The Merck Manual, the “Cliff Notes” of medical school, says that psoriasis has an unknown cause and no real cure. If the medical doctor’s black bag is empty, that does not mean that there’s nothing else to do. It means that it is now necessary to know Nature’s nutritional knapsack. (What a nice alliteration that turned out to be.)
With psoriasis, there definitely are some worthwhile clues to track down. After all, as Sherlock Holmes said, “if all common explanations fail to solve a problem, then the answer must be some uncommon one.” To many people, the therapeutic use of fish oils, vegetable juice fasting, zinc, and vitamins do indeed represent something completely different. Different, but not actually all that unreasonable.
Psoriasis may be partly due to a difficulty in the way the body handles oils, or to a lack of oils in the diet itself. Studies have shown that consuming a fatty acid found in fish called EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) may provide symptom relief. EPA is an “omega-3 fatty acid.” All that means is that the first carbon-to-carbon double bond is located three carbons in from the far (omega) end of each molecule. Most vegetable oils that you eat are omega-6 fatty acids (such as linoleic acid). Now just why would it matter if a chemical bond is by Carbon Number Three or Carbon Number Six? As they said in Kung Fu, “There are many mysteries, grasshopper” and this seems to be one of them.
Can you stand any more of this? Let’s see. The two most common fish oil omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (mentioned earlier) and DHA (docosahexenoic acid) People who don’t eat fish need to know that there is a third, vegetarian omega-3. It is called LINOLENIC ACID (NOT omega-6 linoleic acid mentioned above) This omega-3 “fish oil” is found in linseed oil and more importantly in soybean oil and GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES.
Linolenic (omega-3) acid is slowly converted into both DHA and EPA in the body. Ah ha! Could this be the problem that psoriasis patients have, namely, that they are slow to make this conversion? If so, the psoriasis patient probably needs fish in the diet to provide EPA ready made. It is a sensible thing to do anyway. The Japanese have the world’s longest life expectancy among all the “Westernized” cultures, and they eat a LOT of fish. The Japanese also eat very little red meat.
A way the omega-3 fatty acids might work is by actually getting into each cell membrane, making them more bendable, adaptable and durable. Improved immune response is another benefit of fish oil consumption, and it is especially important in the treatment of lupus.
So, as my kids would ask, “How much of this stuff do we have to eat?” Well, oily fish (trout, mackerel, salmon) are best and a little dab will do you. Non-oily fish (cod, flounder, haddock) are also worth having, but you’d need to eat a bit more of them. Tuna packed in (omega-6 vegetable) oil does not count.
Alternatively, you could eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, use soy oil more often, and take an EPA supplement. Around 300 to 1,000 milligrams of EPA daily is frequently recommended.
Incidentally, the New England Journal of Medicine (312:1205, 1985) reported that as little as 30 grams of even low-fat fish per day reduced the 20-year death rate from coronary heart disease by fifty percent! That is only about ONE OUNCE of fish daily, actually providing less than 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each day. This is very strong support indeed. Helping your skin could actually save your life.