Natural strategies for battling this distressing autoimmune disorder
This summer, you probably showed more skin and paid a bit more attention to it—soaking in the sun’s rays and making sure to ward against sunburn, bug bites, and poison ivy.
But really, you should pay attention to your skin health year-round.
After all, it’s your body’s largest organ—with an average area of about 20 square feet. (That’s the size of a four-by-five-foot room!) And although it’s on the outside of your body, your skin often gives us a surprisingly clear window into what’s happening INSIDE your body.
For example, people struggling with lupus may exhibit a “butterfly” rash on their face early on in the disease. And years before receiving an official Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, many people will develop skin tags or velvety plaques (called acanthosis nigricans) in the folds of their skin.
Then, of course, there are whole classes of skin diseases and disorders, such as:
- Rosacea, which causes reddened skin and pimples, usually on the face
- Vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder where patches of skin lose their pigment
- Eczema, an inflammatory condition that causes itchiness, dry skin, blisters, and scaly patches
But I want to focus on another skin disorder that affects more than 60 million people worldwide… psoriasis. It’s one of the most severe and distressing of them all!
Standard treatment approaches include prescribing long courses of steroids and immunosuppressant drugs.
But these drugs don’t offer a cure, and long-term use comes with a slew of disturbing risks—including weight gain, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, osteoporosis, and cataracts.
And while the struggle may be very REAL on the outside, it shouldn’t be forgotten that psoriasis is more than just a skin-deep problem. It’s actually an autoimmune disorder, driven by uncontrolled inflammation.
In fact, we now know a trio of proteins—TWEAK, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin-17 (IL-17)—team up to trigger the inflammation that leads to psoriasis.2
On the surface, the disorder causes your skin cells to multiply at a much faster rate (up to 10 times faster than normal). As a result, bumpy, crusty patches or “plaques” form on the surface.1 The patches can grow anywhere, but mostly they crop up on your elbows, knees, lower back, palms, and scalp.3
Plus, as any sufferer can tell you, psoriasis is far more than just an unsightly nuisance to the surface of your skin…
It can also cause pain, interfere with sleep, and make it hard to concentrate. It also tends to go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, and then subsiding.
Moreover, people with psoriasis run a higher risk of developing related inflammatory problems. In fact, about 30 percent of patients develop psoriatic arthritis, a serious condition that causes swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints and in areas where tendons and ligaments connect to bone.
People with psoriasis also run a higher risk of developing systemic health problems—including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), anxiety and depression, and even CANCER.4
And while this autoimmune disease does tend to have a genetic link, there are THREE surprising lifestyle factors that also DRIVE risk…
Sedentary behavior skyrockets risk
Swedish researchers recently looked at the link between inactivity and psoriasis…
They analyzed data on 1.2 million men conscripted into the Swedish Armed Forces. Next, they sorted them into three categories of fitness (low, medium, and high).
It turns out, about 23,000 men developed psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis later in life between the ages 37 and 50. And there was a clear connection to their fitness levels as younger men.
In fact, men in the low-fitness group at the study’s outset had a 35 percent higher risk of developing psoriasis later in life compared to men in the high-fitness group. Plus, they had a 44 percent higher risk of developing psoriatic arthritis!
And that’s not all…
Other research suggests that staying active helps improve flares and increase periods of remission in people who already have the condition. Not to mention, getting adequate exercise also helps ward off all the associated systemic diseases that I mentioned above (like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes).5
Of course, we know that exercise generally helps tame harmful chronic inflammation… so these findings make a lot of sense. And it’s reassuring to know that adopting my favorite healthy lifestyle habit—regular exercise—will ultimately help manage (and even prevent) the discomfort and pain of psoriasis.
Dietary disasters drive inflammation
Like other autoimmune disorders, psoriasis has a very strong dietary influence. In fact, researchers with University of California Davis recently found a clear connection between psoriasis and a so-called Western diet high in sugar and refined carbs.6
Of course, this finding also makes sense, as we know sugar and processed foods increase chronic inflammation in the body.
The good news is, the researchers found that cutting out the crud and switching to a healthy, balanced diet RESTORES balance to the gut and suppresses inflammation.
And really, any version of a Mediterranean-style diet should fit the bill. Following this healthy dietary pattern means you get plenty of nutrient-dense foods from ample quantities of:
- Lean protein from sources like grass-fed and -finished beef and organic poultry
- Healthy fats, including omega-3s from sources like wild-caught fish and seafood, nuts, eggs, and more
- Organic vegetables and some seasonal fruit
Other research suggests that adhering to this kind of balanced diet can even prevent psoriasis from progressing in severity.7
An easy way to ditch the Western diet for good is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Or, if able, find a local farmer’s market or farm stand.
Vitamin deficiency linked to higher severity
Many psoriasis sufferers report that their symptoms come close to DISAPPEARING in the summertime. Well, this likely occurs because spending just 20 minutes in the direct sunlight triggers your skin’s natural production of vitamin D, the wonder nutrient involved in so many of the body’s essential processes.
In fact, in a brand-new study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers uncovered a remarkably strong link between vitamin D status and psoriasis severity. Specifically, the lower the vitamin D levels, the worse the symptoms. And the better the vitamin D levels, the less severe the symptoms and the fewer areas of the body affected.8
Of course, too much sun exposure can also aggravate the condition. So, as always, I advise using common sense whenever spending time outdoors for extended periods of time.
And remember—especially as we head into the darker months ahead—you can unlock the healing power of this vitamin year-long by taking a high-quality D3 supplement.
In a small, but hugely impressive study, psoriasis sufferers who took daily doses of vitamin D ranging from 750 to 1,500 mcg (30,000 to 60,000 IU) saw a COMPLETE REMISSION of their disease in just two to six months.9 That’s pretty astounding for a “simple” supplement!
Now, (for once) that daily dose is higher than what I regularly recommend. But it’s worth investigating and sharing with your doctor if you suffer with psoriasis. At the very least, ask your doctor to regularly test your vitamin D 25 OH blood levels.
I consider optimal levels to be between 80 and 100 ng/mL. But if you’re like the vast majority of people, your levels are probably much lower than that—and you’ll need at least 125 mcg (5,000 IU) of vitamin D3 per day to hit your target.
If your levels are deficient (below 30 ng/mL), or if repeat testing shows your levels aren’t budging, I suggest increasing your dose. I personally take 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of vitamin D3 per day, and so do many of my patients. Doing so is perfectly safe with regular monitoring—and as this study shows, the health benefits are vast!
Natural, LASTING relief
When it comes to psoriasis, the condition is much more than a nagging cosmetic issue. And getting the disease under control, and in remission, can be quite the task.
But by addressing the three factors discussed here, you might just find that natural, soothing relief you long for… without resorting to harmful drug treatments. Plus, you’ll tame chronic inflammation—the driving force behind this autoimmune disorder—which, in turn, will improve other areas of your health, to boot!
All it takes is getting more serious about your daily physical activity, your diet, and your vitamin D levels.
I also recommend working with someone well-versed in natural solutions to psoriasis. You can find one through the American College for Advancement in Medicine (www.acam.org). Just enter your address into the search engine on their website for a complete list of experienced practitioners near you.
More treatment options
Some psoriasis sufferers have success using “phototherapy,” which exposes your skin to targeted rays of ultraviolet (UV) light. And I have found that, when used properly under professional guidance, it can deliver enough psoriasis-flighting UVB rays to tide you over until the longer summer days return. But I also like to suggest the following skin-saving supplements to complement a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet:
- Pycnogenol—150 mg.
- AHCC—3,000 mg in divided doses (1,000 mg, 3x daily).
- Probiotics—I like Dr. Ohhira’s, which also includes prebiotics and postbiotics. Take one capsule, twice daily.