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Foods That Could Make Your Psoriasis Worse

You might want to rethink hitting happy hour.

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By Kristen Sturt

Have you noticed your psoriasis gets worse after chomping a cheeseburger? Perhaps you can't eat eggplant parmigiana without having a flare-up. Or maybe—just maybe—it's red wine that seems to worsen your red patches.

An estimated 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, an immune disease that often results in scaly, itchy blotches appearing around your knees, elbows and scalp—though they can pop up anywhere on your skin. And while many things can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis symptoms, some people find their diet makes a difference.

The science on food and psoriasis is developing, and overall, eating habits aren't proven to affect the disease in a big way. Still, these are frequently named as no-nos.

Control your weight to ease symptoms

2 / 6 Control your weight to ease symptoms

It's believed that being obese increases your risk of psoriasis. And often, the more someone weighs, the worse it is. Dropping pounds can ease symptoms, and may help make treatments work better. To lose weight, improve your health overall—and perhaps relieve your itch—try the following:

  • Swap foods high in saturated fat and sugar for fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats, such as those found in avocados and nuts.
  • Eat moderate portions. Using a smaller plate can help.
  • Keep a food diary. Studies show those who document their daily eating tend to lose more weight than those who don't.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity—and 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity—activity per week. When combined with a healthy eating plan, this can assist with weight loss.

While no specific diet has been proven to reduce psoriasis symptoms, some research suggests a the Mediterranean diet may help some people, perhaps because it can lead to weight loss and reduce inflammation.

Speaking of inflammation…

Foods linked to inflammation

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Much like diabetes and heart disease, which people with psoriasis often have, psoriasis is considered an inflammatory disease. Some have found cutting back or eliminating certain foods linked to inflammation can help. These include dairy, refined sugars—like those found in soda and desserts—and processed meals and snacks, which frequently contain refined sugars. Often, reducing these may lead to weight loss, as well—which, coincidentally, can help slash the risk of developing those other conditions (diabetes, heart disease, etc.).

Fatty red meat is also tied to inflammation, as well as weight gain and obesity. While red meat hasn't been linked directly to psoriasis, avoiding things like prime rib or cheeseburgers may help relieve symptoms. Instead, opt for poultry or fatty fish; salmon and mackerel are great choices. And if you must eat red meat, try a leaner cut, like top sirloin.

Alcohol

4 / 6 Alcohol

If you're a woman who regularly drinks more than one glass of wine daily, or a man who chugs three-plus beers, you might want to consider scaling back. Research shows that excess alcohol is linked to increased chances of developing psoriasis; scientists aren't exactly sure why. If you have psoriasis already, alcohol may make your symptoms worse, and can reduce the effectiveness of treatment.

Cutting alcohol out completely, on the other hand, could help slash your odds—and your itchiness. Don't want to give up your nightly Chardonnay? Drink in moderation. That means a maximum of one 5-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce beer for women, and two similar servings for men.

Gluten

5 / 6 Gluten

Though scientists don't fully understand why, gluten—found in foods like pasta, bread and cereal—seems to trigger psoriasis flare-ups for some people. In fact, in one 2017 survey of 1,206 adults with psoriasis, 7.2 percent described gluten as a trigger. There's even evidence that those with psoriasis have higher odds of developing celiac disease, an immune response to gluten; it's thought they have similar disease pathways.

Just as gluten may worsen psoriasis, some small studies suggest a gluten-free diet can reduce symptoms for some people. In that same 2017 survey, about 53 percent of those who cut gluten from their menus reported improvements in their skin. This may have been related to resulting weight loss or the gluten itself.

Peppers, tomatoes and other nightshade veggies

6 / 6 Peppers, tomatoes and other nightshade veggies

Have your itchy, red patches ever become itchier and redder after eating stuffed peppers? While more research is needed, there's a chance they could be related. Some people with psoriasis report that nightshade vegetables trigger their symptoms, possibly because they may contribute to inflammation. Potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatillos and tomatoes are included in this group—bad news for salsa lovers (and even worse for ratatouille fans).

If you believe nightshades may be affecting your psoriasis, try laying off them for two to eight weeks to see what happens.

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