Heard of psoriasis before?? You may have it or someone you know, even a family member, or it may be a foreign word to you. Below I will let you know more about this skin condition, potential causes, and some treatments, although there is still lots to be learned about it.
Psoriasis is derived from a Greek word meaning “have an itch,” and it more than lives up to the description. The primary symptom of this inflammatory skin disorder is a sharply bordered red rash with overlapping silver scales, most frequently on the scalp, wrists, elbows, buttocks and knees, as well as sites of repeated trauma. Pitting of the nails is common and some patients may also develop arthritis, known as psoriatic arthritis.
It is an extremely common condition, and a challenging one to treat. It affects men and women equally and can appear at any age, although the mean age of onset is twenty-seven. It’s particularly common among Japanese and people living in temperate climates, but for some reason is rare among the Indigenous population.
Psoriasis is classified as an auto-immune condition, meaning that it causes cells to attack the body itself. In the case of psoriasis, skin cells divide at up to one thousand times the normal frequency, a rate even higher than squamous cell carcinoma, a virulent form of skin cancer.
The ultimate cause(s) of psoriasis remains a mystery, but a number of factors can trigger the condition. These include food sensitivities (most frequently to dairy and wheat products), nutritional imbalances, impaired liver function, prescription drugs and alcohol. Fifty percent of cases are genetic. One of the most common causes is stress. Sometimes this is easier to treat than others, depending on the individual and sources of stress.
A variety of treatment options are available. Steroids, in either topical or oral form, reduce inflammation and heal existing lesions but don’t stop the appearance of new ones, and can weaken the skin with excessive use. Omega 3 fatty acids both combat inflammation and rehydrate the skin. Salmon and mackerel, anchovies, herring, sardines, flax and hemp are all high in Omega 3, which is also available as a dietary supplement. Other foods to include that are high in ‘good’ fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
Other beneficial nutrients include the antioxidant vitamins A,, C and E, as well as the minerals zinc and selenium. Probiotics – so-called “good” bacteria – correct imbalances in the bacterial flora of the digestive tract and thus can help to treat gut dysbiosis (“leaky gut”), one of the underlying causes of the disorder. Herbs such as licorice root, chamomile, milk thistle and goldenseal may also reduce symptoms, and aloe vera and neem tree creams can help soothe itchy skin.
Treating psoriasis often requires larger dietary and lifestyle changes. Identifying food sensitivities or intolerances that may be one of the root cause(s) of psoriasis can be done with a simple blood test, and then an elimination diet can follow. But, certain foods are best avoided in any case. Red meat, potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts, dairy, citrus, refined sugar, and fried and processed foods should be eaten sparingly if at all, and saturated fats can be replaced with more healthful fats.
Some of the most important steps to control psoriasis are among the easiest to implement. Avoid scented soaps, cosmetics and perfumes. Get lots of sunshine and drink eight glasses of water every day. Above all, try to reduce stress, through regular exercise, yoga, Tai Chi, meditation or acupuncture.
Psoriasis cases differ widely in the range and severity of symptoms, and treatment is sometimes a frustrating process of trial and error. A knowledgeable health practitioner can help to identify triggers and build a treatment program that will combat the physical effects of the disorder and help the patient deal with whatever discomfort remains.
Please reach out with any questions, and I would be happy to help you.