You may have already tried adjusting your diet by eating or avoiding certain foods to reduce psoriasis flare-ups. But what about focusing on when you eat to improve your symptoms?

Intermittent fasting is a diet focused more on when you eat than what you eat. It has gained popularity as a means to lose weight and improve metabolism. However, there’s little evidence that fasting offers any concrete benefits for people with psoriasis, and the practice can do more harm than good.

Some dietary changes have been said to improve psoriasis symptoms, but there’s limited research. In a 2017 U.S. national survey, people with psoriasis reported that anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables and healthy oils led to improvements to their skin. They also reported that cutting down on sugar, alcohol, nightshade vegetables, and gluten helped their skin.

Along with sticking to your medical treatment, you may want to change your diet or lifestyle to relieve symptoms.

If you’re curious about intermittent fasting, here’s a deeper look at the benefits and risks for people with psoriasis.

There are several ways to approach intermittent fasting. One common method is the 16/8, where you limit when you eat to a few hours a day.

In this approach, you eat in an 8-hour window each day, and fast until the next cycle begins. During the 16-hour fasting period, you’ll mainly be sleeping. Many people choose to continue fasting after sleeping and skip breakfast, and begin their eating period later in the day.

Another method is to limit your calorie intake for two days each week and eat as you normally would otherwise. For example, you could cap your calorie intake to 500 calories a day for two days of the week. Or, you could alternate every other day between a 500-calorie day and your normal eating habits.

A third approach is the 24-hour fast, where you stop eating for a full 24 hours. This method is usually done once or twice a week. It tends to have more severe side effects such as fatigue, headaches, and low energy levels.

Before starting any method of intermittent fasting, it’s important to speak with your doctor or a dietitian to determine if it’s right for you.

Research on intermittent fasting and psoriasis is limited. There are only a few small, observational studies as well as animal-based studies on the topic.

One observational study looked at 108 patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. They fasted during the month of Ramadan. Researchers found a significant decrease in Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) scores after they fasted.

Another study by the same researchers observed the effects of fasting among 37 patients with psoriatic arthritis. Their results showed that short-term fasting improved patients’ disease activity scores.

But in a 2019 review on the effects of Ramadan fasting and other kinds of fasting on skin health, researchers found the results misleading in their suggested benefits.

Meanwhile, a 2018 review of nutritional strategies for psoriasis found weight loss and a healthy lifestyle significantly reduced PASI scores among people with moderate-to-severe psoriasis. Low-calorie diets and intermittent fasting have also been shown to reduce the severity of psoriasis and other conditions among people with obesity.

More research is needed to determine if intermittent fasting can improve psoriasis symptoms. But leading a healthy lifestyle and trying a low-calorie diet, if necessary, may help.

There’s little evidence that intermittent fasting can improve psoriasis symptoms. In addition, regularly fasting can lead to some harmful habits and side effects.

Some of the potential side effects of fasting include:

  • eating disorders and disordered eating, especially binge eating on non-fasting days
  • dizziness, confusion, and lightheadedness when combining exercise with fasting
  • severe hypoglycemia and other serious health issues for people taking diabetes medications
  • obesity linked to skipping breakfast
  • reduced energy levels

A review on dietary recommendations for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis led the National Psoriasis Foundation to recommend a low-calorie diet for people with overweight or obesity. The authors found limited evidence that certain foods and diets can reduce symptoms in some people. They also stressed the importance of continued medical treatment rather than only relying on dietary changes.

Intermittent fasting may be the latest trending diet for weight loss. But there isn’t enough scientific evidence proving that it’s effective.

It also may pose a health risk to people with certain conditions, including:

  • diabetes
  • women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • people with a history of eating disorders or disordered eating

More research needs to be done to bolster or dispel fasting’s impact on psoriasis.

Most studies on the health benefits of intermittent fasting are animal-based. There are only a few small-scale studies that point to potential improvements of psoriasis symptoms. These are mainly connected to low-calorie or short-term fasting diets.

Reach out to your doctor or a nutritionist to learn more about how changes to your diet could help manage your psoriasis symptoms.