Help Your Loved One Eat Healthy & Exercise

A well-balanced diet and moderate exercise benefits people with psoriasis more than you likely know. With a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke than the general population, people with psoriasis need to pay attention to their lifestyle, says Nehal N. Mehta, MD, director of inflammatory risk at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who specializes in psoriasis care.

Although doctors can’t explain the connection between psoriasis and other risks, they’re helping people with psoriasis live productive lives—and you can, too. Here’s how to encourage your loved one with psoriasis to be more proactive about their health, while also helping yourself!

Make a meal

Whip up a healthy, delicious meal for your loved one. Remember, eating healthy doesn’t have to be torturous. “Eat cleaner, fresher foods that are prepared simply with fresh herbs and spices instead of things that are processed or full of additives, food coloring, and animal- and soy-based ingredients,” says Lisa C. Cohn, a registered dietitian and founder of Park Avenue Nutrition in New York.

Just what should you eat? Fresh salads, steamed greens topped with olive oil, and organic meats and poultry can be satisfying and healthy, says Cohn. Hempseed or hemp nuts, she adds, are particularly healthy, so mix them into a dish, too.

Turn the meal into an outing. Invite your loved one to the farmer’s market to load up on homegrown fresh fruits and veggies. Cohn warns that certain foods can trigger psoriasis, including diet soda, foods with MSG and even red wine. Dairy products with cow’s milk and gluten-based ingredients can cause inflammation in some people, too, which worsens psoriasis, says Cohn. Every person is different, so ask your loved one before settling on a menu.

Break a sweat

Take an exercise class together. “Making exercise part of your regular routine boosts the immune system,” says Cohn. Your loved one should consult a healthcare provider with any concerns about whether exercise could irritate the skin or cause flare-ups.

Choosing the right kind of class is important. “Sports with less body contact are best,” says Cohn. A highly physical interactive team sport such as touch football, soccer or basketball “is not going to feel good when you’re having an outbreak.” Yoga and tai chi might be better options for someone with psoriasis, says Julie Nelligan, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice who specializes in health in Portland, OR, because they’re less invasive and don’t require that you wear clothing exposing skin. Water sports might be appealing, but proceed with caution: While salt water can be healing, says Cohn, it stings someone with open sores.

Sweating is good for the body, though it might burn someone having an outbreak. But you can soothe your skin post-exercise with hemp or calendula creams, aloe vera gel, cold chamomile tea bags or coconut oil (bought fresh from the health food store and not the pharmacy), says Cohn. The bonus? Ending each class with these skin soothers will make you feel like you’re at a fancy spa—but without the hefty price tag.  

Published August 2011

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