Psoriasis is a very frustrating chronic disease, and recently it has been linked to serious diseases like diabetes and coronary artery disease. As I do for all skin diseases, I try to incorporate natural treatments in addition to the traditional Western medical approach. A few pearls:
1. Psoriasis and stress are close friends. I firmly believe that stress reduction/coping with stress better are integral for controlling this disease.
2. Psoriasis is associated with higher Body Mass Index as well as insulin resistance. If you are overweight, especially if you tend to get heavy around the middle, weight loss MUST be a goal to help lessen the disease
3. I think all psoriasis patients should have their Vitamin D levels checked, and should be on the higher side of the normal range. We know that Vitamin D is necessary for normal cell turnover in the skin, and that this is impaired in psoriasis, which is why you get the thick, scaly plaques. We also know that the B wavelengths of ultraviolet light help psoriasis, and it has been postulated that one of the reasons is that the UVB increases Vitamin D synthesis (Please note that tanning beds use mostly UVA light, which does NOT make Vitamin D, and please note that I think tanning beds are evil). A 2012 study in the British Journal of Dermatology showed that 80% of psoriasis patients have low vitamin D in the winter, and 50% in the summer. A few studies have shown a benefit in giving Vitamin D to psoriasis patients, while others have not shown a benefit. To me, it is a no brainer – Taking 2000 u of Vitamin D3 definitely will not hurt you, and could help your psoriasis, in addition to all the other benefits of taking Vitamin D that have been written about lately.
4. Hot off the presses! Curcumin, derived from turmeric, was shown to help psoriasis in a recent study from Italy. All the patients were on a topical steroid, but half the patients also took 3g of curcumin daily, and the curcumin group had more improvement than the steroid alone group. I think any natural remedy that makes the psoriasis patient less reliant on topical steroids is fantastic, and I will start recommending this to my patients. Only downside of curcumin is that some people get nauseated if they take it on an empty stomach. Curcumin has been shown to be antiproliferative (used in many complementary medicine protocols for cancer), and anti-inflammatory. All this positive buzz about curcumin makes me want to go have Indian food for dinner!