In my previous posts, I have provided healthy recipes for the skin and heart. Not being a qualified dietician or nutritionist, I decided it was time to ask an expert, so I put some questions to London-based nutritionist Kyla Williams.
Kyla has been practising in her clinic in central London since 2010 and has transformed the lives of many, including hundreds of people living with skin conditions. Kyla kindly gave up some of her spare time to answer the burning questions that psoriasis patients have about diet and nutrition.
What are the vitamins that promote healthy skin and what foods do we find them in?
“The skin loves to lap up antioxidants to help chemically stabilise the skin, protect from damage and support the immune system. Vitamins A and C are possibly the most readily used antioxidants in the body, so keeping these levels high may really help to protect healthy skin cells!
Antioxidants are clever though; if we supplement with a high dose of a single antioxidant, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit for skin health, however when antioxidants are consumed alongside other antioxidants they work in synergy and can even recycle each other. This may explain why results are so much more effective when we eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables containing an array of different vitamins. So, the moral of the story is that we can’t rely on high dose antioxidant tablets, we need the nutritious foods the antioxidants come so perfectly packed in for results.
Vitamin C is particularly useful for healing broken skin. Beyond oranges, there are actually much higher levels of vitamin C in peppers and kiwi fruit! Berries and green veg are also great sources of vitamin C. A lot of these foods rich in vitamin C also contain other beneficial compounds, such as the anthocyanin antioxidants found in purple foods including berries and plums which have shown in studies to have a beneficial impact on skin cell division in psoriasis.
Vitamin A deficiency is quite common in people with psoriasis, yet it can help to suppress inflammation, keep the skin soft and support the immune function. Vitamin A gives fruits and vegetables their orange colour so opt for foods such as sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, apricots and mango. Green leafy veg such as spinach and kale are also full of vitamin A, but to confuse you a little, chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves actually hides the orange colour. Vitamin A is fat soluble, meaning that it is much easier to absorb when consumed with fat, so try cooking your vegetables with coconut oil or having nuts with your fruit.”
Let’s talk fats. Which are the healthy ones and which should we avoid not just for our skin but for a healthy heart too?
“Fats can be quite a confusing food group to understand. It is easy to try and categorise fats in to ‘good’ or ‘bad’ fats, but in reality it is all about the balance; getting the ratios right. Omega-3, found in oily fish wins the prize for the healthiest fat out there when it comes to both skin health and heart heath as it is a powerful anti-inflammatory fat. As psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, it makes sense to support your skin by eating 2-3 portions of oily fish each week such as mackerel, herring and salmon.
On the other end of the scale are certain types of inflammatory omega-6 fats found in meat, particularly high in pork and duck. This is where the importance of the ratios comes into play. A small amount of omega-6 from meat in the diet can be very healthy, however too much can tip the balance by increasing inflammation in the body. Too much inflammation may cause the skin to become reddened and itchy. Try to eat meat less than or the same amount as fish, and hopefully you will get the balance right! Fried vegetable oils high in omega-6 can also play havoc with skin so try cooking with coconut oil or butter instead.
Other fats found in foods such as nuts, seeds, olives and avocado are great for keeping the skin moisturised. They may not have as much of an effect on inflammation as fish and meat do, but they may certainly give you the Mediterranean healthy heart and glowing skin!”
I have often heard conflicting advice about dairy products and have heard of psoriasis patients going on a dairy-free diet to gain clear skin. Is there any connection between dairy and healthy skin?
“Dairy is one of those food groups which can be an absolute nightmare for one individual, and simply a nutritious food for another. It is common for people to have difficulties digesting the sugars (lactose) in milk, or having an intolerance or allergy to the proteins (whey and casein).
Lactose intolerance, i.e. a difficulty digesting the milk sugars, most often boils down to your ancestry, therefore often genetically determined. Those not of northern European descent (e.g. African, Hispanic and Asian) are less likely to have developed the enzyme which helps to breakdown the sugars in milk, as cow’s milk has only recently been introduced in these regions. In northern Europe dairy products have been consumed for thousands of years, so Europeans are generally well adapted to digesting them!
There is surprisingly little to no evidence to show that cutting out diary for most individuals has any impact on the severity of psoriasis. In response to the few individuals that appear to have huge improvements in skin health when cutting out all dairy products however, it’s certainly worth a try to see if it can make a difference for you personally.”
I hope you found this useful and if you are interested in learning more about your diet and how making small changes could improve your psoriasis, you can download the TREAT app and start chatting to Kyla today!
This content is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.
UK/IE 2013b/00058k; Date of preparation: February 2016