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Is Chicken Good for Psoriasis, or Does It Trigger Flares?

Posted on July 19, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H.

If you’re living with psoriasis, you may wonder how your diet affects your skin. Chicken, a staple of the American diet, could impact flare-ups (periods when symptoms worsen). How it affects you may depend on how it’s prepared and how often you consume it.

One MyPsoriasisTeam member recently asked, “Does eating chicken trigger psoriasis?” Another responded, “I eat chicken, fish, and turkey, and I don’t think it is a trigger.” Another member pointed out, “Psoriasis is an immune system problem, so I treat my system gently.”

Here is what research says about whether eating chicken affects psoriasis, as well as which foods you should eat and avoid to keep flare-ups at bay. If you have questions specific to your condition or lifestyle, talk to your nutritionist or dermatologist.

Psoriasis Triggers

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes skin symptoms like itchy scales and plaques. Like other autoimmune diseases, psoriasis is caused by many genetic and environmental factors. Psoriasis flare-ups also can be triggered by many factors.

Infections, skin injuries, and cold weather can worsen psoriasis symptoms. Smoking and consuming alcohol are also not good for psoriasis. Even medications you take for other conditions may worsen your psoriasis symptoms. Perhaps one of the most common and controllable triggers, however, is your diet.

Diet and Psoriasis

While the connection between diet and health is generally understudied, research has revealed some foods you should eat and avoid if you are living with psoriasis.

MyPsoriasisTeam members have discussed their dietary triggers. “Pork is a huge trigger for me,” one said. Another member replied, “Lots of foods trigger psoriasis. One that surprised me was gluten. OMG, it is in everything, including beer.”

Foods to generally avoid with psoriasis have ingredients that trigger inflammation. Inflammation can lead to a flare-up in some individuals with psoriasis. These ingredients include:

  • Alcohol, which strains the liver
  • Dairy products, which are high in fat and lactose and can trigger gastrointestinal problems in some people
  • Saturated fats and trans fats found in fried food, red meat, cheese, and fast food, which build up “bad cholesterol” in the blood
  • Refined carbs from white grains, which can cause blood sugar spikes
  • Gluten, found in most wheat and grains, which can trigger symptoms. Psoriasis also appears to have a connection to celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

One member reflected on how their diet caused their psoriasis to worsen over time: “I think perhaps eating meat in moderation might be fine. I suspect the fact that I started eating fast food a lot in my 20s and 30s didn’t help me at all.”

Diets considered good for people living with psoriasis include the Mediterranean diet. This diet features unprocessed foods that are packed with nutrients — whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, seafood, and poultry in moderation. Some people with psoriasis say they benefit from a meat-free diet, but always talk to your doctor before significantly changing your eating habits.

Generally, an anti-inflammatory diet that’s low in processed foods and high in leafy greens, berries, nuts, citrus fruits, and fatty fish is beneficial to those living with inflammatory conditions like psoriasis. One MyPsoriasisTeam member said, “I follow the autoimmune diet. I basically eat organic meats, veggies, and low glycemic index fruits.”

Chicken and Psoriasis

Chicken itself is not necessarily an anti-inflammatory or inflammatory food. While it is a low-fat source of lean protein, it can be prepared in many different ways that can make it more — or less — healthy.

The Anti-Inflammatory Nutrient in Chicken

Chicken contains an important nutrient to prevent inflammation in the body: vitamin B12. This vitamin clears out toxic, inflammatory byproducts in the body. It can reduce oxidative stress on cells and improve their immune response. This may help some people reduce their psoriasis flares. However, chicken contains only a small amount of vitamin B12 compared with other foods.

Seafood, such as clams, salmon, trout, and canned tuna, contains much more vitamin B12. If you are not a seafood eater, fortified breakfast cereal, soy milk, and dietary supplements like fish oil can provide sufficient amounts of vitamin B12.

Cooking Style Matters

If chicken is a staple of your diet, pay attention to your cooking style. Most oils and butter used for frying and sautéing have saturated fats and trans fats. These fats break down into low-density lipoproteins, or “bad cholesterol,” which can trigger an immune response and worsen many chronic conditions. Try to prepare your chicken in healthier ways by grilling, boiling, or roasting it.

Histamine is a neurotransmitter used in digestion that’s found in chicken. Some people with psoriasis experience histamine intolerance that causes a pseudo-allergic reaction and inflammatory response after eating histamine-rich foods. Research shows that histamine levels in chicken vary based on cooking style. Boiling chicken removes up to 20 percent of its natural histamine, whereas grilling increases its histamine. If you are concerned about histamine intolerance and its effects on your psoriasis, talk with your doctor.

Skin or No Skin?

Chicken skin makes a major difference in the nutritional value of your meal. Chicken with skin contains more saturated (unhealthy) fats and unsaturated (healthy) fats than chicken without skin. Keeping the skin on your chicken also adds around 30 percent more calories to your dish. While unsaturated fats — in moderation — can be a good addition to your diet, you might find that removing chicken skin improves your psoriasis symptoms and allows you to eat chicken more often.

White or Dark Meat?

The differences between white and dark chicken meat go beyond taste. Dark meat contains more myoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen and creates the darker color of dark meat. While dark meat contains more saturated fat than white meat, it also contains more iron and zinc. Make sure to factor in these nutritional differences when planning your diet, and try to keep track of how different types of chicken meat affect your psoriasis.

Track Your Symptoms

Not all people with psoriasis have the same dietary triggers; chicken may be beneficial to your diet and detrimental to someone else’s. Keep track of what you eat and how it affects your psoriasis symptoms with a food journal or phone app. If you are concerned that chicken or other common foods in your diet are worsening your psoriasis, talk with a registered dietitian, rheumatologist, or dermatologist. They can help you create a personalized, healthy diet to help prevent psoriasis flares in the future.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On MyPsoriasisTeam, the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones, more than 109,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with this skin condition. Here, finding out potential diet triggers is a commonly discussed topic.

How does eating chicken affect your psoriasis symptoms? Do you have diet recommendations? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. 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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