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Can fasting or intermittent fasting help with psoriasis symptoms?

Nutrition

Synopsis

No. Even though some anecdotal evidence seems to associate health benefits to fasting or intermittent fasting, there is no study about the effects of fasting on psoriasis or on the immune system. As always, a balanced diet is recommended for everybody – and especially for people with psoriasis. Before making important changes to your diet or lifestyle, you should consult with your health care professional.

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Expert Answers

Dr. Marc Bourcier:

There is no study indicating that fasting or intermittent fasting can help with psoriasis. Most advocates of fasting argue that it helps detoxify the system, while others refute this claim. It is impossible to know which side is right and what claims are accurate, in the actual state of research. However, fasting leading to severe weight loss should not be recommended. As for less extreme diets, like the one known as 5-2 (i.e. fasting or partially fasting two non-consecutive days during the 7-day week), there has been no proof that it can help with the immune system.

As a general rule, we recommend a balanced diet. If people insist on having a special diet, the one that could arguably have the best outcome would be the Mediterranean diet.

Canada’s Food Guide is preparing a new version, probably for next year and the rumor is that it will be an important upgrade, better suited to current realities. The last version was created in 2007. It is still a reference, of course.

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Brooke Stewart:

Different types of fasting or intermittent fasting (where one eats normally some days, and very little on other days) have gained much attention in the past few years. Fasting has been practiced for centuries, mainly for religious reasons. Recently though, it’s been promoted as a strategy to improve health – through weight loss, increased life span, or reducing risks of certain diseases. While there is research to support some of these claims, much of this has been done in animals (not humans) and little is known about the long-term effects.

In animal studies, intermittent fasting has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The few studies in humans have shown promising results, in terms of weight and fat loss, and better blood sugar control.

The health benefits of intermittent fasting may ultimately be caused by the weight loss that comes with taking in fewer calories on average. For some people, achieving a lower calorie intake through a fasting on-and-off plan may be easier than consistently restricting calories a little every day. There haven’t been studies looking specifically at intermittent fasting and psoriasis symptoms, but it is known that weight loss improves symptoms in people with psoriasis who are overweight.

This is a promising area of investigation, and we’ll be seeing more research in the near future. However, fasting is not for everyone. Keep in mind, in these studies the diets were carefully controlled to provide the recommended number of calories on fasting and non-fasting days, and to ensure nutritional balance. In some people, the risks of fasting clearly outweigh any benefits: growing children and teenagers, pregnant women and nursing mothers, people with a history of eating disorder, and those taking insulin or other medications for diabetes that can cause low blood sugars.

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Carolyn Whiskin:

There is often a strong connection between many aspects of the way the body functions and the digestive system; therefore, changes to your diet, some as extreme as fasting, may make a difference to the skin. This may help to reduce the severity of psoriasis but would not be considered an evidence-based treatment. Keep in mind there can be some risks involved with fasting. If you are an individual with a low BMI or low blood pressure fasting could be dangerous.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease. Like other types of inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis can be affected by the food we eat and the different types of acids we consume and break down in our body. Fasting can give your body a break form digesting and breaking down foods, and instead allow it to focus on repairing and removing toxins. The impact it will have is individual and therefore it cannot be recommended as an evidence-based treatment.

Be cautious in regards to drastic changes to your diet and check in with your physician before attempting a fasting program as the risks may outweigh any potential benefit.

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