What Is the Role of Diet and Nutrition in Psoriatic Arthritis?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2022 | Last updated: March 2023
While diet and nutrition cannot cure psoriatic arthritis (PsA) or psoriasis, they may help reduce the severity of these conditions. They also may lessen the risk that you develop other health problems.1
After all, what you eat plays a major role in your overall health. A healthy diet:1
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight
- Provides you with the vitamins and nutrients your body needs
- Gives you energy
Why is a healthy diet important for people with PsA?
A healthy diet is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with PsA. That is because PsA raises the risk of other health complications, such as:1-3
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
When paired with regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet can reduce some of these risks.1-3
What does the research say about complications with PsA?
Research shows that having PsA increases a person's risk of abnormal fatty masses forming in their arteries (atherosclerosis). This can lead to heart attack or stroke. In fact, people with PsA have nearly double the risk of developing heart disease than the general population does.2,3
People with PsA also have a high rate of obesity. Obesity itself increases the risk of developing PsA. Researchers have found that obesity also can reduce the effectiveness of certain treatments for PsA, specifically those that target tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha).2
A 2020 study showed that people with PsA who are also overweight have higher rates of inflammation in the body. The researchers also found that:2
- Fat cells secrete many of the same chemical messengers (cytokines) involved in psoriatic disease.
- Obesity reduces a person’s overall life expectancy.
- PsA severity is lowered when people lose excess weight.
A healthy diet can relieve PsA symptoms
PsA causes an increase in inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation causes several negative effects. In the joints, it causes stiffness, pain, and swelling.4
Not only does a healthy diet decrease the risk of developing other health complications, but it can help improve PsA symptoms. Eating a well-balanced diet can:1,2,5
- Reduce inflammation
- Help you maintain a healthy weight
- Lessen the stress on your joints
- Give you more energy
- Reduce your risk of developing other health complications
Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle
Several diets have proven to be good for those with PsA. Some people have found that gluten-free diets help with symptoms. Other people have seen improvement with anti-inflammatory diets like the Mediterranean diet.1
No matter which diet you choose, healthy diets have most of these practices in common:1,6
- Eat whole foods.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice.
- Eat fewer refined carbohydrates, such as pasta and white rice.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free (skim) dairy products.
- Eat lean meats like chicken and fish. Limit red meat.
- Use extra-virgin olive oil when cooking and preparing foods. It is high in heart-healthy fats.
- Limit saturated fats and trans fats.
- Limit sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Limit your intake of processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients.
- Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.
Diet should not replace other PsA treatment
Diet and nutrition are both very important to overall health and well-being. But they should not totally replace PsA treatment therapies. If you are taking a medicine to treat your PsA, continue taking it per your doctor’s recommendations. Use diet and nutrition to complement your existing PsA treatment regimen.5
Get empowered to eat healthily
You cannot control whether you have PsA. But you can control what you eat. If you are living with a chronic disease, choosing healthy foods and maintaining a healthy body weight can help you manage it. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist to get help improving your diet.