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Could kefir alleviate psoriasis flare-ups?

Nutrition

Synopsis

Even though kefir – a fermented dairy product – contains probiotics, and that research seems to show that probiotics may have many health upsides, there is no scientific proof that kefir can be beneficial for people with psoriasis. Kefir has been used for centuries, so it is a rather safe source of probiotics for people who want to add some to their daily diet.

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Expert Answers

Dr. Ron Vender:

Kefir functions as a probiotic in order to provide balance in the homeostasis of the body. There is only anecdotal evidence that kefir can truly alleviate psoriasis flare-ups.

More importantly a properly balanced diet for nutrition and regular exercise is key to having a healthy lifestyle and coping with psoriasis. There is no specific diet or dietary ingredients that are necessary to alleviate psoriasis flare-ups or to even cause improvement in psoriasis.

As you know, comorbidities are quite common with psoriasis, and include hypertension and diabetes. A proper diet that helps control these systemic disorders is also important for psoriasis patients.

One must be careful with different naturopathic claims. The Internet is full of discussion boards with different promises of cures for psoriasis.

Everyone knows somebody that has done something or even eaten certain foods that seem to be a miracle cure. However, we are fortunate to have well studied scientifically-proven medications that can help psoriasis. (Click here for the list of commonly accepted treatments for psoriasis in Canada).

A healthy lifestyle adds to the success of psoriasis treatment and a healthy well-balanced diet is just part of puzzle.

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Brooke Stewart:

In case you’re not familiar with it, kefir is a fermented dairy product similar to yogurt. Both have a tart, slightly sour taste and can be purchased plain, or with fruit or other flavours added. However, kefir has a thinner consistency than yogurt and is typically sold as a slightly bubbly beverage. Both are sources of probiotics, live microscopic organisms (“microbes”) like bacteria and yeast that can have health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts.

Probiotics are a hot topic lately, as more and more research is showing that they can help us to digest food, maintain health, and fight disease. They’ve been shown to help with digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. More recently, there has been speculation that probiotics may also enhance the immune system. Researchers now realize that microorganisms living in and on our bodies play an important role in our immune defenses. A study published in 2013 was the first to show that a probiotic supplement can go beyond changing the digestive system, and influence the immune system of the whole body. This study included patients with psoriasis, and found that they had lower levels of some markers for inflammation in their blood after taking a specific probiotic for 6-8 weeks, compared to patients who took a placebo. The study group was small, but it was a promising discovery.

Consuming probiotics through food or supplements is generally safe, but some people with a weakened immune system should be cautious. And since supplements aren’t regulated the same way as medications, there’s no guarantee the supplement you’re taking contains the microbes you’re looking for. Consuming kefir is a good option to boost your probiotic intake, as it typically contains three times the number of probiotics compared to yogurt. This is because kefir is made by fermenting milk with a mixture of 10 to 20 different types of probiotic bacteria and yeasts, while most yogurts are made using only a few. A higher probiotic count per serving, and a more diverse group of microbes, may provide extra benefit to your immune system.

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Carolyn Whiskin:

Kefir is a fermented milk beverage produced through the action of kefir grains. These are not grains as we commonly know them (like wheat, barley, etc.) but are cultures of yeast and bacteria that multiply and ferment the sugars in milk and turn it into “kefir”. The product has been used for centuries in parts of Europe and Asia for its reported health benefits, including anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and pro-digestive properties. In the US, Kefir is most commonly marketed as a probiotic (that is for its pro-digestive effects). Probiotic bacteria are live food ingredients that promote healthy stomach and intestinal function and occur in naturally fermented foods such yogurt, sauerkraut, cabbage, soy-based miso and kefir. 

Other commercial products that capitalize on the anti-bacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties of kefir are being developed within the health product industry. For example, some studies show that kefir gel, a topical agent, shows promise in the treatment of burns and more generally in the promotion of wound healing. To date, there is a lack of scientific evidence to suggest that kefir and kefir-based products will alleviate psoriasis flare-ups. Further research is necessary to determine their definitive benefits.

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