Winter proof Psoriasis the natural way
How to winter-proof your psoriasis – the natural way
Stress and cold weather can trigger the chronic skin condition but there are ways you can manage the symptoms without resorting to steroids
‘Tis the season of dry, flaky skin and lacklustre complexions: thanks to the sudden temperature fluctuations as we move between heated houses and the icy outdoors, plus dehydration and lack of sunlight, winter skin complaints are common. For the approximately 1.1 million adults living with psoriasis in the UK, the situation is even worse.
This may be the case this year more than ever. As well as colder weather, stress (something which many of us have suffered more than usual this year) is a well- known trigger for the condition. Serve up both at the same time and you can say hello to scaly skin.
Considered a chronic condition – in that it can be controlled but not cured – psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes cell turnover to occur far more rapidly than usual thanks to T-cells, which are usually activated by the threat of infection or bacteria, mistakenly attacking healthy cells and sending cell production into overdrive.
These excess cells are pushed to the surface of the skin, where they accumulate in “plaques”, often appearing red, itchy, flaky or silvery. For some psoriasis-sufferers this can occur in the odd irritating patch but, for others, the condition can be rather more debilitating; a recent study showed that sufferers are substantially more atrisk of having mental health conditions.
Topical steroids are often prescribed to help manage psoriasis, but these aren’t without potential side effects which include burning, skin thinning and easy bruising. Even more alarmingly, steroids can, once absorbed by the skin, make their way to the internal organs.
This is extremely rare but there are many of us who prefer, where possible, to avoid the pharmaceutical route when it comes to managing the condition. For me, having had psoriasis from a young age (complete with memories of my parents slathering my hands with ointment and wrapping them in cling film for bed) I’ve found that eliminating gluten from my diet over the past twelve years has helped to keep it in check: I have patches on my elbows and scalp, but nothing near the raw, red face I used to have in my twenties. Reducing sugar, red meat and dairy is helpful, too. For those unwilling to cut out whole swathes of foods, however, there are other options.
Because stress aggravates psoriasis, just about anything that lowers it is likely to help. “Humans are hard wired to respond to sound in certain ways and research has demonstrated that certain sounds can help to improve certain conditions,” says Lyz Cooper, founder of The British Academy of Sound Therapy. Research, on which she has collaborated with Swedish skincare brand Foreo, further shows that singing – by boosting dopamine and reducing cortisol – can improve skin condition.
With one Indian parent, ayurvedic medicine has always appealed to me – but you don’t need to have Indian heritage to see the sense of looking at remedies that have been successfully used over centuries and have balance at their heart. Psoriasis is indicative of too much “pitta” – heat – which can be reduced with turmeric, saffron, cardamom, fennel, cumin and peppermint. Sign up for a subscription box from Super Glow to ensure you never run out of your cooling ingredients.
There is promising research on the effects of acupuncture on psoriasis and similar conditions, though larger studies are needed to confirm this. According to the British Acupuncture Council, the practice is “believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules”, which result in biochemical changes that promote emotional and physical wellbeing. The upshot? If you’re not overly squeamish about needles, then it’s worth a try.
“In clinical studies, psoriasis is proven to be adversely affected by sleep deprivation,” says Christopher Fitton, clinical hypnotherapist and creator of Sleep Cove. “Poor sleep increases the stress hormones that target the skin of people with psoriasis, which can turn into an endless cycle of stress, sleep loss and more psoriasis.” He recommends sleep hypnosis and meditations to promote rest, many of which are available for free online.
The potential for Chinese medicine to treat psoriasis has been formally explored, but, thanks to Medovie, you don’t even need to track down a reputable practitioner. It’s a new brand combining ancient practices, traditional botanicals and 10 years’ worth of clinical trials. With a range of lotions, shampoos and supplements, you also get a personalised user plan and ongoing consultation.
There’s a Spanish proverb – “All good salt stings” – but that’s not what you want when you’re suffering with psoriasis. Of course, you could head to a resort on the Dead Sea, long revered for its mineral rich waters that help skin conditions. Closer to home, try bathing with Dead Sea Salt. “It contains a high concentration of magnesium chloride which is known to protect the skin barrier,” says Penny Hamilton of Westlab Salts. “But it also contains minerals such as potassium, magnesium, bromide, all of which are essential for skin health, softening and soothing it even when irritated.”
Yep, that stalwart in the vitamin arsenal strikes again. Research has shown that a stem cell defect may be one of the causes of psoriasis, and that it may be rectified with simple as Vitamin C, which also happens to be rapidly depleted by stress. For best results and increased absorption, choose a liposomal variety such as Altrient C.
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