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Are Tomatoes Bad for Psoriasis Sufferers? The Paleo View

Anecdotal reports suggest that people with some autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis frequently experience fewer and less severe flare-ups when they avoid tomatoes. In The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods, former USDA researcher and best-selling author James A. Duke hypothesizes that the psoriasis-triggering effects that some psoriasis sufferers experience after eating tomatoes might be linked to the acids in tomatoes; however, there is also another interesting theory. Those who are familiar with the Paleo movement may have already heard of saponins, soap-like compounds that occur naturally in a number of edible plants, and their ability to contribute to the development of a "leaky gut". In addition to saponins, Paleo folks of talk about lectins, another class of compounds that help protect plants against predation but that may promote a leaky gut when ingested by humans.

To learn how the ability of tomato saponins and lectins to promote a leaky gut might be linked to psoriasis, keep reading.

The Link Between Tomatoes, Leaky Gut and Psoriasis

Paleo enthusiasts often talk about saponins, complex compounds that occur in a wide range of plants, ranging from legumes like beans and peanuts to nightshade plants like tomatoes and potatoes. In plants, saponins – which derive their name from their soap-like properties – ward off attacks by insects and microbes by dissolving their cell membranes. Unfortunately, however, some saponins, such as the alpha-tomatine found in tomatoes, may not only be harmful to insects and microbes but also to people whose immune systems and guts are compromised.

Autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis, develop in genetically predisposed individuals when their immune systems go into overdrive and mistakenly identify healthy tissues as foreign invaders. In addition, many autoimmune patients have demonstrated increased intestinal permeability, aka a leaky gut. In healthy people, the gut wall acts as a barrier that prevents undigested proteins and other unwanted substances from leaking into the bloodstream, but in people with a leaky gut, the lining of the gut wall is damaged and these substances can enter the bloodstream and interact with the immune system.

According to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Paleo Answer, alpha-tomatine may cause problems for people with autoimmune diseases due to its ability to further increase intestinal permeability and to act as a strong adjuvant. For those who are not familiar with the term, an adjuvant is a substance that stimulates and exaggerates an immune response. So, at least in theory, when a psoriasis sufferer with an already leaky gut eats tomatoes, not only does his or her gut become even more permeable, but also the proteins leaking into the bloodstream elicit an abnormally strong immune response. And that, of course, is not a good thing if your immune system is already in overdrive!

To make matters worse, tomatoes also contain lectins, another class of complex compounds that help protect plants against predation. According to Ballantyne, tomato lectins, which resist digestion and are known to enter the bloodstream relatively quickly in humans, may further contribute to the development of a leaky gut and make it challenging for an autoimmune patient to heal a leaky gut once it has developed.

So, Should Psoriasis Sufferers Avoid Tomatoes?

Tomatoes - Bad

In The Paleo Approach, Ballantyne presents an autoimmune protocol specifically designed to help you identify which foods you should avoid if you suffer from an autoimmune disease like psoriasis. Sometimes referred to as the Paleo AIP Diet, this protocol calls for removing potential trigger foods, such as tomatoes, for a set period of time, and then re-introducing foods one at a time to test them, starting with foods that are least likely to cause issues. If you have a reaction to a food you have just re-introduced, you will have to wait a couple of weeks in order to give your immune system time to calm down before re-introducing the next food.

After you have systematically tested every potential trigger food, you will be able to tell which foods trigger or aggravate your condition and which foods you can safely eat. As you will gain precise information about what foods are problematic for you, your nutritionist will be able to create a balanced, personalized diet plan for you that is not more restrictive than necessary.

That said, there are a couple of things autoimmune patients with a leaky gut might never want to consume, and according to Ballantyne, tomatoes are one of them. On her website she states that tomatoes have the ability to rev the immune system so alarmingly that it can take months to calm it down. She points out that also other nightshades can have similar effects, although probably not quite as dramatic as those caused by tomatoes. If you are interested in learning more about Ballantyne's approach to reversing autoimmune diseases through diet and lifestyle, look for her book The Paleo Approach at your library, or order your own copy through Amazon here.

So, what can you eat instead of tomatoes and tomato-based products if you think your psoriasis is linked to a leaky gut and you want to give a tomato-free diet a try?

In salad recipes that call for fresh tomatoes, you can replace the tomatoes with other juicy vegetables such as cucumber. In recipes that call for ketchup or tomato sauce, you can often use vegetable sauces made from other vegetables as a substitute (here's a recipe for tomato-free ketchup you might want to check out).

For More on Diet & Psoriasis
Make it a habit to visit's online Guide to Healing Psoriasis on a regular basis. Updated once a week, the sidebar on the home page of the guide contains tons of links to interesting nutrition-related articles hand-picked for psoriasis sufferers. It also contains a weekly smoothie recipe featuring ingredients with psoriasis-fighting potential, as well as a book tip.
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Book You May Like
Dr. John Pagano has gained international fame with his groundbreaking book, Healing Psoriasis (available here), in which he presents an all-natural regimen designed to control psoriasis symptoms without drugs or ultraviolet treatments. Dr. John's Healing Psoriasis Cookbook is the indispensable companion book to Healing Psoriasis. Weighing in at nearly 600 pages, this extraordinary cookbook provides over 300 kitchen-tested recipes designed for people suffering from psoriasis, eczema or psoriatic arthritis, plus plenty of general nutritional advice. Available here from Amazon.

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