Gluten intolerance often leads to psoriasis and eczema

Several recently published papers have confirmed a correlation between patients with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and those who also have psoriasis and eczema, and that gluten sensitivity is hereditary.[1]. These studies finally shed light on what people who have chosen a gluten-free lifestyle have known for years. Skin disorders can be caused by gluten sensitivity (GS) and a strict gluten-free diet can alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and eczema. And, gluten sensitivity is often present in several members of the same family.

Patients now have a new tool in the practice of the medical profession and physicians have reason to suspect that a patient might have ILI when presenting with psoriasis or eczema or when examining family medical history of a patient.

Clinical correlation

An article published in British Journal of Dermatology[2] concluded “The presence of CD-associated antibodies in patients with psoriasis correlates with greater disease activity.” Antibodies associated with celiac disease include anti-gliadin antibodies (AGA). Gliadin is a wheat peptide that people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity cannot digest. It is this antibody that causes the many symptoms of celiac disease and GS, including nutrient deficiency and gastrointestinal disturbances. In my practice, I systematically look for correlations between symptoms. The body’s systems do not function independently of each other, but rather function as a whole. Food sensitivities and other allergies naturally lead to a wide variety of reactions, including skin disorders. More and more physicians need to look at the whole patient when treating individual disorders to establish correlations.

Psoriasis and eczema as symptoms

For many years, medical professionals did not consider psoriasis or eczema to be a primary symptom of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. And, quite often, patients who had lived with gluten sensitivity for many years had enough other symptoms, especially gastrointestinal symptoms, to allow doctors to look beyond psoriasis and eczema as being caused by celiac disease.

However, the significant correlation between psoriasis and gluten sensitivity demonstrated in Clinical and experimental dermatology changed the game. In addition, an article published in British Journal of Dermatology[3] in 2011 found that 16% of all people with psoriasis also had elevated AGA levels. Physicians treating patients with both psoriasis and eczema and those treating patients with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity should be aware that skin disorders are a symptom of the body’s inability to digest gluten. Patients may present with intestinal symptoms. However, they could also have several other extra-intestinal manifestations of gluten intolerance, including the presence of psoriatic lesions.

Once again, these studies prove that physicians should view their patients holistically rather than just looking at symptoms in isolation. We need to treat the whole body – internal, external and neurological – to help patients find relief from chronic pain.

Gluten-free diet treatment

Switching patients with psoriasis and eczema to a gluten-free diet as a treatment for these skin disorders should be considered a viable treatment plan instead of or in conjunction with pharmacological approaches.

In another study, 33 patients who tested positive for AGA strictly adhered to a gluten-free diet for a specified period of time, did not use other pharmacological treatments on their lesions, and nearly all reported improvement. significant reduction in their skin lesions after three to six months of a gluten-free diet.

Given the drastic success of a gluten-free diet for this group of patients, physicians should consider prescribing a gluten-free diet for people with psoriasis and eczema as the primary treatment for skin disorders.

Family genes

Finally, a study published in World Journal of Gastroenterology found that the strongest risk factor for celiac disease is having a first-degree relative with already defined celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, especially a sibling. The risk factor was at least 20% for people with a first-degree relative with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

For many people who live with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease and physicians who approach their patients holistically, these results only confirm what they have known for years. Gluten sensitivity runs in families, and choosing a gluten-free diet can significantly reduce the occurrence of psoriasis and eczema. The medical profession needs to consider these factors in addition to the more severe intestinal distress and nutrient deficiency symptoms of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to help diagnose more people earlier. The sooner patients start following a gluten-free diet, the better they will feel and the healthier they will be.



[3] British Journal of Dermatology, Volume 142, Number 1, January 2000, pp. 44-51(8)

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