut microbiome changes caused by diet and skin inflammation.
- The intestinal microbial community acts as a pathogenic link between diet and the symptoms of psoriatic inflammation.
- Antibiotics block the effects of the western diet, reducing symptoms of joint and skin inflammation.
- A switch to a healthy diet could help reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with psoriasis and other similar diseases.
Recommendations to improve gut health
- Consuming prebiotics and fermented foods can help boost beneficial bacteria. Research suggests that probiotics may help support healthy gut microflora and prevent gut inflammation and other intestinal problems.
- Consuming a low-sugar diet can help reduce gut microbe imbalance.
- Keeping stress at bay can help with gut health. Studies have shown that stress can disrupt intestinal microorganisms.
- Research has shown that exercise helps improve gut microflora.
- Regular, good-quality sleep can help improve gut health. A study shows that proper sleep can help improve mood and gut health.
- A western diet characterized by high-sugar and high-fat intake can disrupt the gut's microbial community, contributing to inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis.
- However, switching to a balanced diet can restore gut health and reduce inflammatory symptoms.
- Gut bacteria seem to play vital roles in causing inflammation.
- The impact of the western diet on skin inflammation is short-lived and reversible. So, switching to a healthy balanced diet could help reduce inflammatory symptoms.
- Individuals can maintain good gut health by following a healthy lifestyle and dietary choices.