Everything you need to know about dietary supplements

| Amy Kurtz

We are all looking for a way to gain an edge on our health, whether it’s performing better at the gym or managing a chronic disease like psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.  

At NPF’s Patient Navigation Center, I receive many questions about “natural alternatives” that can be used to treat psoriatic disease. People ask if dietary changes or various supplements can help reduce symptoms. While there is little scientific research supporting the notion that diet has a major impact on psoriatic disease, some people report reduced symptoms when they make dietary changes. But what about supplements? Is there any evidence suggesting that taking certain supplements can improve psoriatic disease symptoms? And just how do you decipher the information on a supplement label anyway?  

A dietary supplement is any product that contains one or more vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals and is intended to add further nutritional value to your diet. They can be extracts or concentrates, and they can occur in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids or powders. 

When discussing supplements at the Patient Navigation Center, there are five main points that I share: 

1. People ask me if taking certain supplements can help improve their psoriatic disease symptoms. Like diet, there is little scientific evidence that links taking vitamins or supplements with improving psoriatic disease. However, some people find that incorporating vitamins and supplements into their diets helps with some of their symptoms. For example, fish oil and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties, and some people have found that adding these to their diet has helped with symptom reduction. 

2. I always tell people to check with their health care provider before trying a new supplement. Some supplements may interfere with doctor-prescribed medications you are taking to manage your psoriasis or other health conditions. For example, fish oil has been shown to thin the blood, so talk to your provider if you’re taking any blood-thinning medications.

Should you take supplements and experience side effects or if you suspect that a supplement is making your psoriasis flare, stop taking them immediately! Tell your health care provider as soon as possible. 

3. Use supplements in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle. A supplement should be thought of a “power-up” that can enhance your life. While taking supplements may not improve your psoriatic disease symptoms, they can help improve your overall wellness. Remember that without having the basic foundation of good nutrition, regular exercise and a balanced lifestyle, supplements may not help much. That's why your No. 1 goal should be to get essential nutrients from the foods you eat.

4. A natural or “alternative” remedy should always complement your treatment plan—not take away from it. Supplements are not suitable replacements for PsO and PsA medications. 

5. If you decide to add a supplement to your routine, I always encourage a “buyer beware” attitude when deciding which to purchase. Federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe by the FDA before they are marketed, and label claims are not held to the same standards as those found on prescription drugs. 

If you read a supplement label, it must have an asterisk (*) – which can appear anywhere on the label – and display the legal disclaimer: *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Therefore, if you see a label claiming to “cure” your psoriasis, diabetes or any other condition, walk away. Stating this claim is against the law!

If you’re interested in learning more about vitamins and other supplements, you may want to consider seeing a naturopath or certified herbalist. You can check out the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians directory, or get in touch with NPF’s Patient Navigation Center, and we’ll help you find a naturopath in your area.

Remember, a supplement should complement a healthy lifestyle and treatment plan. Be sure to let your provider know about any over-the-counter or alternative treatments you are using to treat your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. 

Do you have specific questions about dietary supplements and psoriatic disease? Ask an NPF Patient Navigator. We can help answer questions about healthy eating, supplements and other complementary therapies for psoriatic disease. You can also give us a call at 1-800-723-9166 (option 1), send us an email or text us at 503-410-7766.

Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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