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June 20, 2018  |  Login
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Psoriasis, a common skin disorder, occurs when skin cells replicate too quickly. The skin produces new cells at about ten times its normal rate, but also it continues to slough off old ones at its usual, slower pace. With nowhere else to go, the new cells pile up under the surface, creating patches of red, swollen skin covered with silvery or whitish scales. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body, but it most often surfaces on the scalp, the knees, the elbows, the buttocks, and the backs of the wrists. The rash usually doesn't itch, but if you scratch, it may bleed. Psoriasis comes and goes in cycles and leaves no scars, although the area may be thick and dry even in times of remission. The nails may also be affected and may develop stipples and pitted areas.

Occasionally, in a condition known as pustular psoriasis, blisters will rise on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Psoriasis has also been linked to inflammatory arthritis of the fingers and the toes.

Psoriasis can cause a type of arthritis that resembles rheumatoid arthritis in some individuals. The nails are affected in 30 to 50 percent of people with psoriasis, resulting in a pitting, a discoloration, and a thickening of the nails' plates.

The exact cause of psoriasis remains unknown, but the prevailing theory connects the high rate of cell replication to a genetic flaw. This theory is backed up by the large number of cases that run in families. As with most genetic disorders, however, italso likely that people simply inherit a predisposition to psoriasis.

Lifestyle choices play an important part in determining the severity and the frequency of the condition or whether you'll even experience it at all. A poor diet, for example, often worsens this condition. The identification and the treatment of food allergies is the key for some individuals. The digestive tract is a focal point for many people with psoriasis. Poor digestion, especially incomplete protein digestion, leads to the creation of toxins known as polyamines, which contribute to excessive skin proliferation. Also, the overgrowth of Candida albicans and various bacteria by-products is thought to worsen this condition. Along with the overgrowth of these microbes is often an imbalance or a deficiency of friendly flora, the good bacteria that help detoxify the body. Liver function is of critical importance, as it is the body's main filtering system. Optimizing liver function with sound nutrition and nutritional supplements can be helpful.

We have also found a connection between psoriasis and a low intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Finally, stress, fluctuating hormones, sunburn, and other environmental factors can also contribute to flare-ups.

Next: What are the Symptoms of Psoriasis

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