Health & Wellness

8 Foods That May Be Triggering Your Psoriasis

People with psoriasis often wonder if making changes to their diet or cutting out certain foods can have an impact on the disease. While there's little evidence to support following a specific diet to treat psoriasis, many people swear they notice a huge improvement in their symptoms after changing the way they eat.

"Psoriasis is an inflammatory disorder, meaning that people with psoriasis are prone to having full-body inflammation at baseline," explains Dr. Tien Nguyen, a dermatologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. "If you add in inflammatory foods, the inflammation can get out of control."

After living with psoriasis for 20 years, I can definitely attest to the benefits of dietary modifications. Here are some of the foods you might want to cut out to make life with psoriasis a little easier. 

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A couple of alcoholic drinks every night is unlikely to trigger your psoriasis, but excessive drinking can have some potentially serious effects on the disease. One study found that women who drink non-light beer may be increasing their risk of developing psoriasis, with 2.3 drinks a week driving up the risk almost 80 percent. "If you have severe psoriasis, you may benefit from eliminating alcohol entirely," says the National Psoriasis Foundation. "If you are going to have an occasional drink, the recommendations are: women no more than one drink per day, men no more than two." 

Junk food may bring temporary satisfaction, but it won't help you manage your psoriasis. "I recommend my patients eat a healthy diet consisting of fresh vegetables, fruits and proteins while avoiding inflammatory foods when possible," says Nguyen. "Things like processed foods containing chemical additives (chips, granola bars, anything boxed) will cause inflammation as well as sugary foods." 

High-fat dairy (whole milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and cream) is commonly associated with inflammation. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends switching to fat-free, 1 percent fat and low-fat dairy products. Incorporating anti-inflammatory probiotic foods such as organic, raw, cultured dairy like kefir, yogurt and cultured vegetables may help relieve psoriasis symptoms. 

"Nightshades" is a name given to the solanaceae plant family, which has more than 2,800 members. The majority of them are inedible due to their toxicity, but those we can eat — tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant and peppers — are common ingredients in many healthy recipes. Unfortunately, these are believed to trigger psoriasis flare-ups in some people. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests replacing nightshade vegetables with fruits and vegetables known to reduce inflammation, such as carrots, squash, spinach, kale, broccoli, blueberries, mangoes, strawberries and figs. 

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, up to 25 percent of people who have psoriasis may also be sensitive to gluten, a grain protein found in a lot of breads, pastas and cereals as well as many processed foods. Many studies suggest that psoriasis and celiac disease (caused by an intolerance to gluten) share common genetic and inflammatory pathways. A gluten-free diet is the only known treatment for celiac disease, and while there is no published evidence that a gluten-free diet can improve psoriasis in people who do not have celiac disease, there is anecdotal evidence of success from people who have tried the gluten-free diet. 

Some people find that spices and condiments are the worst things they can eat for their psoriasis. Condiments like ketchup, mayo, Tabasco sauce, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and spices like cinnamon, curry, pimento and paprika may all cause inflammation. 

If you suspect a particular food might be triggering your psoriasis, try eliminating it from your diet and watch for changes in your skin. Additionally, keep an eye on your weight. "We now know that weight gain increases the severity of psoriasis and the risk of incident psoriasis," says Dr. Delphine Lee, a dermatologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "Scientists have studied the effect of weight reduction on the severity of psoriasis in obese patients with psoriasis and found that overweight patients with psoriasis on a diet that restricted calories for eight weeks to induce weight loss followed by eight weeks of reintroduction of normal food intake, showed a trend in favor of improving their psoriasis area and severity index after 16 weeks."  

As with any major dietary changes, make sure you talk to your doctor first.