Studies have not shown a direct link between vitamins and dietary supplements and psoriasis. Yet many patients find that including vitamins and supplements in their diet helps their skin clear and may ease joint pain from psoriatic arthritis. Dietary supplements can be extracts or concentrates, and they can occur in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids or powders.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness. Because they are not regulated like a drug, their ingredients can be inconsistent. It's important you talk to your doctor before adding any vitamins or supplements to your treatment plan. Some may interfere with medications you are taking to manage your psoriasis.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation, and psoriasis is a disease of inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids also seem to have a positive impact on the body's immune system.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linolenic acid
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Alpha-linolenic acid is found in some vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and soy foods. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish and algae.Fish oil also is available in capsule form as a supplement. Some individuals with psoriasis show a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids and elevations of omega-6 fatty acids, which tend to increase inflammation.
The research on whether omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help reduce the severity of psoriasis is mixed. More long-term clinical controlled studies are needed.
Fish oil can thin your blood, so check with your doctor before you start taking it and especially if you are taking warfarin (Coumadin) or other blood thinners.
Vitamin D – also known as the sunshine vitamin – has garnered much attention of late. Sales of vitamin D supplements are skyrocketing.
Vitamin D topical ointments have been around and used to treat psoriasis for some time. Vitamin D is the main active ingredient in two prescription medications – Vectical and Dovonex – which are applied to the skin. Vitamin D can change the way cells grow. Psoriasis increases the growth of the skin's cells. Vitamin D may slow the skin cell growth.
Research on whether vitamin D can help alleviate psoriasis symptoms is small and limited. A report in the May 2011 Science Translational Medicine journal, found that vitamin D helps counteract the body's response to inflammation associated psoriasis.
Too much vitamin D can be dangerous. Before you add vitamin D to your psoriasis regime, talk with your doctor. The safest source of vitamin D is food.
Food sources of vitamin D include:
- Cod liver oil
- Salmon (sockeye)
- Tuna fish canned in water
- Milk, non-fat, reduced-fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified
- Orange juice fortified with vitamin D
- Yogurt fortified with 20 percent of the daily value of vitamin D
- Eggs, vitamin D is found in the yolk
- Swiss cheese
- Fortified cereals
You also can get vitamin D from 10 minutes of mid-day exposure to the sun. However, prolonged sun exposure has been linked to aging skin and skin cancer and is not recommended.
A simple blood test can tell you whether you're deficient in vitamin D. If you're concerned, talk with your doctor.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are dietary supplements that can be bought over the counter and can be taken individually or together. Glucosamine and chondroitin occur naturally in and around the cells of cartilage in the body. Glucosamine is thought to help in cartilage formation and repair and possibly inhibit inflammation. Chondroitin is thought to promote cartilage elasticity and inhibit the breakdown of cartilage.
A growing body of research shows that these supplements may slow the progression and reduce the pain of osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease characterized by cartilage deterioration of the joints. However, psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis are different forms of arthritis and have different symptoms. No studies have found that glucosamine and/or chondroitin supplements effectively reduce symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.
Glucosamine contains substances extracted from animal tissue including shrimp, lobster shells and shark cartilage. People who are allergic to shellfish should avoid glucosamine. Also, children and women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should not take these supplements.
Glucosamine has been shown to increase blood sugar levels in some people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor before taking glucosamine supplements.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulfur-containing compound found in plants, fruits and vegetables. However, it is destroyed when food is processed. The body needs sulfur to maintain healthy connective tissue.
You can buy MSM as a dietary supplement. However, there is little scientific evidence that it relieves joint pain or has anti-inflammatory benefits. One 2006 study by researchers at the Southwest College Research Institute in Tempe, Ariz., found it improved symptoms of pain and physical function in patients with knee osteoarthritis without major adverse event. More research is needed.
Things to Keep in Mind About Supplements
Key points about using dietary supplements to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis:
- Tell your doctor before taking any OTC supplements. Every substance has a potential to interact with your other medications and treatments.
- Supplements should never replace medications your doctor has prescribed.
- The FDA does not regulate the manufacturing of dietary supplements. Purity, quality, strength and composition can vary widely among different brands.
- Should you take supplements and experience side effects, stop taking them! And tell your doctor.