When the Skin Erupts: Healing Eczema and Psoriasis
When those painful, itchy patches of eczema and psoriasis erupt, doctors of natural medicine ask, ‘what is causing this condition to present at this time?’ The Greek translation of eczema means “to boil out,” so the question makes sense: holistic physicians look for the underlying root causes that bring about these skin eruptions. Although they create similar discomforts for the people afflicted, psoriasis and eczema are different in important ways.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that results in an overproduction of skin cells. As the dead skin cells build-up, they form thick, scaly white patches that are visible on the skin’s surface. The skin itches terribly and is inflamed.
Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) also can be chronic, but it tends to come and go in response to certain triggers (e.g., weather changes, irritating cosmetics, or an allergic reaction). Eczema is common in infants and children, and may even go dormant for a time. Some people, however, suffer terribly throughout their lifetime. When eczema is active, skin is inflamed, dry, peeling and may blister.
From the natural medicine perspective, root causes of eczema and psoriasis include:
- Food sensitivity/ allergy
- Deficiency in one or more minerals or healthy fats
- Low-quality diet (high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugar, etc.)
- Poor gut health/ Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Emotional/ Mental Stress
- Exposure to toxins and/or inadequate ability to detoxify
Conventional treatment plans typically use steroids to simply manage symptoms (i.e., itching); however, there are harmful side effects, such as suppressing overall immunity, that must be considered. Natural therapies, on the other hand, work to correct the underlying imbalance that caused the body to react in the first place, offering relief without the unwanted side effects of steroid treatments. One or more of the following natural therapies may be part of an individualized holistic treatment plan:
- Dietary changes to include more nutrient dense, clean foods
- Remove foods from the diet that cause inflammation
- Nutritional supplements to restore balance or deficiency (e.g., zinc, vitamin D/ E/ A)
- Balance gut flora using probiotics and other approaches
- Increase intake of Essential Fatty Acids, which are important to skin health
- Provide support for mental/emotional stress
- Identify and minimize toxin exposure
- Support liver function, the body’s detox organ
Psoriasis and Eczema can quickly become chronic and severe and the wrong treatments can make things far worse. Consult with Dr Fenske to identify the appropriate therapies for you or your loved one.
Cherries on Top for Fighting Inflammation
Succulent cherries, both sweet and tart, provide wonderful health benefits. They contain the antioxidant vitamin C along with substances called anthocyanins, both of which help scavenge those pesky free radicals that cause damage to cells (known as oxidative stress). Anthocyanins, which give cherries their deep crimson color, also play a role in reducing cancer risk. Another powerful antioxidant in cherries is quercetin, which has a variety of health promoting properties.
Quercetin belongs to a family of plant compounds called flavonoid polyphenols, which help reduce inflammation. Among these compounds, quercetin is the one that demonstrates the strongest impact on immunity and inflammation at the cellular level, helping the immune system more effectively respond to cellular stress. Quercetin also helps the body put up a stronger defense against substances that promote inflammation in the skin, even in people who don’t get much relief from conventional treatments. This makes quercetin-containing foods, such as cherries, other dark berries and onions, potent tools for healing eczema and psoriasis since these skin conditions have a strong inflammatory component.
Enjoy cherries as a healthy snack or take the time to remove the seed and mix cherries into smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal. Whether you are drinking lightly sweetened cherry juice or eating dried cherries, you’ll get a similar amount of nutrients. Frozen cherries have fewer antioxidants and canned cherries have the least.
The Power of Vitamin D
Vitamin D: not only is it powerful, it’s vital for good health. Although it’s called a vitamin, D is actually a steroid hormone that acts as a catalyst for processes that protect our cells.
Every tissue in the body needs vitamin D, yet a large percentage of the world’s population is deficient, or borderline deficient, in this critical hormone. Even a mild deficiency can contribute to chronic and autoimmune diseases such diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer (including ovarian, colon, and breast), multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.
Nature intended for us to get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, but absorption is blocked by sunscreen. We need bare-skin sun exposure for 15-20 minutes a day; most of us don’t get that. Additionally, we don’t eat enough D-rich foods, which include egg yolk, cod liver oil, shiitake mushrooms, and wild salmon. Fortified milk/dairy is not the best source because you need several cups every day. For anyone intolerant of dairy products, this food category is off limits.
The best way to help the body establish optimal levels of vitamin D is to take a supplement.
The recommended blood level of vitamin D (above 25 nmol/L) was established to protect people from bone disease (rickets and osteomalacia). From the natural medicine perspective (and emerging scientific data), that threshold is too low to protect against serious illness or to promote optimal health. Depending on the individual, holistic physicians identify 45-90 nmol/L as the ideal vitamin D blood level for disease prevention.
Age, gender, diet, stress level, and lifestyle factors affect absorption of vitamin D. Dr Fenske can order a blood test prior to starting a supplement to help ensure you take the appropriate amount and form of vitamin D. Follow-up testing tracks improvement in your levels and health conditions. Dr Fenske can then adjust your supplement dose accordingly.
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