Psoriasis originates in your immune system, not in your skin.
Even though it affects your skin, psoriasis actually begins deep inside your body in your immune system. It comes from your T cells, a type of white blood cell. T cells are designed to protect the body from infection and disease.
When these cells mistakenly become active and set off other immune responses, it can lead to psoriasis symptoms.
Psoriasis is a recurring autoimmune disorder characterized by red, flaky patches on the skin.
There’s no cure, but many treatments exist to ease the symptoms of psoriasis. Managing mild symptoms from the comfort of your home can add make you more comfortable and help to speed up the healing time.
How to Minimize Psoriasis Symptoms
Use a Humidifier
If your psoriasis symptoms are worse in the winter, you’re not alone. Many people who suffer from psoriasis, find their symptoms gets worse during the dry winter months.
When the cold weather hits, it helps to counter the drying effect of constant exposure to indoor heating by using a cool mist humidifier to keep the indoor air moist. Many people find it especially helpful to have a humidifier in their bedroom overnight, to avoid waking up with parched skin.
While this will not cure the actual condition of psoriasis, it will help with the number one symptom, which is the dry, scaly skin. The moisture that is distributed into the air via the humidifier can greatly help with the dry skin, moisturizing even the most severe cases of psoriasis.
Most soaps and perfumes have dyes and other chemicals in them that may irritate your skin. They can make you smell great, but they also can inflame psoriasis. Look for fragrance free products for personal use, cleaning and laundry.
Unscented Products to Try:
Eat Healthfully – Anti-inflammatory Foods are Best:
- Fruits and veggies, especially berries, cherries, and leafy greens
- Antioxidant-rich herbs and spices, like thyme, sage, cumin, and ginger
- Heart-healthy sources of fat, like olive oil, seeds, and nuts
- Salmon, sardines, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 Supplement Studied For Psoriasis
The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) published a review in 2014 of several studies of nutritional supplements used for psoriasis in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD)
The most potent omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Two randomized double-blinded controlled trials (the research gold standard) in the JAAD review found omega-3 supplements improved redness, thickness, and scaling in plaque and guttate psoriasis.
These trials, delivered intravenous omega-3s at high doses—between 2.1 and 4.2 grams of EPA and 8 and 21 grams of DHA. In contrast, a single concentrated fish oil capsule typically contains between half a gram and a gram (500-1,000 milligrams) of combined EPA and DHA. It seems that it would certainly be worth making the effort to include omega-3s in your diet, either in the food you eat, or with omega 3 supplements.
Plant Sources of Omega 3’s
You can also get omega-3s from walnuts, flax seed, and other plant sources, but plant sources contain a less-potent type of fatty acid than marine sources.
Philip Calder, a professor of nutritional immunology at the University Southampton in the United Kingdom, says that plant sources probably can’t deliver enough omega-3s to affect psoriatic symptoms.
Some foods can make inflammation worse:
- Processed foods and refined sugars
- Fatty cuts of red meat
Your Bathtub Can Help
Hot water may be an irritant for your skin. However, a lukewarm bath with Epsom salt, mineral oil, milk, or olive oil can soothe the itching and infiltrate scales and plaques. Moisturize immediately (with an unscented moisturizer, of course) after your bath for double benefits.
Get Some Sun Exposure and Vitamin D
(Don’t overdo the sun exposure)
People with psoriasis often notice that their symptoms tend to get better in the summer when they are more exposed to the sun. This is not a coincidence, as sunlight can be beneficial for psoriasis when it is used correctly.
The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are classified as either UVA and UVB rays. The difference between these types is in the size of the wave. Research suggests that UV rays have immunosuppressive effects, which can help reduce psoriasis symptoms.
On their own, natural UVA rays are not very effective in improving psoriasis symptoms, but UVB rays are.
UVB exposure from the sun can slow down the rapid growth of the skin cells, which is one of the main symptoms of psoriasis. This may help ease inflammation and reduce scaling in people with mild to moderate psoriasis.
Sunlight has the added benefit of helping the body create vitamin D, which protects the skin and regulates its natural immunity. Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods but is regularly added to some dairy products.
One study found that vitamin D deficiency might be common in people with psoriasis, especially in winter when sun exposure is down.
As vitamin D helps protect the skin and balance the skin’s immune response, it is essential for people with psoriasis to get enough of it. Many dermatologists also recommend that people with psoriasis use topical creams that contain vitamin D.
The American Academy of Dermatology continues to recommend obtaining vitamin D from nutritional sources and dietary supplements, though, and not from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices, as UV radiation is a known risk factor for developing skin cancer.
Stress Creates a Vicious Cycle With Psoriasis
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Mental Health Issue Brief, psoriasis is independently associated with stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Women, in particular, seem particularly vulnerable to stress due to psoriasis.
Inflammation is the body’s way to cope with stress, said Dr. John Koo, professor of clinical dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. Your immune system responds to injury and infection by sending out chemicals that cause inflammation and help heal a wound.
In people with psoriasis, the immune system over-responds—it sends out too many of those chemicals, and this may explain how stress can trigger a psoriasis flare-up.
So, stress is a common trigger for a psoriasis flare, and a psoriasis flare can cause stress.
There is a lot you can do to reduce the severity of this vicious cycle:
Identify the Causes of Your Stress
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. While it’s easy to identify major stressors such as changing jobs, moving, or a going through a divorce, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress can be more complicated.
It’s easy to overlook how your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contribute to your everyday stress levels. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.
Get More Physical Activity
When you’re stressed, the last thing you probably feel like doing is getting up and exercising. But physical activity is a huge stress reliever—and you don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits.
Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries.
While you’ll get the most benefit from regularly exercising for 30 minutes or more, it’s okay to build up your fitness level gradually. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day.
The first step is to get yourself up and moving. Here are some easy ways to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule:
- Put on some music and dance around
- Take your dog for a walk
- Walk or cycle to the grocery store
- Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
- Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
- Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you work out
- Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids
Connect With Others
There is nothing more calming than spending quality time with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. In fact, face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body’s defensive “fight-or-flight” response. It’s nature’s natural stress reliever (as an added bonus, it also helps stave off depression and anxiety). So make it a point to connect regularly—and in person—with family and friends.
Keep in mind that the people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress. They simply need to be good listeners. And try not to let worries about looking weak or being a burden keep you from opening up. The people who care about you will be flattered by your trust. It will only strengthen your bond.
Of course, it’s not always realistic to have a pal close by to lean on when you feel overwhelmed by stress, but by building and maintaining a network of close friends you can improve your resiliency to life’s stressors.
Make Time For Leisure
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by carving out “me” time. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.
Improve Your Time Management
Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. Plus, you’ll be tempted to avoid or cut back on all the healthy things you should be doing to keep stress in check, like socializing and getting enough sleep. The good news: there are things you can do to achieve a healthier work-life balance.
Don’t over-commit yourself
Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take.
Make a list of tasks you have to do, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant or stressful to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
Break projects into small steps
If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
You don’t have to do it all yourself, whether at home, school, or on the job. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
Practice The 4 A’s of Stress Management
While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable times—your commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction.
When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s:
- Avoid unnecessary stress
- Alter the situation
- Adapt to the stressor
- Accept the things you can’t change
Science has now proven that extra pounds affect psoriasis.
Alcohol is a trigger for many people who have psoriasis. A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found an increased risk of psoriasis among women who drank non-light beer. Those who drank at least five non-light beers per week were nearly twice as likely to develop psoriasis, when compared to women who didn’t drink.
Stop smoking and avoid tobacco. Smoking may increase your risk of psoriasis. If you already have psoriasis, it can also make your symptoms more severe.
Dietary Supplements That Can Help
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, there are several supplements which have been reported to help ease mild symptoms of psoriasis.
Gel from the aloe plant can be applied to the skin up to three times a day. Some research shows it can help reduce redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. No benefit has been shown from taking aloe in tablet form and it can be dangerous.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Used by ancient cultures as a disinfectant, apple cider vinegar may help relieve scalp itch from psoriasis. You can buy a bottle of organic apple cider vinegar at the grocery store and apply it to your scalp several times a week.
Some people report diluting vinegar with water on a 1-to-1 ratio helps prevent a burning sensation. Others say they need to rinse the skin once the solution has dried to prevent irritation.
Skip this remedy if your scalp skin is cracked or bleeding. If you have open wounds, vinegar will only irritate your skin and cause a burning sensation. If it works for you, you should see results within a few weeks.
Capsaicin is the ingredient in chili peppers that make them hot. Added to creams and ointments, capsaicin blocks nerve endings that transmit pain.
Researchers from the University Medical Center Freiburg, in Freiburg, Germany, found OTC creams containing capsaicin may help reduce the pain, inflammation, redness and scaling associated with psoriasis.
More research is needed, however, to assess its long-term benefits and safety. Some people may feel a burning sensation where capsaicin ointment is applied. Start with a small test area to see how your skin reacts.
Oats are considered one of nature’s best skin soothers.
There is no scientific evidence to support the use of oats to relieve psoriasis symptoms, but many individuals with psoriasis report applying an oatmeal cream or taking a bath in oatmeal soak their itchy skin and reduces redness; it’s certainly worth trying.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is from the leaves of a plant that is native to Australia. Tea tree oil is believed to have antiseptic qualities and can be applied to the skin.
Some people find using shampoos with tea tree oil helps relieve their scalp psoriasis. There are no scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of tea tree oil on psoriasis, but user experience seems to support Tea tree oil as a remedy option.
This herb is being frequently studied for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric has the ability to alter gene expression. A 2012 review by the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular biology highlights turmeric’s ability to alter TNF cytokine expression. This is the likely reason some patients find it helpful in minimizing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flares.
You can take turmeric curcumin in a concentrated supplement form, and of course, you can add turmeric liberally to your food when cooking.
Mahonia Aquifolium (Oregon Grape)
Mahonia is a powerful antimicrobial herb that plays a role in immune response.
There isn’t a single answer for keeping the symptoms of psoriasis at bay. What works for one person may not work for another. Some treatment options may have negative side effects for pre-existing conditions other than psoriasis.
Remember to check with your doctor before taking any supplements mentioned, to make sure they don’t interfere with other health conditions you may have.
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