I’ve had psoriasis all my life, and most of it was battling frustrating and embarrassing flare-ups. Suddenly my skin would start blooming with psoriasis, and my nails would get all gnarly. I never knew how bad it would get or how long it would last.
There’s always a lingering fear in the back of my mind: “What if it doesn’t ever get better?”
After being on untold numbers of ointments and creams (which do little to nothing), getting UV light treatments (which never helped much and it’s a PIA to get there three times a week), and trying two different biologics, I was done with what traditional medicine had to offer.
I’ve spent the better part of the last decade figuring out a different way to control my skin and what causes my psoriasis to flare up in the first place.
I’m now 99% in remission with a small stubborn spot on my back that just won’t go away and some very thin places on my legs.
Psoriasis Is a Very Slow-Moving Disease
It’s absolutely clear that the foods and beverages we put in our mouths leads to flare-ups. But it’s not something I ate yesterday or the day before, or even last week. It takes a full month for a flare to show up when I eat a “forbidden” food!
Then it will take another month or two for my skin to settle back down, but only if I don’t eat that forbidden food again.
Of course, eating a forbidden food on a regular basis means that my skin will always be inflamed and never heal.
Because my skin is so slow to react, how can you tell what your trigger foods are? Who can remember what you ate a month ago? I barely remember what I ate for breakfast today.
Start With an Elimination Diet
The list of foods and beverages that can trigger your skin is long. The quickest way to get your skin cleared up and figure out what your trigger foods are is to cut your food intake to the bare bones.
Don’t get me wrong. This hard at first. But it’s worth it in the end.
You have to cut everything out, and I mean EVERYTHING, except:
- Vegetables (with some exceptions)
- Fish and seafood
That means you must eliminate:
- Sugar and all sweeteners except stevia
- All grains and products made from grains (corn is a grain, so no corn either)
- All legumes (beans and peanuts)
- Cow dairy (milk and cheese) – goat cheese is OK
- All nuts
- Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, all peppers and spices derived from peppers like chili, eggplant, tomatillos)
- Tobacco – you MUST quit smoking. Tobacco is a nightshade with potent poisons that you’re flooding your body with every time you inhale.
- Coffee (yes, I’m sorry, coffee too)
You’re probably thinking, “Holy cow, what the heck am I going to eat? I’ll starve to death!”
Nothing is further from the truth. There are tons of wonderful things you can eat. You just have to get a bit creative. Going to a restaurant? Get a big ol’ salad with sliced steak or salmon or shrimp on top.
I promise that once you wrap your head around it, it’s not that hard. I’ve been eating this way for years now, and if I stray from the list, I actually don’t feel well after “indulging”.
Start Tracking Your Food Intake with a Journal
Once you’ve jumped into the deep end of the pool, you need to keep at it for at least a couple months. As I said, psoriasis is very slow, and just eating this way for a day or two won’t help at all. But if you faithfully stick with it, I guarantee you’ll start to see your skin start to get better! The longer you go, the better your skin will get.
Unfortunately, as humans, we all have weaknesses, and we slip from the chosen path. I get it. It’s hard. But this is where you must log everything that goes into your mouth. If you cheat and eat or drink something that causes your skin to get worse, you won’t know what it is for a month.
But if you use a journal to track things, you can look back on your progress and even slowly reintroduce foods one at a time.
I found the ideal tool for this. It’s called the Trigger Tracker from The Symptom Sleuth. Michelle and her husband Eddie developed this tool to track your foods and symptoms over time.
How to Use the Trigger Tracker
The Trigger Tracker book is nicely laid out with different sections for each month. It includes a daily food log, a monthly at-a-glance charting and tracking log, and copious amount of space for notes, observations, or journaling.
Let’s start with the daily logs. This is pretty simple.
The first thing I do is to number the days of the week down the left column, then in the Food & Bev column, put
for me to log what I ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You might add an S – if you want to track snacks too (not a bad idea when you first get started).
Then for each meal, I just log what I ate. I tend to eat the same thing most days for breakfast and lunch, so I can even abbreviate things to make it simpler.
As I drink water, I color in a bubble in the “Hydrate” column for each 8 oz. glass I drink. Water is crucial to healing your skin, and I drink alkalized (ionized) water. This is NOT alkaline (with an “n”) water that you buy at the store. That has no value and can cause chemical imbalances and stomach problems. But that’s a blog post for another day.
I also like to shade where my psoriasis is on the right page so I can track if things are getting better or worse.
Here’s a sample page from my Trigger Tracker logbook:
Monthly Charting and Tracking
I personally don’t use the Charting section because psoriasis changes so slowly, that it would be the same every day. When you’re changing your diet, it may take two or three months or longer before you notice a difference, and a flare up can happen a month after you ate something that you shouldn’t have.
What I do like to use is the Tracking section, but perhaps a little differently than what it was designed for. You’re welcome to modify this of course, but this is what I do.
Draw two horizontal lines across the full width so the bottom line of squares is by itself, and the two lines above it are isolated.
Then in the left column, write on each line going down:
Water (or H2 Water if you’re drinking alkalized water)
Then for each day of the month, you’re going to put an ✗ anywhere that you ate one of the six foods (sugar, grains, beans/peanuts, etc.)
Put a ✓ or happy face 😊 for any day that you got out and got some exercise and sun or drank water!
You want to keep track of those wins to keep you motivated!
So, what’s the Chain row for?
One of the hardest things when changing your dietary habits is to be consistent and keep going. It feels like, “Wow, I can NEVER eat this thing again, and that’s FOREVER.”
Instead, take a breath and just concentrate on TODAY. Forget about yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow. All you want to do is complete today. Do everything you can to do today correctly.
If you did, then you add a “link” to the chain. Try to keep the chain going as long as you can, and pretty soon, you’ll see real progress! If you ate something that you shouldn’t have that day, then that breaks the chain, and you must start the chain again the next day.
It’s not the end of the world if you break the chain. Life happens. Just pick up the next day and start a new chain to see how long you can go.
You could use colored markers (green and red for instance) to color in the box if you prefer.
Here’s what my monthly log page looks like:
By keeping meticulous track of everything that goes into your mouth, you can start to see patterns and help your psoriasis to start to heal.
Just stick with it. It takes time and patience. There’s no quick path to clearing your psoriasis. I sincerely wish there was.
If you get a flare-up, look back in your log book in the last month or so and see if you ate something that you shouldn’t have. I had a bad flare-up recently, and looked back in my book. Yup, there it was. I had eaten some baked beans that came with a BBQ dinner I had bought. I told myself I shouldn’t be eating it, but I did anyway. Then a month later, I got “punished” for it.
Comment below if you have any questions!