Regular Beer Drinkers Have Higher Risk for Psoriasis

More than seven million Americans suffer from psoriasis, a chronic skin disorder that causes flare-ups of red itchy patches and often considerable pain. People who have it are, understandably, always eager to find what they can do to contain the condition. Now, according to a recent study, for some it may be as simple as just saying “no” to that frosty can of beer.

The study, from Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, investigated data from the long-term Nurses’ Health Study, including participants’ alcohol consumption over a 14-year period. During a follow-up in 2005, the researchers asked the women if they had psoriasis — 2,169 reported they did. Digging deeper, researchers also found that those who drank alcohol — specifically five or more cans of regular beer per week — had a significantly increased risk of developing psoriasis. Although only women were studied here, men may find similar effects from beer drinking. The study author, Patrick Dominguez, MD, theorized that this might have to do with the gluten in beer, especially because light beer, which has much less gluten, had little affect on risk for psoriasis.


I called Mark Stengler, ND, who treats many patients with psoriasis, to get his response to the finding. Dr. Stengler says that because psoriasis is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, it is likely that gluten would heighten the autoimmune response and increase inflammation of the skin. In his practice, he directs psoriasis patients to try a gluten-free diet for at least several weeks to determine if this might be helpful, saying that many find it is. If it does help, he says to continue avoiding gluten for several more months, then add in small amounts of gluten-containing foods until your skin breaks out again. This will let you know how much gluten your body can handle. Dr. Stengler adds that patients might try giving up all alcohol for a time as well to see if it, too, plays a role in their psoriasis. Alcohol is pro-inflammatory, he explains, it “feeds fungal organisms in the body such as candida, which in turn may heighten the autoimmune response for psoriasis.”

A gluten-free diet can be challenging because many seemingly unrelated products, such as soy sauce, contain wheat. Consequently it requires making careful label checks for a time to be sure that a given product is in fact gluten-free. But for those who have psoriasis, the pay-off could easily be worth the effort it takes.