Psoriasis is a skin disorder showing up as excessive production of skin cells. The skin cells accumulate faster than they are shed, resulting in patches of red skin, often covered with silvery scales. There is a strong immune correlation with psoriasis so things like stress, allergies, illness, infection, and inadequate nutrition with affect the immune system will also affect the onset or severity of psoriasis symptoms.
Manifestation of symptoms is an immune response targeted to a localized area; if an insult occurs (scratch, sunburn, or other irritation) the body continuously tries to repair the skin by creating new cells.
In chronic cases, own body’s own antimicrobial peptides trigger psoriasis: an autoimmune response. These peptides are meant to be protective (against harmful bacteria); but when antibodies are created they create an inflammatory mess.
Much like any autoimmune disorder, inflammation is at the root of symptom manifestation. The more inflamed you are, the more likely you will have spillover into overt symptoms. With psoriasis, if you control the inflammation, you minimize skin flare-ups.
Addressing Inflammation in Psoriasis
Therapeutic foundations for treating inflammatory skin conditions are largely the same as for any inflammatory condition. We must reduce hyperactivity while allowing for normal responses. I.e. Immune BALANCE; not immune boosting or immune dampening.
A great starting point is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet that minimizes inflammatory triggers while including plenty of anti-inflammatory nutrients. This means increasing consuming of Omega-3 fatty acids, phytonutrients, and fiber.
We also must clean up the environment and avoid environmental triggers of inflammation.
Nutrient Needs of the Skin
For optimal healing, certain nutrients are important for repair and healing during and after a psoriasis flare-up. These include: Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamins A&E.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is important for proper development of collagen and skin tissue. It promotes elasticity and subdermal cell structure.
- Zinc: Zinc is antimicrobial and functions as an antioxidant. It plays a role in DNA synthesis, cell division, protein synthesis and in promoting the structure of proteins and cell membranes. Zinc is a cofactor in enzyme reactions converting essential fatty acids to anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (putting all that good Omega-3 to work!)
- Vitamins A&E: These fat-soluble vitamins promote skin cell differentiation and modulate dermal growth factors. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant; helping to minimize the damage from free radicals. Vitamin A and E seem to work better in tandem.
Alternative Treatments for Psoriasis
Psoriasis improves when exposed to sunlight, and UV Light Therapy has long been an effective method of treatment for acute cases. This may be due to increased availability of Vitamin D. Vitamin D modulates the inflammatory expression of antimicrobial peptides (all those things at work trying to heal the skin). With any skin condition, it’s important to maintain optimal levels of Vitamin D through sun exposure or supplementation (likely a combination).
The Functional Medicine Approach to Psoriasis
Instead of first turning to pharmaceutical drugs (like steroids and immunosuppressants); we start with covering the basics. First, identifying potential allergens, toxins, and irritants (using dietary exclusion). Ongoing detoxification, gut support, and liver support. Repletion of nutrients integral to healthy skin expression. Targeted supplements to minimize inflammation and support a healthy immune response. And not-to-be-ignored lifestyle interventions like exercise, mindfulness, stress-reduction, and nervous system support.
Key Lifestyle Considerations for Managing Inflammatory Psoriasis
Physical activity lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases endorphins, which improve immune tolerance. It activates parts of the brain which control our stress response and increases the availability of important anti-aninflammatory neurochemicals.
Exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve sleep quality, which can improve physical and mental stress. Find ways to participate in joyful movement to decrease muscle tension, lowering the body’s contribution to feeling anxious.
Even mild dehydration can affect your skin. However, finding the right balance of fluid is important. Consuming large amounts of caffeine, either from coffee, caffeinated tea, or energy drinks can increase levels of anxiety and symptoms such as heart palpitations and jitteriness.
Beverage options that include chamomile and turmeric may help reduce anxiety. Chamomile and curcumin in turmeric, both contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help lower inflammation associated with psoriasis.
Inflammation may require a multitude of approaches to be managed effectively. Along with a balanced diet, exercise, and adequate sleep, you may greatly benefit from seeing a mental health therapist for talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Click here to book a free discovery call with Kristen.
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