Many people assume that ugly nails indicate a fungal infection of the nail bed. While this is frequently a reasonable conclusion, psoriasis can also cause nails to become discolored, crumble or separate from the skin beneath. While doctors may prescribe corticosteroids, tazarotene, methotrexate or other potent medications for people with psoriatic nails, one person wonders could flaxseed save nails.

Could Flaxseed Save Nails Separated from the Nail Beds? 

Q. I started giving my husband 1200 mg of flaxseed daily to improve his general health. Several months later we were very surprised to notice that his fingernails–which had been separated from their nail beds for over 25 years due to a psoriatic condition–had mended entirely. Is this a known remedy?

A. You may have stumbled onto something unique. We searched the medical literature and could find nothing linking flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) to the treatment of psoriasis.

On the other hand, scientists have found evidence that both ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil have anti-inflammatory properties (Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, Oct. 2017).  One small study in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology (online Nov. 18, 2011) reported that supplementation with flaxseed oil led to decreases in skin sensitivity, roughness and scaling.

Psoriasis and Metabolic Syndrome:

We won’t know whether flaxseed supplementation would translate into symptom improvements for people with psoriasis until a clinical trial is conducted. Researchers may not ask the question: could flaxseed save nails damaged by psoriasis? They might want to study flaxseed and its impact on psoriasis for a different reason, however. Some scientists have found that psoriasis and metabolic syndrome share clinical features and inflammatory pathways (Clinical Dermatology, Jan-Feb. 2018).

Other researchers conducted a controlled trial with 44 volunteers who had metabolic syndrome (Phytotherapy Research, Aug. 2016). They found that participants who consumed 30 g of flaxseed daily and got lifestyle advice lost more inches around their waists than those who merely got lifestyle advice. In addition, fewer of the volunteers eating flaxseed met metabolic syndrome criteria by the end of the study. They also improved their response to insulin significantly more than those in the control group.

A brand-new study suggests another possible connection. Japanese investigators report that people with psoriasis are prone to elevated blood sugar (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, June 2019). If flaxseed supplements can help reverse high blood sugar and metabolic syndrome, they might help calm the inflammation of psoriasis. 

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