Managing Psoriatic Arthritis Like a Pro
Receiving a diagnosis for a chronic illness is one of the scariest experiences of a lifetime. After years of literally taking your health for granted, your whole world can be suspended in that moment of shock, and for some people, it’s really difficult to emerge from that paralyzed state. There is a degree of powerlessness that can easily set-in, and patients can find themselves confused and unable to take charge of their own recovery.
I remember four years ago, when I heard my doctor say, ‘Well…the tests are in; you definitely have Lyme Disease’. It had taken five long years to receive a diagnosis, and yes, up to that point I knew that I had a chronic illness of some sort. But, to hear the words is a completely different ballgame.
Without a diagnosis, there isn’t a true connection to what you’re experiencing because you can’t name it. The words confirm that there is actually something inside of your body that you need to fight. And, it’s at this point when you need to decide whether you’re going to be the type of person to hand over all control to someone else, or find a way to empower yourself through education and experimentation, to be the catalyst of your own recovery.
For the last month, we have devoted each week on the blog to the discussion of autoimmune diseases, and how to empower yourself to support your body through diet changes and holistic practices, while receiving medical treatment. If you missed our first article listing 12 ways to help manage an autoimmune disorder, please click here.
We’ve learned over the last month that autoimmune diseases can target any tissue or organ of the body. In our interview with Robyn Baldwin, she shared her experience with multiple sclerosis, and the various strategies that she’s using to help support her nervous system. And, in our interview with Kat Woods, we learned that you can achieve recovery from lupus and ulcerative colitis, triggered by Lyme Disease, by naturally supporting the body.
You as an individual have so much power to reclaim your health. You can find success by being your own health ambassador. You just need to be willing to take action.
Did you know that the body can even attack the skin?
To continue our discussion on autoimmune disease, today we’re going to profile two more conditions. So far, in previous weeks, we’ve profiled multiple sclerosis, lupus, and ulcerative colitis: autoimmune disorders that attack tissues within the body. Now, we’re going to discuss psoriasis: an autoimmune disease that you can see on their surface of the skin, which has the potential to cause psoriatic arthritis.
What is psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. Typically, skin cells are reproduced every 21-28 days, but in cases of psoriasis the skin cells rapidly reproduce every 2-6 days. The skin cells then build-up on the surface of the skin, resulting in angry looking, thickened areas of silvery scales with crusted, red, itchy skin.
Up to 30% of psoriasis patients can go on to develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA): a condition that is a combination of both psoriasis and inflammatory arthritis. Symptoms of PsA resemble rheumatoid arthritis with swollen, painful, and warm joints, in conjunction with psoriatic skin lesions. It can also cause severe, sausage-like swelling of the fingers and toes, foot pain, and low back pain.
Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are chronic inflammatory conditions that get worse over time, but they do have the potential to enter into periods of remission.
Who’s at risk of developing psoriatic arthritis?
On average, the condition appears between the ages of 30-50. It affects both men and women, and is influenced by genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. A patient can develop psoriasis without psoriatic arthritis appearing until 10-years later.
If I have psoriasis & joint pain, what should I do?
If you have psoriasis, and over time you develop joint pain, that is the time to see a specialist — most likely a rheumatologist. It’s important to see a joint specialist because you need to see someone qualified to recognize psoriatic arthritis. This condition can cause damage to the joints of the body, and if left untreated, can severely damage and disfigure the joints.
If you suspect psoriatic arthritis, take this short 30 second quiz. Click here, or the image below.
World Psoriasis Day!
October 29th is World Psoriasis Day: an annual event to bring awareness to the 125 million people around the world who have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. It’s great that this event fell in the same time period as our autoimmune awareness month here on the blog, since it’s our mission to encourage people to support their bodies through diet changes and holistic practices.
In support of World Psoriasis Day, here is a list of 5 ways to help manage psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, naturally. Each strategy can be used in conjunction with traditional medical treatment.
5 Ways to Help Manage Psoriasis & Psoriatic Arthritis Naturally
#1 Get Your Vitamin D
The body cannot create vitamin D on it’s own. To maintain a healthy concentration of vitamin D in the blood, we must either ingest it or create it from sunlight exposure. However, vitamin D from fortified food, supplements, or sunlight is biologically inactive; that means, the body cannot use that form of vitamin D. The inactive form of vitamin D must be converted to its active form in the liver and kidneys: the active form is called 25-hydroxy vitamin D. Patients with psoriasis tend to have lower levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D in their blood compared to healthy controls, which is linked to increased internal inflammation and tissue damage. Vitamin D regulates the immune system and reduces skin cell formation in psoriatic patients; therefore, vitamin D supplementation may help.
#2 Consider a Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten is a protein found in the grains of wheat, barley, rye, and gluten contaminated oats. Gluten is the protein that gives bread, cakes, and pasta there elasticity. Studies have begun to uncover a link between gastrointestinal pathologies associated with gluten intolerance like Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity and psoriasis. It seems that there is a high proportion of psoriatic patients that have Celiac Disease as well. Preliminary evidence shows that with a gluten-free diet, psoriatic skin lesions can improve.
#3 Learn to Meditate
Stress exacerbates psoriasis; therefore, practicing stress-reduction methods like meditation can help to reduce psoriasis outbreaks. Meditation, however, is not only a tool for stress reduction; it has a direct influence on the immune system as well. Meditation can help to speed-up psoriatic skin lesion healing when paired with ultraviolet phototherapy (UVB) or photochemotherapy (PUVA).
#4 Explore Effective Supplements
Autoimmune conditions dysregulate the immune system. Immune system cells start to damage healthy tissues by secreting inflammatory chemicals. In psoriatic patients, the inflammatory chemicals trigger the overproduction of keratinocytes or skin cells.
There is some evidence that fish oil, vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D can help to reduce psoriatic symptoms by regulating the immune system, thus reducing the inflammatory response.
#5 Embrace an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Since psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, eliminating pro-inflammatory foods from your diet may help. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends avoiding foods like refined sugars, nightshade vegetables, fatty red meat, and dairy products, while adding in more fatty fish, flax seeds, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut, and colourful fruits and vegetables. For more information on an anti-inflammatory diet, please visit Dr. Andrew Weil’s website.