There are around 8 million people in the UK affected by psoriasis – one of the oldest skin diseases known to mankind. It is disfiguring and can cause social anxiety, isolation and depression.
Whilst the symptoms of psoriasis may appear on the skin, the disease has strong links to gut health that are often overlooked. Here I look at these links and how we can use them to our advantage.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an auto-immune skin disease, affecting men and women equally, of all ages, with no known cure. Characterised by red or pink patches called ‘plaques’, with silvery scales on the skin, it can develop just about anywhere on the body, and if severe, can cause painful bleeding fissures on the skin.
Many of those suffering from the condition tolerate constant pain from cracking and bleeding skin. They also struggle with the disappointment of treatments and the lack of a cure. More than anything, they bear the brunt of the misunderstanding surrounding the disease. People see the appearance of their skin and speculate that they are contagious, which they are not. It is hardly surprising then that so many psoriasis sufferers experience feelings of social isolation and low self-esteem.
How is Psoriasis Treated?
Conventional treatments concentrate on trying to ease the symptoms, not get to the root of what causes psoriasis in the first place. Topical steroid creams can thin and wrinkle the skin, contribute to poor wound healing, and increase the risk of developing ulcers on the skin, whilst methotrexate, the drug often prescribed for psoriasis, has side effects, including damage to the liver, lungs and bone marrow. If you’re taking methotrexate, you should be getting regular liver checks at your GP surgery.
What is the Link between Psoriasis and the Gut?
There is strong evidence to suggest that psoriasis is linked to the balance of gut flora and there is much research being done on the gut-skin axis. If you’ve exhausted all NHS avenues in an attempt to resolve your psoriasis, trying one drug after the other, one steroid cream after another, then do consider contacting a natural health practitioner who is familiar with the hierarchy of organ cleansing.
I’ve known, for the best part of my 27 years complementary medicine career, that the causes of psoriasis are to be found in the gut. If your intestines are not able to contain endo-toxic material, including bacteria and parasites, and are spilling out toxins into your bloodstream, then, good heavens – what do we think is going to happen to the skin?! It isn’t exactly going to look glowing with health and vitality. There is going to be a huge battle going on in the intestines as the immune system valiantly tries to stop the stem of poisonous wastes getting into the bloodstream and travelling around the body, potentially causing havoc along the way.
What I Recommend for Those Suffering with Psoriasis
When working with someone who has psoriasis, I’ve been recommending the following protocols for many years:
- Have colon hydrotherapy treatment, especially if constipation is in evidence. For more information on colon hydrotherapy, and to find a registered and regulated therapist, look at the website of the UK’s largest and oldest colon hydrotherapy association, The Association of Registered Colon Hydrotherapists. If you have psoriasis, and you also have a digestive or gut disorder like IBS, constipation, painful bloating, inflammatory bowel disease, acid reflux, then it’s unlikely your psoriasis will clear up until you’ve cleaned up your internal plumbing.
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet – psoriasis is an inflammatory auto-immune skin disease, so a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), oily fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy oils like olive oil and coconut oil may help
- Avoid pro-inflammatory foods like refined carbohydrates, processed and fried foods
- Take an Omega 3 capsule daily with food, like my high-strength Omega 3 capsules, currently on offer with 10% off, made from the oil extracted from anchovies and herrings, fished off the coast of Peru, in the deep waters of the Pacific, from a sustainable source. (For a vegan alternative to fish oil supplements, try those made from algae and echium seed oils.)
- Introduce these key supplements – probiotics, digestive enzymes and natural anti-microbials. Probiotics will help positively influence your immune system, and with psoriasis being an auto-immune skin disease, your immune system will need all the help it can get. Digestive enzymes will help properly digest your food, assisting with the absorption of nutrients, and natural anti-microbials like garlic, not only help support the immune system, but traditionally, they have been recommended to help ‘disinfect’ the stomach and gut. If you want to try supplements, but are not sure where to start, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Try going gluten-free and dairy-free (even if you are not intolerant to gluten and dairy) for a few weeks and see if this improves your psoriasis. Download my gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free recipes if you’re scratching your head, wondering where to start:
- Look after yourself better. A little bit of self-care goes a long way towards reducing the stress on your immune system, and this will support your digestive system, gut, liver and skin health. Try and manage stress levels better. Do what makes you happy. I love dancing, watching box sets on my tablet and getting out in the garden. I love a good laugh too, and luckily my husband is a bit of a comedian, and after almost 39 years of marriage, he still makes me laugh. Nothing like a good belly laugh to reduce stress.
- Check the labels on your shampoos, shower gels, and body lotions. Many of them are full of chemicals and may be irritating your skin. Switch to more natural products. Look at The Green People’s, or Dr. Bronner’s products. You can use their organic Castile soap as a shampoo and body wash. It’s very rare that I will moisturise my skin. I’m almost 60, but my skin is still soft and supple. Beautiful skin comes from the inside out.
- Get some rays. If you spend lots of time indoors, then you may be deficient in Vitamin D. Healthy skin relies on getting enough Vitamin D so try and get outdoors for at least 20 minutes every day. Think about having your Vitamin D levels checked too via your GP. It’s a simple blood test. If you’re deficient, you can supplement with Vitamin D quite easily.
The psychological toll of psoriasis can be very heavy indeed. If you are affected, or know someone who is, don’t suffer in silence – effective treatments can be found. It might take time, and it might well mean looking below the surface and treating what’s going on inside to reduce and eliminate the symptoms. But it is achievable.