…and what you can do to protect yourself—starting TODAY
Winter isn’t kind to anybody’s skin. Scaling, itching, cracking… they just come with the territory this time of year. For most people, it’s a nuisance that can be handled with a little extra lotion.
But for psoriasis sufferers? It’s the start of a season-long nightmare—with the holidays brewing a particularly perfect storm.
Yes, frigid outdoor temps and blazing furnaces indoors team up to suck every last drop of moisture out of the air and your skin. But if that were the only environmental factor working against you, it would be an easy fix—and nowhere near as many people would suffer from this embarrassing (and often painful) condition.
But the fact is, there’s a long list of seasonal triggers that set the stage for a psoriasis flare-up. And unlike a case of basic “wintertime dry skin,” the consequences could be lethal.
How the holidays heap on your psoriasis risk
Shorter, darker days are here to stay for the season—particularly for Northerners. Unfortunately, exposure to the sun is one of the most effective natural weapons against psoriasis. The condition is the result of an inflammatory autoimmune reaction, which causes skin cells to divide rapidly. Vitamin D, especially from sunlight, helps slow this process—sometimes enough to prevent or reverse symptoms completely.
So when you lose sunshine, you’re losing your best defense against flare-ups. But that’s not the only factor putting your health in the crosshairs this time of year.
Because psoriasis is the result of an immune response gone haywire, anything that disrupts your immune system (like stress, lack of sleep, colds, or the flu) also aggravates your psoriasis. And needless to say, these threats are practically synonymous with the busy holiday season.
Even holiday parties could put you at risk. Because guess what else can trigger a psoriasis flare-up? Alcohol. And it doesn’t have to be a lot, either. Studies have shown that just two to three drinks a week may be enough to tip your body over the edge.1
It’s not just skin deep—it’s deadly
It would be bad enough if all you were up against was a rash. But believe it or not, your skin is actually the least of your problems where psoriasis flare-ups are concerned. In fact, what’s happening to your body behind-the-scenes could ultimately kill you.
I talked about the whole-body consequences of psoriasis—and the effects that it has on your heart in particular—a few years back, in the October 2014 issue. (You can access this issue from the archives by visiting DrPescatore.com, clicking on the “Subscribers” tab, and logging in with your username and password.)
In that article, I discussed how psoriasis is more than a simple dermatological disease—it’s an autoimmune condition, which arises when your body “turns on itself” and mistakes quickly reproduced cells as invaders.
This causes chronic inflammation, which can be a root cause for igniting any number of serious diseases.
I also shared the results of a recent study, which showed that even a mild case of psoriasis raises your risk of heart attack by 29 percent—and your risk of stroke by 12 percent.2
That same study showed that a severe case of psoriasis rockets your risk of heart attack and stroke by a whopping 70 percent and 56 percent, respectively. It also increases your odds of dying from one of these heart-related events by 39 percent.
But that wasn’t the first study to show how lethal psoriasis can be. And as I predicted, it wasn’t the last. In fact, a new study appeared in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology this summer. And its results are just as unnerving.
This study assessed psoriasis patients’ Body Surface Area (BSA)—a metric that measures how much of the body is covered with a rash during a flare-up.
Results found that, for patients with a rash covering more than 10 percent of their body, risk of death nearly doubled compared to non-sufferers. Even after accounting for key factors like weight, smoking status, and other serious medical conditions.
As for the specific causes of death in the psoriasis patients, researchers have determined that more studies are needed.
Clearly, the stakes are high—making an effective treatment all the more urgent. But as usual, that comes with its own set of problems.
Safer strategies to ward off wintertime psoriasis
Steroids are always the first line of conventional treatment for any autoimmune condition— psoriasis outbreaks included. But I really can’t think of a worse thing to do to your body over the holidays.
Notorious side effects include weight gain, high blood pressure, and blood sugar elevations. (Steroid use—point blank—is the equivalent to throwing gasoline on a fire.) But steroids will also handicap your immune system smack dab in the middle of cold and flu season. Sounds great!
Simply put, these are not drugs you want to take if you can avoid it. The good news is, there are other options—and in this case, a lot to choose from. And if you guessed I’d start by talking about food, you know me too well!
Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition at its root. So while accepted mainstream wisdom may deny any clear-cut dietary links, there’s no doubt that what you eat can be a huge trigger. Which means that diet is also part of the solution.
The “A” in my A-List Diet might as well stand for “anti-inflammatory”—that’s how central the concept is to this plan. It’s Mediterranean-style—abundant in protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. And it’s a must for anyone battling any inflammatory condition—psoriasis included.
But that’s just the first and most important step. There are a lot of psoriasis-specific strategies that can help get you through the season without a flare-up. Some are more obvious than others.
Basic wintertime skin-hydrating measures—like moisturizing regularly, running humidifiers, and avoiding long, hot showers—can help to avert a flare-up. And it’s also critical to keep your body hydrated on the inside by drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol.
If you can, book a vacation someplace warm and sunny. (Not only will it replenish the sunshine and vitamin D your body is lacking, but it will also help combat stress. Win-win.)
If that’s not an option, ask your doctor about phototherapy. Properly dosed artificial sunlight can deliver enough psoriasis-fighting UVB rays to tide you over until the longer days return again.
My top four skin-saving supplements
Of course, there are also a few key supplements that can help complement a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. Here are a few of my go-to recommendations:
1) Pycnogenol. This is the first recommendation I always make for psoriasis sufferers. This helps to steel your circulatory system against the cardiovascular effects of psoriasis. But it can also help ease psoriasis directly—and, if you do opt for standard treatments, it can significantly boost the results you get.
A recent trial showed that psoriasis sufferers who took 150 mg of Pycnogenol benefited from a 32 percent improvement in symptoms over standard treatment alone. They saw a significant dip in oxidative stress. They saw significant gains in skin hydration. And they also relied on fewer drugs.4
More importantly, pine bark extract is risk-free. And as this research demonstrates, it’s perfectly safe to take in conjunction with other medicines and supplements.
2) AHCC. This specialized mushroom extract is a powerful immune modulator, which makes it a perfect choice for addressing autoimmune issues like psoriasis.
And unlike immune-suppressing steroids, it can actually keep you healthy through cold and flu season, too.
For patients with psoriasis, I generally recommend 3,000 mg of AHCC per day in divided doses (1,000 mg in the morning, 1,000 mg around lunch, and 1,000 mg in the evening).
3) High-quality probiotics. Immune dysfunction drives psoriasis. And without a healthy gut—the seat of your immune system—you’ll never gain control of the disease.
That’s why I recommend taking one capsule of Dr. Ohhira’s—twice per day, every day. This is the only probiotic I suggest to my patients—it contains 12 synergistic strains of probiotics and is backed by 25 years of research.
4) Vitamin C infusions. I recommend this for the most serious cases of psoriasis. I’ve seen incredible results. And I mean virtually eliminating any outward signs of the disease in my patients—all through the intravenous administration of this one simple nutrient.
This isn’t a practice that all doctors are familiar with. But vitamin infusions have become a lot more popular in recent years, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding an alternative practitioner who can give you one.
The American College for Advancement in Medicine (www.acam.org) is a great resource. Just enter your address into the search engine on their website for a complete list of experienced practitioners near you.
Of course, with a diet and supplement routine that supports your immune system and lowers inflammation, you’ll not only reduce your psoriasis, but help prevent a host of chronic diseases as well. Which makes this a smart regimen to put into place this winter—and keep up all year long.
- Kazakevich N, et al. Skin Therapy Lett. 2011 Apr;16(4):5-6.
- Armstrong EJ, et al. J Am Heart Assoc. 2013 Apr 4;2(2):e000062.
- Noe MH, et al. J Invest Dermatol. 2017 Aug 23.
- Belcaro G, et al. Panminerva Med. 2014 Mar;56(1):41-8.