As we all know by now, smoking is just a bad idea for your health. But despite what we know of its ill-effects to your lungs, heart, and general health, including your skin, there are still a large number of people who still do it.
In fact, studies from the U.S. and around the world have shown that people with psoriasis are more likely to be smokers than the average population. Whether that’s because people take up the habit after developing the condition, or because it contributes to the development of psoriasis, is still not known. What is known is that if you do not smoke, you shouldn’t start. And if you do smoke, you should find a way to quit.
Of course, quitting is easier said than done. If you are a smoker with psoriasis, and you are having trouble quitting, be sure to talk to your doctor. There are many ways to approach quitting, and getting help to do it is a great idea.
Eating a well-balanced diet is important for anyone, but especially for someone with a chronic disease like psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis (PsA). It contributes to your overall health and may help you to manage your disease. Though diet may not have a direct impact on your skin condition, it may actually help you to protect your joints from the damage of PsA, a type of arthritis that occurs in about 1 in 7 people with psoriasis.
Below are a few tips on eating better. Remember to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you make any major changes to your diet, as some foods and nutritional supplements may interact with your medication.
- Try to eat a wide variety of foods.
- When making meals, prepare extra for later.
- Do your best to eat regularly.
- Keep food portions to a reasonable size.
- Add colour to your diet with fruits and vegetables.
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugar and salt.
- Reduce your hydrogenated or trans fat and cholesterol intake.
- Make an effort to plan your meals.
- Consider a multivitamin to supplement your diet.
Nutritional supplements of any kind can change how medications work. Some people with medical problems should not take supplements at any time. Before taking supplements, check with your doctor and do not exceed the doses that are recommended on the product’s label.
Feed your joints: Did you know that cartilage – the hard, slippery stuff that protects the ends of bones – depends on joint movement to absorb nutrients and remove waste? Staying active “feeds” your joints and keeps them clean and healthy.
Can special diets ease psoriasis?
Changing what you eat may give you a greater sense of control over your overall health, but no diet can “cure” or “ease” psoriasis or PsA. Most dietary claims have no scientific support, and studies have not found any diet that significantly improves these conditions.
If you are overweight, losing 10 pounds (4.5 kg) can reduce joint stress on your knees by as much as 40 pounds (18 kg). Losing weight can help reduce folds of skin on your body where psoriasis can appear. Most doctors recommend a common-sense approach to eating to maintain a healthy weight.
Psoriasis makes your skin sensitive, so practising proper skin care is an important way of helping to prevent or reduce symptoms of the disease. Proper skin care can also help protect your skin from infections and injuries that may lead to challenging flares.
Here are some tips on how to protect your skin with good skin care:
1. Keep things gentle
- Stay away from harsh skin products. Use gentle soaps, and try to avoid strong or scented soaps. Look for creams that don’t contain alcohol, which may dry out your skin.
- Do your best to prevent injuries to your skin. Scratching at your skin and picking at your cuts and scrapes is a no-no. Injuries to your skin can cause psoriasis patches to show up anywhere on your body. Trim your nails carefully, and avoid wearing tight shoes, clothing, watchbands, and hats that can irritate your skin.
- Do what you can to avoid cold climates. Cold, dry air can make your symptoms worse.
2. Keep skin moist
- Use creams and lotions that moisturize effectively.
- Take a bath or soak in water once a day. This can help you replace moisture lost by your skin, especially in dry climates, or to medicines that dry your skin. Before drying off completely, apply moisturizers to help seal in the moisture so that your skin doesn’t get drier. Adding oils to your bath water may also help, but be careful not to slip getting out.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air at home.
- Consider wrapping areas of your skin with a tensor bandage, fabric, or plastic to keep skin moist right after applying creams or lotions (this is called occlusion therapy).
3. Keep up with your medications
- Remember to apply topical treatments and to take medications as instructed
Prepare your skin for topical medicines. If you gently soften and remove psoriasis crusts and scales from you skin before applying these agents, you can help your skin absorb the products better. Try rubbing cream gently into the affected areas to soften them before carefully peeling off what skin you can.
Like smoking, alcohol abuse is more common in people with psoriasis than the general public. And, like smoking, there is no solid evidence to explain the correlation. It may be that increased alcohol intake can lead to psoriasis, or that having a chronic disease like psoriasis may lead people to increase their intake. It may even be a combination of those two explanations, with people developing psoriasis because of their alcohol abuse and then continuing to drink heavily as a way to cope with the condition.
Whatever the reason, people with psoriasis are more likely to abuse alcohol, and it may be contributing to their psoriasis, and even making it worse—among other potential physical and social consequences. For example, some medications for psoriasis can affect your liver, and you may be asked to cut out alcohol altogether. If this is the case, and you fear you will be unable to give up alcohol, have an honest conversation with your doctor about this.
Reduce your alcohol consumption
With the above issues in mind, it makes sense to consider greatly reducing your intake of alcohol if you have psoriasis, and even to try cutting it out of your life completely. Again, your doctor is an excellent resource for support and ideas to help you change your relationship to alcohol, so don’t be shy if you are ready to make that change—ask for help.