Having psoriasis, I should exercise, eat well and lead a balanced lifestyle, but I can’t. Is it more difficult for people with psoriasis to discipline themselves?



Yes, when it comes to following good habits, notably about food and exercise, people with psoriasis face a bigger challenge than other people. However, there are notable benefits in following a healthy lifestyle, and psoriasis patients should try to do the best they can to turn the odds in their favor.

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Expert Answers

Dr. Ron Vender:

It is important that psoriasis patients be educated in a healthy lifestyle, including a proper balanced diet, and an exercise plan. However, quite often, the psychosocial aspect of having psoriasis leads to a decrease of getting out and enjoying the outdoors or public areas of exercise such as swimming pools and fitness centres due to embarrassment of the skin condition. 

Educating friends and colleagues about psoriasis may allow you to have a partner that could encourage these important healthy lifestyle events. Seeking a personal trainer as well as a healthy lifestyle coach or dietician can also be helpful. Your dermatologist or primary care provider can guide you in the right direction.

Also taking control of your skin disease and seeking newer therapy can lead to a path of better health and quality of life. 

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Marie Achille:

Maintaining healthy habits such as sleeping well, eating right and exercising regularly can be challenging for anyone at the best of times. Psoriasis certainly can make it even harder to lead a balanced life. Sleep can be altered by itch, skin pain and skin discomfort. Exercising, especially during periods of flare ups, can be made more difficult by physical pain (such as joint pain associated with psoriasis, certain activities stretching the skin, certain types of clothing irritating the skin) and by self-consciousness about being observed by others in a group or public setting (such as a public pool or fitness class). Because managing psoriasis can sometimes take up a lot of the day (applying treatment, washing and changing clothes frequently, bathing more often), it becomes more challenging to find the time to shop for the right foods and to cook healthy meals. Sometimes it probably feels like psoriasis saps all your energy.

While I don’t pretend it is easy to do, I think the key is to chunk down these problems into manageable parts. For each of these habits in turn, it is also worth asking yourself how much of the difficulty you are experiencing in this area due to psoriasis and how much could be due to other factors. Take sleep for example: if pain and itch remain problematic, it is worth talking to your doctor about considering alternative or complementary treatments. However, could poor sleep also be related to poor sleep hygiene (such as not having a regular night time routine, bringing screen devices into the bedroom, consuming too much caffeine)? Modifying these habits is likely to help, at least for that part of the problem that isn’t due to psoriasis itself. With respect to exercising, because psoriasis is likely to restrict certain types of activities at times, it is worth drawing up a list of alternatives you can choose from so you have multiple options. Try to think of alternatives that can be practiced indoors, outdoors, well covered up or wearing minimal clothing, alone or with others, in private and public settings. An exercise specialist or physiotherapist can help you with this task and can think of what sports or activities are best suited to you. Also, team up with a buddy to maintain your motivation, a strategy that has been found most effective for just about anyone when it comes to adhering to an exercise routine. When it comes to food and self-care in general, if you notice a change in your eating habits (undereating or overeating) or weight (gain or loss), if you feel constantly dragged down, negative, easily discouraged, disinterested in life in general, or sad much of the time, you may be struggling with depression. If such is the case, don’t hesitate to consult a mental health professional. This person can also help you challenge negative cognitions that fuel discouragement and loss of motivation.

Tackling these problems does require effort, so don’t hesitate to turn to others for help. And keep in mind that skin diseases have been shown to become less burdensome with time than many other health problems that worsen with age.

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Andrew Gosse:

It is more difficult for someone with psoriasis to live a healthy lifestyle. It is not impossible, but the challenges are greater.

The first one is physical. When you have psoriasis, you have to live with pain and discomfort. It gets even worse when you are exercising. With plaque psoriasis, it is already painful when the skin breaks, but when your sweat gets in, it feels like a thousand razor blades. For people with psoriatic arthritis, sometimes, moving for normal activities can be a challenge. Needless to say that you need increased determination when you want to exercise.

You have to understand that a lot of people turn to food for comfort. It is even more frequent for people with psoriasis, because they have to live with a lot of discomfort. And of course, the food we tend to turn to for comfort are usually not the healthiest ones.

It is also a fact that people with psoriasis tend to drink more alcohol, again, because there is a very real need to escape.

Considering all this, I would still encourage people with psoriasis to pursue a healthy lifestyle. The idea is not to shoot for perfection, but to start with the notion that every little thing counts and that it is worth the effort.

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