Anyone who suffers from psoriasis or knows someone who does is all too aware of the impact it can have on a person’s life, from the itching and pain through to the damage it can do to confidence. The exact cause of psoriasis isn’t known but it can strike at any age. Experts believe it may be caused by white blood cells known as T cells attacking healthy skin by mistake. This, in turn, triggers other immune responses, causing new cells to move to the outermost layer of the body and build up into scaly patches on the skin’s surface.
Conventional medicine often treats the condition with immune suppressant drugs, but these can result in a host of other problems. Luckily, there is relief to be had by treating psoriasis naturally.
Many sufferers have found their skin condition has been eased with phototherapy (also known as light therapy), which slows the growth of affected skin cells by penetrating them with UVB ultraviolet light. You can ask your GP for a referral to a dermatologist who will perform light therapy in the hospital (high street sunbeds are not a suitable alternative as they produce a different kind of light). Treatment is usually two or three times each week, and most people have between 15 and 30 sessions.
Anyone with psoriasis should categorically avoid smoking as experts are in agreement this bad habit not only raises the risk of developing the condition in the first place (by as much as 78 percent) but exacerbates the condition too. One study found the heavier the patient smoked, the worse their psoriasis was. Avoid passive smoke as much as possible too.
The advice is similar for drinking alcohol. While a wind-down glass of wine with dinner can help offset stress, another of the condition’s triggers, excessive drinking can make the condition much worse and even trigger it to start in the first place. It’s worth cutting out alcohol completely for a few weeks to see if this helps with flare-ups.
Up your intake
regular sunlight and vitamin D (from the sun) can help reduce inflammation and therefore soothe psoriasis. Vitamin D is not typically sourced from food but there are varying amounts in oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. Other foods that contain it are eggs, mushrooms, and fortified foods. But be mindful of the sugar content of low-fat spreads, yogurts and breakfast cereals though as it could contribute to the problem – psoriasis has also been linked to the metabolic condition of insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes.
Omega 3 fatty acids help to produce prostaglandins, the body’s own anti-inflammatory compounds. Oily fish is the best source so aim for 2-3 portions per week. Eat a variety of nuts and seeds especially pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. It’s better to have more dietary omega 3s than omega 6s so that means simply switching from vegetable oils and spreads of olive oil or rapeseed oil.
Herbs and spices such as turmeric, red pepper cloves, ginger, cumin, fennel, basil, rosemary, and garlic are also beneficial as they contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially orange, yellow and red colored varieties are necessary as they provide lots of vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants.
Fruits and vegetables are also vital for their fiber content – something particularly important for psoriasis sufferers. Fibre binds to toxins and helps maintain a healthy colon. Build up of toxins has been cited as one of the main causes of the content.
Foods to avoid
It’s important to keep levels of arachidonic acid down as it promotes inflammation. Avoid saturated and animal fats and sugars. Reducing these help prevent outbreaks in the first place. There is evidence going gluten-free can help but get tested for an intolerance before eliminating it.
A healthy diet free of any trigger foods is a great start, but you might need a little more help to get your skin smooth and glowing. Certain natural dietary supplements can help to relieve your symptoms. Some recommended supplements are
Vitamin A: Its role in cell differentiation (the process by which general cells become specialized cells) helps to maintain the integrity of epithelial cells.
Vitamin D3: Exhibits antiproliferative effects. Normally skin regenerates itself about once a month, but in psoriasis, the skin renews itself every three or four days and the dermis tries to produce new cells extremely quickly, causing build-up.
Vitamin E: Protects cell membranes from damage from free radicals.
Omega 3 fish oil: Reduces damaging inflammation in the body.
Selenium: Powerful antioxidant and important in reducing cell damage, especially in those with long-standing psoriasis (selenium should always be supplemented with caution because it’s possible to overload – eating selenium-rich foods such as Brazil nuts and shellfish is preferable)
Shark cartilage: It has been shown to have anti-angiogenic effects (inhibits the growth of new blood vessels) and is also said to be an anti-inflammatory.
Zinc: Great for all skin conditions as it’s vital for tissue healing.