Unveiling the Culprits: Psoriasis ‘Trigger’ Foods

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease that causes inflammation in the body. There may be visible signs of inflammation such as raised plaques (plaques may look different for different skin types) from silvery scales to itchy, dry and red patches. 

This occurs because an overactive immune system speeds up skin cell growth, which occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. The exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some common triggers for psoriasis flare-ups include stress, infections, certain medications, skin injuries as well as the things you eat.

Normal skin cells completely grow and shed in a month. With psoriasis, skin cells do this in only three or four days. Instead of shedding, the skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin. Some people report that psoriasis plaques itch, burn, and sting. Plaques and scales may appear on any part of the body, although they are commonly found on the elbows, knees, and scalp. Additionally, Inflammation caused by psoriasis can impact other organs and tissues in the body. People with psoriasis may also experience other health conditions. There are five types of psoriasis including Plaque Psoriasis, Guttate Psoriasis, Inverse Psoriasis, Pustular Psoriasis and Erythrodermic Psoriasis, it is possible to have more than one type of psoriasis at one time and more than one type in a lifetime. 

Treatment can help manage the symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups, depending on the type and location of the psoriasis, options include topical creams and ointments, light therapy, oral medications and biologic drugs, which are injected or infused to target the immune system.

What are the main ‘Trigger’ Foods 

While there is no definitive list of trigger foods that cause psoriasis, some people with the condition report that certain dietary factors can affect the severity of their symptoms. Keep in mind that these triggers can vary from person to person, and scientific evidence on the impact of specific foods on psoriasis is limited. Some dietary factors that some individuals with psoriasis have identified as potential triggers include; 

1: Alcohol 

Excessive alcohol consumption can worsen symptoms due to alcohol increasing pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body, cytokines are small proteins that trigger the body’s inflammatory response, which can lead to psoriasis flare-ups. Red wine, in particular, has been associated with increased flare-ups. 

2: Saturated Fats 

Diets high in saturated and trans fats, as well as processed foods can increase the concentration of interleukins in the gut. Interleukins’ main job is to communicate to your body that something is wrong, which causes an inflammatory response that (as you’re now well aware) triggers psoriasis. Incorporating healthy fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, and olive oil can be beneficial. 

3: Sugar and Processes Carbohydrates 

High sugar and refined highly processed carbohydrate consumption can spike blood sugar, leading to an inflammatory response which may impact psoriasis. Reducing sugar and options for whole grains can be beneficial. 

4: Gluten 

Though gluten may be a psoriasis-trigger food in the sense that it causes inflammation for some people, particularly if they have allergies or sensitivities to them, there isn’t evidence that they’re problematic for everyone with psoriasis. If you think one of these things may be the culprit behind your fluctuations, consult a dermatologist or your doctor before you self-treat.

5: Dairy 

Dairy products, particularly full-fat milk and cheese, are sometimes considered potential triggers. Some people may choose to reduce or eliminate dairy from their diet to see if it. It’s essential to recognise that dietary triggers for psoriasis can vary widely from person to person, what may exacerbate symptoms for one individual may not affect another. If you suspect certain foods are making your symptoms worse, it is a good idea to keep a food diary to track your diet and the severity of symptoms. 

If you suspect you have psoriasis or need treatment, it is important to consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.

How to adjust your diet to improve psoriasis symptoms

As there aren’t foods that can “prevent” psoriasis, there are certain things you can add to your diet to help keep flare-ups at bay, which will ultimately help reduce inflammation in the body and support a healthy immune system which could help reduce psoriasis symptoms or potentially may make them less likely to appear.

Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, colourful fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, heart-healthy oils, herbs and spices, fatty fish rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel and sardine, and other nutrient-dense protein options. 

Additionally, adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet can help keep your gut microbiome balanced and decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines.

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