Woman with psoriasis on leg with arms outstretched

Can probiotics really help psoriasis?

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Beauty writer Chloe Laws has lived with psoriasis for over a decade. New research has shown that probiotics may be able to provide relief, but can something so easily accessible really be an effective solution?

I’ve lived with psoriasis for over a decade. So, I’d like to think I’m somewhat of an expert. I’ve tried multiple treatments on the NHS, spent thousands on homoeopaths and online products claiming to ‘cure’ my condition, and battled with it daily.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder, is a chronic skin condition that’s characterised by inflamed, red, raised areas that often develop into silvery scales. These patches can cover any part of the body and can take many different forms. I’ve suffered from three of the known types: plaque, guttate and erythrodermic. But there are also inverse and pustular variations. At my worst, psoriasis covered over 90% of my body — from my toes to my scalp. Now, I’m on a biological drug treatment called adalimumab that’s prescribed by the NHS, which has alleviated most, but not all, of my psoriasis patches.

What causes psoriasis and who gets it?

Psoriasis is the second most common skin condition in the UK, affecting between 2% and 3% of the UK population (up to 1.8 million people), but we still don’t know what exactly causes it. However, there are lots of anecdotal accounts of triggers, aka something that causes psoriasis flare ups. Common triggers are stress, sunlight exposure, strep throat, skin injuries or diet.

Like most people with a chronic health issue, I’m always on the lookout for something that could help and am generally willing to give most (non-dangerous) things a go. Lately, largely via social media ads and TikTok recommendations, I’ve seen claims that certain probiotics can help with psoriasis. From these, it’s not been overly clear *how* the science works. So, I decided to investigate (and try some for myself).

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Image of a woman with psoriasis covering legs

Why could probiotics help with psoriasis?

Dr Sophie Momen, a consultant dermatologist, tells Living360 that there’s emerging evidence to support that prebiotic and probiotic supplementation may help improve psoriasis when combined with anti-psoriatic treatments. “A recent study showed that patients who received local anti-psoriasis treatment alongside probiotic and prebiotic supplementation had improved measures of psoriasis activity and quality of life indexes in comparison to those who didn’t receive supplementation,” Dr Momen notes.

Probiotics are living microorganisms that are present in certain foods (e.g. kefir, yoghurt and kombucha) as well as certain supplements, and feed off prebiotics, which are present in high-fibre foods (e.g. garlic and bananas). Dr Momen explains that when consumed together they “increase the diversity of bacteria in the gut. This, in turn, may help to control inflammation in conditions such as psoriasis.” She adds that, “Studies have shown that people with psoriasis have a less diverse gut microbiome in comparison to healthy controls. Other studies have shown that psoriatic skin has a more diverse skin microbiome but with reduced stability compared to the skin microbiome of a healthy person’s skin.

Sophie Medlin, a consultant colorectal dietitian and chair for the British Dietetic Association for London, explains: “We think there’s a strong link between the gut and the skin, and that the gut microbiome has an impact on the skin microbiome, through its ability to mediate inflammation.”

Echoing Dr Momen, Medlin says: “Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, so therefore it’s possible, although not fully proven, that probiotics may help to improve psoriasis in some people. It’s been demonstrated in some small studies but has not yet been fully understood or researched, to be able to decide exactly what probiotic is best for psoriasis specifically.”

The verdict

I trialled a 28-day pack of AxisBiotix-Ps, a company that’s specifically selling probiotics to help psoriasis sufferers. The team says: “AxisBiotix-Ps contains a bacterial blend that’s specifically developed to address the high levels of the circulatory inflammatory agent Interleukin-17. By dampening the levels of IL-17, and fixing up the gut barrier, we believe that we can reduce inflammation and help support most of the skin symptoms of psoriasis, such as redness, itchiness, flaky skin or dryness.” In a consumer study, it found that 72% of participants reported that their skin felt better after taking the supplement for 28 days.

While the AxisBiotix-Ps certainly didn’t make my psoriasis worse, I can’t say I noticed a huge difference. The patches on my elbows are slightly less inflamed than before, but attributing that to just this probiotic isn’t possible — my psoriasis flares up and down frequently, often for no obvious reason. I will, however, persist for a few more months with this because with chronic health… every little helps! Be warned though, as far as probiotic drinks go, this one doesn’t have any flavouring and therefore isn’t a particularly pleasant experience.

“It can be disheartening for people who are trying everything and are adjusting their diet and still don’t get any positive outcome — that’s a very difficult thing for people to understand and accept,” notes Medlin. “I think it’s important as a society and community to be clear that there are still gaps in knowledge and understanding around this subject and we are awaiting larger research trials,” she says.

What treatments are available for psoriasis?

The NHS offers a multitude of treatments for psoriasis, although there’s no cure.
Treatments fall into three categories:

● topical — creams and ointments applied to the skin.
● phototherapy — your skin is exposed to certain types of ultraviolet light.
● systemic — oral and injected medications that work throughout the entire body.

If you’re looking for something to help soothe or aid your skin, there’s a lot out there. Be wary of anything promising a cure though, as that’s not been found. Over my decade with psoriasis (and as a beauty and wellness journalist), the following products I’ve found can help soothe aggravated patches, and though nothing but my current biologic treatment has got rid of them altogether, these are a few of my favourites: Epaderm Ointment, £9.90 from Boots, Dermalex Psoriasis Treatment, £17.93 from Amazon and the Aveeno Skin Relief Oil Spray, £7.12 from Look Fantastic.

Read more: This is how often you should be washing your sheets, according to dermatologists

Collage of journalist-recommended psoriasis treatments on blue and white background

Words by Chloe Laws


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