I’ve had severe psoriasis my entire life, and only in the last ten years have I been able to get into near complete remission through diet and supplements. I don’t use any biologics anymore, and use no drugs at all, except a topical vitamin D ointment.
The last thing I want right now is to have my psoriasis flare up, and I’m very careful about what I put into my body to keep it at bay.
I’ve heard rumors that the COVID-19 vaccine (which isn’t really a true vaccine by the way) can make autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and others worse. I haven’t gotten the vaccine yet (I’m not eligible in California), but I wanted to prepare myself in case there was an issue.
The TL;DR short answer to this question is that no, it shouldn’t affect the disease at all.
Of course, the vaccine is brand new, and there are no long-term data to know for sure.
What My Doctor Said about the COVID-19 Vaccine
I asked my dermatologist about it:
“There is noise that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause psoriasis flares. Is there any validity to this, and/or are there any contraindications to me ultimately getting a COVID-19 vaccine? Are there any medical references that you can point to one way or the other that would help educate me?
Right now, I’m 99% in remission because of diet, and I don’t want to risk a bad flare.”
Her response was short and to the point:
“I haven’t seen any studies or evidence for this. I hope you can get the vaccine soon and that everything stays quiet!”
OK. So far, so good.
She didn’t give me any specific data on this, but there are several medical references that support the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine should be fine with your psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases.
The National Psoriasis Foundation spoke with several individuals who have psoriasis and got the vaccine. Some of them are using biologics to control it as well. People’s responses were that there was no other effect, except the usual expected symptoms (sore arm, etc.).
The International Psoriasis Council (IPC) states that there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect psoriasis onset or severity. They say that they anticipate that most patients with psoriasis who do not have a contraindication or a known allergy to a vaccine component will be recommended to receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible. They do caution that it has not been studied with those who are on immune-suppressing drugs, which could include the biologics.
Certainly, your situation and health can be different, so please discuss it directly with your primary care physician or dermatologist if you have any concerns or doubts.
What Exactly Is Psoriasis Anyway?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune (AI) disease, which means that the body’s immune system attacks itself. “Auto” means self, as in autobiography – a book about oneself. Psoriasis is probably the most common AI disease afflicting approximately eight million people in the USA.
Rheumatoid arthritis is another AI disease in which the immune system attacks the joints in the body. There are about 1.3 million people in the USA with RA.
There are many more types of autoimmune diseases, but they all have some common factors.
Psoriasis and the others are complicated diseases, because there is a hereditary component to it (my father had it, as did his mother). But it seems that most of us with AI diseases are more susceptible to certain types of foods that can affect the gut microbiome, causing skin flares and plaques. When we eat certain foods, it leaves behind inflammation that can show up on the skin, or in the case of other AI diseases, other parts of the body.
How Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Work?
As I mentioned above, the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t really a vaccine in the true sense. When you get a flu shot or a measles vaccine, the manufacturer has taken a weakened or deactivated virus and put it into solution that can be injected. The body sees it as a foreign invader and immediately ramps up production of the immune system to battle the invaders which can’t actually harm us, because they’re deactivated.
Once the body learns how to fight off these invaders, it “remembers” it so if a real virus gets in, it can pounce on it and eradicate it without you getting sick.
The COVID-19 vaccine is a completely new type of inoculation, because it doesn’t use any virus at all to elicit the immune response.
Instead, it’s made from messenger RNA (mRNA), which is a specific sequence of amino acids like a blueprint that the body’s cells can take up and manufacture its own response without having been exposed to the actual virus.
So our cells take up the mRNA snippet which instructs our cells to make the spiky piece of the virus protein (the “corona” or crown), which is harmless to us. But our body’s defense systems go into red alert because they see the spikes as the foreign invader and take immediate action to neutralize it.
That’s why the second inoculation with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines usually causes some symptoms such as fever, body aches and generally not feeling good. Your body is turning up the volume after the first “invasion” because it thinks it’s actually sick.
The bottom line, however, is that this immune response should not affect your psoriasis at all. I’ve even noticed in the past that when I get a bad cold that many times, my psoriasis will actually improve for a short while. My guess is that my immune system is busy fighting off the real invaders and leaving my skin alone for a while so it heals.
Steps You Can Take to Stay Healthy with Psoriasis
Because psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, you want to “cool” the internal fire as much as you can. When you’re causing inflammation internally with poor diet, it will exhibit as raised itchy plaques on your skin.
Here are my top steps you can take to cool the fire:
- Quit smoking. If you smoke tobacco or marijuana, work with your doctor to quit. Tobacco is particularly inflammatory to those of us with autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis. It causes system inflammation, and because it’s in the nightshade family of plants, it produces solanine, which is a plant toxin. Nicotine is also a powerful toxin, and both of them together will exacerbate your psoriasis.
- Avoid eating plants in the nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, and eggplant. All of these plants produce solanine as well as small amounts of nicotine. Note that sweet potatoes and yams are not included in the nightshades, so they are safe to eat.
- Include specific supplements that will further boost your immune system and provide as much antioxidants as you can get, including:
- Vitamin D3 – talk to your doctor about getting a blood test before taking this so you don’t take too much. Most of us with AI diseases are deficient in our blood levels of vitamin D, and supplementation is important to boost our immune system
- Turmeric – this herb has an anti-inflammatory property and has been around a long time to treat inflammation
- Probiotics – these support the gut with healthy (good) bacteria and will improve the immune response that’s inflaming your skin. You can also eat raw sauerkraut (in the refrigerated section of your grocery store), and it packs a probiotic punch.
- Juice Plus+ – this is a PREbiotic with 30 fruits and vegetables condensed into capsule or chewable form. It’s impossible to eat as much nutrition as you’d get with these. Juice Plus+ feeds the good bacteria in our gut so they kick the bad guys out of the neighborhood.
- Omega Blends – We need omega fatty acids to be healthy, and a good quality omega blend is essential. The Juice Plus+ version is the only vegan version I’ve found (no fish burps!) and has properly balanced omega 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9 in one capsule.
- Avoid all forms of grains – grains have lectins that can interact with our gut microbiome and cause issues. You’re heard of gluten. That’s one of many, and grains should be avoided as much as possible. Furthermore, many grains have glyphosate sprayed on them, which is a huge gut biome disruptor that wreaks havoc with the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut.
So Is It Safe to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
With the limited data we have about it, it should be fine and isn’t likely to affect your psoriasis.
Will I be getting the vaccine? Yep. Once supply loosens a bit and I become eligible, my wife (who also has an autoimmune disease too) and I will both get in line and do our part to help reach that desired “herd immunity”. I hope you will too, and leave me a comment below to let me know your experience if you’ve had the vaccine.