Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gluten Free for Psoriasis

Recently I've been putting my researching brain cells to work on studying the Gluten Free way of life. Since the age of 14 I have had psoriasis, and recently it's been showing signs of progression to psoriatic arthritis, a progression that occurs in about 20-40% of the cases (studies are still incomplete, although the reverse is 80% of PA patients have had psoriasis, so the two are definitely linked). I've been tested for allergies in the 1980s (none), and I'm a pretty natural consumer as well, so I don't use body products with harmful ingredients like parabens or sulfates. Herbal and homeopathic remedies and dead sea salts have all helped reduce my inflammations, but have never eliminated the disorder completely. I was vegetarian for 7 years in the 1990s, and that never cleared up my psoriasis either.

Because of its progression I've started researching the diet and how it relates to the disorder, and stumbled upon several articles and studies that now link it to Celiac Disease, or gluten intolerance. I also found success stories through diets made of raw food, gluten free, sugar free, lactose free, and rich in omega oils like flax and cod liver.

The list of associated conditions from eating gluten is extensive. In my research I've found that gluten affects psoriasis and eczema, gout, autism, addictions, dermatitis, anemia, auto-immune disorders, IBS, epilepsy, depression and anxiety. Our sensitivity to gluten increases as we age, and untreated, it can lead to cancer.

Since we belong to a community-supported-agriculture club and get a lot of fresh vegetables weekly, and the summer months usually make me crave lighter foods, I embarked on a Gluten Free Diet about two weeks ago. Before doing any research, I'd always figured gluten was a very hard thing to avoid. And in reality, it is in everything from bread to ketchup, so for those who rely on restaurants, it is indeed quite hard to avoid unless you stick to salads (without croutons!). But upon reading more about my options, I actually became excited about trying this for a few months because we typically do eat a lot of the same things over and over.

The results however are undeniable; the psoriasis on my elbows is fading. Granted, I've gone off EVERYTHING except natural sugars, eggs and white meats, so I fully intend on reincorporating foods back into my diet once the spots are completely gone to see what flares up, and will comment back on this post with updates.

But in just a couple weeks, the cooking has been fun. So far I've made tapioca (with soy milk), which I never knew was so easy, double chocolate cookies (gluten and lactose-free but not vegan), which I never knew tasted so good, blueberry cornbread muffins (best when fresh apparently), and french bread, as well as dozens of meals and party-goods that were already in my recipe banks that were gluten free like hummus (with veg instead of tortillas) and sweet potato casserole (gluten free version below).

It takes a full list of alternatives to supplement the starchy behavior of gluten, which is used for thickening and flavor; so the initial impact was on my budget. You can get 5 lbs of white flour for only a couple dollars, and I spent about $30 on rice and tapioca flour, xanthum gum, and potato starch. The xanthum gum being the most expensive at $13 for 2 cups, but it looks like it'll last me a year. The other thing worth mention is that while you use several cups of flour for cookies, my double-chocolate cookies used a lot less flour (1/3 cup) and the nuts, raw sugar and chocolate were enough to make the cookies solid.

Breads are a little different, but are still much less dense than gluten breads, so the flours will go further. In addition, what I like is that the foods all taste lighter, not as filling, although just as rich.

Here's a start at the links I've found and recipes I've made so far.

Also, my cooking bible, The Joy of Cooking, also has some gluten free suggestions, and an online center as well, and ironically, the first recipe that pops up right now is gluten free!

I welcome any suggestions for websites and recipes that you all have as well!


  1. Hello from Denver!

    I, too, have been eating gluten free to reduce my psoriasis. Even with some occasional cheating, cutting out 90% of gluten led to definite results. When I did go on a month-long gluten bender (due to back-to-back vacations), I saw my old spots flare right back up again. It was astonishing, really - all the creams and potions I've tried to no avail, and then the answer is what I put in my mouth!

    Recently, I've become stricter and gone almost %100 dairy free as well as gluten free, and my skin is looking great. Feeling great is a nice bonus, too.

    I'm don't know if gluten-free dieting has a noticeable impact on severe psoriasis. My own appears on my scalp, face, and left shin; not a huge area, but having it on your face is pretty un-fun. I also try to eat as many anti-inflammatory foods/supplements as I can: green tea, tumeric, garlic, etc.

    I didn't see gluten free goddess on your list of links, but google her blog, she's got some great recipes! Also, the most perfect gluten-free bread is made right here in Colorado, by Udi's. They carry it in some Whole Foods and King Sooper stores now, and you can also visit their bakery in Denver. Their muffins and cinnamon rolls are also very good. Honestly, you will swear that they MUST have gluten in them, they're so much like the real thing!

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks so much Reenie, I appreciate the time you took to write that and give support. Two more weeks into it now (6-8 total, I"m losing track!) and I'm not seeing a ton of immediate results. I have also gone 99% lactose free and am still 99% gluten free with a cheat about once a week. I've got it worst on my elbows only, small scalp patches that rarely bother me anymore, and no where else.

    So I'm curious how long it took to see results and if you're conceding to being gluten free and lactose free forever? I was so hoping NOT to have to be so strict at some point, it's definitely hard.

  3. What is psoriasis? What causes psoriasis? Is there a cure or treatment for psoriasis? Psoriasis is a skin condition, it is a disease, but it is not contagious. The name comes from the Greek word for "itch." It can be hereditary, caused by external influences (allergic reaction to foods or the environment) and sometimes stress. 4-5% of the population is known to be affected, and this number is growing. However, it is suspected that 1 in 5 people have some form of psoriasis either descripts or none descript.
    Once you have psoriasis, it is very likely you will have it for ever. It may go away, and come back. It might respond to various treatments, and it may not. Basically psoriasis is your body over producing skin cells. You have too many skin cells in one location which is why it often swells up, becomes dry and even flaky. It can often be very itchy, red, sore, cracked and very tender. Psoriasis usually affect the scalp, hands, stomach, knees, feet and elbows. It is linked to dandruff and unfortunately to some forms of arthritis.

  4. I am starting to eat gluten free diet from today 17th Aug 2010. Let us see what happens to my psoriasis. I am definitely optimistic.

  5. Andrea, I too am eating gluten free for psoriasis and have been gluten free (this time ... I've been gluten free several times before) for two weeks now and would say my psoriasis (scalp) is 75% gone both in appearance and symptoms.

    As for recipes/websites, I love , , , and my own blog ... .

    Good luck with your cooking, eating and living of life gluten free! It's a great change for those who need it!

  6. I did some research regarding psoriasis due to my boyfriend being 50-60% covered. I found a similar link between psoriasis and wheat and convinced him to give it a try. He went completely wheat free and after a month was considerably clear. He now has about 10% coverage and has not had any major flairs or itching since. As soon as he starts to cheat, there is an almost immediate reaction. It may not work for everyone, but it is definitely worth a try!

  7. I appreciate the comments, everyone, Pamela thank you for that excellent example of success! I'm the same way, cheat a little, pay a lot. :( But that's so great your bf got his condition under control too! Thanks!!

  8. I have guttate psoriasis over my limbs, abdomen, back, scalp and occasionally my face. A few years ago I removed gluten from my diet and it really helped - however, as soon as I ate any wheat my spots would come back! I also found that it would take 5-6 weeks before I saw any noticeable change so would encourage anyone on a gluten-free diet to stick at it until they find their own point of change.

    Thank you for all the links to the recipes. I don't know whether you have wheat-free pasta in the states (I'm assuming you do) but the corn-based or vegetable-based pastas I find taste very like normal pasta. However, I have failed to find a good gluten-free bread recipe.

  9. I am also trying a GF diet. I have had psoriasis since I was 11 years old. I have had three pregnancies and my skin has never looked better! After the births of my babies though the psoriasis comes back and worse! I am trying GF because I keep having reactions to food and my psoriasis is spreading rapidly (like a new small spot every day) I have found that I am extremely allergic to peppers, shell fish, strawberries, and citrus fruits as well as tomatoes. I realllllllly hate it! I'm ready to be rid of psoriasis and I bet the changes in my diet will also help me lose weight. I can't wait!

  10. Hey Andy,

    I read with much interest about your journey with going gluten free and your psoriasis.

    I am on my sixth day and am already seeing slight improvement.

    I to am documenting my journey at

    I wanted to ask you Andy - how is your psoriasis now? Would love an update :)

  11. So glad I found your blog! How is your progress going? I also have severe psoaris. have been "trying" to be gluten and dairy free for about 6 months now. I am about 80% compliant and my psoaris is about 75-80% clear! If someone had told me this a while ago, I would never believe them! It took about 4 months to get to the clearer stage.

    Thanks for the links! I am off to check them out..

    Hugs from Michigan!
    Nancie J

  12. Since a lot of you have asked lately, yes, I've had great progress!!! In the last six months however I've had to really crack down on my "cheating," and recognize the hidden places that "glutenize" me. My elbows are about 90% clear and my arthritis is gone when I do. I also just returned from Miami and that fresh sea salt water and air really helps my psoriasis tenfold. When I lived in Florida (other coast) in the 90s, I had no psoriasis whatsoever. So that's worth the thought if you can make the move or a regular visit to the ocean. I can not.

    Where I have noticed the hidden gluten the most:
    * Caramel Color - somehow made with gluten and in ALL dark sodas and some candies. I do love my Coke, so I buy the newly released Mexican kind now, despite it's large carbon footprint of travel to the US.
    * MSG - I always tried to avoid this anyway, but sometimes cheated. The G in MSG is basically Gluten. Cut it out!
    * Oatmeal or other items made in factories with wheat - unfortunately upon testing, this actually posted an issue to my condition for sure.
    * Soy Sauce - read the labels. ALL labels. You wouldn't think so, but Soy Sauce has wheat in it. Thai Soy Sauce however doesn't. And I've really come to LOVE putting just sea salt and lemon on my sushi when in a pinch. Better than the alternative pain for sure. BBQ Sauce and many salad dressings are the same.
    * Candy - if there isn't an ingredients label, don't eat it. Many candy has caramel color or cookie or something in it.

    Keep up the good work! :)

  13. Oh yes, and Jacqueline, I've dropped 20 pounds and feel amazing! :)

  14. Hi Andy
    Great post!
    My (grown) daughter has DH, & spent years trying to figure out what was causing it. She also had anxiety for 12 years (with morning heart palpitations) we are Dyslexic & her daughter (now 11) was on anti-seizure meds ... 2 years ago her best friend convinced her to get the genetic testing, & viola! Gluten sensitivity genes ... I went GF with them, & have also dropped about 20 #, my itchy scalp is gone, as is my daughter's anxiety, & the 11 year old is off seizure meds! Her younger daughter was attending a Playschool that switched to GF snacks (mostly shifted to rice crackers) but didn't think of the homemade playdough - flour & salt! With a switch to rice flour, her rough hands cleared up!

    I am a Reiki practitioner, & a recent FB post on a Reiki forum referred to a Cleveland study on Reiki helping Psoriasis sufferers
    I do self-Reiki several times weekly, esp on my abdomen, remembering Takata (who brought Reiki to the West in the 30s) told us to spend 1/2 the treatment time on the chest/abdomen, as "this is the main factory. It processes the fuel taken in & delivers it to the places it is needed."
    Healing the gut, which is often 'leaky' if one has gluten issues, is a prime goal! We take digestive enzymes with each meal, & I also take glucosamine, which helps the gut heal, & also 'oils' the joints! I've noticed a few niggly aches & pains disappearing since I began the glucosamine/MSM several weeks ago.
    On oats - great point about needing to get GF oats if you're going to use them! Bobs Red Mill (available from their website or Amazon) does contract with GF oat farmers, & mills the oats on separate equipment; but some folks with Gluten issues are sensitive to the VERY similar proteins in oats, & it's wise to limit their use - & just see how YOU feel! It's all so personal, isn't it??
    A couple of great resources for GF lifestyle are glutenfree RN & Celiac nurse (both have websites) - GF RN is in my area, & comes to our local GIG meetings.

  15. I started the gluten free diet about a week ago. My psoriasis has gotten worse. Did you experience this before it got better?


  16. Thanks for sharing, Andy. An interesting read and a lot of great links... also enjoyed reading the feedback from other folks in the comments.

    I too have had psoriasis for some 25+ years now, a relatively mild case fortunately, but -- who knows what might happen? I have been gluten-free for about a year now, fairly religiously. I heard about the connection between gluten and the auto-immune disease set via Tim Ferriss' blog, Rob Wolfe and the whole cave-man diet thing. It sounded interesting and plausible, so I researched celiac, gluten sensitivity, etc. and ultimately decided to try GF.

    So a year into it, I have to say that I haven't experienced any really tangible results. I haven't given up hope, though, since I do believe in the strong possibility of a link between an auto-immune response to the glutinous lectin proteins -- the hard-to-digest ones that cause the problems -- and this skin condition we call psoriasis.

    So in addition to being GF, I'm going to try going dairy-free, too, in September; I figure I'll give this about six months or so. I'm also bought into the idea that a condition that I've had for over 25 years might not be reasonably expected to disappear in only a year... here's to hoping.

  17. hi, i have been gluten free for only four days. I have fairly severe psoriasis and have tried so many different things. finding the diet hard, but learning the foods that i can and cant eat gradually and am surprised to learn about some of the things i can eat which is nice. i would like to know how strict you guys have had to be, realistically, to keep it at bay. for example, have u stayed away from white rice or other things like cornflakes which contain only minute traces or have they been ok? and also if you have had to continue using ointments and creams, such as the steroid containing ones throughout your initial few weeks of being gluten free? and when it cleared did you stop using the prescription drugs completely? i am dreaming of that day!! it recently cost me 160 dollars for my 2 month prescription as im not in my native country. ur advice would be much appreciated. thanks.

  18. Dear Andy,
    I stumbled upon this blog after researching options of what to do about my psoriasis. I have been 2 weeks gluten-free and my psoriasis is almost completely GONE. I can see my knees for the first time in 15 yrs. I can't believe the solution was so simple. After only 2 days, it cleared on my elbows...after 5 days, my knees and after 5 more days, the lower parts of my legs. I have one stubborn area on my ankle that's almost cleared. Not only the psoriasis is gone but my overall heath has improved. I am much more focused, have lost 7 pounds in 2 weeks and I even feel and look younger!
    Thank you!