Can the Carnivore Diet Fix Psoriasis?

Can the carnivore diet fix psoriasis

Psoriasis is a serious and chronic skin condition which substantially reduces the quality of life of over 100 million people worldwide. The current view of medical professionals is that there is no cure for psoriasis. However, some people have used the carnivore diet to put psoriasis in remission. So, can the carnivore diet potentially fix psoriasis? This is the question we will explore in-depth in this post.

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What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an immune-related non-communicable skin disease that causes inflammation in the body resulting in red, itchy scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk, and scalp. Inflammation caused by psoriasis can impact other parts of the body.

Psoriasis affects people of all ages all over the world. The worldwide prevalence is about 2%, however, it is a lot lower in Asian and some African populations and a lot higher in Caucasians and Scandinavian populations. [1]

There are at least 100 million individuals worldwide affected by psoriasis with around 8 million people in the US alone with this condition. [2, 3]

Below are the main types of psoriasis: [4, 5]

  • Guttate psoriasis, also called eruptive psoriasis, is common in children. Signs of guttate psoriasis include small red and scaly raindrop-shaped lesions appearing mainly on torso. Around 8% of people living with psoriasis has guttate psoriasis
  • Pustular psoriasis presents with small pus-filled lesions surrounded by inflamed and reddened skin. Pustular proriasis may appear in small areas of the body but can also affect the whole body. Pustular psoriasis affects about 3% of people living with psoriasis
  • Plaque psoriasis is characterized by red plaques with silvery scales which often appear on elbows, knees, scalp and back. It is the most common type of psoriasis affecting over 80% of patients with psoriasis
  • Inverse psoriasis presents with inflamed deep-red skin that is smooth and not scaly. It affects skin folds such as groins, armpits, under breasts, genital area and buttocks. About 25% of people living with psoriasis develop inverse psoriasis
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis presents with red and inflamed skin often covering nearly the whole body. There is also shedding of skin layers in large sheets. Erythrodermic psoriasis is a serious condition and can be life-threatening. It is a rare type, affecting only about 2% of people living with psoriasis
  • Psoriatic arthritis is a form of chronic inflammatory arthritis which often occurs in association with skin and nail psoriasis. Its symptoms include pain and swelling in joints commonly affecting finger and toe joints but also other parts like hips, knees and spine. Psoriatic arthritis affects 30% of patients with psoriasis.

How does psoriasis affect people’s lives?

Psoriasis can have significant negative impacts on people’s lives in multiple ways. It is linked with social stigmatization, pain, discomfort, physical disability, and psychological distress. In particular: [6, 7, 8]

  • Higher absenteeism for people suffering from psoriasis than their co-workers without psoriasis
  • Higher financial burden for psoriasis patients due to absenteeism and the cost of caring for their disease. In 5 European countries, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, the annual cost per patient is estimated at US$2,000 to US$13,000 for psoriasis and from US$11,000 to US$17,000 for psoriatic arthritis. In the US, patients with psoriasis is expected to pay a lifetime cost of $11,500 for relief of physical symptoms and emotional health but the indirect cost estimate is not available
  • Psychological distress due to body image problems, poor self-esteem, experiencing social stigma, feeling shame, embarrassment and hopelessness
  • Psoriasis patients have to alter their daily routine to cope with their conditions such as covering their lesions, avoiding contact with people, dealing with unexpected outbreak of symptoms
  • Psoriasis patients were more likely to be depressed than the general population. A survey found 20% of psoriasis patients had contemplated suicide.

Psoriasis also poses a significant financial burden on the economy. The annual cost of psoriasis in the U.S. alone is estimated at around $112 billion in 2013.

What are the causes of psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown, but it is considered to be an autoimmune disease mediated by T-cell. It also has a strong genetic predisposition. [9, 10]

Genetics

Scientists have identified many genes that make people more susceptible to developing psoriasis. Though not all people carrying these genes would have psoriasis, if you have first and second-degree relatives with psoriasis, you are more likely to be affected. Identical twins have a two to threefold increased risk compared to non-identical twins. [11]

Autoimmune condition

Psoriasis occurs when there is an overproduction of new skin cells.

In healthy individuals, skin cells grow and die off in about one month. In psoriasis patients, this process takes about 3 to 4 days only.

As a result, skin cells build up on the surface of the skin, creating patches of thick, flaky, red, and inflamed skin.

So, what causes this skin overgrowth problem?

Scientists think this is because your immune system is confused. It sends T-cells to attacks healthy skin cells by mistake causing more skin cells to be produced than normal.

While scientists and medical professionals have used the terms “overactive“, “too strong” or “confused” to describe the state of the immune system in relation to autoimmune diseases, it is possible that your immune system is neither too strong, overactive, nor confused in this case. It might be doing exactly what it needs to do, that is attacking the abnormal proteins created due to the replacement of protein amino acids with plant non-protein amino acids.

In the last post on autoimmune disease, I’ve discussed the potential role that non-protein amino acids (NPAAs) play in triggering autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Sjogren’s syndrome. I will summarize this below for ease of reference.

The role of NPAAs in initiating autoimmune conditions

NPAAs are produced by plants to protect themselves against predators, pathogens, and competing plant species. [12]

NPAAs are present in many plants such as legumes (sweet bean, soybean, common bean, lentils), alfalfa, fruits, seeds, nuts, seaweeds, and fungi. Some NPAAs can be toxic to humans and animals. [1314]

NPAAs have a similar chemical structure, size, shape, and charge to protein amino acids. Due to this similarity, they can be mistakenly used instead of protein amino acids in protein synthesis, and, as a result, abnormal proteins or non-native proteins are produced. These unnatural proteins cannot function properly. [15]

As the immune system identifies these abnormal proteins, it attacks those NPAAs, leading to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Sjogren’s syndrome.

It turns out your immune system is not overactive or too strong as you might have thought in this case. It just tries to do the job it is supposed to do: getting rid of substances that should not be there.

Triggers and risk factors of psoriasis

There are a number of factors that can trigger psoriasis outbreaks and increase the risk of psoriasis: [16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27]

  • Injury in the form of mechanical, chemical, and radiational trauma induces lesions of psoriasis
  • Drugs like chloroquine, lithium, beta-blockers, steroids, and NSAIDs can worsen psoriasis
  • Weather. Winter often causes psoriasis flares due to less sunlight and humidity while summer improves psoriasis due to natural sunlight and higher humidity
  • Illness. Anything that can affect the immune system, for example, an ear infection, bronchitis, tonsillitis or a respiratory infection, can trigger psoriasis. There is also a connection between strep throat and guttate psoriasis
  • Psychological stress can cause psoriasis flares and vice versa
  • Alcohol. Psoriasis patients consume more alcohol than the general population. Alcohol may affect psoriasis through several mechanisms, such as increased susceptibility to infections, stimulation of lymphocyte and keratinocyte proliferation, and production of proinflammatory cytokines
  • Smoking significantly increases the risk of psoriasis. A study found that those who smoked 21 pack-years or more had double the risk of psoriasis compared to non-smokers
  • Gluten. Some psoriasis patients have experienced improvement with a gluten-free diet
  • Obesity has been found to be an independent risk factor for the onset of psoriasis and worsening existing psoriasis
  • Low serum calcium level is a risk factor for psoriasis. Psoriasis patients had been found to have lower serum calcium levels compared to individuals without psoriasis
  • Metabolic syndrome. Psoriasis has been found to be strongly associated with metabolic syndromes such as abdominal obesity, hypertension, atherogenic dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The prevalence of metabolic syndroms in psoriasis patients ranges from 20% to 50%.

What are the current treatments for psoriasis?

Currently, there is no effective cure for psoriasis. Available treatments aim to control the condition include: [28, 29, 30]

  • Topical therapy. This is used in mild to moderate psoriasis and includes emollients and moisturizers. Topical agents used are coal tar, dithranol, corticosteroids, vitamin D analog, and retinoids treatments
  • Phototherapy. In this therapy, your skin is exposed to certain types of ultraviolet light and narrowband UVB light on a regular basis
  • Systematic drugs. These are oral and injected medications that work throughout the entire body and are used in moderate to severe cases. Common drugs are methotrexate (to slow down the production of skin cells and supressing inflammation), ciclosporin (immunosuppressant), acitretin (retinoid to reduce skin cell production), and apremilast and dimethyl fumarate (to reduce inflammation). All of these drugs have potentially serious side effects
  • Biological treatments. These are manufactured proteins that interrupt the immune process in psoriasis which are infliximab, adalimumab, etanercept, and interleukin antagonists.

Can the carnivore diet fix psoriasis?

What is the carnivore diet?

A carnivore is an animal that feeds on other animals. Therefore, strictly speaking, by definition, someone on the carnivore diet will basically just eat animal source food such as ruminants, pork, poultry, and seafood and drink water.

However, a broader version of the carnivore diet can include all foods that come from or are produced by an animal including ruminant meat (e.g. beef, lamb, goat, and bison), pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, and honey.

All plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts are excluded from the carnivore diet.

Can the carnivore diet fix psoriasis?

The carnivore diet can potentially help treat psoriasis because this diet removes a potential cause of psoriasis which is plant non-protein amino acids, eliminate important psoriasis triggers, and reduce some risk factors of psoriasis.

Removing non-protein amino acids

As mentioned above, NPAAs can be mistakenly used in protein synthesis, resulting in the production of abnormal proteins that cannot function properly.

As the immune system identifies these abnormal proteins, it attacks the NPAAs, leading to autoimmune conditions. Your immune system is not overactive, too strong, or confused in this case. It is doing its job, working to eliminate substances that should not be there.

Chimpanzees fed alfalfa, which contains canavanine, a type of NPAAs synthesized by over 350 species of leguminous plants, developed disease with all the characteristics of lupus erythematosus. A volunteer also developed lupus erythematosus while ingesting alfalfa seeds for a study of hypercholesterolemia. By suppressing the consumption of alfalfa, the disease disappeared both in the monkeys and in the voluntary subject. [31]

By removing all plant foods on the carnivore diet, you will be removing a potentially important cause of your autoimmune condition.

I emphasize “potentially” here because there isn’t much research done in this area yet.

There is not much money to be made in identifying the cause of a widespread disease like autoimmune diseases, but there is a lot of money in manufacturing drugs to manage these conditions. Therefore, you are unlikely to see a lot of research being done in this area in the near future.

However, you can always experiment with eliminating all plant food for a short period of time to see whether your psoriasis condition improves or not.

Eliminating psoriasis triggers

As discussed above, alcohol and tobacco consumption is associated with an increased risk of psoriasis and can trigger psoriasis outbreaks. People who go on a gluten-free diet report improvements with their psoriasis condition.

On the carnivore diet, you will be eliminating alcohol, tobacco, and gluten which are known triggers and risk factors of psoriasis.

In addition, because you eliminate all plant food on the carnivore diet, you will also eliminate other plant toxins and anti-nutrients (e.g. glycoalkaloids, sulforaphane, salicylates, lectins, phytates, cyanide, trypsin inhibitor, oxalates, tannins, saponins) as well as industrial seed oils, sugar, and processed food which are sources of inflammation. [32, 33]

For millions of years, our ancestors ate mostly meat. If they had eaten some plant food on occasion to survive, it would have been fresh, whole, and unprocessed. As a result, biologically, your body is suited to this meat-based diet of whole unprocessed food. [34]

When you eat a substantial amount of plant food, sugar, industrial seed oils, and processed foods, which are “foreign” to your body, the immune system goes to work to respond to the irritants in these foods, i.e. inflammation occurs. By eating an ancestral diet, you will eliminate these inflammatory sources.

Reducing psoriasis risk factors

Obesity is found to be an independent risk factor for the onset of psoriasis and worsening existing psoriasis while metabolic syndromes are strongly associated with psoriasis.

Fortunately, the carnivore diet is probably the best diet to help you lose weight and improve metabolic syndromes.

In this post, I have written about why you will lose weight naturally on the carnivore diet. The main reasons are as follows:

  1. It’s hard to overeat meat which is what your body is designed to eat
  2. Carnivore diet food has a high satiety level which results in lower calorie intake overall
  3. Carnivore diet food is high in proteins which support muscle synthesis and boost metabolism
  4. Carnivore diet food is low in carbohydrates which inhibit fat storage and encourage fat burning
  5. The carnivore diet can improve mental health and further support weight loss.

Furthermore, evidence shows that a low-carb diet can enhance fat oxidation and improve metabolic syndromes. [35, 36]

The carnivore diet is a very low-carb diet. Meat has almost zero carbs. If you eat meat only, you don’t have to worry about carbs on this diet. However, if you include dairy and honey which can be high in carbs, you need to limit consumption to remain low carb. A glass of milk or a few teaspoons of honey a day should be okay. But if you drink milk instead of water, the carb content can be quite high.

Evidence of the carnivore diet’s potential to fix psoriasis

There is no published research on the ability of the carnivore diet to fix psoriasis, however, there is some evidence that a low-carb diet can help with psoriasis. Although the diets used in these studies are

In addition, there is some anecdotal evidence of people using the carnivore diet to put psoriasis in remission.

Below is a summary of the evidence.

Castaldo et al (2015)[37]

This paper reports a case of a woman in her 40s suffering from relapsing moderate to severe plaque psoriasis and obesity-related metabolic syndrome. The patient had previously been treated successfully with biological therapy but suffered a relapse.

Before considering the use of higher doses of the ongoing biologic therapy or switching to a second-line biologic agent, the patient was put on a very low-calorie, carbohydrate-free, protein-based diet for 4 weeks.

The patient was prescribed a nutritional formula containing a fixed amount of branched-chain amino acids (10 g), glutamine (5 g), and milk proteins in order to reach a total protein content of 1.2 g per kilogram of ideal body weight with a total calorie of 300kcal/day.

The patient was then asked to adhere to a low-calorie, normal-protein diet (1200 kcal/day) for 6 weeks before undergoing a second 4-week cycle of the very low-calorie, carbohydrate-free, protein-based diet.

After the initial 4 weeks, the psoriasis area and severity index (PASI) was decreased from 15 to 2.4. After the 6 weeks of the low-calorie diet and the second 4-week cycle, the PASI was reduced to only 0.3. Other benefits were also reported such as weight loss and improvements in biomarkers.

Castaldo et al (2020)[38]

This study is similar to the above study but of a larger scale. It involved 37 overweight or obese psoriasis patients who were never treated with drugs except for the use of topical emollients.

The patients were put on 4 weeks of a very low calorie, carbohydrate-free, protein-based diet which contained 1.2g of protein/kg of ideal body weight/day and delivered less than 500 kcal/day.

After this, the patients went through 6 weeks of balanced, low-calorie (25-30kcal/kg of ideal body weight/day), Mediterranean-like diet.

There was a significant psoriasis improvement after the 10-week dietary intervention. The average PSAI score was decreased by 10.6. There were also significant weight loss (mean reduction of 12% or 10.6kg), improvement in itch severity (33.2 points), reduction in body surface area with psoriasis (17.4%), and increased quality of life index score (13.4 points).

These authors published another similar study in 2021 and produced similar results. However, in the latest study, they included a small amount of carbohydrates (10-20g/day).[39]

Anecdotal evidence

1. Mikhaila Peterson

Mikhaila Peterson, the daughter of the well-known professor of psychology Jordan Peterson, said that she used the carnivore diet to fixed a long list of health issues including arthritis, depression, bipolar type II, idiopathic hypersomnia, Lyme disease, psoriasis, and dyshidrotic eczema.

I’ve written in detail about her carnivore diet experience here. Please check it out if you are interested.

2. Chad Mendes

Chad Mendes, a retired American professional mixed martial artist, has severe psoriasis on his legs. He was told by two different dermatologists that diet had no effect on psoriasis.

However, after less than 2 months on the carnivore diet, he experienced remarkable improvements. The scaly skin was almost gone. The cracks were healed and the skin on his legs was smooth, leaving only some red marks.

Here is a link to Chad Mendes’ Instagram post, if you would like to look at the pictures.

3. Candi Leftwich

Candi Leftwich was diagnosed with psoriasis and Crohn’s disease in 2012 at the age of 37.

She was advised to follow a whole food gluten-free diet. She was also prescribed topical therapy (clobetasol) and systematic drug (methotrexate) and initially saw some improvement. However, it then began to spread from just her knees, elbows, and abdomen to her face, ears, hands, and feet.

Candi tried fermented food and raw food before discovering the low-carb diet and then the carnivore diet.

After 30 days on the carnivore diet, she found her psoriasis greatly diminished and also experienced an improvement in skin, hair, bowel movement, libido, and weight loss. Her psoriasis was almost gone after 3 months on only meat and water.

Here is a link to her full testimonial and some before and after photos.

4. Other testimonials on Meatrx

There are about 15 psoriasis testimonials on the Revero website run by Dr. Shawn Baker. If you would like to read their remarkable stories, please follow this link. Below are a few examples.

Deidre

After less than 2 months on the carnivore diet, she lost 12 pounds, all of her psoriasis was gone and her hair had thickened up.

Mark

Suffering from a long list of health problems since childhood, at the age of 43, Mark lost his driving license when he lost consciousness while driving a work vehicle.

At the time, he was unhealthy, having a BMI of 43 and smoking 40 cigarettes a day. He decided to go on a diet and lost weight successfully as well as experienced many improvements.

He followed the ketogenic diet lifestyle for 2 years before noticing slow weight gain and signs of inflammation.

He had been on the carnivore diet for about 2 years and resolved many health issues including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, constant abscesses, psoriasis, eczema, Tinnitus, depression, constipation, bloating, and low libido.

Randy

Suffering from many health problems including type 2 diabetes, psoriasis, severe arthritis, two heart attacks, neuropathy. After 40 weeks on the carnivore diet, he was off insulin, his psoriasis was almost gone, severe arthritis was gone, and his list of medications went down from 13 to 3.

Amy

Despite trying to eat clean, exercise regularly, practice yoga and meditation, and use vitamins and supplements, she continued to struggle most of her life with psoriasis and various other health conditions.

Her skin was constantly dry, flaky, and irritated. She also often experienced extreme muscle fatigue, chronic constipation, bloating, candida and yeast infections, cold sores and dry/cracking lips, dry hair and nails, low energy, mild depression, migraines, joint pains, receding gums, and constant sinus infections.

Amy said she had seen every type of health care professional (dermatologist, functional medicine doctors, Chinese medicine doctors, acupuncturists, energy healers) and tried every treatment or home remedy she could find (celery juice, cilantro fast, gluten-free, meat-free, and dairy-free diets). She also spent a lot of money on prescription medication, lotions, potions, and even some gimmicks.

Out of desperation, she jumped into the carnivore diet a year ago and it had completely transformed her life and healed her from inside out.

Her psoriasis healed. She hadn’t been sick at all for 12 months. All the above conditions had either completely healed or improved 95%. She no longer experienced bloating, foggy, muscle fatigue, yeast overgrowth. She felt motivated, energized, and healthier overall.

Conclusion

The carnivore diet has the potential to fix so many of the diet-related diseases because it removes the underlying causes of these health problems while feeding your body what it is designed to eat: nutrient-dense animal-based foods.

If you would like to give the carnivore diet a try, please check out this step-by-step guide and also my extensive library of articles on all aspects of the carnivore diet which is updated regularly.

DisclaimerThe information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Sophia Le, PhD

I'm Sophia Le. A few years ago, I came across the carnivore diet by accident. I was intrigued and tried to find out as much as I can about this way of eating. On this site, I write about what I know so people who are interested can learn about it and make decisions that are best for their health.

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