Psoriasis is a big topic this month because it’s Psoriasis Awareness Month. It’s also a problematic issue if you have psoriasis and it’s summer and clothes are more revealing. There are some natural ways to help with psoriasis and I’d like to touch on that to help those with psoriasis as well as eczema to help the skin lesions so that you can enjoy the summer fun instead of dreading the summer clothes that show more of your skin.
Our skin is the largest organ in our body and it frequently reflects our underlying physiological health and status. I treat a lot of patients with psoriasis and eczema in my integrative medicine clinic in San Jose, CA. There are several foundational factors that you should focus on in order to help your skin lesions fade.
- Diet is foundationally the most important factor in skin clearing. There are studies that show that a diet based mostly on vegetables and wide variety and medley of vegetables help with inflammation similar to prednisone. Perhaps the easiest way is to remember to make half of every meal be full of vegetables. Another way to ensure vegetable intake is to always start with a healthy amount of mixed vegetables as salad before meals. Also, removal of sugars and processed carbohydrates typically are essential in skin clearance as well. If you are going to have carbs, make sure it’s real whole grains and not processed breads or pastas or crackers. Just remember, those who are gluten sensitive should avoid gluten, but not all gluten-free foods are actually healthy; many are made with processed starches and sugars to make it taste good and still be gluten-free and thus those foods can still be inflammatory. For those with animal dairy issues, even if you have to have a lot of it to have gut or skin issues, try to cut that out to see if it helps with skin clearing. As always, if you are making big diet changes, double check with your physician to make sure you’re safe to do so.
- Hydration, both orally and topically, are essential. Oral hydration to help cells stay healthy and less inflamed and more capable of healing is very important. Also, our skin needs to have a healthy skin barrier to help skin lesions heal and so making sure you are supporting topical hydration, nutrition, and cell barrier support is important. There is an abundance of skin care options on the market touting healthy skin support, but not all are effective and some are just marketing ploys. When looking for a good option, look for one that is hypoallergenic and also ones that have some exfoliation and moisturization capabilities so as to help with cellular turnover as well as rebuilding the skin barrier.
- Medication options are vast nowadays so check with your dermatologist about options to help with severe psoriasis or eczema. There are also non-steroidal options nowadays so if that seems like something you are opposed to, just check in with your doctor for both topical and oral med options (especially for psoriasis).
- Supplements are also something you can look into for additional assistance in your skin clearance goals. There are some options that you can check with your physician about: fish oil, turmeric, milk thistle, glycyrrhized licorice, tinofend, Boswellia, quercetain, bromelain, etc. There are various types of supplements that can help with inflammation as well but these would be used on top of a healthy diet. One misconception that people have is that supplementation without lifestyle changes can still work just as well. Yes, it will help somewhat but what really works is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet and then use supplementation to help augment the healthy lifestyle changes. As always, if you are thinking of taking supplements, please check with your doctor to make sure the ones you want to take are safe for you to take. Just because they are over the counter, does not mean there are zero potential safety concerns or interaction concerns.
- Sleep, exercise, and stress management are the final factors I’d like to talk about. Our bodies are machines and if you are not getting rest (which is the time when your cells need to recover and repair) and you are not managing stress well or you are not exercising, then the chemicals in your body that helps to mitigate inflammation aren’t at their best. If you exercise and manage stress well, your body will be much more capable of healing and repairing because exercise leads to release of chemicals that are beneficially health-wise and lower stress helps to lower the inflammatory and stress chemicals in the body.
As you can see, your body’s largest organ, your skin, is truly affected by all aspects of your life including oral and topical exposures as well as physical and emotional/mental stressors. If you can find a way to balance these factors so that your body isn’t only seeing the inflammatory triggers, but rather, it’s seeing more of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle options, then as your overall health improves, your skin (which is like a window into your underlying physiology) will also improve as well.