Florida is famous for its sunshine and ocean water. While most of our visitors come strictly for recreation, others come seeking relief from symptoms of psoriasis.
A few weeks of sun and saltwater treatments offer months of remission for many sufferers of this unsightly skin condition. The National Psoriasis Foundation recognizes that sunbathing helps eliminate or reduce psoriasis lesions.
Normally it takes about a month for new skin cells to form. With psoriasis, abnormal skin cells may form in 36 hours. This rapid growth of the skin's outer layer causes plaques, raised patches with silvery scales, itchiness and disfigurement anywhere on the skin or nails. Fingernail pitting may be an early sign of potential joint inflammation (psoriatic arthritis). Psoriasis may occur at the site of repeated trauma.
Psoriasis affects millions of people, and there is a strong hereditary factor. It is rare in countries where diets are low in fats; its victims are mostly caucasian. Greenland Eskimos seldom have psoriasis, perhaps because their diet is rich in cold- water fish. Psoriasis can be a side effect of taking drugs such as lithium or calcium channel blockers. In certain patients, getting rid of existing infections and fungus (yeast) may help clear up psoriasis.
Severe stress can trigger psoriasis. English researchers discovered that two-thirds of people with chronic skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis had experienced "a major life event" around the same time their skin condition first appeared. Other contributing factors may include hormonal shifts, acid-alkaline imbalance, chronic constipation, antibiotic overuse and nutritional deficiencies. Some theories involve incomplete protein digestion, toxic compounds in the bowls, impaired liver function and excess animal fats in the diet. Alcohol and smoking reduce the effectiveness of any treatment.
Famed nutritionist Adele Davis was one of many who believe that psoriasis results from faulty utilization of fats. She recommended taking lecithin granules daily to improve fat metabolism. Lecithin is found in the cells of the body and is widely used as a blending agent in many foods.
Andrew Weil, complimentary physician, admits that conventional medical treatments may be needed initially to control psoriasis, but he suggests that alternative methods may also reduce symptoms. Dr. Weil strongly recommends taking fish oil capsules to reduce inflammation, along with eating salmon, sardines and flax, plus supplements of gamma linoleic acid, as found in evening primrose oil. Other health experts recommend eating an anti-inflammatory diet and limiting intake of red meat, cheese, milk and citrus fruit.
Conventional treatments for psoriasis include light therapy, cortisone creams and topical vitamin A and D applications. Many people also find relief with creams containing aloe vera gel, chamomile and calendula. Soaking in a tub with mineral salts or Epsom salts or taking an oatmeal bath can be soothing to troubled skin.
Eating hot salsa is an unusual "cure" for psoriasis reported in "The People's Pharmacy" by Joe and Teresa Graedon. One contributor claims complete relief only when he regularly consumes hot pepper salsa. Quoting from another reader's testimonial: "I've suffered from psoriasis for 25 years . when I read that turmeric might have an anti-inflammatory action . I sprinkled a teaspoonful on my cereal . the results are unbelievable. After 10 days, the awful itching and bleeding had ceased. My scalp, which had been heavily flaked and itchy, returned to normal. Now, five months later, I have no psoriasis."
For people who can't stomach the strong powdered spice, turmeric capsules have had similar success. As the Graedons point out, researchers have found that the active component in turmeric, curcumin, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin inhibits an enzyme associated with over-active cell growth, and many scientists are studying this compound in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and certain cancers.
Psoriasis sufferers may find some measure of relief by turning to Mother Nature's gifts: the sun, the sea and the spices.
The information in this article is for educational purposes. Consult your physician if you have a medical condition.
Margot Bennett is a licensed nutritionist at Mother Nature's Pantry, located in the Garden Square Shoppes, 4513 PGA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. Call her at (561) 626-4461.