In my clinic I have seen a number of patients with psoriasis, so what I am about to tell you is my experience of their healing journeys.
The Chinese Medical view of psoriasis is dependent on the nature of the plaques on the skin. There are many different types of psoriasis: for example, if the skin is itchy and red the cause is usually Wind and Heat; Heat and Damp are indicated by red, weeping patches; if the patient feels tired easily and the patches are thick, pale and dry this is often due to a deficiency of blood and Qi (the body’s essential energy). The patient may see a change in the plaques during the course of the treatment – my experience is that the itching is the easiest to remove, then the plaques become paler as heat is removed, then healthy skin starts to appear within the plaque, gradually getting smaller.
Acupuncture for psoriasis works, but works slowly. You can expect to have at least 7 treatments before you see the difference in the plaque structure and severity. (This is an average number that I worked out from my patients who made few to zero changes to their diet and lifestyle in the beginning.)
All my patients with psoriasis are now on board with diet changes I have suggested and are experiencing varying degrees of improvement which appears to be directly correlated with how strictly they apply the changes. These changes in diet have been gathered together by me from reading extensively both in Western Medicine and Eastern Medicine with some herbalism too. This means that I am not quoting directly from science or that they work for everyone, but the results in my clinic are clear.
If you suffer with psoriasis, you may want to try these things to whatever extent you are comfortable – I always say to my patients that nourishing your soul is also important and it is not particularly helpful to deprive yourself of a lot of foods you love if you are going to be miserable. The good thing is, once you notice the changes and improvement in your condition you will probably want to do more. This is definitely the case with one of my patients who had given up everything I asked but couldn’t do the last thing – a looming consultant appointment with a skin specialist pushed my patient into action and he gave up the final thing. The improvement was noticeable within a week, which gave him the evidence he needed to continue to exclude it from his diet. He told me that he had heard about giving it up before, and tried it but with no results – which is why it is important to do everything on the list.
One of my patients did do everything – totally committed to the process and her psoriasis completely disappeared several months ago. It took about 4 months of regular treatment and strict dietary changes. She reports that if she does overindulge in the items on her avoid list, she can tell immediately, as her skin flares up. That said, she does occasionally have a small amount of one or two things, with no effect. I would conclude from this that once the psoriasis is eliminated, the body can cope with a little of what feeds the soul. Moderation, as always, is the key.
So, what are these items to put on your avoid list?
Why? Dairy products can cause inflammation in the body because they contain a substance called arachidonic acid. Cow’s milk is especially bad because it also contains the protein casein, which is known to cause inflammation. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, dairy causes what we call ‘damp’ and as I mentioned earlier – psoriasis is known as a damp heat condition.
Anything from the nightshade family… white potatoes, aubergine, peppers, tomatoes and tobacco.
Why? The plants contain a chemical called solanine which is produced as a defence against insects – it is a toxin which can cause an inflammatory response in the body. The solanine is in greater concentration in the leaves and stems (the areas that insects are more likely to go for) but also in the fruits that humans eat. For most people the toxin is no problem – the liver just deals with it, but in people with inflammatory diseases (like psoriasis) it can be a toxic burden too far.
Why? Alcohol opens the blood vessels in the skin. When your blood vessels are dilated, white blood cells, including the T cells that are believed to be responsible for psoriasis, can sneak into the outer layers of your skin more easily. In Chinese medicine alcohol is a cause of Heat – a condition that causes many problems in the body, including psoriasis. It also compromises the Liver Qi (energy in the liver) making it difficult for the liver to clear out toxins.
Why? Red meats contains the same polyunsaturated fat that is in dairy (arachidonic acid.) Especially bad are processed meats like ham, sausage and bacon.
Why? Junk foods contain high levels of sugar, starches, trans fats and chemicals used in processing them. All these substances promote inflammation.
Why? Spices like chilli and curry are very heating in Chinese Medicine, so can exacerbate psoriasis.
My advice is to start with food that is no problem to eliminate, and go from there. You will end up eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables with (if you eat meat) white meat and fish – you will feel better, be less bloated, lose weight AND your skin will clear up. It’s worth it!