Communications (September, 1997)

Booze triggers Psoriasis?
from Stuart McMillan

Just thought I'd drop you a wee line to say how much I enjoyed reading your website.

I'm 28, and have had P for 6 years, varying from "have you tried moisturizer for that dry skin?"' to "I knew someone else who had that, but it wasn't as bad as that." It's funny how people always knew someone, but never seem to know anyone right now. The coverage seems to be the usual median level--ankles. shins, knees, elbows, back of hands, face, ears and hair.

Living in sunny(!) Scotland, I don't get much opportunity for sun (like, summer here lasts about a week), so I've had to resort to all the usual potions and lotions. (My Derm figured he had a complete cure, but this involved selling all my assets and becoming a navvy in the Sahara...<g>!) After a while though, they're all ineffective, and all the itching and redness of Psoriasis Vulgaris comes racing back to flake all over the livingroom / bedroom / office floor.

The living room / bedroom floor I can cope with OK (I have one of these new Dyson vaccum cleaners that sucks up half the carpet as well as the flakes), but why oh why do the people who design offices here seem to insist on dark carpets. I mean if anyone wants to know where I am in the office, they just have to follow the flakes (sort of Hansel and Gretel) and voila! There's Stu.

The one thing I have found to alleviate the symptoms (i.e. less flakiness) is to not drink alcohol. A couple of weeks without a drop of the amber nectar (whether it be whisky, wine, gin, or just plain old rotgut beer) and I can almost not be mistaken for an alien from the MIB movie. The affect is quite dramatic, which is a shame as I really like a glass (bottle) of good red!

Conversely, overindulgence on a regular basis (couple of G+T every weeknight, with beer and wine and all the usual excesses at the weekend) really screws up the system and I end up looking like a walking advert for breakfast cereal.

Have you (or anyone else) found that alcoholic abstinence reduces the incidence of the disease?

Regards, Stuart


Ed's Reply:

Dear Stuart: Yes. I think there are many cases of psoriasis improving when alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped. However–and this is a big HOWEVER–there are probably just as many more cases where the psoriasis did NOT improve, or did not improve for long. To me that suggests the variables are too large. Simply "drinking booze" and "getting flaky" are too complicated to draw boxes around ... and then join the boxes with a line.

I made the connection myself and stopped drinking, but my psoriasis did not go away. I don't drink now and I flake almost all the time.

Most derms I know, after they've diagnosed P, will ask the patient how much they drink. No matter what the answer, they're likely to respond, "Drink less" (unless, of course, the answer is "I don't drink"). The problem with making any universal correlation has to do with what drinking does to you and what triggers psoriasis. Drinking has a lot of adverse affects and psoriasis might be triggered by any one of them, or none of them, or all of them. I have heard of people who stopped drinking and cleared up. Was it simple chemistry, or was it something else? What did they START doing when they STOPPED drinking, or what did they ALSO STOP doing when they stopped drinking?

For example, have you noticed that people who drink regularly (and too much) might (a) smoke only when they drink? (b) eat badly, or not at all, or too much when they drink? (c) sleep less or too much when they drink? (d) get emotional when they drink? (e) feel guilty or ill after a binge? How many of THOSE things might have something to do with their psoriasis?

If you have made a connection between drinking and your psoriasis you are in an enviable position. That gives you the intellectual ammo to arrest the stimulus/response link. You can decide whether or not to worsen your psoriasis by drinking.

In my case, even though I haven't started drinking again and my psoriasis hasn't abated, I've become accustomed to using my sobriety as a crutch. Now, when I decide conclusively my psoriasis is triggered by getting up in the morning, and I decide to stay in bed, it's a sober pursuit of better health!



Back to Archives