What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition where cells in the epidermis (skins surface), known as keratinocytes, divide too quickly and can shed in as little as 7-10 days. Skin develops by layers of skin cells pushing up to the surface as new ones are formed. Usually these outer cells are shed so slowly it is not noticed but in psoriasis new cells are formed about one thousand times more quickly due to a disturbance in the body’s cell replication control mechanisms. This gives the appearance of red areas of skin covered in fine silvery scales known as lesions. Nails can also be affected becoming thick, pitted and cracked and may lift from the nail bed.

These lesions form most frequently at the knees elbows and scalp and often mirror each other on both sides of the body. These lesions can be sore and itchy and can make the sufferer feel self-conscious. This is a relatively common condition in the UK with 2% of the population suffering from it. There is no known cure for psoriasis, but it typically follows a pattern of periodic flare-ups followed by periods of remission. In addition to affecting the skin psoriasis can cause an inflammatory form of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis.

How Can Nutritional Therapy Help?

  • There seems to be a significant link between gut health and psoriasis. The mechanisms that control cell division can only be balanced when the digestive system is healthy. If the digestive lining is unhealthy, toxins can get through and affect the health of the skin. Your Nutritionist can advise you on tests and/or supplements that help address gut health.
  • Food Intolerance Testing is Highly recommended
  • Eating plenty of fibre (fruit and vegetables, whole grains and pulses), drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine, sugars & alcohol all help digestive health.
  • Supporting liver function is also beneficial in treating psoriasis as the liver is involved in filtering and detoxifying the blood. (Psoriasis has been linked to toxins in the blood). Alcohol compromises liver function, and has been found to worsen psoriasis, whereas eating a “clean” diet of organic whole foods and drinking plenty of water supports the liver.
  • Essential fats (not made by the body) can be found in nuts, seeds and oily fish and help to prevent skin dryness and oily fish provide Omega 3 fatty acids which have a potent anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
  • Animal fats found in meat and dairy encourage the production of another fatty acid called Arachidonic Acid, which encourages inflammation. Sugars and refined/processed foods can be inflammatory too, and so must also be avoided.

Are there any specific nutrients that are helpful?

Water is essential for healthy skin and aids in the detoxification processes. You should aim to drink at least 2 litres of bottled/filtered water daily.

Vitamin E increases the supply of nutrients to the cells and neutralizes free radicals that damage the skin. Food sources: wheat germ, olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs, olive oil

Vitamin A is required for the maintenance and repair of skin and protects the skin tissue from free radical damage. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and helps in the body’s utilization of fat. Where fat digestion is a problem, foods rich in Beta-carotene are preferred because it can be converted in the liver to vitamin A as required.

Food sources of Vitamin A: fish, eggs & liver. Food sources of beta-carotene: alfalfa, dark green leafy veg, yellow & deep orange fruits & veg.

Zinc is vital for skin healing Food sources: oysters, meat, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, & green leafy veg.

Vitamin C is vital for making and maintaining the health of collagen (a vital component of the skin) although more than 500mg should be avoided.

Food sources: kiwi fruit, berries, peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits.

Vitamin D is vital for regulating the immune system and it plays a role in cell division. If you live in the UK, chances are you may be deficient in this crucial vitamin. Arrange to be tested rather than taking supplemental Vitamin D because in excess it can be toxic. Inform your Nutritional Therapist of the test result. This will help determine the dose you require and for how ling, in order to raise Vitamin D to the desired level (between 100-150 nmol/L).

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that inhibits the growth of psoriatic cells, and plays a major role in detoxification processes. Foods that supply the sulfur-containing amino acids (building blocks of protein) help boost glutathione levels.

Food sources: asparagus, avocado, garlic, onions, broccoli, spinach, and unprocessed meats such as fresh turkey & chicken.

Quercetin is a plant bioflavonoid which can soothe inflammation.

Food sources: tomatoes, apples, garlic, onions, broccoli, & green tea.

What Lifestyle Factors Help?

  • Stress can be a factor in psoriasis; managing and modifying the way you react to difficult or stressful situations can help. Relaxation techniques, physical exercise and meditation are some examples that people use in an attempt to achieve this, but ultimately one must learn to recognize when one’s response is not really appropriate and do all you can to change the habit of responding with alarm to things that do not warrant or require an alarm reaction. You may have heard of the Super Human strength a Mother can exhibit if her child is in danger. We all have this potential if our adrenal glands are healthy. The mind (what we think at the time) stimulates the release of adrenalin into the system which is what gives us Super Human strength, but if we are responding with alarm on a regular basis, the adrenal glands become fatigued. If this goes on for several years and we are then faced with a truly alarming situation, our body may not be able to respond with as much gusto as it is inherently capable of. Adrenalin stimulation on a regular basis upsets the body’s control of inflammation, and symptoms develop thereafter.
  • The Sun or Ultraviolet light therapy UV-B exposure can be helpful in some cases but brings with it an increased risk of skin cancer. Sun-burn can exacerbate Psoriasis. Daily exposure to natural sunlight for 15 minutes, 3-5 times per week is advised (avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm).
  • Bathing in the sea can also be helpful. If this is difficult for you, an alternative is to bathe in 500g of Epsom salts 1-2 times per week. Fill the bath, add the Epsom salts and when they have dissolved you should soak in the bath for 5-10 minutes and pat the skin dry rather than rubbing it. This bath is not for washing.