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and other inflammatory disorders
Psoriasis is a very common skin condition characterized by the rapid production of skin cells, leading to a congestion of cells on the skin's surface. The normal life cycle of skin cells is 28 days, but cells produced by psoriasis mature up to a thousand times faster than those of healthy skin. Psoriasis can also cause an inflammatory form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. More than 7 million North Americans have psoriasis, with its onset generally in the late twenties. According to The National Psoriasis Foundation, 56 million hours of productivity are lost annually in the U.S. due to psoriasis. Treatment costs US$1.6 to $3.2 billion every year.
Raised patches of red with white flakes or scales appear on the torso, elbows, knees, legs, back, arms and scalp. When it is in the scalp, psoriasis can promote hair loss. In some people, the nails may become dull, pitted or ridged and may separate from the nail bed. Psoriasis fluctuates between periods of inflammation and remission and is categorized as mild, moderate or severe. If the skin becomes too badly damaged, there can be fluid loss, bacterial infection and an inability to regulate temperature. Approximately 400 people die every year from psoriasis. There are psychological ramifications to psoriasis as well, as people may feel shame, embarrassment, social rejection and anger due to a lack of understanding on the part of their peers. This psychological aspect can significantly affect relationships.
Arthritis similar to rheumatoid arthritis, called psoriatic arthritis, is sometimes present in those with psoriasis and it is very difficult to treat. There is pain, morning stiffness, swelling, reduced range of motion, pitting of the nails, tiredness and redness in the eye (conjunctivitis). In severe cases, it can lead to deformity of the joints and spine. Difficult to diagnose in people with subtle symptoms, it is believed that 10 to 30 percent of those with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis. It usually appears between 30 and 50 years of age.
The cause of psoriasis is unknown, but two theories have emerged: it is an autoimmune disorder, or it is caused by a bacterial "superantigen." Either way, there is a glitch in the immune system that tells the body to produce more skin cells. The immune system is often hyper-stimulated, promoting inflammatory cytokines in the skin cells. It may also be that the immune system, after a viral or bacterial infection, becomes primed to attack the skin.
Common triggers for psoriasis flare-ups are poor diet, incomplete protein digestion, a diet including excessive animal fat, bowel toxemia, impaired liver function, a superantigen or heavy alcohol consumption. Other triggers are reactions to medication, stress, sunburn, illness, injury, nerves or surgery.
PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTH
HEALTH TIPS TO ENHANCE HEALING
- See recommendations for Arthritis for those with psoriatic arthritis. Also see Bowel Disease.
- Avoid saturated fats; they promote flare-ups of psoriasis. Consume a diet that emphasizes natural, whole foods such as legumes, soy products, fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, healthy fats and oils, and nuts and seeds. Opt for foods high in vitamin E (cold-pressed oils, nuts, eggs, oatmeal, brown rice, corn meal, dry beans and green leafy vegetables) and vitamin C (onions, turnip greens, sweet peppers, currants, asparagus, Brussels sprouts). Avoid animal meat, choosing cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut and mackerel instead.
- Stress reduction is essential; 39 percent of those with psoriasis report stress initiates the disease.
- Eliminate caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
- Do not take immune boosters that enhance macrophages as this can cause inflammation in the skin.
- Improve digestion. Studies have noted that those with psoriasis have lower levels of hydrochloric acid. If you suspect you have low stomach acid, take one capsule (600 mg) of hydrochloric acid before a large meal. If symptoms worsen, stop - you do not have low stomach acid. If you feel the same or better, increase your dosage by one at your next meal. Keep increasing dosage up to a maximum of seven capsules or until you feel warmth in your stomach. If you feel warmth, cut back to your dosage prior to the feeling. Use fewer capsules for smaller meals.
- Get a little sun. Psoriasis seems to abate during the summer months and that is thought to be a result of UV radiation.
- Allergies and food sensitivities are common for those with psoriasis. Start a diet diary and write down everything that you eat to see if there is any increase in symptoms or their intensity after you eat certain foods. Ask for a referral to an allergy specialist and get tested for possible triggers. Some allergies may only be detected with the help of an ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) test. Once you know what you are allergic to, avoid those allergens. Environmental allergies should be tested as well.
- Try natural alternatives to corticosteroid creams such as Celadrin cream or salves with capsaicin, licorice, chamomile and evening primrose oil. Botanical Therapeutics makes a great shampoo and conditioner for those with scalp psoriasis.
- Indulge in a sauna or steam bath.