The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is our protector, our air-conditioner, our heater and our barometer. When the skin erupts with unwanted symptoms it is often our body telling us that there may be something dysfunctional on the inside as well as the outside. Amongst many skin disorders, psoriasis (sore-eye-ess-iss) is one of the most common.
According to The National Institute of Health (NIH) upwards of seven million Americans or more suffer from psoriasis. This condition presents as irritated red, flaky, silver patch-like skin lesions that are not contagious but constantly beg to be scratched. Unfortunately, scratching causes two adverse reactions:
1) It can spread the disorder.
2) Germs under the fingernails can infect psoriasis compounding the problem.
Many doctors consider psoriasis an autoimmune disorder because it is believed that the body’s immune system mistakes healthy cells as dangerous interlopers. As a result, dead skin cells build on top of one another causing an irritated reaction. There are five classes of psoriasis:
- Erythrodermic — The skin redness is very intense and covers a large area.
- Guttate — Small, pink-red spots appear on the skin.
- Inverse — Skin redness and irritation occurs in the armpits, groin, and in between overlapping skin.
- Plaque — Thick, red patches of skin are covered by flaky, silver-white scales. This is the most common type of psoriasis.
- Pustular — White blisters are surrounded by red, irritated skin.
Some causes of psoriasis consist of bacteria, environmental factors such as airborne toxins or severe weather, stress, certain medications including anti-malaria and beta-blocker drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, suppressed immune system due to AIDS, chemotherapy or an additional autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Acupuncture: Relieve Stress, Relieve Psoriasis, Surround the Dragon
Scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of acupuncture continues to be studied and, more often than not, validated. A popular report out of UCLA in 1992 found that acupuncture cleared psoriasis in half of the test subjects and an additional quarter showed significant improvements.
It is believed that one cause of psoriasis may be overt or deep seated stress and that acupuncture might be an excellent remedy due to its energy moving function as well as its meditative qualities. Rebecca Tung, MD, a dermatologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, comments on using acupuncture, “We know that psoriasis is caused by an autoimmune disease, but we also know that it is triggered by stress. Acupuncture may work quite well to reduce stress. I have seen it work well for many chronic diseases, and I would have no objection to trying it along with other psoriasis treatments.”
Classical Chinese medicine considers this skin challenge a blood heat disorder. It also considers that the skin is connected to the lungs which are also an ‘outside’organ. The lungs ‘touch’ the outside by connecting to the air. Therefore, an acupuncture treatment may target strengthening the skin and the lungs at the same time.
There is also the practice of “surrounding the dragon”. This is carried out when acupuncture needles are used around a psoriasis flare up with the intention of bringing qi energy flow to the area to balance the immune system response.
Probiotics: Healing within the Immune System
Good bacteria supplements such as probiotics or acidophilus could be a good start at reducing or clearing psoriasis symptoms. Because this disorder could be autoimmune related, boosting the immune system with this supplement has been shown to help. A study titled, “Oral Administration of the Probiotic Bifidobacterium Infantis to Humans Induces Immunoregulatory Responses in Vivo” by researchers at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork and Alimentary Health Ltd in Cork, Ireland concluded that by administering probiotics, inflammation could possibly be reduced. Lead researcher, Eamonn M.M. Quigley, MD, FACG, included in his findings that, “The human immunological response to B. infantis further supports the hypothesis that manipulation of the microbiota with specific therapeutic microbes can have a significant effect on host inflammatory processes”.
By assisting a possible gut microbial imbalance using probiotic therapy, the immune system will hopefully be able to re-adjust its overgrown, adverse bacteria and yeast influx which could possibly be impeding proper nutritional absorption and overall system functioning.
Progressive Studies of Psoriasis Remedies
Many dermatologists and medical doctors alike can only offer a list of prescription topical and oral remedies for psoriasis. Dr. Tung (mentioned above in acupuncture) also states, “It is not unusual to go from medication to medication to find the one that works best — medications that work for a while may stop working.”
Several studies have been conducted determining some alternative remedies and their effectiveness for psoriasis treatment.
NOTE: These studies report remedies that should be overseen by a professional, namely a naturopathic doctor such as Dr. Lisanti of Integrative Med Solutions (IMS).
Here are some results:
Aloe – A 1990 double blind Pakistani study reported by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that applying aloe extract cream three times per day for one month significantly reduced psoriasis symptoms.
Fish Oil – Lancet, the renowned medical journal, published a 1988 two month double blind study which found that ingesting fish oil eased psoriasis scaling, redness and itching better than a placebo.
Shark Cartilage, etc. – The University of Maryland Medical Center reports taking fish oil, folic acid and/or shark cartilage can help psoriasis symptoms.
In addition to acupuncture and naturopathic remedies including an anti-inflammatory diet (eating whole, live foods as opposed to processed sugar, salt and white flour choices), nutraceutical supplementation and homeopathy, some other stress reducing practices can be considerably effective. These include: yoga, massage and meditation.
At Integrative Med Solutions, we will design an acupuncture and naturopathic treatment program that works for you. In many cases, insurance covers portions of the acupuncture treatment. Allow us to support you to achieve optimal health. To make an appointment or find out more about how acupuncture and naturopathic medicine can benefit you, please call our office at 914.337.2980 or click here to schedule an online appointment.
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