Identifying and tracking psoriasis triggers can help manage symptoms and improve skin health.

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Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that involves the rapid buildup of skin cells. This results in itchy, painful scales and red or discolored patches.

Managing psoriasis is crucial to your well-being. Unmanaged psoriasis can significantly affect your quality of life, causing discomfort and pain, embarrassment, and depression, in severe cases.

To effectively manage psoriasis, it’s important to identify, track, and avoid triggers such as stress, certain foods, or medications. Some people also find relief through an elimination diet.

Figuring out which trigger caused a psoriasis flare-up can be challenging. It often involves a process of elimination and careful observation. Here are some steps you can take to help identify triggers:

  • Keep a detailed journal: Record daily activities, stress levels, foods and drinks, medications, creams, and any other factors that may be relevant. Note when flare-ups occur and the severity of your symptoms. Over time, patterns may emerge that can help you pinpoint triggers.
  • Take photos: Take clear, well-lit photos of your psoriasis-affected areas regularly, such as once a week or at the start of a flare-up. This visual record can help you track changes that may be subtle day to day but more noticeable over time. For instance, you could compare photos from different weeks to see whether the patches are spreading or shrinking.
  • Use apps: Consider using apps designed for tracking psoriasis symptoms, which can help you organize your information and provide insights into your condition. Examples include apps that allow you to log daily symptoms, set reminders for medication, and generate reports for your healthcare professional.
  • Elimination diet: If you suspect that certain foods may be triggering your flare-ups, consider trying an elimination diet. Remove potential trigger foods from your diet for a few weeks, then slowly reintroduce them one at a time while monitoring your symptoms.

Triggers can differ among people, so it may be easier to start by addressing the more common ones.

These include:

  • stress
  • tobacco smoke
  • certain medications, such as beta-blockers, lithium, and antimalarial drugs
  • infections
  • alcohol consumption
  • hormonal changes, such as during puberty or menopause
  • skin injuries or aggressions
  • red meat
  • dairy products
  • processed foods
  • nightshade vegetables, like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants
  • gluten-containing foods (for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease)

In one 2014 study with 90 adults with psoriasis, more than 70% of them reported stress as a trigger. Other common triggers included:

  • recurrent infections
  • alcohol consumption
  • smoking
  • skin aggressions

Family history, hormonal changes, and allergies were less common triggers.

More than 40% of participants reported that psoriasis significantly affects their quality of life.

Starting an elimination diet for psoriasis can be a helpful step in managing the condition. Many people with psoriasis believe that diet affects their condition, often noting improvements with dietary changes, such as removing alcohol, gluten, and certain foods.

Here are some general steps to get started:

  • Research and plan: Educate yourself about psoriasis and how diet can affect it. Plan your approach and consider what foods to eliminate and for how long.
  • Keep a food diary: Before starting the elimination diet, keep a detailed diary of everything you eat and drink, as well as any symptoms you experience. This can help you track your progress and identify triggers.
  • Elimination phase: Start by eliminating common trigger foods. These may include gluten, dairy, processed foods, nightshade vegetables, and anything else you suspect may be a trigger for you. Remove these foods completely from your diet for 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Monitor symptoms: During the elimination phase, pay close attention to your psoriasis symptoms. Note any changes or improvements you experience.
  • Reintroduction phase: After the elimination period, slowly reintroduce one food group at a time, observing any reactions. Start with a small amount and wait for a few days to see whether any flare-ups occur.
  • Consider allergy testing: While not necessary, allergy testing can help pinpoint food allergies that may trigger psoriasis. In fact, a 2022 case study describes a 65-year-old with severe psoriasis whose symptoms improved by cutting out specific foods identified through allergy testing.
  • Consult a healthcare professional: While many people start an elimination diet on their own, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian or dermatologist, before starting, especially if you have other health conditions or concerns.

Opting for an overall healthier diet can potentially benefit psoriasis beyond just eliminating specific foods. Many people find that improving their overall eating patterns leads to positive outcomes.

One 2022 review suggests that specific diets, including a low calorie diet, Mediterranean diet, and gluten-free diet for people who also have celiac disease, may help manage psoriasis symptoms.

The keto diet and intermittent fasting show promise but require further research.

In contrast, the Western diet, which is high in fats and sugars, may worsen psoriasis symptoms.

When you see signs of a flare-up starting, these tips may prevent it from worsening:

  • Moisturize: Keep your skin well moisturized to reduce dryness and itching.
  • Avoid triggers: Try to identify and avoid triggers that may be contributing to the flare-up, such as stress, certain foods, or skin injuries.
  • Focus on your overall health: Prioritize eating nutritious, whole foods and getting quality sleep and regular physical activity to support your overall health and immune system.
  • Follow your treatment plan: Use medications and treatments as prescribed by your healthcare professional to help manage your psoriasis symptoms.
  • Use a humidifier: Using a humidifier can be beneficial during a psoriasis flare-up. Humidifiers help keep the air moist, which can prevent your skin from becoming too dry and potentially worsen your symptoms.
  • Manage stress: Prioritize stress-reducing techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Seek medical advice: If you notice signs of a flare-up, consult your healthcare professional for advice on how to manage it effectively.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells, leading to scales and red or discolored patches that can be itchy and painful.

Identifying and avoiding triggers is crucial to manage psoriasis. Certain factors, such as stress, infections, and specific foods, can worsen symptoms.

If you have psoriasis, identifying and avoiding triggers can help you manage your condition effectively, leading to healthier skin and an improved quality of life.