What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis affects around 1 in 50 people worldwide, but we found that very few people are aware of or understand the ins and outs of psoriasis. Within this blog, we hope to achieve awareness around Psoriasis and explain to suffers and supporters that Psoriasis is a lot more than dry skin.
So, the big question what is psoriasis?
Psoriasis isn’t prejudice and affects all ages and genders. A higher percentage of suffers are diagnosed before the age of 35. A statistic of 1 in 50 people worldwide communicates that roughly around 100 million people suffer worldwide and a staggering 90,000 in New Zealand.
Psoriasis is believed to be an autoimmune condition and is often confused or thought of as other more common skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis. The main difference being psoriasis has sharper borders and thicker scaling than eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Unfortunately, with a skin condition comes judgement. Which was a huge reason for Merino to create this blog so everyone can learn that psoriasis isn’t infectious and that the suffer can’t control it rather that genetics play a major role in the likelihood of developing the condition.
Now that we understand what psoriasis is let’s dive into what we know about psoriasis. Although psoriasis is common unfortunately it is quite under-researched and with little research, there are few treatments but let’s dive into what we do know.
The underlying cause of psoriasis is thought to be the immune system unreasonably accelerating the growth of skin cells which is resulting in inflammation. The combination of genes and a mix of exposure to external factors are more likely to trigger the development of the condition. Scientists have now identified around 25 genetic variants, which increase the probability of a person developing psoriasis. Some are more common than others.
Exposure to external factors also plays a part in flare-ups these being, stress, weather, medication, infections, food groups, skin trauma, smoking and alcohol.
Psoriasis is split into six main types:
plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, psoriasis in sensitive areas and nail psoriasis.
Plaque PsoriasisAffects the whole body and is the most common type of psoriasis. Plaque is caused by a build-up of skin cells known as ‘plaques.’
Scalp PsoriasisAffects the scalp and head and commonly results in dandruff-like flakes and extreme cases causes hair to thin.
Guttate PsoriasisAffects the torso, back and limbs and is also known as ‘tear drop’ psoriasis due to the shape of the sports that are often bright pink or red on the skin.
Pustular PsoriasisAffects the whole body and results in small white or yellow blisters on top of red or darkened skin. The blisters are often filled with fluid giving them a yellow colour.
Psoriasis in sensitive areasAffects the face, armpits, genitals, and skin folds due to skin being more sensitive and thinner in these areas, especially around skin folds and where clothes rub.
Nail PsoriasisAffects the nails and toenails and can be very painful which can restrict movement.
What treatments are available?
Initially, treatment involves topical creams being applied directly onto the skin to help relieve the symptoms and help prevent future flare-ups. Treatments can vary on the type and severity of psoriasis, but your doctor will prescribe the treatments that best suit you. Currently, there is no permanent treatment available for psoriasis but hopefully with research, there will be one soon.
Natural remedies can also be found online and in-store if you just ask a shop assistant, they will be able to help you. Even here at Merino, we have created a non-hypoallergenic Lanolin crème to help soothe, hydrate, and protect psoriasis. Both our customers and us have realised the benefits of lanolin due to it being the closest natural oil to that of our own.
Our diets are extremely important and can affect your body and the conditions you may suffer. A healthy diet filled with lots of fruit, veggies, lean protein, and whole grains can be extremely beneficial at helping someone with psoriasis to control and manage their condition. There is no scientific evidence that certain foods or following specific diets will fix your condition but everything inside is interlinked and limiting inflammatory foods could be what helps yourself or someone you know.
Here are the top six most inflammatory foods to avoid:
SugarSugars cause chronic inflammation once digested and are disguised on labels in many different forms. Have a lookout for these names: Corn syrup, Fructose, Dextrose, Golden syrup, Sucrose and Maltose. Some substitutes are natural sweeteners like stevia, natural fruit sugars, honey, or blackstrap molasses.
Common Cooking OilsPolyunsaturated oils: Cottonseed, Canola, Grapeseed, Safflower, Corn, and sunflower oils have extremely high omega-6 fatty acids and very low omega-3 fats. A diet consisting of a highly imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio promotes inflammations and breeds inflammatory diseases. Some healthier substitutes are Macadamia oil or Extra Virgin Olive oil.
Trans-fatsIncrease the levels of ‘bad cholesterol, while lowering the levels of ‘good cholesterol in your body. They have been found to promote inflammation, obesity, and insulin resistance. The foods to avoid are foods that have been deep-fried, anything made with partially hydrogenated oil, or vegetable shortening. Some healthier substitutes are to purchase natural peanut butter and look to purchase and prepare foods without trans-fats.
Dairy ProductsMilk is a common allergen that can trigger inflammatory responses like IBS, skin rashes, hives, acne, and breathing difficulties. Did you know that 60% of the world’s population cannot digest milk easily? There are lots of substitutes available from coconut, almond and oat milk, Kefir, or unsweetened yogurt and cashew cheese.
Processed MeatCommercially farmed meats are fed with grains like soybeans and corn, a diet that is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids but low anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Due to the small and tight living environment, these animals also gain excess fat and end up with high saturated fats. Even worse, to make them grow faster and prevent them from getting sick, they are also injected with hormones and fed with antibiotics. Try and avoid caged or feedlot farmed meats and purchase organic free-range animals.
Regular high consumption of alcohol has been known to cause irritation and inflammation within the body. Try and limit your consumption to no more than one drink a day if elimination isn’t possible.
Now those are the main six food groups to look out for. To help decrease inflammation and limit psoriasis flare-ups but also lots of other health problems. On a positive note here is a list of the top foods that are anti-inflammatory and packed full of other benefits.
Here are the top Anti-inflammatory foods that help:
Fruits and Veggies
All fruits and veggies but especially berries, cherries, and leafy greens
Salmon, sardines, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Herbs and spices
Antioxidant-rich herbs and spices like thyme, sage, cumin, and ginger
Heart-healthy sources of fat, like olive oil, seeds, and nuts
Mostly listen to your own body and your own experiences. Never ignore your own experience with psoriasis. If your skin gets worse after you eat certain foods or using certain topical creams, stop eating or using them and see what happens. They could be a trigger for you but not for others. Allergy tests are also helpful to outline exactly what your body reacts to.
I hope this blog has been educational for you and that you now have a good understanding of what Psoriasis is, what we know about it and how to help manage future flare-ups. Our next blog will be an interview with a brave lady called Jacqui talking about her Psoriasis experience with us. Stay tuned and thank you for reading, from the team at Merino.