5 Tips to Cope with Psoriasis

by Lindsey Tugman
Health & Medicine
Today’s THV
Feb. 13, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin disorder. The most common places to see these patches are on the legs, knees, elbows, arms, scalp, ears and back.

1. Take a soothing bath. Skin disorders have a catch-22 when bathing. Yes, it softens the patches, but on the other hand, too much water can also dry the skin. Think about softening the water with a capful of olive oil.

2. Moisturize often. To get the best benefits from your favorite cream, apply it generously after bathing. On persistent spots, a petroleum-based product is very effective, which is a thick healing ointment.

3. Bask in the sun. Doctors sometimes prescribe a regimen of ultra-violet light from a special light or tanning bed. But, if you live in a sunny climate, getting a moderate amount of sunshine enhances your production of vitamin D, which is very helpful in controlling this skin problem.

4. Watch your diet. Eating a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables and fish high in omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation. If you’re not a big fish eater, there are supplements that provide this healthy oil.

5. Curb stress. Psoriasis isn’t easy to contend with, however stress is a known factor. So keep your mental state in check through exercise and relaxation techniques.

Hopefully these tips will help you stay flare-free and feeling better.

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Home [Herbal] Remedies for Psoriasis

By Kathi Keville & Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa

In many cases, home remedies for psoriasis can greatly improve this troublesome skin condition. Read on for our expert tips.

Try to relax: Emotional traumas, such as a new job or the death of a loved one, precede as many as 80 percent of flare-ups.

Q. Are there any known home remedies for psoriasis? And which herbs are commonly used to help clear up the lesions?

A. Keville responds: In many cases, herbal treatments for psoriasis can greatly improve this troublesome skin condition. Psoriasis causes cells to grow too quickly, producing reddish lesions and silvery scales that pile up and flake off. Itching and bleeding are common. Psoriasis can come and go, and just when you think you have it under control, there it is again! The longer you’ve had it, the longer it may take to clear up, so have patience.

For an external treatment, use a salve or cream that contains skin-healing herbs such as calendula (Calendula officinalis) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) with essential oils of tea tree and lavender. Apply the salve twice daily directly on the psoriasis. Another good idea is to wash with herbal cleansers designed for dry skin instead of soap, which can irritate and dry the skin more. Exposure to direct sunlight (or a long-wave ultraviolet light lamp) is effective as well.

Correcting abnormal liver function is important in the treatment of psoriasis. One of the liver’s many jobs is to filter and detoxify the blood, and when that’s not happening efficiently, the result can manifest itself on the skin. Some liver herbs favored by herbalists to treat psoriasis include burdock (Arctium lappa) and milk thistle (Silybum marianum). There also might be a connection with your immune system and to food allergies. You can treat both your liver and immune system with bupleurum root (Bupleurum chinensis) and pau d’arco bark (Tabebuia spp.).

Stress usually worsens psoriasis, so taking relaxing herbs such as valerian (Valeriana officinalis) will help. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis), taken internally, help reduce skin inflammation. Of particular benefit are the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish and flax seed oil.

Khalsa responds: As common as this disease is, most patients are not very satisfied with the medical management of their disease. The good news is that natural methods can be successful.

Psoriasis episodes can be triggered by (among other things) emotional stress, trauma, dry skin and bacterial infection. An immune system abnormality likely plays a role. Psoriasis is not contagious, but tends to run in families. From the botanical medicine point of view, psoriasis is a type of inflammatory skin disease. It is akin to dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), a general term for a wide selection of skin disorders.

A standard medical treatment is to soak in a warm bath for 10 to 15 minutes, then apply a topical ointment. Petroleum jelly helps the skin retain moisture. Other treatments include salicylic acid ointment; steroid-based creams or ointments; calcipotriene, which is related to vitamin D; and coal-tar ointments and shampoos.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), a distilled bark extract, is a mainstream psoriasis treatment in Germany. The most successful natural ointment I have used is a combination of aloe (Aloe vera) gel, witch hazel, vitamin E oil, menthol, tea tree oil, pine tar, cedar leaf oil and clove oil.

Treating the surface helps symptoms, but to treat the full disease, herbalists slowly balance the body systems involved in psoriasis. The treatment centers on reducing inflammation in the skin, healing the tissue of the skin if necessary, and eliminating the source of the irritating contaminants through the liver, kidneys and large intestine. Anti-inflammatory botanicals reduce skin symptoms. The best skin anti-inflammatory I know is green vegetables. Use as large a percentage of green vegetables in the diet as possible. Once the skin inflammation begins to quiet down, try gotu kola (Centella asiatica), the most impressive herb I have seen for treating connective tissue damage, to heal the underlying structure of the tissue.

Food & Exercise for Better Skin

Eating too much sugar certainly isn’t wise for your waistline, but did you know that overindulging in dessert can add years to your face? And even if you do strenuous cardio workouts each week, you’ll be missing out on potential anti-aging body benefits if your schedule doesn’t include yoga, weight training and rest.

Find out if you’re making one of these eight common diet and exercise mistakes, and get smart prevention strategies that can keep you slim and youthful for years to come.

1. You overdo dessert

The breakdown of sugars, called glycation, damages the collagen that keeps skin smooth and firm. To prevent this natural process from careening out of control, Dr. Naila Malik, a dermatologist in Southlake, Texas, sticks to low-glycemic carbs like whole grains. They’re naturally low in sugar, and the body processes them slowly to limit the loss of collagen. If you want to sweeten up your tea or oatmeal without making your skin look older, try all-natural stevia. It’s an easily digested herbal sweetener that doesn’t trigger glycation, said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone, an adjunct professor of medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.

2. You spin away stress

Taking your work angst out on the bike or treadmill might make you feel better for a little while, but incorporating yoga into your fitness routine regularly may help you look younger and prevent breakouts while whittling away stress. Sounds like a winning workout to us! “Yoga moves like child’s pose, downward-facing dog and sun salutations improve circulation – the boost of oxygen is what gives skin that lovely yoga glow,” said Dr. Hema Sundaram, a Washington, D.C.-area dermatologist. New research finds regular yoga practice may reduce the inflammation and stress that speed skin aging. If you need another reason to “om” away your stress: High levels of tension can spike hormone production that leads to breakouts or aggravates conditions like psoriasis. “Controlling stress keeps your skin calm,” said Dr. Annie Chiu, a dermatologist in Los Angeles.

3. You always pick coffee over tea

Research suggests that green and black tea contain protective compounds – like EGCG and theaflavins – that help prevent skin cancers and the breakdown of collagen, the cause of wrinkles.

4. You pretend to be allergic to dumbbells

Following a regular strength-training routine that creates better, more supportive muscle tone will help you firm sagging skin from the neck down. “I am religious about strength-training, and I always tell patients to do it more as they get older,” said Dr. Patricia Farris, a dermatologist in Metairie, La. “It’s like adding volume to the face with fillers, except on your body,” Farris said.

5. Your meat and dairy aren’t organic

“Hormones in traditionally produced dairy, poultry and meat may contribute to acne,” said Dr. Katie Rodan, a dermatologist in the San Francisco Bay area. She says that her patients who eat those less frequently – or at least choose grain-fed beef and poultry and organic dairy – often notice their skin looks better.

6. You don’t give your body a break

When your exercise routine is so intense that you’re tired all the time but can’t sleep at night, you’re setting yourself up for overuse injuries – not to mention dark circles and bags under your eyes from those sleepless nights. These symptoms could be a sign of overexhaustion, said Ryan Halvorson, personal trainer, IDEA Health and Fitness Association expert, and author. Other clues that you’re working out too much include extreme muscle soreness that persists for several days, unintended weight loss, increased resting heart rate, interruptions in your menstrual cycle or decreased appetite.

7. You’re missing alkaline-rich foods

Kimberly Snyder, a Los Angeles nutritionist and author of “The Beauty Detox Solution,” said she sees a big improvement in her clients’ skin and hair when they eat more alkaline-forming foods, such as parsley, almonds, kale, pears, lemons and apples. “If your body is too acidic, which can happen when your diet is unbalanced, it leaches the alkaline minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, that allow us to have strong, healthy bones, teeth and hair,” Snyder said.