Celiac Disease & Psoriasis
A growing body of evidence is beginning to show that there is a connection between
psoriasis and gluten intollerance (celiac disease). For a small percentage of psoriasis
sufferers there exists an important connection between what they eat and what happens
to the skin.
When wheat flour is mixed with water, a complex protein called gluten develops.
Gluten is what gives the dough of wheat an elastic structure that allows it to be
crafted in a variety of ways. If wheat is high in gluten content it is called "brown"
or "white" If it is called "weak" or "soft" the gluten
content is low. If you are sensitive to gluten, avoiding wheat products containing
gluten is the only way to prevent reaction.
About Gluten Intollerance
An estimated 2 million Americans suffer from an allergy that many don't even know
exists. Celiac or gluten allergy could be the most common allergy afflicting Americans
today. Recent research has revealed that an undiagnosed gluten allergy can be especially
problematic for those suffering from psoriasis and other skin conditions. Though
occasionally patients are asymptomatic, usually symptoms mimic other conditions,
and often physicians misdiagnose it as Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS). The wide array
of symptoms include:
- Canker sores
- Irregular Menstrual Cycle
- Joint Pain
- Sleep Irregularity
Dermatitis Herpeformis, a persistent, itchy rash with red skin and watery blisters
often appears on the knees, elbows, backs and buttocks of individuals with wheat
Celiac disease is a genetic condition where the body reacts to giladin, a gluten
protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, by producing an enzyme called tissue transglutamise.
The enzyme triggers an inflammatory reaction in the bowels which eventually leads
to flattening of the villi lining the intestinal wall.
Villi, are finger like protrusions which line the sides of the intestines and filter
out nutrients as waste passes through. When villi become flattened and unable to
function, malnourishment can occur from vitamin deficiencies. If intestinal distress,
and malnutrition aren't motivation enough, the Mayo Clinic website states that gluten
intollerant people who continue to consume gluten are "at higher risk of developing
cancer, especially bowel cancer or intestinal lymphoma."
Often celiac patients seek help from their doctors because they are suffering from
mal-absorption problems and don't yet know the root cause. The most commonly seen
problem is anemia due to lack of iron in the blood. Symptoms of anemia include:
dizziness, insomnia, pale skin, and difficulty concentrating. Other often seen problems
stem from lack of folic acid, B-12, Calcium and Vitamin D, all of which have troubling
symptoms and some, like calcium deficiency, can lead to irreversible conditions
such as osteoporosis. Those severely deficient in Vitamin K may experience abdominal
bleeding. Because the villi are virtually stripped away, or severely incapacitated,
often harmful bacteria build up in the small intestine causing a host of other problems
such as Candida and/or Leaky Gut.
Celiac and Psoriasis
Since both celiac disease and psoriasis are conditions which affect the auto-immune
system, research seeking connections between the two has recently increased. A 2004
article in Psoriasis Advance, a magazine published by the National Psoriasis Foundation,
conducted an interview with Gerd Michaelsson, M.D., Ph.D, who in 1993 preformed
a study which found that some patients with psoriasis also had one of the markers
of celiac disease; increased antibodies to gliadin. Dr Michaelsson stressed that
"most patients with psoriasis are not gluten intolerant. However, there is
a subgroup with silent celiac disease/gluten intolerance and it is important to
identify these patients, as there is a chance to considerably improve the skin lesions
on the gluten-free diet (GFD). In some patients there may be a total or nearly total
clearance on the diet. When gluten is reintroduced there is a flare up of the psoriasis."
Dr. Michaelsson thinks that it is possible that some celiac sufferers may be predisposed
to psoriasis, but have not had any problems since they adhere to a strict gluten-free
An article in the April 2007 issue of World Journal of Gastroenterology, by L Abenavoli,
L Leggio, G Gasbarrini, G Addolorato, seems to corroborate Dr. Michalessons research.
Psoriasis patients who tested positive for the markers that indicate celiac and
were put on a GFD. Researchers noticed "thirty of 33 patients strictly complied
with GFD, have showed a significant decrease of psoriatic lesions." Celiac
is a systemic disease, and not one that is isolated simply to the digestive system.
The link between psoriasis is some people is clearly tied to a gluten-sensitive
enteropathy (pathology [disease] of the intestine). While the cause for psoriasis
still remains unknown, and may in fact be the result of numerous factors, celiac
is a genetic condition.
The Psoriasis foundation quotes yet another researcher, Dr. Kruger who thinks that
the link might just be odds "simple math dictates that it would be surprising
if there weren't some people with both diseases." Indeed," Dr. Krueger
says, "there is a certain small percentage of people in the general population
with celiac disease, and a certain small percentage of people in the general population
with psoriasis, so one should not be surprised to find a significant number of people
who have both. Notwithstanding, many psoriatics go into remission when adhering
to a GFD.
For many, the link between celiac and psoriasis is common sense. Digestive specialist
Elizabeth Lispki, Ph.D., CCN asserts in her book Digestive Wellness, that diet is
the cause of most auto-immune afflictions ranging from psoriasis to colitis. Dr.
John O.A. Pagano and Deirdre Earls, RD,
psoriasis specialists, believe that changing
what we eat can help to alleviate psoriasis outbreaks.
At DermaHarmony we offer "Your Healing Diet, a Quick Guide to Reversing Psoriasis
and Chronic Diseases with Healing Foods" by Deidre Earls RD, LD, an informative
book which clearly outlines rules for an effective healing diet, to our clients.
Though these diets don't rule out wheat completely, they suggest it be consumed
occasionally in whole grain rather than processed form. All stress the importance
of wheat avoidance for celiac sufferers. The consensus among these authors seems
to be "healthy gut, healthy skin."
Please read our article on diet and psoriasis
for additional knowledge.
Do You Suspect Celiac?
If you suspect that you may suffer from a gluten allergy, it may be tempting to
simply start yourself on the GFD and wait for results. It is important that the
symptoms be discussed thoroughly with your physician and that you be tested for
Most often, a simple blood test can determine if a patient is gluten intolerant.
In some cases, physicians may request a biopsy from the intestine for a diagnosis
or to determine damage to the villi.
It is important to have confirmation and support of your doctor when dealing with
this condition, you may be suffering from extensive mal-nutrition especially with
the fat soluble vitamins listed above (D,E,and K). A GFD may seem like an easy fix
compared to the treatments for other conditions, but it is a life long commitment,
and can be difficult especially in our wheat centered culture. It is also important
to find good quality vitamin supplements which are gluten free, to replenish diminished
As research continues, it is probable that additional links will be found between
diet and skin conditions. Please visit our library which contains a number of articles
on diet, intestinal wellness and their effect on skin health.
How We Help
Visit DermaHarmony to learn more about our alternative, science-based approach to psoriasis and other common skin conditions. At DermaHarmony our goals are to educate chronic skin care sufferers about the latest alternative research in dermatology, encourage a holistic approach to healthy skin and wellness, and to support our readers in every way we can. Our programs promote healthy skin from the inside out—with pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements, topical treatments, expert dietary guidance, and a whole-person approach to health and wellness. Learn more about our programs or call us toll-free at 1-800-827-3730. Our support desk is open 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday.
Our Skin Health Assessment is designed to help you gain better understanding of your symptoms, and to facilitate our ability to make effective, individualized dietary and lifestyle recommendations for you. It is simple, free, and takes just five minutes to complete. Start on your way to healthier skin and better health today.
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Inverse psoriasis is found in skin folds such as the armpits, groin, under the breasts, around genitals and the buttocks. Inverse psoriasis is more common in people who are overweight and people with deep skin folds where friction and sweating occur.
Plaque psoriasis is the most typical form of this skin condition—4 out of 5 people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis. The technical or scientific name for plaque psoriasis is psoriasis vulgaris (vulgaris means "common").
In pustular (PUHS-choo-ler) psoriasis, blisters of noninfectious pus appear on the skin. Attacks of pustular psoriasis may be triggered by medications, infections, stress, or exposure to certain chemicals.
Scalp psoriasis is one of the most common types of psoriasis—occurring in just over half of all people who suffer from psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis can range from mild, with slight fine scaling, to severe, with thick red plaques affecting the entire scalp.
Celiac Disease & Psoriasis—Reference
Documents and Further Reading
Principal Author: K. Kastelein, Editor-in-Chief
Date of Publication: 11/08/2007