Here’s why your psoriasis treatment plan might include weight loss.
When it comes to managing psoriasis, there are a number of factors to consider. In addition to taking your prescribed medicines, you also need to moisturize regularly, manage stress, and avoid triggers. Another factor that may affect your psoriasis is your weight.
Managing a chronic illness can be stressful, so thinking about your weight might be the last thing you want to do. However, research suggests that being overweight may be one of the things that makes psoriasis more difficult to manage.
Body Fat and Inflammation
The technical term for body fat is adipose tissue. Some adipose tissue is helpful and provides protection for your organs, energy for your body, and more. When you have too much (or too little) adipose tissue, it can start to affect your health negatively.
One of the effects of too much adipose tissue is chronic, low-grade inflammation. This added inflammation can trigger psoriasis flares or make symptoms worse.
Weight and Psoriasis Treatments
The other link between weight and psoriasis is that extra body fat could make treatments less effective. Many psoriasis medicines were designed based on “ideal” body weight. For this reason, they may be less effective in people who are overweight. (Whether or not that’s fair is another topic entirely!)
The Risk of Complications
People with psoriasis have an increased risk for metabolic syndrome. This is a collection of factors that increase someone’s risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, including:
Being overweight also increases someone’s risk of these health complications, so the combination could be a “double whammy” on someone’s health. Learn more about what metabolic syndrome is here.
Another condition that people with psoriasis need to consider is psoriatic arthritis. This is when the immune system starts to attack the joints in addition to the skin. Extra weight may increase the pressure and strain on your joints, especially the joints in the legs. This may worsen joint pain and increase the risk of joint damage.
Healthy Weight Loss for Psoriasis
To lower your risk of all these different problems, your doctor may recommend weight loss as part of your psoriasis treatment. Even losing five to 10 pounds can sometimes make a big difference. Healthy strategies for weight loss include:
- A nutritious diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds
- Regular exercise
- Getting enough sleep
- Good hydration
- Stress management
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
Note that many of these habits not only help with weight loss, but can help to minimize inflammation in the body. For example, you may be able to prevent worsening of symptoms by avoiding certain inflammatory foods, like sugary foods and red meat. Learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet for psoriasis here.
You don’t have to navigate this journey on your own. Talk to your doctor about the available options to help you lose weight safely. You might also consider seeing a registered dietitian who can support your dietary changes and help you find what works for you. Remember—even small amounts of weight loss may help improve your symptoms and reduce your risk of other health problems.
Heather Summe, MD, is a dermatologist in New York City. Dr. Summe is the Chief of the Division of Dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital. She is also an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.
- Adipose tissue. Society for Endocrinology. (Accessed on May 5, 2021)
- Healthy diet and other lifestyle changes that can improve psoriasis. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology Association. (Accessed on May 5, 2021)
- Related conditions of psoriasis. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation, 2020. (Accessed on May 5, 2021)
- Weight management. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (Accessed on May 5, 2021)