The old adage is, “You are what you eat,” meaning healthy foods equal healthy bodies. Growing evidence reveals the same is true in dermatology. Diet can greatly affect patients’ skin conditions — and you can guide them in the right direction.
According to dermatologist Rajani Katta, M.D., clinical assistant professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, it’s imperative providers understand how foods can improve or worsen a patient’s experience.
“We have more research than ever before about the link between diet and dermatology,” she says. “It’s especially important for dermatologists to be the authoritative voice in this area because we’re seeing, with the rise of the Internet, so many other voices trying to discuss these issues. And, they’re putting a lot of misinformation out there.”
Katta discussed, at the American Academy of Dermatology 2018 Summer Meeting in Chicago, how you can determine if food is impacting a patient’s skin condition and what guidance you can provide.
When you first see a patient, she says, consider three things:
1. Are there any associated co-morbidities diet could influence?
2. Are there potential dietary triggers (foods, nutrients, eating patterns) that could worsen the skin disease?
3. Are there any foods, nutrients, or eating patterns that could help the condition?
The answers could help you lower a patient’s risk for more severe disease, she says. They can point you to therapeutic strategies, other than medications, that can alleviate symptoms.
For example, she said, research shows weight control can play a significant role in controlling psoriasis. Current evidence indicates patients with psoriasis have a higher incidence of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. Lifestyle interventions, including diet and exercise, have been shown to lower Psoriatic Area and Severity Index scores in these individuals.
Additionally, Katta says, studies show adopting a low glycemic diet for 12 weeks can improve acne. It lowers the patient’s blood sugar levels and helps reduce hormones responsible for increased oil gland activity. The diet, which includes whole grains, fewer processed carbohydrates, more protein, fruits, and vegetables, also reduces inflammation and shrinks sebaceous glands.
Considering patients’ diets improves your ability to treat skin conditions, she says, and it also enables you to motivate them to adopt healthier lifestyles. And, if you provide the information, you can guide them in making the most effective dietary changes.
“We all need to look at the strong research to educate ourselves,” she says, “because dietary interventions have been shown to have therapeutic benefits for patients with skin disease.”
Rajani Katta, M.D., “Diet in Dermatology: Translating Evidence into Practice.” American Academy of Dermatology 2018 Summer Meeting, Chicago, Ill., July 27, 8:30-9:30 am.