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Medications are often used as the first line of defense for autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis. Taltz (ixekizumab) is a prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat several autoimmune conditions, including psoriasis and spondyloarthritis. (Source, Source)
While prescription medications can help some people, there are risks associated with Taltz that should be considered before taking it, and you should know it’s not your only option. In this article we’ll cover 9 science-backed facts about Taltz you should know to help make an informed decision about the medication, as well as some lifestyle choices you can make that might help reduce the need for it.
1. Taltz Is a Drug Known as a Biologic
Taltz is the brand name for a biologic drug called ixekizumab. Unlike conventional pharmaceuticals with well-defined chemical structures, biologics are made from living sources such as cells, proteins, or sugars and tend to be more complex. (Source)
Biologics target genes or protein receptors in the body and are prescribed for many autoimmune conditions and other health conditions. Although many novel biologics are being developed, as a class they are not entirely new; insulin and vaccines, for example, are biologics. (Source)
2. Taltz Is Used to Treat Plaque Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
Plaque psoriasis is a skin condition that results in itchy, red, scaly patches. Studies suggest psoriasis, which affects more than 7.5 million adults over age 20, is one of the most common autoimmune conditions. (Source)
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory condition associated with psoriasis that causes joint pain and swelling and can in some cases result in irreversible joint damage. (Source)
Taltz has been approved to treat adults and children over the age of 6 with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Clinical studies examining patients taking ixekizumab for plaque psoriasis found the medication helped improve symptoms in nearly 90% of those treated. For some people, psoriasis symptoms completely disappeared. (Source)
Similar results were seen for adults with psoriatic arthritis, where taking ixekizumab helped with joint relief and, in some cases, stopped the progression of damage. (Source)
3. Taltz Is Also Approved to Treat Two Types of Spondyloarthritis
Spondyloarthritis (SpA) is an inflammatory condition primarily involving the spine, although it can also affect shoulders, hips, pelvis, knees, and neck. (Source)
Taltz may be prescribed for adults with non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA) and active ankylosing spondylitis (AS), two types of SpA. “Non-radiographic” means the damage doesn’t appear on X-rays, but in AS, the condition has progressed far enough to show visible damage to bones on the images. (Source)
Over time, inflammation caused by the autoimmune reaction affects spinal flexibility. It can even cause vertebrae in the spine to fuse together. Ixekizumab may reduce inflammation and help with stiffness and pain in the spinal joints. (Source)
4. Taltz Works by Blocking Inflammation
Autoimmunity means the immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues, resulting in inflammation. (Source)
Inflammation is part of a normal immune response to injury or infection, but once the threat has passed, the inflammation should subside. The inflammatory response remains elevated for people with autoimmunity, contributing to symptoms such as painful joints, skin rashes, and fatigue. (Source)
Ixekizumab blocks a specific inflammation-signaling protein called interleukin 17A (IL-17A). Interleukins are chemicals released by the immune system to signal an inflammatory response. (Source)
People living with the above autoimmune conditions have higher than normal levels of IL-17A, so ixekizumab can help stop the overproduction that causes inflammation. As inflammation goes down, so do the symptoms of autoimmune conditions. (Source, Source)
5. Taltz Increases Your Risk of Infection
Most everything in the body exists in balance. From macronutrients to vitamins and electrolytes, your health is affected if you have too much or too little.
The same balance exists between your immune system and inflammation. Since Taltz targets the inflammatory response of your immune cells, it can make your immune system not work as well as it should. It lowers your body’s ability to fight off infections or germs, so a cold or respiratory infection that isn’t usually a problem might be more serious for you. (Source)
6. Taltz May Cause Injection Site Reactions
Taltz is given as an injection at a health care provider’s office or at home. An injection site reaction is a common side effect of Taltz and may result in redness, swelling, and pain. (Source)
The reaction usually goes away within a few days, but be sure to tell your health care provider if symptoms are severe or long lasting. (Source)
7. Taltz May Be Used Long-Term
People who take Taltz may continue maintenance injections for months or even years as part of their overall autoimmune management plan. (Source)
For some people, taking medication with side effects and long-term commitments may be less than appealing. But there are many alternatives available to help manage autoimmune conditions in addition to drugs (as you’ll learn about below).
8. Taltz Has Side Effects Ranging From Mild to Severe
For some people, the side effects of Taltz are mild and manageable. But for others, they can become serious. Common side effects include:
9. Taltz May Increase the Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
One of the most severe potential side effects of Taltz is an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for autoimmune conditions affecting the digestive tract, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (Source)
In clinical trials, researchers noted that participants receiving ixekizumab had a slightly higher rate of developing IBD than those receiving a placebo. People who already have IBD could have worsening symptoms — Crohn’s disease occurred in 0.1% of participants and ulcerative colitis occured in 0.2% of participants. While the risk is low for most people, monitoring for signs of IBD and talking with your provider if you have any concerns is essential. (Source)
Lifestyle Choices May Reduce the Need for Taltz
Taltz can provide relief from autoimmune disease symptoms, but medication is not the only way to manage autoimmune conditions.
Sometimes you may decide the side effects outweigh the potential benefits. Or you may want to include other measures as part of your overall plan, and possibly — in consultation with your health care provider — reduce how much medication you need.
Lifestyle habits such as stress resilience, diet modification, and exercise can significantly impact symptoms. Let’s look at each.
Science shows stress can be a trigger for autoimmunity. Think about how depleted and exhausted you feel after a stressful event, and you can see how stress can impact the body. (Source)
Chronic stress is a bit more sneaky because you may not feel it initially, but over time it can alter your metabolism and immunity. Studies on stress and autoimmunity report that many people recall a particularly emotional stressful event occurring just before their initial diagnosis. (Source)
While autoimmunity is multi-faceted, meaning the underlying cause is usually related to a combination of genetics and environment, research points to the role of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and its relationship to the immune system. The lining of the GI tract, known as your intestinal barrier, is critical for nutrient transport, producing important immune cells, and protecting you against pathogens or toxins. (Source)
Your gut microbiome (the collection of microbes inside your GI tract) works with the immune cells on your intestinal barrier to facilitate a healthy immune response and keep inflammation low. Dysbiosis, the imbalance of beneficial bacteria in your gut, can lead to inflammation and a compromised intestinal barrier (called intestinal permeability). Both are linked to autoimmunity. (Source)
Psychological stress is closely linked to intestinal barrier dysfunction (intestinal permeability) and dysbiosis, and therefore hypothesized to be a risk factor for developing autoimmunity and contributing to symptom flares. If you want to take a deep dive into autoimmunity and gut health, check out the WellTheory Master Class on the topic.
Telling someone to lower their stress sometimes makes things worse if they already feel overwhelmed. Living with an autoimmune condition is stressful, even without all the other day-to-day stressors.
Instead of thinking you need to completely remove stress, you can work on becoming stress resilient. This means you take steps to protect yourself against daily stress, using tools such as breathing, movement, journaling, and dancing — it can look different for every person.
Studies show stress relief techniques significantly help people living with psoriasis. Working with a practitioner who understands stress and autoimmunity and can give you specific ideas for your lifestyle can be especially helpful. (Source)
Nutrition is a powerfully simple tool to use in supporting autoimmunity. The most challenging part is getting started, but once you notice positive changes and feel better it becomes much easier to maintain good habits.
There are several ways nutrition supports autoimmunity. First, keeping the close relationship between the gut and autoimmunity in mind, diet affects the diversity of intestinal microbes, which in turn affects intestinal barrier function and inflammation. (Source)
Since symptoms such as joint pain or psoriasis flares are linked to inflammation, diet patterns emphasizing anti-inflammatory nutrients can help. The Mediterranean diet and the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet are two examples that have been shown to significantly reduce symptoms for people with autoimmune diseases. (Source, Source)
On the other hand, the Western diet, which tends to be high in processed ingredients, additives, sugars, and fats, is linked to an increase in autoimmune disease, possibly related to adverse effects on the gut barrier. (Source)
Finding the right diet to support your body requires an individualized approach, as you may be sensitive to foods that someone else tolerates. You can start by swapping out packaged or processed foods for autoimmune-friendly recipes. If you need more support, the WellTheory membership can pair you with a nutritional coach to help you develop a personalized plan for your condition and lifestyle.
Painful, achy joints may not make exercise enticing initially. Still, studies show that people with psoriatic arthritis who move their bodies report less pain and improved quality of life. As a result, physical activity is a key recommendation to help with mobility and strength. (Source)
Movement can also reduce fatigue for people with autoimmune conditions and help maintain a healthy weight, which could reduce joint pain. Studies suggest that when combined with diet changes and other health education, walking helps lower psoriasis flares and improves quality of life. (Source, Source)
Walking may also help with stress resilience. Studies suggest that spending time in nature can reduce psychological stress, taking the benefits even further. As with nutrition changes, getting started may be the most challenging part, but walking even 5 minutes a day is a good start. (Source)
The Bottom Line on Taltz and Your Health
Taltz can help with autoimmune conditions, but it’s not without side effects. An integrative approach is another option that may offer symptom relief for conditions such as psoriatic arthritis. With a personalized plan from an experienced practitioner, you can find the right combination of lifestyle and medical management strategies that work for you.
The WellTheory membership can help you get started with a personalized plan, so you can have the right tools and support to help manage your autoimmune condition. With the guidance of experienced professionals, you can find the best balance for symptom relief and long-term health.