The National Psoriasis Foundation says psoriasis is considered the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S. A chronic disease that affects the skin, psoriasis occurs when your body's immune system, which normally attacks invading bacteria and viruses, sends out a faulty signal that speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. Research has shown connections between psoriasis and various vitamin and mineral deficiencies including zinc and vitamin D as well as the fatty lipid lecithin.
Psoriasis comes in five different forms known as plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular and erythrodermic. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form and presents itself as raised patches or lesions on the skin. These lesions are covered with a silver-white buildup of dead skin cells that is referred to as scales. Psoriasis can affect any location on the body, though plaque psoriasis tends to attack the scalp, elbows, lower back and knees. About 30 percent of patients diagnosed with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis which causes pain and swelling in the joints.
Lecithin can be found naturally in foods such as egg yolk, soybeans, grains, fish, legumes and peanuts. It is found in all living cells as a part of the cell membrane and is responsible for regulating nutrients in and out of the cell. It is a fatty substance and a member of a chemical family known as phosphatidylcholine. In the treatment of psoriasis, lecithin is mixed with coal tar to make a topical solution known as Psoriderm cream. The lecithin works to soften the psoriasis scales so the coal tar can be absorbed to break down the skin.
Zinc is a metal and is known as an essential trace element because your body needs only a small amount for proper growth and maintenance, including immune function. Zinc can be found in meats, seafood, dairy products, nuts and whole grains. A 2000 study published in "Der Hautarzt" looked at the serum zinc levels in patients with psoriasis due to the controversial connection between zinc and certain dermatological conditions. What they determined was that zinc levels were no different between healthy populations tested and that zinc supplementation was only necessary if a zinc deficiency is identified. Consult your physician regarding serum zinc level testing and he can advise if a zinc supplementation is necessary.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient that can be made by your body through the exposure of your skin to ultraviolet B rays from the sun. It can also be consumed by drinking fortified milk or eating oily fish such as salmon. A 2011 study published in "Southern Medical Journal" links vitamin D deficiency with various autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis and psoriasis. A 2011 study published in "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology" looked at the safety and efficacy of topical vitamin D to treat psoriasis instead of traditional corticosteroid treatment which can only be used for a short period of time. The results showed that four weeks of the corticosteroid spray followed by eight weeks of the vitamin D ointment was safe and effective for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Consult with your physician about the use of vitamin D topically as well as having your serum vitamin D levels tested and evaluated for deficiency. If you are deficient, vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial.
- Electronic Medicines Compendium: Psoriderm Cream
- Natural Products Center: Essential Fatty Acids
- MedlinePlus; Zinc; February 24, 2011
- "Der Hautarzt"; Analysis of Serum Zinc Levels in Patients with Atopic Dermatitis, Psoriasis Vulgaris and in Probands With Healthy Skin; B. Kreft et al.; December 2000
- "Southern Medical Journal"; Protean Manifestations of Vitamin D Deficiency, Part 2: Deficiency and its Associations With Autoimmune Disease, Cancer, Infection, Astham, Dermopathies, Insulin Resistance, and Type 2 Diabetes; DS Bell; May 2011
- "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology"; A Multi-Center; Open-Label Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of a Sequential Treatment Regimen of Clobetasol Propionate 0.05% Spray Followed By Calcitriol 3 mg/g Ointment in the Management of Plaque Psoriasis; RT Brodell et al.; February 2011