I see patients almost daily with some form of psoriasis. For some people, psoriasis causes only occasional, mild irritation. But for others, this skin disease causes severe symptoms which are difficult to treat.
I remember one patient who had suffered since young adulthood. Other doctors had prescribed several different medications for him, all of which worked initially. But none of them provided consistent relief. He had also experienced nausea and fatigue as side effects. When I suggested a natural approach, he readily agreed.
Unfortunately, many conventional treatments give only temporary relief and often cause severe side effects, including liver damage. That’s why I advise all of my psoriasis patients to try natural alternatives first, before starting drug treatments.
The Mysterious Nature of Psoriasis
People who suffer from psoriasis tend to have unpredictable cycles of flare-ups followed by periods of remission. Attacks are often triggered by certain situations such as infections, injury to the skin, stress, cold weather, smoking or particular drugs. Triggers vary from person to person.
During an attack, some of the skin cells develop too quickly and move to the surface of the skin rapidly. There, they build up, causing rough, red patches, often with silvery white scales. These patches may spread to cover larger and larger areas. They usually cause itching, and sometimes they bleed. Psoriasis can also affect the scalp or cause pitted or discolored nails. Some people develop a condition known as psoriatic arthritis, in which joints swell and stiffen.
Although scientists understand what happens during an attack, no one knows what causes psoriasis, and there is no accepted cure. Some researchers believe psoriasis may be related to a weak immune system, while others link it to an unhealthy, toxic colon.
But just because psoriasis isn’t fully understood, doesn’t mean you can’t control it. Many of my patients have improved by following natural approaches. It’s worth a try for you, too.
The Dietary Approach
Since psoriasis isn’t an allergic reaction, you may not think that what you eat has much to do with your condition. On the contrary, diet is one of the first things I advise my patients to alter. It’s not a cure but I believe you’ll notice at least moderate improvement through a strict, modified diet.
Focus your meals on fresh fruits and vegetables, and eat them raw when possible. Add 100% whole grains for variety. These foods are loaded with antioxidants to strengthen your immune system. They also provide lots of fiber which will keep your colon cleansed of toxins. For extra fiber, try prunes, figs, apples and raisins.
Eliminate all saturated and hydrogenated fats. This means you will need to avoid red meat and dairy products. These two foods also contain a substance called arachidonic acid (AA) which promotes inflammation on the skin. You may eat poultry, and you should try to get several servings of cold-water fish each week. If you don’t like fish, try fish oil or flaxseed oil. These two supplements will provide the omega-3 fatty acids necessary to reduce inflammation.
Other foods to avoid include fried foods, all processed foods, sugar and white flour. You’ll also need to stay away from alcohol.
Stick to your regimen until your skin clears, and then continue your diet for at least three more months. Then begin introducing other foods back into your diet, one at a time, and if you begin to have flare-ups, go back to the diet.
This approach takes time, discipline and patience. But the possibility for relief is certainly worth your efforts, and you will not be at risk for drug side effects.
Natural Remedies to Soothe Your Symptoms
When you’re miserable with a psoriasis attack, you need immediate relief. One of my favorite home remedies is a soothing lukewarm bath. Add to the water: 1 cup of apple cider vinegar plus 1 cup (combined) of rolled oats and cornstarch. You can also try Epsom salts or 2 teaspoons of ginger. After your bath, pat dry gently with a clean towel and follow with heavy moisturizer.
Many people find relief with over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams. Frequent use, however, can weaken the skin tissues. As an alternative, try castor oil or a mixture of olive oil and peanut oil. Rub directly into the skin.
You may want to include light therapy in your treatment. Expose the skin to natural sunlight for at least 15 minutes, but don’t exceed 30 minutes. Any longer may damage the skin. Your doctor may recommend therapy with artificial ultraviolet light, as well.
Remember to keep the skin clean and moist, and try to avoid triggers. Make sure your friends and family understand that psoriasis often affects you emotionally, mentally and socially, especially if it occurs on prominent body areas. Depending on the severity of your case, you might find it helpful to find and join a support group for psoriasis sufferers.
If you need to take psoriasis medication I recommend starting with the milder treatments, such as topical cortisone creams, and moving on to stronger oral medicines. I’m sure your doctor will advise you safely.
Psoriasis can be difficult to treat. But don’t give up hope. Remember: You do have alternatives.