(NaturalHealth365) If you are one of the 7.5 million Americans affected by psoriasis, you know that this chronic autoimmune skin condition can be frustrating, unsightly, uncomfortable and even quite painful. Symptoms include reddened, thickened, scaly, and itchy skin, often with flaking, silvery patches; joint pain may also be present.
Disturbingly, psoriasis has recently been linked with a higher risk of health problems, including diabetes, depression, adverse cardiovascular events and metabolic syndrome. But, today, we will focus on natural solutions to this serious skin problem.
First of all, tell me what causes psoriasis?
Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakes normal skin cells for pathogens, and responds with an overgrowth of skin cells. Psoriasis can develop anywhere on your body, although it is most common on hands and feet.
This inflammatory – non-contagious – illness is strongly linked to genetics; experts say that if both parents have the condition, then their child will have a 50 percent chance of developing this condition. A variety of factors can trigger psoriasis, including infections, trauma – such as insect bites, sunburns, or cuts – stress, a weakened immune system, and certain medications, including beta-blockers and lithium.
Conventionally speaking, there is no cure for psoriasis – which can go into remission and then flare up at unpredictable intervals. Most doctors may prescribe a variety of medications to control symptoms, including steroids and salicylic acid. However, these pharmaceutical drugs – in some cases – can be quite expensive and often cause negative side effects.
Keep in mind, a ‘weakened immune system’ is the main culprit – so don’t stress your body with toxins. Do your best to avoid pesticides in conventionally-grown food, GMOs, poisonous vaccines, sugary processed foods and, course, environmental pollutants like dangerous household cleaners and personal care products.
Researchers strongly emphasize the importance of vitamin D
Researchers have long known that low serum levels of vitamin D are associated with increased severity of psoriasis, so using vitamin D to treat it would seem to make good sense. In fact, both new and established clinical studies bear this out. A 2013 review published in Journal of Dermatological Treatment credits both topical and dietary vitamin D with being efficacious in the treatment of psoriasis, and recommends that the vitamin not be overlooked as a therapy.
The study authors pointed out that vitamin D, in addition to treating psoriasis, can also help protect against many of the adverse health effects associated with the condition. In addition, vitamin D is inexpensive, easily obtainable and safe when used under the guidance of a knowledgeable medical professional. Obviously, the best way to increase your vitamin D blood levels is to safely expose yourself to the sun – as often as possible.
The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) concurs, reporting that vitamin D is indeed beneficial in alleviating psoriasis, and may even prevent psoriatic lesions from forming. Although topical vitamin D creams are available, the NPF notes you can also procure vitamin D from your diet by eating farm-fresh eggs and salmon. But, with all the concerns about seafood contamination – the sun is looking like the best choice.
Colloidal oatmeal works at the molecular level to safely target psoriasis
According to University of Maryland Medical Center, a daily bath in a tub of lukewarm water to which a cup of oatmeal has been added is a good way to dissolve psoriatic scales and soothe inflamed skin. And this natural remedy is supported by strong scientific research. In a 2010 review published in Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, the authors typified colloidal oatmeal as a natural product with an “excellent safety and effectiveness record,” and deemed it an” important component of therapy for atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.”
Oatmeal’s avenanthramides – active constituents that have been widely studied – are natural anti-inflammatory substances and antihistamines that inhibit the activity of nuclear factor kappa B cells and inflammatory cytokines.
Does aloe vera gel provide relief from psoriasis?
Many dermatologists recommend following an oatmeal bath with a high-quality moisturizer. Choosing a cream or ointment containing aloe vera extracts will allow you to land a one-two punch against psoriasis, as aloe vera gel could be the gold standard of herbal skin soothers.
The clear gel from the fleshy leaves of the aloe barbadensis plant is packed with polysaccharide glucomannan, which has a proven emollient effect. The gel is also rich in natural plant sterols, beneficial vitamins, and bradykinase, a natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent. Magnesium lactate, which has an antihistamine and anti-itching effect, also contributes to the soothing effects.
Physician and natural health expert Dr. Ed Zimney, M.D., cites a 2009 randomized eight-week clinical study in which aloe vera worked better than triamcinolone acetate, a topical steroid, to alleviate psoriasis. By the study’s end, patients in the aloe vera group had greater reductions in area and severity of psoriasis than those in the steroid group.
If you are fortunate enough to have one of these attractive, dramatic-looking succulents as a houseplant or organically-grown garden ornamental, you can simply cut off a leaf, slit it down the middle and squeeze out the clear fluid. To avoid stressing your aloe plant, only harvest leaves from mature, thriving specimens.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of fish oil
Fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is endorsed by the Natural Institutes of Health as an effective therapy for reducing the pain and swelling of psoriasis. And the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) agrees; the UMMC advises up to 3 grams of fish oil a day to reduce psoriatic inflammation.
However, because of possible PCB, dioxin and mercury contamination – which can cause cognitive impairments and nervous system dysfunction – check your fish oil supplement against the International Fish Oil Standards Program – which monitors toxin testing and accreditation of fish oil products.
Is sunlight a natural cure for psoriasis?
Although the natural solutions above are all inexpensive, how about one that’s totally free, and obtainable merely by stepping outside?
Julie Moore, M.D., a dermatologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, recommends a half-hour “sun bath” as a natural way to treat psoriasis. The key, of course, is the presence of beneficial ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Sun exposure treatments should only be undertaken in consultation with your doctor, and exposure should be carefully timed. Moore notes that sunburn can worsen psoriasis, and even trigger new outbreaks.
Naturally, you shouldn’t try to treat your psoriasis – or any other medical condition – with vitamin D, oatmeal, aloe vera, fish oil or sun exposure without the guidance of a trusted doctor or naturopathic physician. A knowledgeable doctor can help you tailor a regimen that is right for you. If you feel you can’t communicate with your doctor about natural or alternative treatments for your psoriasis, find another doctor.
A final word about psoriasis therapy and prevention
Never expose psoriatic skin to hot water or harsh soaps; lukewarm baths and mild, gentle, fatty soaps are the ticket. Avoid excessive alcohol use and exposure to cigarette smoke; both of these can aggravate psoriasis. If you smoke cigarettes, try to stop. And avoid – as much as possible – exposure to environmental toxins, chemicals and pesticides.
Psoriasis can be a challenge to live with. But these natural treatments can go a long way towards soothing discomfort, without resorting to potentially dangerous or expensive prescription medications.