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The Link Between Psoriasis and Alcohol

  • By Chris Iliades, MD
  • Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH

Dark beer may be a psoriasis trigger for women, and heavy drinking may make psoriasis complications worse. Learn why psoriasis and alcohol don’t mix.

Although you might look forward to a drink or two at the end of the day to relax and forget about the stress of managing psoriasis , alcohol may aggravate your psoriasis and pose threats to your overall health.

The Psoriasis-Alcohol Connection

Compelling evidence about the initial connection between alcohol and psoriasis was reported in the Nurses’ Health Study II , which followed more than 100,000 women from 1991 to 2005. During that time, more than 1,000 participants developed psoriasis. Women who consumed more than two drinks a week had a 76 percent greater chance of developing psoriasis. However, this risk was associated with only non-light beer, not other forms of alcohol.

“The links between alcohol and psoriasis are complicated,” says Natasha Mesinkovska, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “Dark beer may be a trigger for psoriasis because of an increased sensitivity to barley, and heavy drinking may cause skin dryness that makes psoriasis worse,” she says.

Drinking may trigger psoriasis flares, and heavier use of alcohol may contribute to the severity of psoriasis, possibly because of the stimulation of proteins that trigger inflammation, according to a review published in 2011 in the International Journal of Dermatology . People with psoriasis who drink heavily may also be at higher risk for alcohol-related death.

Another significant concern is that moderate to heavy drinking may increase the risk for complications like heart disease and depression for people with psoriasis, according to a review published in 2013 in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology .

“More than moderate use of alcohol can contribute to depression, weight gain, and liver damage,” Dr. Mesinkovska says. “These are all things of concern in people with psoriasis. It’s important for doctors to ask about alcohol use.”

In addition, alcohol seems to affect men with psoriasis more than women, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Men who have a drinking problem are more likely to have psoriasis, and alcohol may make their psoriasis harder to treat.

Psoriasis Treatment and Alcohol

Because heavy drinking can damage your liver, you need to be very careful about your alcohol consumption if you’re taking a psoriasis drug that can also damage your liver. “Moderate alcohol drinking is safe for most people with psoriasis, except if they’re taking the drugs methotrexate or acitretin,” Mesinkovska says.

Acitretin is especially dangerous for women who may become pregnant because it combines with alcohol to form substances in the blood that can cause birth defects. Before starting any psoriasis medication, ask your doctor if it’s OK to drink alcohol and, if so, what would be a safe amount for you.

Alcohol Consumption: Know Your Limits

The bottom line on alcohol and psoriasis is to avoid anything beyond moderate drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines moderate alcohol use as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

If you drink as a form of stress relief, try to find better ways of dealing with your emotions, such as meditation or exercise. If you’re struggling to curb alcohol use, ask your doctor for help.

Last Updated: 10/27/2014

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