Psoriasis is thought to be a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system sends faulty inflammatory signals (cytokines) telling the skin cells (keratinocytes) to grow more quickly. Usually skin cells regenerate deep inside and move to the surface about once a month. This process is accelerated in psoriasis, causing thick, red skin with flaky white patches (called scales). Psoriasis appears to have a both a genetic and an environmental component. It’s relatively common and usually occurs between the ages of 15 and 35.
Different types of Psoriasis
There are different types of psoriasis, the most common being plaque, where thick, red patches of skin are covered by flaky, silver-white scales. The plaques are itchy and may be painful. They can occur anywhere on your body, including your genitals and the soft tissue inside your mouth. You may have just a few plaques or many, and in severe cases, the skin around your joints may crack and bleed.
- Bath regularly in warm water – pat yourself dry and apply deep-moisturising cream or oil while your skin is still damp
- Expose your skin to natural sunlight, but be sure to protect yourself with a good sunscreen, for 10-15 minutes daily
- Avoid triggers such as alcohol, smoking, stress, excessive sun exposure, insect bites, infections, a dry environment, cuts, burns and certain medications
- Avoid scratching or rubbing affected areas
- Protect skin from rough clothing and irritants
- Be aware of emotional stress, and try stress-reducing techniques
- Keep your environment cool, with stable temperature and humidity.
There’s no cure for psoriasis, but there are various treatments that can successfully keep it under control. The conventional treatments for psoriasis can be broken down into topical (creams and lotions), light therapy (UVA, UVB, laser or natural sunlight) and systemic (oral or injected medications).
Integrative medicine (a combination of alternative and conventional medicine) offers more hope than conventional medicine alone by addressing you as an individual and checking for related issues such as the balance of healthy gut bacteria, food allergies, yeast infections, hypothyroidism and more. With in-depth testing and by studying the results, individual protocols can be provided to ensure effective treatment of psoriasis. The following natural medicines have been shown to help:
- Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to be extremely beneficial for psoriasis, in some cases resulting in complete clearance of lesions. However, it appears that if vitamin D supplementation is stopped the psoriasis flares up again. Vitamin D may work by inhibiting the proliferation of skin cells.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA from fish or krill oil) are amongst the most important nutrients for skin health and have been shown to be highly effective for psoriasis when taken orally and applied topically. Research has shown that supplementing with EPA and DHA inhibits the fatty signal molecule (Leukotriene B4) which is one of the underlying triggers of psoriasis.
- Polypodium Leukotomos may help with psoriasis, while significantly reducing sun-induced skin damage; likely through its antioxidant, anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Multivitamins and minerals. Psoriasis patients often have low levels of many nutrients including: vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12, selenium. Supplementation with these nutrients as well as zinc, chromium, vitamin C and riboflavin, has been shown to improve the psoriasis of many patients.
- Aloe vera has been used for centuries to soothe skin and it’s no less effective today. With anti-inflammatory properties, it’s an ideal treatment for easing pain and it’s also a great moisturiser. Science supports its effectiveness for psoriasis treatment. Other natural medicines which may work in psoriasis include quercetin and milk thistle extract, through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and the amino acid cysteine - a structural component of skin.
Studies show that psoriasis often co-occurs with other lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome. In fact, people with severe psoriasis have a four year lower life expectancy, mainly due to their increased risk of heart disease. It’s logical, then, that living a healthy life that includes a balanced diet high in fresh nutrient- and fibre-rich produce, regular exercise, little or no alcohol intake and no smoking will make a positive difference to the risk, treatment or severity of psoriasis.
Specific diets may help in some psoriasis cases and may be worth a try. It’s advised to experiment with your diet under the guidance of a registered dietician. These diets include:
- a low calorie/weight loss diet, as it has been found to help
- a gluten free diet as it has been found to be beneficial in approximately 12% of psoriasis patients
- a vegan diet for 3 weeks as it has also been found to be helpful in some psoriasis patients
- eliminating common food allergens (e.g. fish, shell fish, eggs, soya, dairy)
- an anti-inflammatory diet: avoiding trans fats, excessive omega-6 fats, sugar, grains, refined carbohydrates and alcohol
PLEASE NOTE: Products are ranked in decreasing order of potency. Products listed nearer the top of any particular health need are the most effective and have the most scientific research to support their use in respect of such health need. Multiple products, one from each bullet (•) can be combined with products from other bullets for added effectiveness, if needed, since products from different bulleted lines have different mechanisms of action. However, where more than one product is listed within a particular bullet (•), then only one of these products should be used, since all products listed within the same bullet share an identical or similar pharmacology (mechanism of action) for that condition. This is because whenever a particular condition is treated via multiple different mechanisms of action, the result is generally improved effectiveness. However, when products are combined that work via exactly the same mechanism of action, then no extra benefit is obtained.