It’s easy to recognise – dry patches of raised reddened skin covered in white silvery scales can appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, torso, chest and belly button. And in some cases, psoriasis is so severe that these itchy plaques cover a large percentage of the skin. Clearly, having such a physically obvious disorder can be psychologically challenging, so there’s little wonder that a high incidence of depression is common among sufferers.
The immune connection
Psoriasis is actually an autoimmune disease. As with any autoimmune disorder, the body’s normal defence mechanism goes haywire and cells begin to behave differently. With psoriasis, this causes a surge in immune cells and chemicals that cause inflammation, which then alter skin cell reproduction and differentiation. This causes the rate of skin cell replication to dramatically increase, and thicker patches of skin form where new cells build up faster than old skin cells are shed.
Diet appears to have a significant role in causing the inflammation that underlies psoriasis, and food intolerences may well play a part. For example, high levels of anti-gluten antibodies are often found in psoriasis sufferers, and many improve on gluten-free diets. And a recent study led by Dr Abrar Quereshi, published in the Archives of Dermatology, found that women drinking more than five beers a week were almost twice as likely to develop psoriasis compared to women drinking equivalent amounts of wine, low calorie beer or other alcohol . Although there are strong links between alcohol intake and psoriasis, particularly in men , researchers suspected that these women might be reacting to the high amount of gluten, a wheat protein in beer, rather than to the alcohol itself. Yeast is also a common allergen. But each person is unique, so there may be many other foods that cause sensitivity – for example dairy, eggs or nuts. A simple IgG food intolerance test may help to determine whether a food intolerance is contributing to your symptoms.
The knock-on effect on the gut
If you have hidden food allergies, then eating the offending foods can irritate the gut, possibly resulting in increased intestinal permeability, poor nutrient absorption and bacteria or yeast imbalances. This may well underlie inflammation and promote psoriasis. For example, as poorly digested food and pathogens slip between the inflamed intestinal cells and enter the blood stream, the body may respond by mounting an immune response against these ‘foreign’ particles. The result is chronic, systemic inflammation, perhaps eventually tipping you into auto-immunity. So identifying food intolerences and then healing the gut is key as a first stage in tackling any autoimmune condition. How you then choose to eat is also important. Both vegetarian diets and diets rich in fish oils have all been shown to improve psoriasis symptoms . Although these are quite different diets, the reason they work is because they each help to promote the production of anti-inflammatory substances.
Looking beyond the digestive system, there are other organs that have a role in psoriasis. The liver is primarily responsible for processing and removing toxins from the body – but if liver function is below average, toxins may instead be excreted via the skin. So when diseases affect the skin, as psoriasis does, it is sensible to consider the processes in the body that deal with detoxification and elimination. My 9-Day Liver Detox Diet is a fantastic way to improve liver function and help your body deal with toxins. The liver is also responsible for processing hormones and removing them from general circulation. There is a higher incidence of autoimmune disease in women and, with recent studies reporting that high levels of the hormone oestrogen are associated with increased auto-immunity , it’s possible that the sex hormones play a part in psoriasis. I discuss this in more detail in my Say No to Psoriasis Special Report, which also covers: • Overcoming a genetic predisposition to psoriasis • How to tune up your immune system • Steps to identify hidden food allergies • The diet and supplements that reduce inflammation • Boosting your liver detox potential • Getting your hormones in balance • The sunshine vitamin and how it can help • Positive lifestyle changes • Soothing your skin from the outside If you are a 100% Health member, click here to read on. If not, did you know that you can get full access to this, and many other Special Reports, when you join my 100% Health Club? Subscriptions start at just £10 a quarter and as well as online access to my comprehensive health library, you’ll receive a regular newsletter, discounts on books, events and more, plus the opportunity to put your own questions to me in regular health blogs. To find out more, visit my 100% Health Club membership section. References 1. AA Qureshi et al, Alcohol intake and risk of incident psoriasis in US women – A prospective study, Archives of Dermatology, published online 16 August 2010. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2010.204. 2. K Poikolainen et al, Alcohol intake: a risk factor for psoriasis in young and middle aged men? British Medical Journal (1990), vol 300, pp.780–3. 3. SB Bittiner et al, A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of fish oil in psoriasis, Lancet (1988), vol I, pp.378–80. 4. F Tanriverdi et al, The hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis: immune function and autoimmunity, Journal of Endocrinology (2003), vol 176, pp 293-304.