Chemically synthesized vitamin A has been used in the treatment of psoriasis since the early 1970’s. The biologically active form of the vitamin, retinoic acid, is known to be a regulator of the genes that control cell division in the skin. Psoriatic skin cells require unusually large amounts of retinoic acid due to immune imbalances (an excess of the chemical interferon) in the region of the skin forming a plaque.
How do you get retinoic acid from diet? Your body best absorbs vitamin A from foods that are prepared in the form of an emulsion, a mixture of the vitamin A-rich food, a fat such as milk fat, and water. Your body has the hardest time processing the vitamin A in fat itself. In other words, don’t rely on eating extra butter to get your vitamin A! This vitamin should come from a plant source, but the plant food should be eaten with a fat, preferably milk fat or the fat in avocados, seeds, or nuts. In the same meal, you should eat apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, mangoes, oranges, peaches, pumpkin, or winter squash, any yellow or orange fruit or vegetable, but only in moderation.
Your body can make vitamin A out of beta-carotene. If you have acne, however, you should avoiding loading up on foods that are high in beta-carotene, such the fruits and vegetables listed above. You also need the fat. When you eat foods that high in beta-carotene without eating at least a little fat, your body is less able to convert the beta-carotene into vitamin A.
The B vitamin folic acid is important in the management of psoriasis. Some studies have suggested that folate may be deficient in people with psoriasis, so consumption of folate-rich foods is recommended. Folate-rich foods include asparagus, avocados, dried beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Savoy cabbage, chickpeas, English peas, lentils, oranges, and turkey.
A preliminary study in Poland has found that selenium deficiency is most frequent in men who have had psoriasis for longer than 3 years. While many nutritional experts hold that the combination of selenium and vitamin E is important to maintain healthful levels of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, there is some evidence that the glutathione peroxidase in psoriasis-affected skin cells is formed without selenium.
Therefore, it is possible that selenium really does not help in psoriasis. Moreover, at least one study found that taking selenium supplements did not cause selenium levels to increase in the skin. However, since it is possible that selenium deficiency causes long-term psoriasis inflammation through an unknown mechanism, supplementation is recommended with the caveat that benefits may not appear immediately, and selenium may not help people who have not have psoriasis very long.
Your best bet is to eat selenium-rich foods on a regular basis. You can fulfill your body’s requirements for selenium for 12 days from a single ounce of Brazil nuts. Four ounces of cooked fish or shellfish provides a day’s supply of selenium. Brown rice, oatmeal, legumes, and eggs are also good sources of the mineral.
The antioxidant action of zinc is especially important in psoriatic arthritis. Zinc-rich foods that are helpful in psoriasis include baked beans, calabash (squash), Crimini mushrooms, and especially Napa cabbage. Selenium and zinc together help the skin resist the effects of the heavy metals cadmium and lead.
In psoriasis, it is especially important to avoid supplementation with copper. Elevated bloodstream concentrations of copper are associated with the disease.