Holistic Remedies for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition, meaning that your immune system is mistakenly attacking your body. Your immune system is important for keeping you healthy and protecting you from bacteria, diseases, and other foreign invaders. However, in an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes your cells and parts of your body, such as the skin and joints, as foreign invaders and attacks them.
There are many different types of autoimmune diseases, psoriasis being one of the most common. Psoriasis involves patches of dry, inflamed skin due to a rapid build-up/overproduction of skin cells. The patches may develop anywhere on the body but are most commonly on areas of the hands, feet, neck, scalp, and face.
Types of Psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis - is the most common and involves red, inflamed patches that are covered with whitish-silver scales, commonly found on the elbows, knees, and scalp.
Guttate psoriasis - is common in children and involves small pink spots, commonly found on the arms, legs, and torso.
Pustular psoriasis - is common in adults and involves white, pus-filled blisters and areas of red and inflamed skin, commonly found on the hands and feet.
Inverse psoriasis - involves patches of red, shiny, and inflamed skin often found on the underarms, breasts, groin, and genital area.
Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and depend on the type of psoriasis. Mentioned above were the visual signs specific to the different types of psoriasis. There are also other general symptoms of psoriasis
Dry skin on and around patches that may crack and bleed
Soreness on and around the patches
Itching and burning sensations on and around the patches
Painful and swollen joints
Symptoms of psoriasis generally occur in cycles where the individual will experience a flare-up of symptoms due to a trigger followed by a time of remission where there are little to no symptoms. Symptoms can have multiple triggers and vary from person to person. Common triggers can include:
Common Causes & Triggers
Although the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, there are various factors that may contribute to the development of psoriasis and worsening of symptoms. As everyone is unique, the causes and triggers of psoriasis will vary from person to person. Below is a list of common triggers and possible causes of psoriasis.
Genetics - some people are born with genes that increase their chances of developing psoriasis, especially if an immediate family member has or had psoriasis in the past.
Immune system - a weakened immune system may be a cause of psoriasis and a trigger for flare-ups.
Candida - is an overgrowth of yeast fungus in the intestines often caused by poor dietary habits, chemical sensitivities, and repeated use of antibiotics and the birth control pill. Psoriasis and skin conditions are common symptoms associated with candidiasis.
Low-fat diets, especially if low in Omega-3 EFAs (essential fatty acids) - EFAs are components of cell membranes, hormones, and the nervous system and are necessary for the lubrication of the skin, thus a deficiency can result in dry skin which increases the severity of psoriasis.
Systemic Inflammation - inflammation caused by a condition of one area of the body can spread into other areas of the body, such as inflammation of the intestinal tract making its way into the skin.
Vitamin B6 deficiency - Pantothenic Acid (B6) is an important stress fighter and supporter of the adrenal glands. Deficiency of B6 has been linked to various conditions such as allergies, arthritis, and psoriasis.
Allergies - are an immune system disorder when the body has a reaction to a protein in a food. Allergies often present themselves through many symptoms such as skin disorders and psoriasis.
Stress - high stress is a major trigger for flare-ups and learning to manage your stress levels will play an important role in reducing your symptoms.
Alcohol - excessive consumption of alcohol can trigger flare-ups by increasing inflammation throughout the body and depleting numerous vitamins and minerals.
Medications - such as lithium, antimalarial medications, and high blood pressure medications.
Infections - cause the immune system, which is already attacking the body, to go into overdrive thereby increasing the severity of symptoms.
Although psoriasis has no known cure, the symptoms and their severity can be managed and greatly reduced. Many conventional treatments involve medications and ointments that involve harmful ingredients, which may have severe side effects and can cause more issues/complications over time. Take the time to nurture and care for your body by following the advice below for a holistic approach to healing from psoriasis. Work with an experienced holistic healthcare practitioner who can safely and effectively guide you on your healing journey.
Diet is one of the most important areas to start the healing of any condition. The health of the gut really sets the tone for the health of the rest of the body, and the nutrients, or anti-nutrients, that you are putting into your body will either support health or support disease.
Try - starting with a plant-based diet followed with a sufficient amount of EFAs. Test for dairy, wheat or any other food allergies/sensitivities and avoid them if necessary but significantly reduce these anyways.
Avoid - processed, packaged and junk foods, sugar, soda, alcohol, excess caffeine, gluten, processed flours, dairy, saturated fat (from meat and dairy products), products with yeast.
Include - plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, filtered water (at least 1.5 L per day or half your body weight in oz), fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, coconut yogurt, and kimchi, fish, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and red, yellow, green and purple vegetables and fruits (high in antioxidants), flaxseeds, hemp seeds etc.
Exercise - low-intensity exercise is important for activating the immune system without overstimulating it - we want to avoid overstimulation with autoimmune conditions.
Try - exercises such as tai chi, yoga, walking, hiking, and cycling are great forms of movement that have a low impact while still improving circulation, heart rate, and reducing stagnation.
Topicals- look for creams and ointments containing vitamins A, C, and E with minimal ingredients. The EWG Skin Deep Database is a great reference for determining the safety of personal care products. Aloe Vera gel is one great natural alternative that is soothing to the skin.
Reduce Stress - learning to cope with stress is an important part of healing any condition and will look different for every person.
Try - finding what works for you. This may take time but is essential for reducing psoriasis. Try meditation, yoga, journaling, walking, stretching, deep breathing, painting, drawing, or reading.
Its best to get as many nutrients as you can through diet first, that is, by eating a whole foods, plant-based diet full of colorful and diverse fruits and vegetables. Supplementation should be in addition to diet and can be very helpful to bring the body back to health and harmony. Below are a handful of supplements that have been helpful in reducing the symptoms of psoriasis.
Seek the support of a holistic healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements, and to make a plan that is safe and effective for you.
Multivitamin and mineral complex - this will ensure you are getting a broad range of vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Probiotics - will help to restore balance to the microbiome by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Try - adding fermented foods daily (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha). A probiotic supplement of 10 to 25 billion/day may also be helpful.
EFAs - Essential Fatty Acids are important for the health of the skin and all the tissues and cells of the body.
Try - adding 1 tbsp ground flaxseed daily to your meals, an EFA oil blend.
Antioxidants - vitamins A, C & E. These are essential for combating any oxidative stress and damage occurring within the body and for aiding in the healing process.
Try - a supplement combining A, C, E - usually comes with selenium and/or zinc which are also important antioxidants.
Vitamin D - consuming sources of vitamin D boosts the immune system and bring positive effects to skin cells.
Try - incorporating food sources of vitamin D into your diet including, free-range eggs, leafy greens, and mushrooms. Spending 20 mins daily in the sun is another natural source of vitamin D (at least four times a week).
Calendula Cream - this herb is a powerful antioxidant and contains antiviral properties to help soothe skin inflammation. It can be applied topically as a cream with the calendula oil infused into a carrier oil.
Lavender - it will help soothe inflamed skin and help with the healing process.
Try - 3 drops of lavender oil into coconut oil and apply to affected area 3x per day.
Aloe Vera - the inner fillet of this plant is soothing and anti-inflammatory.
Try - using it as a topical gel to soothe pain and inflammation.
Turmeric - has amazing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Try - drinking it as a tea, adding it to meals and even using it as a topical salve for inflamed skin.
Tea Tree oil - is a great antibacterial, and has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties that can benefit the skin when applied topically.
Try - due to its strength, tea tree should not be applied on its own directly onto the skin. Add it to a carrier oil or find a pre-blended product that is safe for topical application.