For people with psoriasis, suffering from painful symptoms like inflamed, flaking and red skin is not pleasant. The chronic skin condition is due to an overactive immune system that can be triggered by a number of internal and external factors. Many Western treatments include steroid creams and oral medications that come with a slew of unwanted side effects.
Below are alternative treatments that are safe and natural and can help reduce symptoms of psoriasis, leading you back to better health.
1. Herbal Remedies
Mindfulness and meditation practices have been found to be effective in people suffering with chronic pain like psoriasis.
Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on the moment and ridding yourself of all external thoughts you may be having. This can lead to a state of relaxation and calmness, bringing balance to your body and mind.
Mindfulness, which is practiced in meditation, includes becoming completely aware of your body, externally and internally. This can be a seated meditation that is focused on awareness of mind, body and senses.
Not only is exercise important to maintain overall health and wellness, it is especially beneficial for people with psoriasis.
Because people with psoriasis have an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, regular exercise can prove very helpful.
Many find it hard to exercise because of the chronic pain associated with psoriasis. Exercise programs in the water prove to be an effective alternative that is easier on the body and still allows you to build endurance and strength.
Other simple ways to fit more exercise into your day include short walks, taking the stairs and stretching.
Seeing a licensed massage therapist can help reduce symptoms and pain. Massage promotes the function of muscle and connective tissue and can increase relaxation and circulation in the body.
Acupuncture has been proven to be effective in minimizing chronic pain in patients. Acupuncture takes a holistic approach with the body and symptoms you may be experiencing. By returning the body to its natural flow, acupuncture can help reduce the intensity of symptoms of psoriasis.
Elimination diets are something I recommend to many of my patients, and, as someone with food allergies myself, something I am intimately familiar with. The thing I really love about elimination diets is that once you go through the process of food allergy elimination and reintroduction for testing, you have a very clear visceral understanding of how any particular food allergy affects you. You know WHAT the allergen is, you know HOW it affects you personally, and you know HOW LONG the reaction lasts for. Then you get to choose - you can eat the allergenic food and suffer, or you can avoid the food and feel well.
Completing an elimination diet and finding no food allergy triggers can seem anticlimactic, but is equally good information. If nothing shows up positive, you know that food is not the issue and you can cross that possibility off your list and move on to other interventions - herbs, supplements, acupuncture, pharmaceuticals - whatever is appropriate for your symptoms and your case.
In short, a healthy elimination diet is a powerful tool for understanding your symptoms. It can rule food allergies out as a problem, or it can give you control over your symptoms by understanding a food allergen and being able to make choices based on that knowledge. No medications, no supplements, no interventions - just choice. Powerful, simple, effective.
The symptoms of a food allergy can be quite broad. They can include a wild array of things including but not limited to:
How Does an Elimination Diet Work?
When you are constantly eating foods your are allergic to, there are a couple of things going on in your body. First - you have inflammation. There is a constant war being waged inside and inflammation is the result. Since the fight is constant due to repeat exposure, however, your symptoms might seem mild though consistent - some symptoms are due to the battle, some symptoms are controlled by the battle - you can’t really tease them out.
Second - you release endorphins and you can crave the allergen because your body is in pain. The constant battle between allergen offender and immune system defender is invasive. Your body releases endorphins to blunt the pain of the invasion, so you can actually crave the thing you are allergic to because of the mini high the battle produces.
An elimination diet stops the war by removing the offender so the defense can rest. The inflammatory response calms down, the endorphin release returns normal, and you find a new baseline. When you test the allergen, therefore, the defensive walls are down. When first contact hits, your body has to mount a larger response and you feel more of the symptoms related to that specific allergenic food (the troops are sleeping and have to wake up AND defend the walls of the castle, takes more energy).
Yes, this means your reaction seems more severe but actually it isn’t - you just feel more of it because you are starting from calmer baseline.
How Do I DO an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is something you can do on your own - you do not need supervision, though it is ideal to work with a naturopath or an acupuncturist so you have someone to come to with questions. Acupuncture can also help calm down your reaction to any specific allergen so you recover faster.
You can link to a PDF of my elimination diet instructions using the button below, as well as the Thorne Mediclear Patient Guide which outlines a broader elimination diet, as well as the use of detox supplements like Mediclear and Nutriclear which can help you cleanse the gut a little faster.
Questions? Contact Rebecca.
Its National Psoriasis Awareness Month, hooray! And I've definitely found that people don't often realize that acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be an effective treatment for this condition. Did you know?
The video above doesn't get into the details of diagnosis and treatment, but it is a nice little into to what the beginnings of an acupuncture treatment for this condition might look like, and a good reminder about that hallmark of Chinese Medicine - syndrome differentiation. Namely, that everyone presents with their own unique set of signs and symptoms associated with any given condition and that each individual will therefore be treated individually and uniquely. There may be some general guidelines or points that are commonly recommended for any given illness, but since different people with the same illness will have different tongue and pulse pictures and other associated symptoms, their energetic diagnosis and treatment will therefore be unique.
But enough about that - Psoriasis is our topic of the day!
In Chinese Medicine all skin conditions have a connection to the Lung meridian, so they often go hand in hand with things like asthma, allergies and acne and thanks to the magic of energetic medicine, these things can therefore be treated concurrently. The Lungs also receive their energy from the Spleen (read "digestion") so digestive issues are also commonly seen in combination with psoriasis and other skin conditions. This means that diet and lifestyle are important factors to look at as part of an overall treatment plan.
Blood heat is also a common underlying energetic cause or factor, and when you add in the Spleen/digestive connection, hot and spicy foods are often found to be aggravating. Avoidance of these foods is recommended during a flare up in particular.
Also associated with psoriasis can be joint pain in the case of psoriatic arthritis and I have to say that this is a place where acupuncture really shines as a treatment. Electro acupuncture in particular has been well researched for the treatment of joint pain, especially knee pain, and when you combine the western scientifically verified endorphin and anti-inflammatory release associated with electro acupuncture, with the energetic benefits of meridian balancing associated with all acupuncture, the effect can be pretty amazing over time.
A course of treatment is recommended - as a natural method of health care acupuncture and Chinese Medicine work with the body's natural rhythms so it can take time to create change - but an average course of treatment in my clinic is 6 treatments over a 6 week period. Generally noticeable results begin to be seen after 2 treatments, if not immediately, but creating lasting change takes time. The longer you have suffered from a condition, the longer it can take to treat as well, so if you have suffered for many years you can expect several months of treatment before it is recommended to reassess success and re-evaluate your treatment plan. If your condition is chronic you may also want to plan regular acupuncture tune ups into your wellness plan every 4 to 6 weeks once your symptoms are under control to keep flare ups at bay.
I also always recommend topical castor oil to all of my patients with psoriasis and eczema. With the soothing emollients and the natural anti-inflammatory effect inherent to this compound, it is an excellent topical treatment for these kinds of skin conditions. Its a little sticky, so I generally recommend using it at night and letting it soak in while you sleep. After a couple weeks of daily use, the effect can be drastic from this alone.
If you're interested in learning more please don't hesitate to contact me or book an appointment or consultation online any time. Chinese Medicine has over 3,000 years of experience behind it in treating a variety of conditions, including many things you might not think of when you hear the word "acupuncture" so if you aren't sure what may or may not be helped by this natural, gentle and effective medicine, please don't hesitate to drop me a line and ask!
Until next time,
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.