Psoriasis is a very common skin condition that causes uncomfortable itching, scaling, pain, and redness. The naturopathic approach to psoriasis is going to first and foremost work to identify the root cause of the skin disorder. Frequently, NDs find food and environmental sensitivities as the causal factor for flares and outbreaks. A comprehensive nutritional and environmental assessment is first conducted to determine underlying immune and allergic contributions to psoriasis. The ND will then work with the patient to educate them on the steps needed to avoid symptoms.
Suppression of symptoms is usually not a first line of treatment, as it can mask useful information regarding inflammatory foods. However, the following natural substances may be helpful to mitigate and manage symptoms in specific cases. Always talk to your ND first in order to determine what is best for you.
Topical creams that contain extracts from the oregon grape plant (Mahonia aquifolium) have been shown to be effective in treating skin conditions associated with psoriasis when applied regularly. 1 Oregon grape has anti-inflammatory properties which helps to reduce pain and inflammation caused by psoriasis. 2 As with any new topical cream, test a small amount on a patch of skin before applying it all over the affected area in order to check for any allergies or irritation.
Dry air will dehydrate skin and can worsen the symptoms of psoriasis. Many people find that using a humidifier in their home helps them manage the irritation of psoriasis. Indoor air is often very dry, particularly in the winter when forced air heating is activated. Care should be taken to ensure that humidifiers are cleaned regularly, as they can harbor mold.
Topical treatments that contain capsaicin, a chemical compound naturally occurring in chili peppers, have been shown to improve skin irritation caused by psoriasis, including itching, redness, pain, and scaling. 3 However, some people find capsaicin irritates their skin more, so it is important to test a small amount of capsaicin cream before applying a more liberal amount. 4
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Consuming omega 3 fatty acids—which are found in foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, and spinach—helps to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis in some people. Recent studies show that many people suffering from psoriasis see a marked improvement in their skin problems after integrating more omega 3 fatty acids into their diet. 5
Aloe vera has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 6 Since psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, aloe vera can soothe the skin irritation caused by this disease. Aloe vera gel can be applied directly to skin to help heal psoriasis-related rashes. Aloe vera does not work for everyone with psoriasis, but many people with the condition find that it soothes and helps heal their skin. 7
Oatmeal calms and moisturizes skin. Many people find that taking an oat bath helps to reduce pain and irritation from psoriasis. 8 Simply add 1 cup of dry oats to bath water while filling the tub. Be sure to keep the water temperature warm, not hot, because hot water will dry out skin further.
If you are interested in promoting health through prevention, nutrition and natural remedies, a career in naturopathic medicine may be right for you.