In the United States, August is Psoriasis Awareness month. A chance to raise awareness, educate and inform sufferers and their families on a wide range of topics such as treatments, triggers and ways of coping with the disorder. Although there isn’t a corresponding awareness month in the UK, it is still a great opportunity to take a look at this particular skin condition.
Although the exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown, experts agree that it is affected by the immune system and genetics. Whilst it might not be able to get rid of the condition completely, many sufferers have found that they can help manage it and keep it under control.
Psoriasis can affect any age group and any skin type; it can appear on various parts of the body at any given time. Figures from 2019 show that psoriasis affects around 1. Million people in the UK. According to the research, Norway has the highest prevalence at 1.98% of the overall population and the lowest prevalence is East Asia with 0.12% of the population. The UK ranked 21st.
This type of skin condition can affect any age or skin type and is not more prevalent in one gender over another.
Psoriasis is considered an immune-mediated disease. That is a disease with an unclear cast that is characterised by inflammation caused by dysfunction o the immune system. Visible signs are raised plaques and scales on the skin that are caused by the skin cells over growing and not shedding as in normal skin. Although commonly found on elbows, knees and the scalp, any area of the body can be affected. Some people experience other conditions such as psoriatic arthritis which includes swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints. There are five recognised types of the condition that appear on various parts of the body, psoriasis.org has a good breakdown of the various types.
As with many conditions, there is no quick fix, or one size fits all solution. There are a lot of medications and treatments available and getting a proper diagnosis of your skin condition from your GP or a specialist is important before you embark on treatment. Once you know what you are experiencing, there are plenty of options for those wanting to follow a more natural route to help manage their condition.
Over the past year and a half, many people have found their condition has worsened, not only the stress of the pandemic and restrictions, but also the use of face coverings irritating the skin and the increased use of hand sanitisers and more frequent hand washing. It is important to wash fabric face covering regularly and not to use harsh detergents as these can also irritate the skin. Use natural based soaps, dry your hands thoroughly and use hand sanitisers made with natural ingredients rather than harsh chemicals.
The UK ranks 21st in the world for prevalence of psoriasis with Norway being number 1.
Although research may be limited, many people find that certain food products can affect or even improve their skin. There does seem to be a correlation between alcohol intake and psoriasis, so reducing intake may make a positive impact. For some sufferers, reducing alcohol seems to create an improvement and in one study on men with psoriasis, it was discovered that if they drank heavily they didn’t respond to treatment so well and that their skin improved when they stopped drinking alcohol.
Stress is often considered a trigger for the condition and a flare up of psoriasis can also be extremely stressful and in turn make matters worse. It can be impossible to eliminate all stressors, but there are ways to help minimise the stress or how your body copes with it. There are also supplements that can help too.
Calming techniques such as simple breathing exercises or even a few slow deep inhales and exhales can quickly help you feel less stressed. Easy to do, free and no specialist equipment needed, these types of techniques can be invaluable. Taking ten minutes away from your desk, a walk in the fresh air or just standing up and stretching. All can help lower stress levels and have an impact on out whole body. If you can get a break and walk somewhere green and natural such as a park or a wooded area has been shown to have a very positive effect on stress levels and mental wellbeing. A good habit to develop even when you don’t have a specific health problem. For those looking to commit a bit more, think about joining a yoga group or similar exercise class.
Stress can play a role in making the condition worse, aim for simple changes that can help reduce stress levels.
It goes without saying that a healthy and varied diet can be beneficial for our skin and our body as a whole. As psoriasis is considered an inflammatory condition, avoiding foods that are linked to inflammation makes sense. These include processed foods and foods high in refined or added sugar, excessive red meat consumption and some dairy foods.
Foods that can fight inflammation include fruits and vegetables, especially antioxidant rich berries, cherries and dark green leavy vegetables. If you eat fish, it is a good idea to include oily fish such as salmon and sardines in your diet on a regular basis. Warming and antioxidant rich spices such as ginger, turmeric, thyme and cumin (black seed) are thought to be helpful too. Including plant oils such as borage, flax or hemp oils.
There are a number of supplements that many users and some researchers have found to be beneficial. Although there is always room for more research, there is good indications that taking omega 3 supplements such as fish oil rich in EPA and DHA. Of all the supplements in popular use, fish oils seem to offer the best success rate with the majority of trials proving positive results. Look for a high quality fish oil from clean and sustainable sources that provides significant amounts of EPA and DHA.
If you follow a plant based or vegan diet, there are now high quality omega 3 supplements available that are derived from algae. These supplements allow you t obtain EPA and DHA as a supplement without using fish as a source. Again look for supplements made with sustainability and clean waters in mind.
Borage oil is a herb that grows freely in warm sunny conditions, its seeds are a rich source of essential fatty acids and it has a higher level of GLA than Evening Primrose Oil. One of the benefits of the increase concentration is that you can take fewer capsules. Often a big plus if you already take a number of capsules or tablets. One study showed that there was a significant difference in the improvement of the skin lesions before and after taking the borage oil.
Many sufferers find that a varied diet rich in nutrients and essential fatty acids can benefit their skin.
Nutrients that support the health of the skin such as Vitamins A, C and D have also been researched and are popular with sufferers. Look for Vitamin D3 if adding Vitamin D to your regime, it is easily absorbable and the closest in make up to the D that we manufacture in the body. Supplements are available sourced from lanolin (from sheep’s wool) or from lichen as a vegan source. Make sure the lichen based formula is sources sustainable and without harm to the environment.
B Vitamins and the mineral magnesium are required for normal functioning of the nervous system, they are useful supplements to take if you find you become stressed easily. Look for B vitamins in their active forms for best absorption. Herbal teas such as chamomile can also be soothing as can using essential oils such as lavender in burners or properly diluted to make massage oils.
Whilst it might not be the easiest condition to keep under control, with some planning and forethought it is possible to make it easier to live with. Keeping stress levels under control or finding stress busting techniques that work for you, getting enough sleep, being aware of what foods might make the condition worse and the ones that can help, can all aid living with psoriasis. Add to that being conscious of what you put on the skin and using natural based cleaning products around the home and on the skin can have a big impact. And last but not least, build a supplement regime that complements your lifestyle and food intake.
As with many health issues, we can make a difference with what we do ourselves, it might not be easy to change regimes and habits, but the benefits can be far greater in the long term.