The Psoriasis Diet: What to Eat (and Avoid)by Skye Sherman - November 22nd, 2021
If you have psoriasis or know someone with this itchy and unsightly skin condition, you know how uncomfortable it can be. For most people, a psoriasis flare-up means patches of red, itchy, flaky, scaly skin, which not only makes you self-conscious of your appearance, but also feels unpleasant physically.
Of course, that means that you’ll do just about anything to avoid a flare-up. Learning your triggers is key to managing psoriasis, though sometimes the flare-ups seem to come out of nowhere, unprovoked.
But did you know that certain foods might trigger psoriasis while others might help to keep flare-ups at bay? Read on to discover everything you need to know about the psoriasis diet.
What is psoriasis?
First things first: It helps to understand what exactly psoriasis is and what causes it if you’re interested in learning how to prevent it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes red, itchy scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp.” This condition is due to skin cells building up and forming scales and dry, itchy patches.
Psoriasis is generally considered to be an issue caused by the immune system. A skin rash is the most common symptom, but the rash can also appear on the nails and joints as well, less commonly. Basically, what is happening is that the skin is regenerating faster than normal.
Unfortunately, as the Mayo Clinic shares, “Psoriasis is a common long-term (chronic) disease with no cure. It tends to go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a while or going into remission. Treatments are available to help you manage symptoms. And you can incorporate lifestyle habits and coping strategies to help you live better with psoriasis.”
People who live with psoriasis have to learn about what triggers their condition and how to manage their symptoms when they arrive. Infections, stress, and cold can all be triggers that initiate a flare-up. When treating psoriasis, the goal is to remove the scales and stop the skin cells from growing so quickly. Psoriasis seems to have roots in both genetics and environment.
Symptoms can vary from person to person, and there are different types of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, nail psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis.
The good news is that even though psoriasis may look unsightly, it is not contagious, so you cannot spread it to others or catch psoriasis from someone else who has the patches on their skin.
How to treat psoriasis
Most people who live with psoriasis have to find what treatments work for them to manage their flare-ups when they arrive. The most common forms of treatment include prescription skin medications, topical ointments, and even light therapy. Always consult your doctor regarding the best course of treatment for your individual needs.
The most common medications prescribed for psoriasis are corticosteroids, and some of the stronger creams and ointments are triamcinolone and clobetasol (Temovate).
Avoiding triggers is another way to stave off psoriasis symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Common psoriasis triggers include:
● Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
● Weather, especially cold, dry conditions
● Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
● Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
● Heavy alcohol consumption
● Certain medications — including lithium, high blood pressure medications and antimalarial drugs
● Rapid withdrawal of oral or systemic corticosteroids.”
In other words, it’s best to avoid the above if you want to stay psoriasis-free, at least as much as it’s within your control. Psoriasis also puts you at greater risk of developing other conditions, including eye conditions, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and more.
Still, sometimes a flare-up arrives even when you’ve done your best to prevent it. In these cases, your doctor can help you manage the symptoms by finding a treatment plan that works for you.
Is there a diet for psoriasis? What to eat to help with psoriasis
Can your diet affect your psoriasis in good or bad ways? The answer is maybe.
According to Health, “Skin injuries, cigarette smoking, illness, or changes in the weather are just a few things that are thought to provoke attacks, but what about food? Does your diet play a part in psoriasis flare-ups? And maybe more important—can changing it help prevent them?”
While the science is still fuzzy on this, it does seem that limiting your stress levels has a major impact on psoriasis, and sometimes your stress levels are affected by what you’re eating (or not eating). For example, psoriasis is linked to obesity, so “people who are overweight or obese may be able to reduce the severity of their psoriasis symptoms by adopting a low-calorie diet.”
It just makes sense: eating a healthy diet makes people feel better and keeps stress levels lower. Doing that can be a major boon to your life with psoriasis.
WebMD puts it this way: “If you have psoriasis, what you eat and drink may make a difference in how you feel. Scientists don’t know for sure if following a specific diet or staying away from certain foods can clear up your flares. But a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can boost your overall well-being and may ease symptoms for some people.”
The article recommends eating more dark leafy greens, whole grains, olive oil, fruit, fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, beans, nuts, and herbs and spices. On the flip side, you should eat less fatty red meat, sugar, fried foods, refined grains, and alcohol.
Some experts also recommend sticking to the Mediterranean diet, which is proven to lead to lower levels of inflammation, lower body weight, and better overall health. This applies not only to those with psoriasis but everyone. Eating a clean diet with lots of whole foods and vegetables and minimal processing is key; you want to incorporate lots of Omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, clean proteins, and vitamin D.
In addition, “Per the JAMA Dermatology review, psoriasis patients with celiac disease may find that avoiding foods containing gluten may be helpful in managing their symptoms.”
Overall, you need to learn about your particular case of psoriasis and what may trigger flare-ups for you. Still, the food you eat is undoubtedly a major factor in your overall health, whether you have psoriasis or not. Eating unhealthy foods can make you feel worse, and feeling worse is often a straight shot to a psoriasis flare-up. In the same way, eating a healthy, clean diet makes you feel better overall, keeps weight lower, prevents other conditions, and might be able to help keep psoriasis at bay… not to mention help you live longer.
What foods make psoriasis worse?
While diet is not the direct cause of psoriasis, there are definitely some foods which can make it worse or add to your overall complications. You can’t necessarily prevent psoriasis solely through what you eat, but there are some foods that might trigger a flare-up or make it worse.
According to Health, “Because psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease, it’s not just limited to the skin; it’s systemic. So … it makes sense to choose foods that support your overall health and avoid those that don’t.”
The main foods you should avoid if you have psoriasis (and even if you don’t) include:
● Overly processed foods such as pastries, cookies, ice cream, candy, processed meat, and prepared meals
● Red meat and dairy products
● High-glycemic foods (which raise blood sugar levels quickly) such as white bread, white rice, and fruit juices with no fiber
● Nightshades such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and spices made from peppers such as paprika and cayenne pepper
Cutting the above unhealthy foods out of your diet (or limiting your intake) can be a major help to your psoriasis, whether by warding off a flare-up altogether or making it less severe if and when it arrives.