The course of psoriasis is chronic and over a period of time the condition may be severe and commonly causes emotional problems, which in themselves may lead to relief drinking.1
Patients with psoriasis experience considerable emotional distress, depression and social isolation due to the visibility of skin lesions, especially when the lesions are widespread and severe. Whilst it would be demeaning to state that all psoriasis patients with mild to severe psoriasis suffer from alcoholism, it has been confirmed in several Quality of Life studies that the percentage of psoriasis patients who admit to having a drinking problem may be as high as 32%. That said, the association between alcohol consumption and increased risk of psoriasis onset and psoriasis worsening has long been suspected.
Alcohol potentially weakens the immune response making psoriasis patients more susceptible to bacterial infections and injuries, which in turn can trigger and exacerbate psoriasis. Case studies have shown a definite connection between high consumption of alcohol and increased severity of psoriasis. Patients with severe psoriasis who misuse alcohol often show improvement after months of abstention or significant reduction in their alcohol intake. Patients who have abstained, improved and then gone on to have a binge drinking session, also experienced more severe flare-ups of their psoriasis upon resumption of drinking.1,2,3 It has also been shown that high alcohol intake is more problematic in the male population than in women.4
Interestingly in a study of US women, researchers found that the risk for psoriasis varied according to the amount and type of alcoholic beverage consumed. “Non-light beer was the only alcoholic beverage that increased the risk for psoriasis, suggesting that certain non-alcoholic components of beer, which are not found in wine or liquor, may play an important role in new onset psoriasis. One of these components may be the starch-source used in making beer. Beer is one of the few non-distilled alcoholic beverages that use a starch-source for fermentation, which is commonly barley. This differs from wine that uses a fruit-source (grapes) for fermentation. Some types of liquors such as vodka may use a starch-source for fermentation; however these starches are physically separated from the liquor during distillation. Starch sources such as barley contain gluten, which has been shown to be associated with psoriasis. For example, individuals with psoriasis have elevated levels of anti-gliadin antibodies (AgA) and may have a so called ‘latent-gluten sensitivity’ compared to individuals without psoriasis.” 5
This is not to say that other forms of alcohol are then, by default, safe as vodka and other spirits have been shown to increase the severity of psoriasis in other case studies. Alcohol also in general should not be consumed whilst taking various anti-psoriasis medications such as Methotrexate, Cyclosporine, and Acitretin.6
Alcohol also affects the pituitary gland, resulting in reduced secretions of the anti-diuretic hormone that maintains the body’s proper hydration level. More specifically, the kidneys are no longer able to reabsorb sufficient water from your urine, and your body ends up eliminating more water than it absorbs and the person becomes dehydrated. The symptoms of dehydration are fatigue, back and neck pain, increase itch and headaches.
There is still some controversy over safe levels of intake e.g. low and moderate, however, it is still considered prudent to restrict intake whilst on medication. It is certainly recommended for psoriasis patients to reduce or totally restrict alcohol intake, regardless of type, whilst their psoriasis is in a flare up. And when in remission to only consume low to moderate levels of alcohol. All forms of binge drinking should be abstained from.
f you are using alcohol as a crutch to cope with your emotional distress, general stress with work etc. or depression then please seek medical assistance. Also read our blog on “Psoriasis and Water Intake”, “Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Psoriasis” and “Stressed about Psoriasis – Identify Your Stressors and Yours Stress Responses”. Identifying and understanding your stress triggers and finding other ways to cope with your stress and anxiety can help you cut back on your alcohol intake.
- Poikolainen K. Et Al.; Alcohol Intake: A Risk Factor For Psoriasis In Young And Middle Aged Men? ; Bmj Volume 300 24 March 1990
- Iva Dediol, Marija Buljan, Danijel Buljan, Vedrana Bulat, Maja Vurnek Živkovi? & Mirna Šitum: Association Of Psoriasis And Alcoholism: Psychodermatological Issue Psychiatria Danubina, 2009; Vol. 21, No. 1, Pp 9–13
- Captain G E Vincenti and Dr S M Blunden; Psoriasis and Alcohol Abuse; JR Army Med Corps 1987; 133: 77-78
- Zimmerman GM. Alcohol and Psoriasis: A Double Burden.Arch Dermatol.1999;135(12):1541-1542. doi:10.1001/archderm.135.12.1541.
- Qureshi AA, Dominguez PL, Choi HK, et al. Alcohol intake and risk of incident psoriasis in US women: a prospective study. Arch Dermatol146(12):1364–9 (2010 Dec).
- Vena GA. et al.;The effects of alcohol on the metabolism and toxicology of anti-psoriasis drugs.; Expert Opin. Drug Metab Toxicol. 2012 Aug;8(8):959-72. doi: 10.1517/17425255.2012.691166. Epub 2012 May 17.