I have a patient with psoriasis who, when she has a flare-up, comes in and says, “Dr. Bracheld, my uninvited pest showed up again”. Although I have to laugh when I hear this, it’s pretty much true. No, she’s not referring to the presence of an unwelcome person. She’s referring to an unwelcome bout of her psoriasis. Flare-ups of psoriasis can occur at any time without notice, and can be a real nuisance. I’d like to tell you about some natural treatments you can do yourself at home that can help reduce your symptoms and save you a little money on those office visits.
What Is Psoriasis?
Your skin cells are constantly renewing themselves and sloughing off. This normal process is invisible to the naked eye and takes about 4 weeks to complete. With psoriasis, however, skin cell production increases significantly from your immune system by an unknown abnormal trigger. As a result, the sloughing off process increases which can then be easily seen by the naked eye. This process can cause intense itching and redness of the skin, not to mention the unsightly scales and flakes that can cause so much embarrassment.
Psoriasis conditions are often confined to certain parts of the body like the head, the face, or the hands, knees etc. Sometimes infection can set into these areas from scratching at the lesions. About 60% of psoriasis sufferers have it as part of their family heritage – a parent, grandparent, likely had the same condition.
Triggers for Psoriasis
Like my patient who complains of her “uninvited visitor”, getting a flare up of psoriasis can be put in motion by a number of things. Here are some of the common triggers:
- Stress. Any kind of stress, even happy stress like new baby, wedding, can pretty much guarantee a flare up of your psoriasis.
- Infections, viral or bacterial. If you’ve had a bad cold or a urinary, upper respiratory tract infection lately, you might expect a flare up.
- Certain medications. If you take beta blockers for a heart condition, or antidepressants, these can trigger psoriasis flare-ups as well.
- Climate change. Seems the whole country’s climates have been in upheaval lately. It’s cold and snowy when it should be spring, and other areas are getting bad rain storms usually associated with late summer. As such, people with psoriasis in these areas will likely have flare-ups of their psoriasis right along with their weather flare-ups.
How to Control Psoriasis Naturally
When my patient and her “uninvited visitor” come to my office, I give her the following tips on what at-home, natural, treatments she can do to both prevent psoriasis flare-ups and help diminish them when they do occur.
1. Keep your weight stable. Recent research shows that obesity can cause psoriasis by creating inflammation throughout your body.
2. Maintain a healthy diet. Eating foods rich in antioxidants (Vitamin A, C, E, D, selenium, resveratrol) will help fight inflammation.
3. Control stress levels. When you’re under stress, your body over-secretes the hormone cortisol. This can ratchet up inflammation in your body as well as send your adrenal glands into over production. This stimulates all the processes of your body, heart rate, blood pressure, cell turnover (including your skin), and metabolism. Try to keep even keel emotions and practice decompression stress management through exercise, meditation.
4. Keep your skin clean. When a flare up does occur, it’s very important to keep the flare up areas clean to prevent infection. Try not to scratch at the lesions. Instead of scratching, rub them gently with your fingertips while wearing clean cotton gloves. This prevents your fingernails from transferring bacteria into the lesions.
5. Hydrate the lesions. Soaking in a cooler bath, gently washing with oatmeal or olive oil based soap, can help decrease redness and relieve itching. Don’t use chemical skin washes. It also helps get rid of the build-up of skin scales faster as they will release while drying with a towel. Afterwards, apply a thick moisturizer like Curel, Eucerin, Aquaphor, Norwegian Cream, or an Rx from your doctor. Aloe vera gel contains a natural plant, anti-inflammatory fatty acid that also has anti-bacterial properties. It has been used in many Native cultures for years to heal skin lesions. It has been shown to decrease redness and moisturize psoriatic lesions keeping them feeling less tight and dry.
6. Environment. In winter, use a humidifier to keep your indoor moisture levels comfortably humid. Too dry, overheated environments can worsen psoriasis flares.
7. UVB light exposure. If possible, lie in the sun for 15-20 minutes at a time to gain exposure to beneficial UVB type ultraviolet rays. Use a light-moderate sunscreen protection like SPF-15. UVB light has been proven to dramatically decrease the inflammation, redness, and itching of psoriatic lesions and can help the lesions heal faster. Many psoriasis sufferers have complete remission of their condition during summer months with careful sun exposure. Be very careful, though, not to get sunburned as this will aggravate the situation.
If your uninvited psoriasis shows up unexpectedly to put a damper on your plans, take heart. You don’t always have to make a visit to your dermatologist to treat your psoriasis flare-ups – only if there’s infection involved. The recommendations listed here can help reduce psoriasis’s embarrassing appearance as well as help reduce and limit future outbreaks.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
Natural Health News
Aloe Vera as Psoriasis Treatment, http://www.stonehand.com/aloe-vera-as-psoriasis-treatment.html
Home Remedies for Psoriasis, http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-psoriasis1.htm
Psoriasis and the Sun, http://www.papaa.org/further-information/psoriasis-and-sun
Photo credit: thedermatologyclinic.com