Symptoms of psoriasis may come and go over time. Various factors can trigger psoriasis. Examples of psoriasis triggers include diet, stress, certain medications, and hormonal changes such as puberty and menopause.

People with psoriasis often have periods of remission, during which there are mild or very few symptoms, and flares, during which the symptoms are more severe. Many people find that specific factors increase their risk of a flare.

Psoriasis is different for everyone who has it. What triggers the symptoms for one person may have little or no impact for another.

In this article, learn about some of the key psoriasis triggers and what to do about them.

Experts have found no evidence to suggest that a specific diet or food type will help improve the symptoms of psoriasis.

However, some research suggests that following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods can boost overall health and support the immune system, which has links with psoriasis.

For this reason, some foods and dietary habits may be worth investigating.

Foods to avoid

One 2020 study suggests that avoiding the following foods may help:

  • red meats
  • simple sugars
  • foods containing gluten, in some cases

People should speak with a doctor before starting a gluten-free diet or making other major dietary changes. Not all of these claims have full scientific backing, and some diets may not be suitable for some individuals. Guidelines from 2018 recommend only considering a gluten-free diet if blood tests show that a person has a gluten sensitivity.

People with psoriasis often choose to avoid nightshades, such as tomato and peppers, according to a 2017 report. These foods may have an inflammatory effect. However, there appears to be little research to support this practice.

In a 2020 study, mice that consumed a diet high in fat and sugar developed skin inflammation after 4 weeks. The researchers suggest that this may be due to an increase in bile acids. When they gave the mice cholestyramine, which helps manage bile acids, the mice’s skin inflammation improved.

Foods to eat

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the following tips may help:

  • following an anti-inflammatory diet, which is low in processed foods and added sugars
  • following a heart-healthy diet, as this can reduce the risk of comorbidities, such as heart disease
  • eating oily fish, as the omega-3 fatty acids they contain may help reduce inflammation
  • eating oily fish, fortified dairy products, and fortified fruit juices that contain additional vitamin D

When buying fish, check out the Seafood Watch guide to sustainable fish choices.

Learn how diet can affect psoriasis and get some tips on foods to avoid here.

Alcohol may worsen the symptoms of psoriasis, according to one research article from 2019. The authors suggest that consuming alcohol may affect the barrier function of the skin and trigger inflammation, though more studies are needed to confirm these findings.

The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends limiting alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Learn more about the links between alcohol and psoriasis here.

The authors of a 2018 review describe the relationship between psoriasis and stress as “complex.” Their research suggests that 31–88% of people with psoriasis say that stress triggers their symptoms.

People also report symptoms first appearing in the year after experiencing a stressful event. The authors say that this suggests that stress can cause psoriasis to appear in those who are susceptible to it.

Moreover, the onset of psoriasis can trigger further stress.

The authors of the review say that they found evidence to suggest that the following techniques may help manage stress and its impact on psoriasis:

  • relaxation
  • hypnosis
  • biofeedback
  • behavioral and cognitive stress management therapy

Learn more about the link between psoriasis and anxiety, including social anxiety, here.

Some medications may trigger or worsen a psoriasis flare, including:

Anyone who finds that a medication worsens their psoriasis symptoms should ask a doctor for advice, as it may not be safe to stop the medication. The doctor may suggest adjusting the dosage or changing the drug altogether.

A psoriasis flare may occur 2–6 weeks after experiencing an infection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Infections affect the immune system, and psoriasis has links with the immune system.

Infections that may trigger a psoriasis flare include:

Psoriasis symptoms can flare after a skin injury. The flare may appear 10–14 days after a person sustains a skin injury.

Some examples of injuries that may trigger symptoms include:

The AAD suggests the following tips to help prevent a flare:

  • using insect repellent to prevent bites
  • avoiding scratching by calming an itch in other ways
  • seeking prompt treatment for any skin trauma

Smoking and having exposure to tobacco smoke are risk factors for immune-related conditions such as psoriasis. Some research suggests that these factors can:

  • prompt the development of psoriasis
  • reduce the effectiveness of psoriasis treatment
  • trigger or worsen psoriasis symptoms

The AAD recommends avoiding or quitting smoking and avoiding being in places where others are smoking. It also advises speaking with a doctor before using a nicotine patch, as this may also worsen symptoms.

Learn more about psoriasis and smoking here.

In 2018, the medical board of the National Psoriasis Foundation published guidelines that recommended weight management as an approach to managing psoriasis, as overweight and obesity appear to increase the risk of severe symptoms.

After looking at data for 4,534 people with psoriasis, the experts strongly recommended that those who are overweight follow a weight loss diet.

Get some tips on losing weight here.

One 2016 study suggests that various hormonal factors may affect symptoms.

Symptoms tend to flare around puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, indicating a role for sex hormones. However, the authors also recommend that doctors bear in mind the following hormonal factors when assessing people with psoriasis:

  • leptin, ghrelin, and insulin, which are linked to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome
  • thyroid hormones
  • prolactin, which is a pituitary hormone that plays a role in breastfeeding and reproduction
  • stress hormones, such as epinephrine and cortisol

What are hormonal imbalances, and how do they affect people? Learn more here.

For some people with psoriasis, symptoms worsen with certain weather-related factors, such as:

  • humidity
  • a drop in temperature
  • exposure to air conditioned environments
  • sun exposure that leads to sunburn

Some tips that may help include:

That said, some research suggests that some controlled sun exposure can be beneficial, as it boosts vitamin D levels.

Find out how to get the benefits of sunshine without causing harm here.

Tattoos and piercings are other forms of skin injuries. Psoriasis may develop on the skin shortly after someone gets a tattoo or piercing due to the skin trauma this causes. This is known as the Koebner phenomenon.

Research from 2017 looked at 90 people with psoriasis, some with tattoos and some without tattoos. Of those who had tattoos, 27.6% experienced a reaction at the tattoo site between 1 week and 15–20 years later. Around 30% of these people had previous experience of the Koebner phenomenon.

Noting that tattoos can help boost the body image of a person with psoriasis, the study author did not advise avoiding tattoos but rather seeking medical advice before getting one.

Learn more about the Koebner phenomenon here.

Supplements do not appear to be a psoriasis trigger, but some studies suggest that vitamin D and omega-3 supplements may help prevent psoriasis. That said, scientific research has not confirmed that these are effective.

In 2018, the medical board of the National Psoriasis Foundation tentatively recommended the use of vitamin D.

Some supplements may not be safe for everyone, so people should always ask a doctor before using them.

Learn more about using vitamins for psoriasis here.

It is not always possible to avoid the triggers of psoriasis, and triggers will vary among individuals. However, being aware of one’s individual triggers can help people reduce their risk of a flare.

People may find it helpful to try:

  • keeping a log of their symptoms to try to identify specific triggers
  • taking steps to avoid situations that make the symptoms worse, such as exposure to specific foods or smoky environments
  • taking measures to reduce the risk of a flare, such as using sunscreen when outdoors

Learn more about avoiding triggers and using home remedies for psoriasis flares here.

Quickly treating a psoriasis flare can help reduce symptoms and ease discomfort.

Some strategies that may help include:

  • using a suitable moisturizer
  • using medicated shampoos and skin care products
  • avoiding extreme weather conditions
  • bathing in warm water rather than hot water
  • seeking medical advice for persistent or worsening symptoms
  • asking about medications that can help reduce the risk of flares and the severity of symptoms, such as biologic drugs

Get more tips on managing psoriasis flares and symptoms here.

Psoriasis is a systemic condition that can cause skin symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity, and certain factors may cause them to flare up. Triggers vary among individuals but typically include certain weather conditions, some medications, stress, and skin injuries.

Identifying and avoiding individual triggers can help a person reduce their risk of a flare. For people with moderate-to-severe symptoms, a doctor can advise on long-term medications, such as a biologic drug, to help manage the condition.

Read this article in Spanish.