Psoriasis demystified: Types, causes and skin-smart solutions
I first developed psoriasis on a family holiday in Florida when I was 14 years old. When the tingling and itching sensation started on both my elbows, I thought at first it must just be dry skin, but over several days it began to spread from my elbow to my forearms. Only after I returned home was I diagnosed with psoriasis and given a topical treatment. I didn’t realise that this was a condition I would be living with for the next 15 years. And this is what I wish I had known at the time.
In this article, I will explain the different types of psoriasis, the potential causes of psoriasis and explores how nutrition and topical treatments can offer relief and manage the condition effectively.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterised by the rapid buildup of skin cells, resulting in red, scaly patches and plaques. It affects millions of people worldwide, causing physical discomfort and emotional distress.
Types of psoriasis
- Plaque psoriasis: The most common type, characterised by raised, red patches covered with white or silver scales. It usually appears on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.
- Guttate psoriasis: Often triggered by bacterial infections, this type appears as small, red, drop-like spots on the skin.
- Inverse psoriasis: Found in skin folds like armpits, groin, and under breasts, this type causes smooth, red patches and is aggravated by friction and sweating.
- Pustular psoriasis: Characterised by pus-filled blisters, it can be localised to the hands and feet (palmoplantar pustulosis) or widespread (generalised pustular psoriasis).
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: Rare but severe. This type covers large areas of the body with intense redness, shedding, and itchiness.
Potential causes of psoriasis
While the exact cause of psoriasis remains unclear, it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to psoriasis.
If someone in your family has psoriasis, you are more at risk of developing it. However, as with most autoimmune diseases, the genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger, so although genetics plays a role, it is the environment that your genes are exposed to that will make the most difference.
Hormones and psoriasis share a complex relationship, as hormonal fluctuations can trigger psoriasis, causing the condition to worsen or flare up during specific life stages or events. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, can influence psoriasis symptoms in women, leading to worsening before menstruation.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, plays a significant role, with increased stress levels activating the immune system and exacerbating psoriasis symptoms.
Thyroid hormones have been linked to psoriasis, as thyroid dysfunction can impact the immune system's function and skin health.
Certain strains of bacteria, particularly streptococcal infections, have been linked to the onset of guttate psoriasis, a type characterised by small, drop-like lesions on the skin. When the immune system responds to the bacterial infection, it may also target healthy skin cells, leading to the development of psoriatic plaques.
Certain other factors can exacerbate psoriasis, such as viral infections, injuries, smoking, alcohol consumption, and certain medications.
Looking back at my own diagnosis, I believe that food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, stress, hormonal imbalances and too much sugar in my diet all contributed to my condition. Since I have resolved these issues with lifestyle and dietary changes, I have now been free of psoriasis for over eight years.
Nutrition for psoriasis
A nutrient-dense diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help manage psoriasis symptoms.
Consider including the following:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fatty fish, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate psoriasis symptoms.
- Eat the rainbow: Colourful produce provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall skin health.
- Turmeric: This spice contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory compound that may help reduce psoriasis inflammation.
- Probiotics: Fermented foods like yoghurt and kefir promote gut health, which is linked to immune system regulation and skin health.
It is also worth ruling out any food sensitivities or intolerances which might be causing gut issues and inflammation which will exacerbate psoriasis. Learn more about food sensitivity testing.
Topical treatments for psoriasis
Topical treatments, even though are not addressing the root cause, can provide relief and manage psoriasis symptoms. Here are a few that you could consider using:
- Vitamin D analogues: Creams containing synthetic vitamin D can slow down skin cell growth and ease scaling
- Salicylic acid: Used to reduce scaling and promote the shedding of dead skin cells.
- Topical retinoids: Derived from vitamin A, retinoids can help improve psoriasis by reducing inflammation and skin cell turnover.
Psoriasis is a complex skin condition with various types and triggers. While its exact cause is still unclear, understanding the different types and potential factors can help you manage it better.
Nutritional support with anti-inflammatory foods and topical treatments can offer relief and improve the quality of life if you live with psoriasis, but finding the root cause can help you make meaningful changes to psoriasis in the long term.
When I work with clients with psoriasis, I explore many aspects of their health, including gut health, environmental toxin exposures, hormonal imbalances and stress, to determine what might be the main trigger of their condition. Addressing the heart of their symptoms helps to accelerate their progress and provides a stronger foundation for them to improve their health in the long term. If you would like to find out more about my services, please feel free to book a free initial consultation with me.
I look back on my 14-year-old self and wish I had known what I know now. It would have spared me many years of discomfort and itchiness, yet I appreciate that my skin lets me know when my health is out of balance. Our skin is an incredible organ that tells us much about our internal health. If your skin is speaking to you, listen.