Here, holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy tells us about a common health problem she’s seen in her practice and how she came to a solution.
The Client: Julia, 32, assistant producer for television.
The Problem: Psoriasis on her hands and arms.
Julia was completely fed up with wearing long-sleeved shirts in summer, which she did for fear that someone would see her red patches. Psoriasis ran in her family and Julia’s doctor had advised there was nothing more he could do to help.
Psoriasis is an extremely common skin problem that affects both men and women equally. It’s caused by a pile-up of skin cells that have replicated too rapidly, roughly 1000 times greater than normal. This results in the characteristic silvery scaly skin as cells have replicated faster than they can be shed. Many doctors believe the problem is genetic as 36 percent of sufferers have family members with psoriasis. Genetics aside, there are plenty of natural solutions one can try in lieu of just giving up.
According to Dr. Michael Murray, an authority on natural medicine, a number of factors appear to be the root cause of psoriasis including: toxic bowels, poor protein digestion, poor liver function, alcohol consumption, stress and excessive consumption of animal fats. All the recommendations I gave to Julia addressed these areas.
Before I continue with the recommendations, please note that this is not a quick-fix solution. Julia committed to following these recommendations for at least six months and I hoped this would be a life-long change for her.
Incomplete Protein Digestion
There are toxic metabolites known as polyamines produced as a result of inadequate protein digestion and they have been found to be higher in people with psoriasis. Therefore, lemon and water first thing in the morning promotes stomach acid production (to better breakdown protein) and practicing food combining improves digestion. Interestingly, Julia often had heartburn and resorted to antacids. Heartburn is most often a result of not enough stomach acid. She found that drinking lemon and water along with practicing food combining eliminated both heartburn and bloating.
Poor Liver Function
The liver is intimately connected to psoriasis because one of the basic tasks of your liver is detoxification of the blood. Psoriasis has also been linked to the presence of microbial byproducts in the blood. If the liver is overwhelmed and not able to perform detoxification effectively (remove these byproducts), then the psoriasis will get much worse.
Julia was working with her herbalist to cleanse her liver. She was taking silymarin (milk thistle) due to its ability to improve liver function and reduce excessive cell replication. Before taking any herbal supplements be sure to consult a certified practitioner.
A diet low in fiber is going to increase the toxic load on the body. Julia’s diet was a six out of ten, meaning there was room for improvement: she certainly wasn’t eating fast food everyday, however, she was low in fiber. Fiber does a wonderful job of binding with toxins in the colon and helping to flush them out of the body. She increased her fruits and vegetables and added chia seeds to her morning smoothie. This improved her bowel movements to an every day frequency.
Alcohol and Animal Fats
Both of these have been known to increase symptoms of psoriasis. Alcohol increases the absorption of toxins from the gut and impairs liver function. A diet high in animal fat from red meat and dairy increases the body’s arachidonic acid, which has been associated with psoriasis. Julia loved her red wine, occasional beer and a steak once in a while. She committed to cut back on these things and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fat have been proven effective for psoriasis in several double blind clinical studies due to their ability to compete with arachadonic acid binding sites.
It’s well documented that people with psoriasis notice their symptoms increase in severity when they are under stress. Julia had a very demanding job that requires her to put in stints of long hours for weeks at a time. I suggested she take a yoga class, go for a long walk, breathe deeply and journal her stressors every night before bed.
As you can see, psoriasis is not an easy fix. It’s a lifelong commitment to a new way of being. I have seen several female clients with psoriasis and some I’ve put on a gluten-free diet, while others I have focused on cleansing their liver and there have been some successes and some who continue suffer. However, I can tell you the ones who had success were also the ones that followed the recommendations and made significant lifestyle changes. Too often people want a quick fix, pill-popping solution. Julia is very committed and I think she is going to see a significant improvement over time.
Joy McCarthy, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Health Coach of Joyous Health, loves to inspire others to eat well and live well. Joy is the resident holistic nutritionist at 889 Yonge, a Yoga & Holistic Lifestyle Spa in Toronto.
Please note: This advice is not meant to treat or diagnose, please consult a certified practitioner or your family doctor for any serious health issues.