(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – More than 8 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, and while experts say things like heredity and a history of strep throat can put someone at risk, the root cause of the disease largely remains a mystery. Now, a new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is giving insight into certain lifestyle choices that may prevent or improve psoriasis, helping experts better understand what triggers the disease.
“Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, so although it often presents as red, scaly patches on the skin, we know that the causes are more than skin deep,” said Dr. Benjamin Kaffenberger, a dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who led the study. “So we’re looking for some sort of trigger that sets off the immune system. And because strep throat is one of those triggers and there are millions of microbiome bacteria in the mouth, that is a good place to start.”
Researchers asked patients about their dental hygiene and found that those with poor gum health or who have oral pain were more likely to have severe psoriasis symptoms. In addition to brushing and flossing every day, experts found other healthy habits — like losing weight, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes and eating plenty of fruit — were associated with less severe psoriasis.
“It’s easy to recommend these to patients because the habits we believe improve psoriasis are things that are also going to improve your overall health,” said Kaffenberger.
Researchers are now working to expand the study and ask psoriasis patients across the country what diets and lifestyle choices are consistently helping them control the condition.