Psoriasis is a common chronic skin condition that affects over 7 million Americans. It is characterized by a rapid replication and pile-up of new skin cells before the shedding of old skin. (Epidermal cells reproduce every day instead of the usual 19 days). It covers the body with thick, red patches or plaques and silvery white scales surrounded by red inflamed border.
A German scientist insisted, “Psoriasis is not strictly a skin disorder. It’s a metabolic disturbance which is triggered by environmental or stressful conditions like faults in the diet, flu-like conditions, the administration of penicillin, surgery, or auto-immune diseases (a genetic auto-immune Immunoglobulin is found in the skin lesions from slight trauma).” Holistic therapists hold that psoriasis is a result of the digestive system being overloaded with acidic toxins (see acid-base balance). These toxins leach back into the bloodstream through a thinned and ulcerated bowel. This scenario is complicated by yeast infection, food allergies or nutritional deficiencies.
Psoriasis is a highly complex illness with a variety of causes and exacerbating factors. There is no known cure for psoriasis. The disease can be controlled effectively by addressing the factors that contribute to psoriatic symptoms, such as digestive insufficiency, liver toxicity, and intestinal dysbiosis. Treatment is frequently aimed at reducing the symptoms and includes the use of prescription ointments and creams that help with exacerbations but do little to decrease the progression of the disease. Sometimes ultraviolet light (UVL) therapy is used to retard the production of new blood cells. Long-term treatment with UVL has exuded remarkable improvements, but may increase the risk of skin cancer. See a qualified dermatologist before attempting UVL treatment.
The condition may result from:
- The rapid growth of skin due to problems with prostaglandin regulation, a faulty metabolism of fats and a deficiency of essential fatty acids.
- Free radicals and other toxins from the environment and/or circulating toxins from a toxic bowel and unhealthy colon.
- Impaired liver function and incomplete protein digestion and an overload of acidic toxins.
- A weakened immune system (leaky gut syndrome, intestinal dysbiosis).
- Stressful life events leading to adrenal insufficiency.
- Heredity is a factor that cannot be excluded as a major factor in skin manifestations. One study indicates that infants have more than twice the risk of developing psoriasis if their mothers had the disease. People with HIV or AIDS often have severe psoriasis.
- Drugs and medications such as beta-blockers (propranolol, atenolol), anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naprosyn), lithium, anti-malarial drugs and tetracycline.
- Other known TRIGGERS can be excessive alcohol consumption, emotional stress (depression and anxiety), hormonal changes, overuse of antibiotics, poison ivy, injury, food allergies, hypothyroidism, nutritional deficiencies, viral or bacterial infections. The role of emotional factors (anger, stress, anxiousness) in proliferating atopic dermatitis and psoriasis are profound.
It is prudent to attempt to eat a diet that mostly contains raw foods with plenty of fresh and organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish. Consuming plenty of fiber is necessary for maintaining a healthy colon. Try to eliminate or severely limit your intake of refined sugar and gluten. Foods such as coffee, sodas, fried foods, red meats and other animal fats should be restricted.
Desensitize food allergies (most common food allergens are eggs, dairy, nuts, citrus fruit, wheat gluten and soy) by utilizing the ELIMINATION DIET. A low-protein, vegetarian diet can be helpful because it is predominantly alkaline in nature, and high in fiber. Increase fiber foods (plant floods) and cold-water fish and try to bring weight to normal levels. One study done in a Swedish hospital showed that psoriatic patients improved by fasting and eating a vegetarian diet. Additional tests on eating vegetarian diets and their relationship with decreasing chronic inflammation disease is being studied. The improvement was probably due to decreased arachidonic acid (inflammatory fatty acids found in red meat), and endotoxins.
Since psoriasis may have a liver and/or auto-immune component, drink plenty of fresh, filtered water (6-10 glasses) daily. Fasting for 3-7 days, followed by fruit juices, has helped.
A large study on nutrition and the incidence of psoriasis based on the research of Edgar Cayce listed the following do’s and don’t’s:
INCLUDE THESE FOODS: All nuts (less peanuts), vegetable juices, fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, all vegetables except nightshade family, fish, fowl, lamb, and saffron or slippery elm tea.
AVOID THESE FOODS: Red meat, fried and high fat meats, tomatoes (and their derivatives) white potatoes, eggplant, peppers, paprika, high sugar foods, margarine, high fat foods, artificial sweeteners, cola, alcohol, and salted foods.
Little is known, except that it can be exacerbated by stress, temperature, and climate. Underlying problems appear to be low secretion of hydrochloric acid in stomach, excessive intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome), dysbiosis (overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in the intestines) and liver problems.
Sunbathing moderately can substantially help topical manifestations. The exposure to Vitamin D is helpful. Limit sun exposure to 10-15 minutes, and try sunbathing in the early morning. Phototherapy (UVB light) can enhance the effects of other medications.
Joint disease may be more common than thought in psoriasis patients. In one Scandinavian study, 43 percent of rheumatologist-diagnosed psoriasis patients had suffered from arthritis and joint pain within the previous 4 weeks.
A Japanese study reported that a defect in the Vitamin D receptor gene may add to the likelihood of contracting psoriasis. This gene, called the VDR gene, can reduce the body’s ability to utilize vitamin D, thus increasing the risk of psoriasis, as well as breast and colon cancer.
Following a whole body detoxification (bowel and liver) acutely benefits a patient with psoriasis. Preparations are manufactured with herbal laxatives and fiber, and can be taken for 2-4 weeks. Ingestion of pure water and raw fruits and vegetables with added easily digestible proteins like almonds, beans and seeds, is the natural food approach.
- OMEGA 3, 6 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
The cold-pressed oils (primrose oil, flaxseed, olive oil, sesame or fish oil) helps in the treatment of psoriasis by increasing fat metabolism, offering anti-inflammatory benefits, easing eruptions and improving the overall condition of the skin. Fish oil was found to reduce the severity of psoriasis after 2-3 months. Dosage: 2-10 grams daily. Many oils can also be applied topically.
- TOPICAL SALVES
There are various preparations that can be applied topically for temporary relief. One of the most unique products is called Jungle Salve (contains Aloe vera, Vitamin E, Cortisone and Aquaphor). The main ingredient is the bark of the gumbolimbo tree (Bursera simaruba) from Central America. Other topical salves may be made with ingredients that include calendula, Capsaicin, Oregon grape, zinc oxide, and vitamin E.
Adding bacteria to establish healthy gut flora can improve many skin conditions, including psoriasis. In one study it was believed that healthy bacteria decreased the proliferation of cells that exacerbate this troublesome skin condition. Dosage: 1 capsule 2 or 3 times a day.
- VITAMIN A (BETA-CAROTENE)
Vitamin A is an antioxidant that is essential for tissue maintenance, skin protection and repair. Increase the dose the first week then decrease by half. Dosage: 10,000-50,000 IU daily. Use doses over 25,000 IU daily on under supervision of a qualified practitioner. (Patients with liver disease, smokers and diabetics cannot utilize beta-carotene).
- MILK THISTLE
There seems to be a connection between the incidence of psoriasis and the possibility of liver toxicity. Supplementing with milk thistle assures a healthy liver and may decrease the exacerbations of the disease. Milk thistle increases bile flow which aids in keeping the blood clean. Dosage: 300 mg 2-3 times a day or as directed on package for liver detoxification and purification. Milk thistle may be supplemented in combination with DANDELION, ARTICHOKE, CORYDALIS, or LICORICE.
- COLEUS FORSKOHLII
This herb contains the diterpene forskolin, which activates cyclic AMP which can be helpful in decreasing histamine release and cellular proliferation, especially with psoriasis. May also decrease inflammation associated with eczema. Dosage: As instructed.
- VITAMIN E and VITAMIN C w/BIOFLAVONOIDS
These antioxidants enhance the immune system and maintain healthy skin. Vitamin C will decrease inflammation associated with the disease. Dosages: Vitamin E 400 IU, Vitamin C 100-3000 mg a day.
- ZINC PICOLONATE or CITRATE
Zinc is an important mineral for protein metabolism, and protein is needed for the healing of the skin. Psoriasis is always considered a zinc-deficient disease. Zinc is responsible for the utilization of vitamin A at the skin level. Zinc is required for cortisol production, an adrenal hormones used to decrease the inflammatory exacerbations of psoriasis. Dosage: 25-50 mg a day. Additional COPPER may be indicated unless the patient is copper toxic (Via Hair Analysis).
- OREGON GRAPE EXTRACT
Oregon grape has been traditionally used in folk medicine for dermatological diseases. In Germany, Oregon grape ointment proved an effective and safe therapy for psoriasis vulgaris. However, oral forms of Oregon grape in a tincture or capsule form have also shown improvement in resistant conditions after three weeks of therapy. Dosage: See a qualified practitioner.
- VITAMIN D3
Research has found that poor utilization of vitamin D in the body may lead to psoriasis. Dosage: 400-800 IU daily. 1,25 DIHYDROXYVITAMIN D3 when applied topically was found effective in patients with severe and persistent psoriasis. No toxicity is observed when used for 2-5 weeks. Dosage: As instructed by health care practitioner.
- B-COMPLEX VITAMINS
These essential water-soluble vitamins are needed for healthy skin and proper circulation. B vitamins are needed for the reproduction of cells, including skin cells, nerve cells, hair cells, and others. B vitamins are nature’s ‘anti-stress’ vitamins, and may be helpful in reducing dermatitis especially when they are stresses-induced. Extra B vitamins needed are THIAMINE B1 (50mg 2-3 times a day), VITAMIN B5 (50 MG 2-3 times a day), VITAMIN B6 (50 mg 3 times a day), VITAMIN B12 (1,000-2,000 mcg daily), and FOLIC ACID (400-800 mcg daily). Dosage: 50-100 mg of each major B vitamin 2-3 times a day.
- WHOLE-FOOD GREEN DRINKS or POWDERS
Organic green foods are packed with nutrition, vitamins, enzymes, phyto-chemicals and antioxidants. They include CHLOROPHYLL, SPIRULINA, BARLEY and BLUE-GREEN ALGAE. Supplementing with these foods may help detoxify the body of toxins that may exacerbate the disease. Dosage: As instructed on package.
Echinacea is often overlooked as an effective oral and topical medicine. It has been effectively used for treatment of atoptic dermatitis, psoriasis, and herpes simplex. It has been approved in Germany for poorly healing wounds and chronic ulceration. Dosage: as directed.
- MANGOSTEEN FRUIT
A fruit cultivated in the tropical regions of both the eastern and western hemisphere. Sometimes called the “queen of fruits,” it has long been recognized in Asia for its powerful anti-inflammatory effect and is effective in treating eczema and other skin conditions. Dosage: As directed
There are numerous homeopathic treatments that have proved effective in treating psoriasis. Products such as citrokehl, sanuvis, amara, and quassia have been utilized. Dosage: See a qualified homeopathic practitioner.
- SHARK CARTILAGE
Some researchers believe that shark cartilage may be effective in treating psoriasis since it is much less toxic than conventional therapy. Dosage: 750 mg 1-3 times a day.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that inhibits the growth of psoriatic cells. Dosage: 500 mg twice daily.
- TUMERIC (CURCUMIN)
This ancient herb has a long traditional use in treating skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, blemishes, dry skin, discoloration, irritation and sun damage. Dosage: As instructed (oral or topical).
- CASTOR BEAN OIL
The derivative of castor bean oil is called undecylenic acid and supplementation aids in establishing healthy gut flora and removes toxins which contribute to the skin disease. Dosage: 50 mg 3-5 times a day.
- AROMATHERAPY OILS
The skillful use of aromatherapy plant oils can provide effective relief from psoriasis symptoms. The following oils have been used for treatment: lavender, melissa, jasmine, geranium, sandalwood and bergamot.
It has been shown that supplementing with iodine will ensure that the thyroid gland remains healthy. The thyroid gland is responsible for skin texture and moisture. The thyroid maintains healthy levels of both zinc and vitamin A to the skin surface. Dosage: 1-3 mg a day on average, best source is sea vegetables. KELP is a good source of iodine.
- APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Adding apple cider vinegar in a warm bath loosens scales quickly, reduces lesions, and eliminates itching. Avoid COAL TAR preparations since they are linked with skin cancer.
- BURDOCK ROOT
An herb that helps to cleanse the blood. Dosage: One capsule or 20 drops of tincture before each meal for 2 months (helps kids).
Alternative & Complementary Therapies. April 1999. Pp. 106-109.
Balch, JF, Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing- 3rd edition. Penguin Putman Inc. New York, NY. 2000.
Biotics Research. Recognizing Induced Digestive Toxic Overload. Copywrite 1998.
Blumenthal, M. Study of Oregon Grape Ointment in Psoriasis Patients. HerbClip, May 24, 1997.
Bricker, F. Psoriasis Treatment with Oregon Grape Extracts. Jrl of the American Herbalists Guild, 6(1): 36-39
Brown, AC, Hairfield M, Richards, DG. Medical Nutrition Therapy as a Potential Complementary Treatment for Psoriasis. Alternative Medicine Review, September 2004. 9(3): 297-306.
Coleus Forskohlii- Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review, March 2006. 11(1): P. 47.
Dean, K. Plant Patents. Herbalgram: No. 49. Fall 2000: 30-31.
Hair Analysis information. ARL Analytical Research. Phoenix, AZ. 85021.
Keith, David R. Natural Ways to Heal Psoriasis. Alive #193. Pp. 72-74.
Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers, S. Woodstock, CT. 1996.
Marsden, E. Psoriasis. BioMed Report, September 2002. 1(5): 1-3.
Naguib, Y. Facing Up to Skin Disorders- Naturally. Vitamin Reviewer, Oct 2002. 9(10): 61-65.
Polymorphisms ion Gene for Vitamin D receptor Are Linked to Psoriasis (Med Watch). Natural Pharmacy, May/June 2003. 7(3): P. 16.
Templeton, JF. An Asian Medical Secret. Alive #282, April 2006. P. 112.
Thorne Research Physician’s reference Guide. www.thorne.com
Van Niel, CW, et al. Lactobacillus Therapy in Acute Infectious Diarrhea in Children. Pediatrics, (109): 678-84.
Yanor-McRae, R. Psoriasis Strategies. Alive #224, June 2001. Pp. 60-61.
Yarnell, E. Botanical Medicines for Dermatological Conditions. HealthPlus. The JAG Group. 1997.
Up Next: Osteoporosis