Written by : Dr. Olivia Rose, ND
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Psoriasis and eczema are common inflammatory skin conditions that are usually treated with topical creams. However, these topical solutions are usually only temporary. Instead, the focus should be on long term solutions which includes eating anti-inflammatory foods; including specific supplements to help calm the inflammation and removing toxic skin irritants from your skin care.
It can be extremely frustrating to look in the mirror to find a new pimple, dry, scaley or red patch of skin, or fine lines that seem to pop up out of nowhere. It’s also easy to seek topical treatment after topical treatment to blur, soothe and cover up your blemishes. However, skin concerns and skin inflammation originate from inflammation within the body. Therefore, when looking for long term solutions for common skin issues, a more systemic approach should be considered. Two common skin conditions which can cause both discomfort and visible changes to the skin are psoriasis and eczema.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease which causes the body to create excess skin cells. The body usually makes new skin cells every week or so however, people with psoriasis can make new skin cells within days. There are different types of psoriasis, however the most common form is plaque psoriasis.1 This subtype is characterized by red, itchy, scale-like patches of skin and in general, the skin can also become dry and cracked.
Eczema is caused by excess inflammation in the body. Similar to psoriasis, there are many subtypes of eczema, however the most common form is atopic dermatitis.2 Atopic dermatitis causes symptoms such as dry, itchy, red skin and can be found in patches throughout the body.
When looking to target skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis, inflammation needs to be addressed. In both cases, the inflammatory pathway in the body has been disrupted, leading to increased inflammatory mediators.3 There are other factors to consider such as the environment, stress, and sleep. However, food is usually a great place to start when targeting issues within the skin and inflammation in general.
Foods to Avoid
- Eliminate Food Allergies and Sensitivities – If your body is over-reacting to a food, it can often show up in the skin appearing as rashes and patches of eczema. When your immune system overreacts, it can further complicate autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis.
- Eliminate Processed Foods – Foods such as granola bars, frozen dinners, canned soups, processed meats should be avoided or at least, reduced. All of these have high ratios of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and sugars which can exacerbate inflammation in the body.
- Consider Eliminating Nightshades – Foods containing solanine including, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, can trigger inflammation in the body in people who are sensitive. In a study with psoriasis patients, 52% of patients who reduced nightshades saw an improvement in their skin.4
Foods to Include
- Include foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly anti-inflammatory and can help reduce systemic inflammation.
- Include other anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, leafy greens and berries.
- Healthy fats such as olive oil, seeds and nuts are also great for the skin.
To combat the increased inflammation seen in mild eczema, some supplements have proven to make a positive impact.
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have a potent anti-inflammatory impact on the body, which helps decrease psoriasis flares.5 By increasing the amount of anti-inflammatory fatty acids through supplementation, we can alter the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the body and limit inflammation.
In a review examining the role of omega-3 fatty acids on psoriasis, researchers found a significant reduction in overall severity, redness, scaling, and itching when compared to placebo groups.6
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is another helpful fatty acid. Unlike other omega-6 fatty acids, GLA is anti-inflammatory. GLA can help relieve symptom of mild cases of eczema, and improve symptoms such as roughness redness of skin. There is no food source of GLA in high enough quantities to maintain our needs through diet alone. GLA borage oil can be taken as a capsule to work internally. GLA skin oil can be applied directly to the skin. GLA borage oil and GLA skin oil are also popular for women who are looking to support healthy skin as they age due to its ability to maintain skin moisture, elasticity and firmness.
Although the bulk of the work for reducing eczema should be done through diet and lifestyle changes, there are some products that can also be used topically to help during flare ups.
Skinsmart is a topical product which can temporarily protect the skin and help to relieve minor skin irritations and itching. The product contains Celadrin, a combination of fatty acid carbons and olive oil to soothe and hydrate the skin. Regular use may result in an increase in skin permeability, and an improvement in your skin’s texture, firmness and hydration.
When looking to cover-up blemishes, it is important to avoid harmful ingredients which can lead to more inflammation and disrupt hormones in the body. Ingredients may not be listed, but some to look out for include: Formaldehydes, Quaternium 15, Mercury, Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates, Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens.5
When dealing with chronic skin issues, it is easy to get frustrated with the uncomfortable symptoms and the visual appearance. However, in order to get to the root cause of the condition, the whole body must be assessed and treated.
Written By: Olivia Rose ND
- Mayo Clinic. Psoriasis. May 2, 2020. Accessed. March 10 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355840#:~:text=Plaque%20psoriasis%20is%20the%20most,plaques)%20covered%20with%20silvery%20scales
- The Eczema Society of Canada. Types of eczema. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://eczemahelp.ca/about-eczema/types-of-eczema/
- Boguniewicz M, Leung DY. Atopic dermatitis: a disease of altered skin barrier and immune dysregulation. Immunological reviews. 2011 Jul;242(1):233-46.
- Afifi L, Danesh MJ, Lee KM, Beroukhim K, Farahnik B, Ahn RS, Yan D, Singh RK, Nakamura M, Koo J, Liao W. Dietary behaviors in psoriasis: patient-reported outcomes from a US national survey. Dermatology and therapy. 2017 Jun;7(2):227-42.
- Millsop JW, Bhatia BK, Debbaneh M, Koo J, Liao W. Diet and psoriasis, part III: role of nutritional supplements. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2014 Sep 1;71(3):561-9.
- Clark CC, Taghizadeh M, Nahavandi M, Jafarnejad S. Efficacy of ω-3 supplementation in patients with psoriasis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clinical rheumatology. 2019 Apr;38(4):977-88.
- Environmental Working Group. The Toxic Twelve Chemicals and Contaminants in Cosmetics. May 5, 2020. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.ewg.org/californiacosmetics/toxic12