Psoriasis is a distressing skin condition in which the skin cells renew too quickly, leading to scaliness and flaking, in other words abnormal skin growth. Usually the outer cells (Stratum Corneum) are shed so slowly that we barely notice, but in people with psoriasis, new cells are formed about a thousand times more quickly than usual, due to a disturbance in the body’s cell replication control mechanisms.
Some women find that their psoriasis improves during pregnancy or when they reach menopause, so there may be some hormonal link but this is not yet understood. In fact the reason why psoriasis happens at all is not known but there are many ways in which it can be helped.
Psoriasis is a common skin complaint, in the UK about 2% of the population suffers from it. It affects women and men equally and it can come on at any age. There appears to be a family link to Psoriasis as about one third of sufferers have relatives with the condition. If you smoke, then you are 3 times more likely to develop Psoriasis.
Psoriasis is mostly treated with steroid creams and lotions designed to help slow down the rate of cell formation. But as many sufferers will tell you, these are not always effective. Psoriasis has been linked to problems with metabolism of essential fatty acids. A study of 80 patients who were given omega 3 fish oil supplements showed significantly reduced lesions within 4 – 6 weeks. Itching was the first to decrease, followed by scaling, then redness. Essential fatty acids may help when applied topically to the skin and some natural treatment creams contain specialised EFA’s and other helpful oils.
In addition to dietary supplements, it is important for psoriasis patients to avoid all damaged, trans fats and to focus on a “clean food” diet. It may also help to cut back on saturated fats found in red meats, dairy foods and eggs, as well as refined sugars and wheat gluten. Some practitioners also suggest milk thistle and artichoke extracts to help improve liver function. Sufferers from psoriasis also seem to benefit from taking evening primrose oil and clinical trials have reported moderate improvements in 60% of patients given 2000mg supplements over an 8 week period. The dosage for omega – 3 supplements recommended for treating psoriasis is around 2000mg of fish oils a day, try eating more oily fish as well.
A key factor in dealing with psoriasis does appear to be managing the way you react to stress. Stress seems to be a huge trigger in psoriasis. Unless the person with psoriasis is first willing to confront and deal with stress or unresolved emotional issues then your treatment results may not be very successful. Find out what works for you in terms of stress management and try different techniques – excercise, meditation, massage, reflexology and aromatherapy all help with stress reduction and coping techniques.
Prescription emollients are normally given to sufferers to moisturise the skin, or coal tar preparations which are messy and smelly. Harsher chemicals are also prescribed and are relatively effective but not without side effects. Ultraviolet light therapy can be a useful treatment, but be aware of the ageing effect and the risk of skin cancer, always consult your doctor first.
Dead sea salts can be helpful and there are many bathing products available in your health food shop, you could also try Epsom Salts , 500g in a warm bath. Look in your local health food shop for an alternative to cortisone creams such as Glycyrrhetinic acid, this is made from Licorice and has anti-inflammarory properties. Neem oil is also used for psoriasis and eczema and is used in Indian medicine to help treat skin disorders. Studies have shown Neem to be both anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory. One study has even showed Neem oil to be four times more effective than hydrocortisone.
Skin care advice
- Gentle, non irritating products can help minimise the discomfort of psoriasis.
- Avoid soap, bubble bath and perfumed shower gel.
- Frequently apply an emmolient moisturiser.
Dermanova Cream is a specific moisturising cream containing Neem and other oils to help treat psoriasis, available from select health food shops or try – www.wellcene.co.uk for the full range. (this is an option if steroid creams have not worked or if you would rather avoid them).
Providing support for psoriasis sufferers as well as raising awareness to the condition.