Psoriasis

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is characterised by the accumulation of scaly pink-red or silvery-white patches on the skin, which may or may not be itchy.

Symptoms

  • Skin has scaly or shiny patches or plaques that range in colour from pink-red to silvery-white
  • The plaques have sharply defined borders
  • Skin may be flaky, due to sloughing off of the psoriatic cells
  • Patches are most likely to appear on the scalp, knees and elbows, but may occur anywhere. Patches often occur symmetrically (e.g. on left and right knees)
  • Residual dark or light patches may be seen on the skin after the psoriasis plaques have resolved
  • In some cases, the nails may be affected, becoming pitted or ridged
  • Up to 8% of sufferers experience psoriatic arthritis, in which the skin condition is accompanied by joint pain and inflammation

Causes

  • In psoriasis, skin cells are produced at a greater rate than they are required, but are not shed at the same speed. This causes the accumulation of the cells, which build up as psoriatic plaques. The reason this occurs has not been determined
  • Genetic and environmental factors are involved; psoriasis often runs in families and is more common in people of some nationalities than others, but this can vary according to climate
  • People with psoriasis have abnormal fat metabolism and increased requirements for essential fatty acids. Addressing these imbalances is a key factor in managing psoriasis
  • People with psoriasis often have low levels of vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and/or selenium, and these nutritional deficits may contribute to the problem
  • Psoriasis triggers can include STRESS, trauma to the skin (e.g. itching, rubbing or irritation), and the use or discontinuation of certain medicines
  • From a naturopathic perspective, inadequate digestion of protein and other foodstuffs, or SLUGGISH LIVER, gall bladder or bowel function can contribute to psoriasis by enhancing the over-proliferation of skin cells. A low fibre diet may exacerbate the situation

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • Taking the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and salmon oil helps to maintain an optimal ratio of essential fatty acids in the body, and also has an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to relieve psoriasis symptoms
  • People with psoriasis may benefit from supplementation with the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E
  • Vitamin A is important for healthy skin function, and supports the healing of WOUNDS and other skin lesions. People with psoriasis often have low levels of vitamin A, along with low vitamin D levels. Cod and halibut liver oils are naturally rich sources of both these fat-soluble vitamins. For those requiring higher doses, vitamin D3 is also sometimes taken combined with omega-3s
  • Zinc is an important co-factor in the metabolism of essential fatty acids. If zinc levels are inadequate (as they often are in psoriasis patients), increasing essential fatty acid consumption may not work as effectively as possible. It also plays an additional role in wound healing and skin repair
  • To improve protein digestion and SLUGGISH LIVER and gall bladder function, take a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement.
  • High dose milk thistle capsules may also help to relieve psoriasis symptoms
  • Milk thistle is sometimes taken in combination with other liver-cleansing herbs such as globe artichoke and schisandra to improve SLUGGISH LIVER function by increasing bile output, which in turn stimulates peristalsis and helps relieve CONSTIPATION
  • If STRESS triggers or exacerbates your psoriasis, take a high potency multivitamin that provides the B-complex group of vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and other nutrients that help combat nervous tension and ANXIETY

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Work with your doctor or healthcare professional to identify any allergens that may be contributing to your problem. For example, it is not uncommon for people with psoriasis to also have coeliac disease or an allergy to gluten
  • Drink at least two litres of water every day
  • Some forms of psoriasis respond well to periods of exposure to sunlight and UV-light treatment
  • Avoid wearing synthetic or restrictive clothing, and wear only hypo-allergenic jewellery
  • Avoid bathing or showering in very hot water, which can promote DRY SKIN. Choose gentle soaps and skin care products that have been specially formulated to maintain the skin's fragile pH balance. Skin should be moisturised regularly, as soon as possible after showering
  • Choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. In particular, try to eat several serves of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or sardines) every week to maintain high levels of omega-3 fats. At the same time, limit your consumption of saturated fats (e.g. from meat and dairy products), and processed oils (e.g. margarine, hydrogenated fats in pre-packaged foods) and deep fried foods
  • Eating a high fibre diet supports liver and bowel function, and this can help limit skin cell proliferation. For this purpose, soluble fibre is the most effective form of fibre; good sources include psyllium, oats, barley and fibre from legumes and pulses
  • Don't smoke or drink alcohol - psoriasis sufferers with these habits tend to have more difficulty managing their skin problems
  • Chickweed has traditionally been used to relieve itchy skin conditions, and an ointment or gel containing the herb may provide relief for psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. Look for a product combining chickweed with either zinc oxide or aloe vera and tea tree oil

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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