Psoriasis Triggers: Can Beer and Gluten Worsen Psoriasis?

Community Member

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease which can cause skin inflammation, itching and pain. Psoriasis is one of the most common types of autoimmune disorders affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. One of the most distressing aspects of being diagnosed with psoriasis is that there is currently no cure. The good news is that there are effective treatments as well as ways to manage this disease. One way to decrease the frequency of psoriasis outbreaks is to identify your triggers. Psoriasis triggers vary from person to person but there are common triggers known to exacerbate symptoms for many people. In this post we are going to take a look at the current research on the connection between alcohol (specifically beer) and gluten as possible psoriasis triggers.

There is much in the literature to suggest that alcohol consumption is a possible trigger for psoriasis symptoms. As early as 1985 a study published in the British Medical Journal found that psoriasis is more common among subjects who drank over 50 g of alcohol (this is estimated to be approximately a little over three average -sized drinks) per day. The National Psoriasis Foundation   states that heavy drinking lowers the responsiveness to psoriasis medication especially for men. There also seems to be a much greater incidence of psoriasis in alcoholics. Current research has attempted to ascertain which alcoholic beverages are most associated with an increase in the development of psoriasis symptoms. One such study has found some intriguing results.

A 2010 study published in the Archives of Dermatology examined how various alcoholic beverages including red wine, white wine, liquor, light beer, and non-light beer, affected the development of psoriasis in women. The study authors found that women who have more than two or more alcoholic beverages a week, particularly non-light beer, have an increased risk for developing psoriasis. In addition, subjects who drank five regular beers a week more than doubled their risk of being diagnosed with this skin disease. They found that the other types of alcohol used in the study did not pose any significant increase in psoriasis risk. This finding has led some researchers to speculate that an ingredient in regular beer may be the culprit. One theory is that the barley in beer, which contains gluten, may be the underlying cause for this increased risk of developing psoriasis. Of course there are limitations to this study   including the fact that they have only included women as their subjects. Yet could there be something to this gluten connection?

There seems to be evidence that there may be a correlation between gluten and the development of psoriasis or the exacerbation of psoriasis symptoms for some patients. Gluten is a special type of protein which is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten can be found in many breads, cereals, baked goods, and beer. Some psoriasis patients find that going on a gluten-free diet   helps to decrease their symptoms.

Here are just a couple of the many studies which show how gluten may affect psoriasis:

  • A 2011 study published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology concluded that: ""the significantly high prevalence of AGA antibodies in patients with psoriasis supports the possibility of a link between psoriasis and gluten-sensitive enteropathies, especially CD." The study authors are describing an association between psoriasis and Celiac Disease (CD), a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents normal absorption of nutrients do to an adverse reaction to ingesting gluten.

Does this mean that every patient with psoriasis who cuts out gluten from their diet will be in remission? Unfortunately this is not the case. The National Psoriasis Foundation explains the link between psoriasis and gluten intolerance in an interview with Dr. Gerd Michaelsson, one of the original researchers who has conducted multiple studies on psoriasis and celiac disease. Here are some key points of that interview:

  • According to Michaelsson, most psoriasis patients do not have a gluten intolerance.

  • Only about 16% of patients with psoriasis vulgaris have serum antibodies against gliadin, which is a fraction of gluten.

  • The group of psoriasis patients who do have gluten intolerance or celiac disease may be helped with a gluten-free diet. For these patients the diet can significantly improve their skin lesions.

  • Dr. Michaelsson's suggestion is that patients with moderate to severe psoriasis be screened for serum antibodies against gliadin and for the level of serum IgA.   Other indicators of celiac disease may include low levels of iron, zinc, and folic acid.

When you read about such research you may wonder what you can take away from this. If you have been diagnosed with psoriasis you may want to ask your doctor about how things like alcohol or your diet may affect your symptoms. You can also ask about whether or not your physician feels that gluten intolerance may be an underlying trigger to your psoriasis flares. It doesn't hurt to ask. Knowing your psoriasis triggers can greatly help in managing your condition and in some cases can significantly improve your chances for remission.

We would like to hear from you now. Do any of you find that your psoriasis is affected by drinking alcohol? Do any of you have psoriasis and gluten intolerance? Have any of you tried a gluten-free diet to see if it improves your psoriasis symptoms? Share your stories. You just might help someone else in the process.

For more information about gluten intolerance, celiac disease, and gluten-free diets please refer to these Health Central articles: