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4 Food Triggers for Psoriasis: What To Avoid

Medically reviewed by Johna Burdeos, RD
Updated on January 2, 2024


  • Certain foods may trigger psoriasis symptoms in some people.
  • There is no evidence that a specific diet or food can treat, cure, or prevent the symptoms of psoriasis.
  • If you think certain foods may be triggering your psoriasis, talk to your doctor before making adjustments to your diet.

“Do people find changing their diets helps psoriasis?” one MyPsoriasisTeam member asked. Some people with psoriasis report that certain foods worsen their symptoms and avoiding them helps their symptoms. Although changing your diet can sometimes affect your psoriasis symptoms, dietary changes aren’t a replacement for treatments recommended by your dermatologist.

In this article, we describe four food ingredients that may act as triggers for psoriasis symptoms. If you think specific foods may be triggering your psoriasis, be sure to speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

1. Gluten

Many MyPsoriasisTeam members wonder if foods containing gluten act as psoriasis triggers. “Anyone feel better eating gluten-free?” one member asked.

A gluten-free diet is recommended for people with psoriasis, celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity. For these people, a gluten-free diet will generally also improve psoriasis symptoms. The evidence is mixed for individuals with psoriasis who do not have a confirmed gluten intolerance.

Gluten is present in foods such as:

  • Barley (found in brewer’s yeast, malt, malt extract, and malt vinegar)
  • Rye
  • Triticale, a cross between wheat and rye
  • Wheat and types of wheat, such as durum, emmer, semolina, and spelt

Additionally, gluten may be used as an additive in less obvious sources, such as:

  • Butter, candy, dressings, ice cream, marinades, seasonings, and stuffing (as a thickener, emulsifier, or gelling agent)
  • Medications and confectionary items (as filler and coating)
  • Processed meat
  • Reconstituted seafood
  • Plant-based meat substitutes

If you are considering cutting out gluten from your diet because you think it may trigger inflammation, speak with your doctor first. There are key nutrients found in gluten-containing foods, especially whole grains, that you may miss out on by cutting out gluten entirely.

2. Histamine-Rich Foods

Histamine is a compound produced inside the body involved in the immune response. Histamines are also found in some foods. You have probably heard of, or used, antihistamine medications that are used to treat allergic reactions. The body has four histamine receptors — one of which is associated with allergic reactions like increased heart rate and flushing. Another histamine receptor is associated with inflammatory conditions, such as psoriasis. Researchers have identified a potential role that histamine may play in the development of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions. However, this is an area of ongoing research and various studies have come to different conclusions about the connection.

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members report that histamine-rich foods bother them: “The foods that are high in histamine are causing me the most problems!” However, that doesn’t mean that everyone with psoriasis will have the same experience.

Foods that are high in histamine include:

  • Fermented foods, including yogurt, cheese, wine, and beer
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Chicken and pork
  • Spinach and tomatoes
  • Certain fruits including grapes, bananas, pineapple, and citrus fruits
  • Green tea
  • Ketchup and mayonnaise
  • Mackerel and tuna

These foods contain nutrients that are an important part of a balanced diet. Be sure to talk to your doctor before cutting out large groups of food.

3. Nightshades

Nightshades, which include eggplant, peppers, white potatoes, and tomatoes, are sometimes linked to worse psoriasis symptoms. In a study of more than 1,200 people with psoriasis, 52 percent reported that they experienced reduced symptoms after limiting nightshade foods from their diets. Nightshades increase the formation of inflammatory compounds called cytokines and may worsen immune-related disorders like psoriasis. It’s believed that the alkaloids in nightshades negatively affect the intestine and aggravate the inflammatory response.

MyPsoriasisTeam members often post about the challenges of giving up nightshades. “I love potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. What a killer!” one member wrote.

In response, a second member suggested eating fewer nightshades instead of eliminating them. “I’ve done much better at greatly limiting these foods than trying to give them up entirely forever. It’s just not going to happen in my case,” they wrote.

4. Other Ingredients

Other foods that might act as triggers for psoriasis include:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fatty red meats
  • Fried or processed foods
  • Soda
  • Spicy foods
  • Sugar

Cutting out dairy, sugar, and processed foods are popular approaches among MyPsoriasisTeam members. “I’ve cut all dairy out completely, and I’ve done really well 😁,” one member wrote.

Another member commented, “Day 40 of no soft drinks and sugar in my coffee. It is helping my spots break up.”

Discover Triggers Through an Elimination Diet

If you suspect a particular food is making your psoriatic symptoms worse or causing flare-ups, your doctor may suggest trying an elimination diet. An elimination diet entails removing certain foods from your diet for three weeks. After the 21 days, you gradually reincorporate each food into your diet one by one. The goal is to observe which foods may be associated with negative symptoms, while also striving to enjoy a wide variety of foods as tolerated.

It is important that you have the help of a health care provider, such as your doctor or a registered dietitian trained in elimination diets, when eliminating an ingredient from your diet. This can help prevent you from lacking the key nutrients needed to stay healthy.

“Next experiment is to take cow’s cheese out of my diet and possibly eggs,” a MyPsoriasisTeam member commented. “It’s a process of elimination!”

You will then continue to avoid foods that you suspect cause symptoms for an additional three to six months, at which time you can try again to reintroduce them. The elimination diet can help you discover if any foods are behind your psoriasis flare-ups.

What Foods Might Help?

There is no scientific evidence that a specific diet or food can treat, cure, or prevent the symptoms of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. However, foods that decrease inflammation, like those in an anti-inflammatory diet, may offer benefits. A healthy psoriasis diet may also reduce the risk of comorbid (simultaneous) conditions associated with psoriasis, such as heart disease and diabetes.

MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared how an anti-inflammatory diet has helped them. “I have been incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods. Pineapple, turmeric, ginger, and tart cherry have all been helpful,” said one member.

Another emphasized the important role of diet in symptom management. “I am keeping a very strict anti-inflammatory diet,” they said. “If I go off of it just a little bit, the symptoms come back quickly.”

Nutrients To Incorporate

Researchers are investigating the role of other nutrients for their potential to ease psoriasis symptoms. You may find that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, fish oil, and nuts and seeds like walnuts and chia) might improve psoriasis. Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the minerals copper, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc, have antioxidant properties that may help decrease inflammation. Dietary fiber may have a similar effect. Finally, vitamin D has also been shown to help.

These nutrients can be found as dietary supplements for those who don’t feel like they can reach their recommended daily values through whole foods alone. Talk to your doctor before incorporating supplements into your diet. They can help you understand safe dosage and if any supplements can interfere with your medications.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. More than 123,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Do any foods trigger your psoriasis? Have you tried an elimination diet? Share your experience in the comments below or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Skin and Diet: An Update on the Role of Dietary Change as a Treatment Strategy for Skin Disease — Skin Therapy Letter
  2. Diet and Psoriasis: Part 2. Celiac Disease and Role of a Gluten-Free Diet — Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
  3. Environmental Risk Factors in Psoriasis: The Point of View of the Nutritionist — International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
  4. Eating, Diet, and Nutrition for Celiac Disease — National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  5. What Is Gluten? — Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
  6. Gluten Free Diets – A Challenge for the Practicing Physician — Missouri Medicine
  7. The Role of the Histamine H4 Receptor in Atopic Dermatitis and Psoriasis — British Journal of Pharmacology
  8. Histamine — Cleveland Clinic
  9. Histamine and Histamine Intolerance — The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  10. A Histamine-Free Diet Is Helpful for Treatment of Adult Patients With Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria — Annals of Dermatology
  11. Dietary Behaviors in Psoriasis: Patient-Reported Outcomes From a U.S. National Survey —Dermatology and Therapy
  12. Psoriasis Diet: Foods To Eat and Avoid if You Have Psoriasis — Johns Hopkins Medicine
  13. IFM’s Elimination Diet: Personalized Optimized Nutrition — The Institute for Functional Medicine
  14. Why and How To Start an Elimination Diet —Cleveland Clinic
  15. Dietary Recommendations for Adults With Psoriasis or Psoriatic Arthritis From the Medical Board of the National Psoriasis Foundation: A Systematic Review — JAMA Dermatology
  16. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Plant-Based Diets — Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
    Updated on January 2, 2024
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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    Johna Burdeos, RD is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. Learn more about her here
    Paz Etcheverry, Ph.D. has an M.S. in food science and nutrition from North Carolina State University and a Ph.D. in food science and technology from Cornell University. Learn more about her here
    Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here

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