The Surprising Cause of Psoriasis – And How to Fix It

Dr. Janet Zand

April 19, 2019

I recently wrote you about the link between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease (CVD). If you suffer from psoriasis, you need to be especially mindful of your heart health. Keeping inflammation under control is a great way to reduce both psoriasis symptoms and CVD risk.

Inflammation also gives us a clue about the possible origin of psoriasis. And it’s not what you’d expect for a skin disease.

New research indicates that psoriasis may actually originate about as far from the skin as you can get: in the gut. In fact, researchers are beginning to see that the symptoms of psoriasis indicate that leaky gut may be the true culprit behind the immune system overreaction and scaly plaques.

Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, occurs when the walls of the intestines allow irritants into the bloodstream. This constant onslaught of toxins forces the immune system to be on high alert all the time.

But what causes the gut to leak in the first place? You probably know by now that our gut bacteria play a key role in our health. Having the right bacteria in your gut strengthens the intestinal wall. Bad bacteria break down the wall. Good ones help seal it up.

Researchers have found that a leaky gut allows the body to absorb bacterial peptidoglycans. Peptidoglycans, polymers made of sugars and amino acids, form bacterial cell walls. They can be toxic to the skin. It’s best for bacteria to stay in the gut where they belong. And the researchers have found that people with psoriasis must stop absorbing these peptidoglycans before their symptoms will clear up.

Creating a Healthy Gut Is the First Step

Interestingly, people with psoriasis often have gut environments like those of alcoholics. Alcohol contributes to peptidoglycan absorption. Too much alcohol leads to fewer strains of friendly bacteria. And it promotes an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria.

Alcohol can cause you to absorb more toxins from your gut. And, surprisingly, so can peppers. I’ll have more on that in a moment. Generally, to create a healthy gut environment, you want to eat plenty of fiber from plants. But if you’re suffering from psoriasis, skip peppers. Stick with foods like leafy greens, beans, fruits, and other vegetables.

In particular, you may want to add some onions and oranges to your diet. Researchers have found that bioflavonoids help keep your body from absorbing toxins. Quercetin is a powerful anti-inflammatory. You’ll find it in onions and apples. Citrus fruits contain bioflavonoids as well.

Researchers studying psoriasis in mice have had some impressive results with quercetin. They found that giving mice this flavonoid after inducing psoriasis could help block the activation of an inflammatory pathway.

Quercetin may also help because it promotes liver activity. And peptidoglycans can be toxic to the liver. So quercetin may help reverse toxicity throughout the body.

Plus, quercetin’s anti-inflammatory effects can help reduce your risk of CVD. I recently told you that having psoriasis means you’re more likely to develop CVD. Addressing inflammation with flavonoids like quercetin can help. In fact, it’s so powerful that I recommend taking it in supplement form if you have psoriasis.

But quercetin’s not the only anti-inflammatory powerhouse you should consider. Leaky gut and psoriasis put your body in a state of chronic, systemic inflammation. To douse the flames throughout the body, you need all hands on deck. In particular, I recommend bromelain. This enzyme comes from the pineapple plant.

You can get bromelain from eating pineapple. But that’s not the most efficient way to do it. It’s actually more plentiful in pineapple stems. That’s where manufacturers get it for uses such as tenderizing meats.

You may have heard of bromelain before if your leaky gut has caused you some digestive woes. This enzyme can help the body break down proteins. (That’s why it makes a great tenderizer!) In fact, many traditional medicine practices use bromelain as a digestive aid.

Whether you have trouble digesting food or not, bromelain is great at calming inflammation. But you’d have to eat an awful lot of pineapple to get enough to make a difference. So this one is better in supplement form. And it’s best if you combine it with a quercetin supplement. The two seem to have synergistic effects that make them even more powerful when combined.

Quercetin reduces our autoimmune inflammatory processes. Unlike drugs, it doesn’t suppress the cells that help us fight infection. Instead, quercetin supports the shutting down of the inflammatory cascade.  In our digestive tract, quercetin improves the junctions in our digestive lining to help protect our digestive tract from inflammatory assault. AND quercetin also quiets the release of histamine, which means fewer allergic responses.

To optimally reduce inflammation, look for either individual bromelain and quercetin supplements or supplements that contain only these two ingredients. Skip formulas that package these together with other ingredients that purport to improve digestion. You want to get the maximum bang of these anti-inflammatories for your buck.

I recommend you start with 500 mg of quercetin twice a day. You can combine it with 3,000 MCUs of bromelain divided into three doses per day. 

Another Supplement That Can Help

There’s one other food-derived supplement to consider adding to your routine: curcumin. You may have heard of this polyphenol. It’s another antioxidant and anti-inflammatory superstar. It comes from turmeric, a spice common in foods like curry.

Recent research indicates that curcumin is a great natural treatment option for chronic inflammatory conditions, including psoriasis. And it helps with liver and gastrointestinal diseases too. So like quercetin and bromelain, it can help clean up the mess leaky gut creates.

Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory. So it helps the body deal with the oxidative stress psoriasis and leaky gut create. It also helps decrease the activity of enzymes that are overactive in psoriasis patients.

Studies have also found that curcumin can down-regulate pro-inflammatory cytokines in psoriatic-like cells. Plus, it can enhance skin barrier function.

Yet another mouse study found that curcumin can inhibit potassium channels in immune system T cells. These cells seem to be involved when psoriasis sets in. So inhibiting them could slow psoriasis progression.

An added benefit of curcumin is that unlike other psoriasis treatments, it doesn’t seem to come with any negative side effects. Psoriasis can be the result of an overactive immune system. So many prescription drugs treat it by suppressing the immune system.

But this can lead to a cascade of other problems. It’s much better to treat the inflammation that’s driving the immune response in the first place. Curcumin can help you do that. I recommend taking 500 mg of turmeric (which contains curcumin) twice a day.

Start by Avoiding Any Triggers That Make the Problem Worse

In particular, stay away from alcohol and spicy food. I mentioned above that alcohol and peppers can both cause you to absorb more bacterial toxins. Spicy food, which often contains peppers, can also be overly hot and irritating to the gut. And skip the spicy curry too. Go straight for the turmeric supplement.

You also want to feed your gut healthy bacteria (probiotics) and the food bacteria need to survive (prebiotics). Eating more fiber from a variety of sources promotes bacterial diversity. Women should aim for at least 25 grams a day. And believe it or not, exercise can encourage a healthy gut too.

If you’re meeting your fiber goal, taking anti-inflammatory supplements, and getting a regular replenishment of friendly bacteria from a probiotic, but you still have digestive and skin woes, you may have an infection. Pathogens like H. pylori and S. pyogenes can wreak havoc on your gut.

Talk to your doctor about getting tested for bacterial overgrowth. There are a number of natural antimicrobial treatments that can help. But you must get rid of the source of the inflammation. Until then, even powerful anti-inflammatories like curcumin and quercetin won’t be enough to clear up your skin.

Inflammation truly can affect the body from the inside out. But healing your gut can go a long way towards calming the inflammation that’s showing up on your skin in the form of psoriasis. And it can help reduce your risk of other issues linked to psoriasis, like CVD and psoriatic arthritis. Supplements can deliver powerful anti-inflammatories directly to your gut.

I know you’re probably frustrated if you’ve been having digestive issues and skin issues at the same time. But the good news is that these gut issues provide a great clue. Get rid of the source of your chronic inflammation. You’ll feel better inside and out.

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