Psoriasis is a chronic disorder affecting the skin. Dr Varma explains how Ayurveda is able to tackle this ailment effectively
Psoriasis (pronounced with silent P) is a chronic disorder affecting Skin. Skin becomes thick, brownish red and start scaling. Patches may appear on legs and hands sometimes all over body with severe itching. Patients suffer social isolation due its ugly nature and appearance. It is not a contagious disease but runs in families and mostly hereditary.
What causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of Psoriasis is unknown, but experts believe that the immune system, genes and environmental factors play major roles. Normally old skin cells are replaced with new ones every four weeks. In people with Psoriasis, the immune system triggers inflammation, causing new cells to move to the surface every 3 or 4 days. The resulting build up forms the rash. Psoriasis cannot be passed from one person to other as there no organisms involved, but it tends to run in families.
Other contributing Factors:
- It may result from a faulty utilization of fat as psoriasis is rare in countries where the diet is low in fat.
- Current research points also to an immune system role psoriasis.
- The build-up of toxins in an unhealthy colon has also been linked to psoriasis.
- Psoriasis probably involves heredity, because up to 40% of patients have family members with the same problem.
- Some researchers believe psoriasis may be linked to a deficiency of essential fatty acids (omegas).
- Researchers have found 9 gene mutations that may be involved in causing psoriasis. One of these mutations on chromosome 6, called PSORS-1, appears to be a major factor that can lead to psoriasis. Mutations on genes cause certain cells to function differently. With psoriasis, these mutations seem to largely affect T-helper cells. Not everyone with these mutations gets psoriasis.
- Psoriasis appears as patches of skin on the legs, knees, arms, elbows, scalp, ears, and back.
- Patches are red to brown in colour and covered with silvery-white scales.
- Toes and finger nails can lose their lustre and develop ridges and pits. About 50% of people with skin symptoms of Psoriasis also have abnormal fingernails; especially nail thickening or small indentations, called pitting. Treatment of nail Psoriasis can be difficult.
- Psoriasis generally follows a pattern of periodic flare-ups alternating with periods of remission, most commonly between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.
- Some experience an associated arthritis (psoriatic arthritis) that is similar to rheumatoid arthritis and is difficult to treat. Can affect 10% to 20% of all people with psoriasis, and in some people it occurs before skin changes appear. Joints (psoriatic Arthritis), Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis with moderate to severe Psoriasis. Five distinct patterns of arthritis occur in Psoriasis which can sometimes be separated from rheumatoid arthritis by x-ray findings or blood tests.
- Guttate, Pustular and Eythrodermic Psoriasis- These less common forms of psoriasis differ dramatically from the typical plaque type. In Guttate (drop-like) psoriasis, tiny papules (lesions which can be felt and are less than 1cm in diameter) appear sprinkled throughout the skin. Pustular psoriasis can occur in smaller areas or involve most of the body with innumerable tiny white pustules. Eythrodermic Psoriasis occurs when the entire body turns bright red and scaly. In this instance, a skin biopsy may be needed to separate Eythrodermic psoriasis from other diseases which also can cause a universally red and scaly skin
- Typical Locations- Plaque type psoriasis typically involves specific locations on the body including the scalp, elbow, knees, genitals, belly button (umbilicus) and buttocks area (sacrum and intergluteal cleft). In damp areas such as the armpits, under breasts or in the groin, scales become macerated (wet and pasty) and the lesions take on a moist, red and raw appearance closely mimicking a yeast infection in appearance. On the scalp, a severe form of dandruff-like flaking and scaling can be seen.
- Hand and Foot Lesions – Psoriasis of the hands and feet can have either a plaque like appearance as seen in other body areas, or a Pustular appearance. The presence of pustules is usually attributed to infections, however in psoriasis, pustules form as a part of the inflammatory response.
- Alcohol is known to cause flare-ups of psoriasis. It stimulates the release of histamine which aggravates skin lesions. Patients should avoid alcohol or use it in moderation or per occasion.
- Weather is a strong factor in triggering psoriasis. Exposure to direct sunlight, which usually occurs in the warmer months, often improves the rash. On the other hand, cold, short days seen in the winter months can trigger the rash to worsen.
- Stress, Psychological stress has long been understood as a trigger for psoriasis flares, but scientists are still unclear about exactly how this occurs. Studies do show that not only can a sudden, stressful event trigger a rash to worsen, daily hassles of life can also trigger a flare.
- Low Vitamins, Low levels of calcium have been reported as a trigger for psoriasis. Oddly enough, even though medications made from vitamin D are used to treat psoriasis, low levels of vitamin D do not trigger a flare-up.
- Drug Triggers, The following drugs are known to either worsen psoriasis or induce a flare-up: Chloroquine — used to treat or prevent malaria, ACE inhibitors — used to treat high blood pressure. Examples include monopril, captopril, and lisinopril, Beta blockers – also used to treat high blood pressure. Examples include lopressor and atenolol, Lithium — a medication used to treat bipolar disorder, Indocin — an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat a variety of conditions, including gout and arthritis.
If you have family history of Psoriasis, you can avoid it by following :
- Nutrition can provide a natural cure for psoriasis. Avoiding foods high in protein can alleviate flare-ups, grains, fruits and vegetables high in fibre also help to remove psoriasis triggering chemicals from the intestines. Adding cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring to your diet can also help to ease psoriasis flare ups.
- Get plenty of dietary fibre. Fibre is critical for maintaining a healthy colon. Some fibre supplements include; Psyllium husk, apple pectin, barley.
- Eat as much raw foods as possible. Fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables are important.
- Include at least 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day, especially those rich in Beta-carotene, e.g. carrots, apricots, sweet potato and also those rich in vitamin C e.g. broccoli, orange, cabbage, potato, guava, tomatoes and sweet peppers.
- Apply seawater to the affected area with cotton several times per day.
- Omega supplements such as fish oil and flaxseed are important for controlling flares. Researchers in England found that psoriasis patients who each took fish-oil capsules for eight weeks greatly reduced their symptoms of itching, redness, and scaling, whereas similar subjects who were given the placebo capsules filled with olive oil had no change in symptoms.
- Avoid; Red meat, Dairy products, citrus fruits, fried foods, processed foods, saturated fats, sugar and white flour.
- Take care not to consume foods which cause indigestion.
- Absolutely do not eat too many salty, sour or acidic foods. Say no to radish, urad dal, sesame, jaggery (gur), curds, fish and other sour foods.
- Avoid sleeping in afternoons.
- Always use besan (Chick pea) flour / herbal scrub / organic soap instead of soap.
- Adding two spoons of Ginger or lavender to your bath may help with moisture and itching.
- Exercise and deep breathing aids in healing the body.
- Dead Sea salts have been used in facial washes and are known for treating dry skin irritations. Adding these salts to bath water can help skin to heal naturally especially during flare ups.
- Herbal detox teas can help to remove toxins from the body which can initiate psoriasis flare ups.
- Body cleansing such as bowel cleansing, dental cleansing and liver and kidney cleansing can also be used as a psoriasis alternative treatment as can physical exercise, yoga and meditation, and sweating.
- Drinking as many as three cups a day of hot tea made with one or a combination of the following herbs: burdock (Arctium lappa) root, dandelion (Taraxacum mongolicum) root, Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), sarsaparilla (Smilax officinalis), and balsam pear (Momardica charantia).
Conventional Treatment of Psoriasis
- In moderate cases external application of tropical steroids, moisturisers, salicyclic acid, and coal tar. Coal tar shampoos are prescribed for scalpal infections.
- UV light exposure and laser beams are used externally in certain cases. But complications like skin cancer can occur on long term.
- Internally in severe cases, Methotrexate and Cyclosporine prescribed commonly. As they have severe side effects close monitoring of blood samples frequently is essential.
- In conventional medicine there is no cure for Psoriasis. But can be effectively control the syptoms.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Psoriasis
Ayurveda, is the ancient system of medicine developed in India. It is based on the principles of nature and ailments are treated by using natural methods and herbal medicines. Ayurvedic approach to treating diseases is very holistic – by bringing harmony between body, mind and the spirit.
Psoriasis can be effectively controlled and cured by Ayurvedic medicines.
- Detox – cleansing the alimentary system by laxatives and medicated enemas are one of the methods used.
- There are herbal tablets, drops, syrups to regulate the defective immune system
- External applications in the form of oils, lotions containing a herb called Wrightia tinctora is very effective in treating rashes and itching
- Certain in house treatments used for treating Psoriasis are
Psoriasis can be effectively prevented, managed and controlled by following Ayurvedic lifestyle and safe and effective herbal medicines.