Psoriatic arthritis symptoms, like joint pain, fatigue, and skin lesions, can progress to permanent joint damage if left untreated, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. In addition to finding the medications that work for you, treating psoriatic arthritis also involves some lifestyle tweaks—including your diet.
Eating a healthier diet doesn’t have a direct impact on psoriatic arthritis symptoms, but it helps in a few important ways. If there’s one major diet change to consider, make heart-healthy food choices. Heart disease is a comorbidity of psoriatic arthritis, which means that people with psoriatic arthritis are more likely to also develop heart disease.
And making choices that make your diet more anti-inflammatory (more fruits and veggies, less processed food and sugar) is just overall sensible health advice, says rheumatologist Leah Alon, MD, of the Harlem Health Center and Queens Health Center in New York City.
Here are some diet tweaks that may reduce your risk of psoriatic arthritis comorbidities and may help improve some psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
Watch portions to lose weight. “If you’re overweight or obese,” says Dr. Alon, “losing weight is one of the healthiest things you can do for psoriatic arthritis.” A 2014 study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that a higher BMI, or body mass index, is linked to a greater severity of psoriatic arthritis symptoms. This is especially important considering that psoriatic arthritis increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Add more fish. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines may help lower inflammation and prevent heart disease, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Read food labels to cut your sodium intake. Aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Here are a cardiologist’s tips for following a low-salt diet.
Avoid trans fats. Look for the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients list. Even if the nutrition label says “0 g trans fat,” this ingredient means there is still technically some trans fat in the product.
Use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or other oils. It’s packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Follow the Mediterranean diet. That EVOO is a great start, but other tips include eating more fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, nuts, and beans, and limiting sugar, salt, and red meat. A Mediterranean diet has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in multiple studies.
Load up on veggies, especially non-starchy ones: broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. These veggies may also help lower levels of inflammation.
Get enough vitamin D. “Some studies suggest that people with psoriatic arthritis are deficient in vitamin D,” says Dr. Alon. Common sources of vitamin D include eggs, mushrooms, milk and soy milk, and fortified breads and cereals.