Fans of gluten-free diets often say that shunning this protein found in many grains can help you lose weight, ease headaches, and fight depression. Some proponents of cutting out gluten claim that gluten is bad for your skin, and that people with psoriasis, eczema, or other skin problems would see them clear up if they cut out gluten.
While there’s no good proof that eating gluten could harm your skin unless you have celiac disease (which is an autoimmune disease that primarily leads to damage in the intestines if you eat gluten), some people with psoriasis and eczema report that their skin improves when they eat a gluten-free diet. The only way to find out if this might be true for you is to try an elimination diet that excludes gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley.
If you find that your skin gets better or you feel better when you give up gluten, that cutting it out may makes sense. But can eating too much gluten lead to developing a skin condition in the first place?
According to a new study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, women who ate the highest amounts of gluten were no more likely to develop psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, or atopic dermatitis (eczema) compared to those who ate very little gluten. The researchers determined that there was no association after analyzing food questionnaires that were completed by more than 85,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II between 1991 and 2015.
“Our findings do not support the amount of dietary gluten intake as a risk factor for psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, or atopic dermatitis in adult women,” the authors concluded.
One important limitation of this study is that the researchers did not have input from women who ate no gluten at all. It’s also worth noting that having one autoimmune disease increases the risk of developing celiac disease, so if you have any symptoms of celiac (such as chronic diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or unexplained weight loss) you should talk to your doctor and get tested.