Dietary Supplements 101

| 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?  

Supplements 101

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: 

First, 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. 

Second, 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. 

My third suggestion is to 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.

Fourth, 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. 

Finally, 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. 

Send us your questions!

Do you have specific questions about dietary supplements and psoriatic disease? March is National Nutrition Month, and my team at the Patient Navigation Center is here to answer your questions about healthy eating, supplements and other complementary therapies for psoriatic disease.

Send us a question about diet, nutrition or wellness and receive a complimentary copy of our new e-cookbook, Living Well with Psoriatic Disease! Or, talk to an NPF Patient Navigator by calling 1-800-723-9166 (option 1), emailing us or texting 503-410-7766.

 

Amy Kurtz, B.A., B.S., CI-CPT is a certified health coach and Patient Navigator at NPF’s Patient Navigation Center, the world’s first personalized support center for people impacted by psoriatic disease. With an extensive background in fitness and nutrition, she helps people living with psoriatic disease in the areas of diet, exercise, stress management and natural remedies.

 

The opinions expressed by NPF Blog contributors are their own and do not reflect the opinions or positions of the National Psoriasis Foundation. The information posted on the NPF Blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice.


Driving Discovery, Creating Community

This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But we can’t do it without you! 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 funding to promote research into better treatments and a cure by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or even create your own DIY event. Contact our Patient Navigation Center for free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today! Together, we will find a cure.

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