Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory disease that often occurs in individuals with the autoimmune condition psoriasis. This disease can affect many different parts of the body and cause a wide range of symptoms, including joint pain and stiffness, swelling of the fingers and toes, skin and nail lesions, and back pain.
Research has shown that, along with medication and other therapies, diet can play a significant role in managing the severity of PsA symptoms. Certain foods and food groups may help manage PsA, while other foods may increase inflammation in the body, worsening symptoms.
Learn about the impact nutrition can have on PsA, foods to incorporate and limit, and a sample meal plan you can use to help control your PsA through a balanced diet.
What Impact Does Food Have on Psoriatic Arthritis?
The foods you eat can have a significant impact on your PsA symptoms. PsA is categorized as a disease of inflammation, so eating highly inflammatory foods such as red meat, sugar, saturated fat, and processed foods can worsen (exacerbate) the condition.
On the other hand, consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and certain herbs and spices may help alleviate some of your symptoms.
Psoriatic Arthritis Diet
Having an overall balanced, healthy diet is an important part of managing PsA symptoms. However, some foods may help improve PsA symptoms while other foods may worsen symptoms. Here are foods to include more of and foods to avoid:
Foods to Eat
Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory effects. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, making them nutrient dense and an excellent way to incorporate more essential vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber into your diet.
Whole grains: Whole grains include oats, quinoa, barley, brown rice, millet, farro, and whole grain cereals, pasta, and bread. Compared to refined grains such as white bread, whole grains are richer in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Fatty fish: Fatty fish such as salmon contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower levels of inflammation in the body. Salmon and other fatty fish are also rich in vitamin D and vitamin B12. Both vitamins help reduce inflammation and have been used to help treat psoriasis.
Turmeric and ginger: These spices have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat arthritis symptoms, including joint pain and inflammation. The active compound curcumin, present in turmeric, has significant anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties. What’s more, the compounds gingerol, shogol, and zingerone found in ginger can help ease joint pain and other symptoms of PsA.
Diets to Consider for Psoriatic Arthritis
Through there is not one specific diet recommended for PsA, you may want to consider one of the following:
- Mediterranean diet: Centered around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish, this diet is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Several studies have found a link between the Mediterranean diet and less severe PsA symptoms.
- Gluten-free diet: People with psoriasis and PsA are at an increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, including celiac disease, a condition causing an immune reaction to eating the protein in wheat, barley, and rye. For PsA patients with celiac disease or who are gluten intolerant, a gluten-free diet has been shown to reduce psoriasis symptoms. However, if you are not allergic or intolerant to gluten, a gluten-free diet is not necessary or recommended to treat PsA.
Foods to Avoid
Red meat: Red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, and veal, are high in saturated fatty acids (SFA). Diets that are high in SFAs are associated with many chronic inflammatory conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Sugary foods and drinks: Sugar can cause the release of pro-inflammatory molecular messengers called cytokines. High levels of these pro-inflammatory cytokines combined with low levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines can result in a state of chronic inflammation, worsening the symptoms of PsA.
Processed foods: Processed foods include packaged snacks, sweets, soft drinks, fast food, and lunchmeat. Diets that are highly processed are also associated with increased inflammation in the body, as these foods are often packed with saturated fat and sugar.
Dairy: For many people with PsA, it may be OK to consume low-fat or fat-free dairy in moderation. However, some people with PsA may also have lactose intolerance (an inability to digest the sugar in milk) or dairy allergies, and therefore should avoid dairy products.
High-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, full-fat cheese, and ice cream, are also high in saturated fats and may contain added sugar. These products should be limited to avoid excess weight gain and obesity, which can trigger an inflammatory state that can worsen PsA symptoms.
Supplements for Psoriatic Arthritis
Though overall diet and lifestyle are key in managing psoriatic arthritis with nutrition, there are some supplements that may help improve symptoms, including:
- Fish oil: Several studies have found fish oil supplements to be beneficial for people with psoriasis. Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Vitamin D: Some PsA patients may be deficient in vitamin D, which can worsen symptoms. Taking a vitamin D supplement has been shown to improve symptoms, such as joint pain, in people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (though further research is needed).
Psoriatic Arthritis Meal Plan
Building a balanced meal plan can feel overwhelming, so here’s a sample day to get you started. Try to center your meals around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, and include healthy fats and spices to add both flavor and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- ½ cup oats cooked with water, low-fat or dairy-free milk
- ¾ cup frozen mixed berries, thawed
- 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon (tsp) maple syrup
Cook oats in water or milk on the stove top or in the microwave. Top with berries, peanut butter, and maple syrup.
Modifications: Add in other fruits such as apple or banana, or try adding a teaspoon of flaxseed or chia seeds to boost the omega-3 content.
Grilled Salmon Salad
- 3 ounces (oz) salmon, grilled
- 1 cup baby spinach
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- ½ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup diced cucumber
- ¼ avocado, sliced
- Dressing: 3 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper
Whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper together in a bowl to make the dressing. Toss the spinach, quinoa, red onion, cucumber, and avocado with the dressing in a medium bowl and top with grilled salmon.
Modifications: Swap out your favorite veggies and try using other leafy greens such as kale, arugula, or romaine. For a vegetarian salad, replace the grilled salmon with tofu or chickpeas and add in a sprinkle of hemp hearts to incorporate more healthy fats.
- 4 oz chicken or tofu sautéed in 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger, 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 cup steamed broccoli
- ⅔ cup steamed brown rice
Whisk together garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and maple syrup to make the sauce. Sauté the chicken or tofu in olive oil until cooked through, then add in the sauce and let simmer until warm. Serve with broccoli and brown rice.
Modifications: Swap out the broccoli for your favorite antioxidant-packed vegetable, such as green beans, brussels sprouts, or carrots. Instead of brown rice, try other gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, millet, or farro.
- Sliced apple and peanut butter
- Baby carrots and hummus
- Slice of whole grain toast with mashed avocado
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy or low-fat milk
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- Pinch of black pepper
- ½ tsp maple syrup
Whisk ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat until milk is warmed through.
- Rice cakes with almond butter and dark chocolate chips
- Low-fat or dairy-free yogurt with sliced banana and low-sugar granola
- Trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, and skin rashes. A diet packed with anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as those found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and spices can help relieve the symptoms of PsA.
A sample meal plan can help get you started, as it can be challenging to determine what to eat when managing a chronic health issue such as PsA.
A Word From Verywell
Eating for psoriatic arthritis doesn’t have to be restrictive, bland, or boring. While there is no single diet that will work for everyone with PsA, focusing on whole foods that reduce inflammation and support weight loss or weight management is a great place to start.
Before starting any new diet, be sure to check with your healthcare provider to determine what modifications will be best for you. A registered dietitian can also help you create a personalized meal plan that will be customized to fit your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of diet is best for psoriatic arthritis?
There is no one diet that is best for PsA, but a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fatty fish can help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. The Mediterranean diet is centered around these foods and has been shown to be beneficial for people with PsA.
Can you control psoriatic arthritis with diet?
Diet can play a significant role in controlling PsA symptoms. Along with medical treatment, a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants can help relieve some of the symptoms of PsA. Focus on increasing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fatty fish, and limiting red meat, sugar, and processed foods.
Is coffee good for psoriatic arthritis?
Coffee can be anti-inflammatory for some individuals, making it a good choice for those with PsA. However, for others, coffee can actually increase inflammation and worsen PsA symptoms. To test how coffee affects you, try eliminating it from your diet for a few weeks and keep a record of your symptoms.