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Psoriasis - Skin condition explained and several effective treatments examined.
Psoriasis is a serious skin condition, with several forms but with almost always a family history and is known to be linked to an abnormal immune system. What happens is that the epidermis (outer skin layer) goes wild and the skin cells replace themselves in a few days instead of the normal 48 days. The result is a build-up of dead skin cells and thick scales forming together with some itching. It mostly attacks the knees, elbows, buttocks and scalp although half of sufferers find their fingernails affected also.
Cell division is controlled by a balance between two compounds in the body – cyclic adenosine monophosphate (AMP) and cyclic guanidine monophosphate (GMP). High levels of GMP and the cells divide too quickly whereas high levels of AMP reduce the rate. Studies have shown that if there is a reduction in both AMP and GMP the cells still divide too quickly and therefore it is important to restore the balance of the two.
Certain factors have been suspected of being the cause of psoriasis (stress; fast food; bacteria; viruses; liver, kidney and digestive disorders; prescription drugs and nutritional problems) but none have been identified as the actual cause.
What is not widely known is that sufferers of psoriasis will have an overly acidic body chemistry often caused by eating too many acidic foods. It is essential to attain a neutral chemistry otherwise the immune system is affected and you will have difficulty in absorbing nutrients. Foods that will achieve this alkaline pH are: carrots, garlic, spinach, brussel sprouts, celery, watercress, cooked apples, pineapple, prunes and grapes. This acidity is linked with an inability to metabolise fatty acids and in order to rectify this you should take a digestive enzyme capsule (I would suggest Solgar from Amazon) with each meal and a further two between meals. Avoid citrus fruit, fried foods, gluten, dairy products and sugar. Increase the amount of vegetables and take a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil each day. To provide the fatty acid that you need try to include cold water oily fish and/or linseed/flax oil supplements.
Liquids are very important and you should try to drink two litres each day comprising quality water, together with carrot and celery juice. Carrot juice is high in vitamin A and celery contains psoralens which research has shown helps psoriasis. This compound is also found in limes and lemons (the only citrus fruits permitted) lettuce, parsley and parsnips. Alcohol will only make things worse as the liver needs to be detoxified.
Undertaking a detoxification programme will help to decongest and cleanse the colon. There is an acknowledged 3 week detox which will help enormously with psoriasis. I should warn this is a serious regime and you should not attempt it if you have any doubts.
Firstly remove all wheat, dairy and sugar from temptation. Replace this with rice noodles, vegetable soups (or make your own), cereals, oatbran and rye breads. Drink two litres of fluid each day but not tea, coffee or sugary (incl.diet) drinks. Herbal teas such as camomile, fennel and peppermint will all help digestion.
Breakfast – Fruit, oatmeal or a cereal that does not contain wheat or sugar.
Lunch – Soup and/or salad with rice or oat cake, or a stir fry of vegetables and grain.
Dinner/Supper – Have the opposite of what you had for lunch.
Snacks – Vegetable and fruit juice with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds and unsalted cashew nuts. Soya yoghurts boost the detox and banana and raisin bread made with soya flour.
Before breakfast and lunch make a cleansing drink from 1 cup quality water, juice of half organic, unwaxed lemon, pinch cayenne pepper and 2 teaspoons of quality honey (if you can afford it use Manuka) or organic maple syrup or molasses. Heat and drink warm. For the lunch drink use the same recipe but add one or two teaspoons of finely grated ginger to stimulate the gastric juices and aid digestion.
During the second week add 1000mg Vitamin C and a good quality multivitamin.
A serious detox programme such as this will have side effects ranging from migraine like headaches to almost flu symptoms. You will experience mood swings, diarrhoea, bad breath, trouble sleeping and problems regulating your temperature. These are all good signs that the body is ridding itself of damaging toxins.
If a detox programme is out of the question for various reasons I would suggest cleansing the colon with an herbal cleanser such as Nature’s Secret Super Cleanse (from www.victoriahealth.com) followed by a quality probiotic. At the same time take Milk Thistle (150mg daily) to support the liver.
It is important that if you are diabetic, suffer from digestive disorders or ulcers that you talk with your doctor before embarking on a serious detox diet.
Vitamins and minerals – Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone) is important for cell replication. The best form is from sunlight and most psoriasis sufferers have found that exposure to the sun helps. The sun activates the pineal gland which regulates the hormones. Vitamin B complex will help with stress related outbreaks. A topical form of Vitamin D3, calcipotriene has proved to be both safe and effective. Calcipotriene appears to block skin cell reproduction, enhance the maturity of keratinocytes (the impaired skin cells in psoriasis) and act as an anti-inflammatory. It works similarly to moderate topical corticosteroids, short-term anthralin, and coal tar in improving mild-to-moderate plaque psoriasis. But unlike with steroids, patients do not develop thinning of the skin. Using the drug in combination with other topical treatments may improve its effectiveness. Calcipotriene is not as effective as the strongest corticosteroids, but combining both medications is proving to be more effective than taking one in isolation. There is an ointment containing both calcipotriol and betamethasone which studies show works better than either drug alone. The combination of vitamin D ointments with systemic medicines, notably methotrexate, acitretin, or cyclosporine, increases its effectiveness. Because combining medications allows patients to use lower doses of both medications, it reduces side effects. Studies also report success in some patients who use vitamin D ointments in combination with phototherapy treatment.
Selenium is a mineral known to improve psoriasis and is found in onions, garlic, seafood, chicken, broccoli and tomatoes. It is a mineral missing from most peoples diet and a supplement of 100-200mcg per day is recommended.
Kombucha Tea – It is a living yeast culture that is fermented with sweetened tea to detoxify the system, strengthen the whole system and help many immune related conditions including psoriasis.
Essential Oils – The use of these oils is primarily to de-stress the sufferer as stress has been shown to aggravate the condition. All sedative and antidepressant oils have been shown to help and Bergamot is the most useful. This can be applied to the damaged areas using Rose-hip, Argan or Neem oil as a carrier. All three of these carrier oils are known to have healing properties in their own right. Juniper stimulates the circulation and purifies the blood which makes it useful for psoriasis. Cajeput essential oil is used primarily in laryngitis, an anthelmintic in round worms, for rheumatism and an antiseptic in cystitis. However it is also used in a calendula carrier oil to reduce irritation.
Bach Flower remedy – Crab apple is strongly indicated to help.
Various herbal remedies:
Coleus Forskohlii - This herb has been used to treat psoriasis for many decades. Its dosage is 50 to 100 mg of the herb two or three times a day.
Yellowdock - The University of Maryland Medical Center, suggests that yellowdock can be taken as a mixture with two other herbs--red clover and burdock--to treat psoriasis. Mix equal parts of all three herbs together and steep the mixture in 1 cup of tea. Drink the tea three times daily. It is also available as a tincture and the dosage should be 30 to 60 drops three times a day.
Evening Primrose Oil – This can be taken orally to treat psoriasis, or it can also be applied topically to psoriasis lesions to treat the symptoms. The dosage level is 500 mg to 2.5 g daily.
Calendula Oil – will help with any itching, irritation and inflammation.
Borage seed oil – has a high concentration of GLA and is regenerative and stimulating for psoriasis and eczema, also sun damaged and dry old skin.
Andiroba oil – normally used in a 10% ointment. It helps the healing of skin damage as it contains mryristic acid used to form the skins outer layer. In psoriasis treatment it advises the skin cells when to stop regenerating and thus avoids the formation of scaling. At the same time it restores the normal skin cell cycle and therefore stops the uncontrolled growth of the cells while, as an added bonus, stops the growth of the pigmented cells causing age spots.
Aloe vera – apply either the gel from the live plant or prepared material to the affected areas to relieve pain and itching.
Kukui Nut oil – This is high in linoleic and essential fatty acids. It helps with the healing of various skin conditions and is primarily used in a therapeutic soap. The oil is rather expensive.
Tamanu oil – It is a very rich oil used for serious skin problems such as dry, irritated or old skin.
Barberry – is normally used in an ointment to heal skin infections.
Sapindus – a relative of the lycii and goji berry it is primarily used to produce hypoallergenic detergents for those with skin allergies. It is also used in ointments/creams to treat the skin.
Sarsaparilla – Acts as a blood purifier and sooths psoriasis by disabling bacterial endotoxins which are present in the blood.
Comfrey – apply a salve or ointment made with this herb to help heal the skin
Yarrow – massage the fresh juice from the plant onto affected areas. You can also add a few drops of yarrow essential oil to a warm bath to relieve some of the symptoms
Chickweed - apply cream or gel direct to affected area.
Radix Rubiae – is a Chinese herb which seems to have an ability to prevent the growth of skin cells. Laboratory tests discovered the anti-proliferative activity of this herb but as yet it is not supported by clinical trials.
Gotu Kola - can be taken internally or externally to aid skin healing. Do not take if pregnant.
Liquorice - 1 or 2 teaspoons of root powder to 1 cup boiling water, strain after 10 minutes and drink 2 -3 cups a day to treat inflammation of the skin. Alternatively take supplement capsules. It is also used to treat bursitis, tendinitis and gum inflammations.
Chickweed – used in a cooling ointment to treat damaged skin.
Burdock root – helps in the purification of the system and to protect and support the liver.
Oregon grape – is an antioxidant which helps to prevent the formation of certain types of skin cells. A gentle anti-toxin.
Oats (oatmeal) – used as a poultice to sooth and treat various skin conditions. Has proved very effective for decades.
Capsaicin (Zostrix) is an ointment prepared from the active ingredient in hot chili peppers. It is used to relieve arthritic pain and may help psoriatic itching. It acts by inducing histamine release and perfusion changes in psoriasis damaged skin. It should be applied to affected areas three or four times daily using a latex glove. There will often be a burning sensation when the drug is first applied, but this soon fades. Try to find one which includes menthol as it will help itching.
Golden Seal - tablets or capsules as directed can help treat skin infections but be careful of taste/colour.
Not normally widely linked to psoriasis is a process in the body known as angiogenesis which is the production of new blood vessels from existing blood vessels. This normally only happens in wound healing and embryonic development. Psoriasis has been linked with the dilation of the capillaries (the first stage of angiogenesis) and a treatment is needed to be found to prevent it. The Allergy Research Group in America has identified the hedgerow weed Bindweed to have promising angiogenesis properties. Until this has been developed properly, cartilage extracts can do a similar job. The cartilage comes from sharks and is expensive and in addition you may have moral grounds to exclude this.
Meditation – Researchers looking at audiotape meditation during ultraviolet phototherapy, to reduce stress relating to psoriasis, found that it cleared far more quickly that using light treatment alone.
Phototherapy – There is a German made device named Dermalight 80 to 1000 which uses NB-311 narrowband UVB lamps, which is claimed to be the safest and most effective wavelength for home phototherapy available. There are several other devices available. Narrowband light has a success rate of around 75% after 10 or 12 treatment sessions.
Broadband Ultraviolet B (UVB) Radiation and coal tar
Coal Tar has been used on its own for over a hundred years now but more recently it has been found to have a greater effect when used in combination with UVB. This requires daily treatments for up to 4 weeks. The coal tar or anthralin is applied once or twice each day and then washed off before the procedure. Trials indicate that a low-dose (1%) coal tar preparation is effective. Such regimens are unpleasant, but are still useful for some patients with severe psoriasis, giving long-term remission (up to 6 - 12 months).
A final point psoriasis may result in a condition known as Madarosis where you can lose all or some of your eyelashes. When the problem is under control these may grow back.
Psoriasis skin cells do not reach maturity before sloughing off and holistic thinking is that they do not produce enough solitrol (a hormone released through the skin). To remedy this, there is much anecdotal evidence (up to 88% of sufferers found a complete or partial cure) suggesting one should visit the Dead Sea for a dip – perhaps treating it as a healing holiday break and taking advantage of the salts, minerals and screened sunshine.
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© 2012 Peter Geekie