Psoriasis Relief from Weight Loss
Psoriasis can be a very uncomfortable skin condition to deal with. The lesions it produces can be extremely itchy and, if they become irritated, even painful. When it flares up in a visible area--some common spots include the forehead, under the nose, and on the hands1--psoriasis can also create self-esteem issues and embarrassment. However, researchers may now have touched upon a simple way to ease psoriasis symptoms: losing weight.
The study, which took place at Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte in Denmark, found a link between overweight psoriasis sufferers shedding excess pounds and a marked reduction in their symptoms.2 All of the 53 participants were clinically obese and had a diagnosis of psoriasis. They were separated into two groups. One group of 27 volunteers was placed on a restricted, low-calorie diet to encourage natural weight loss. The second group of 26 volunteers was used as controls and only received a recommendation to eat healthy foods.
Over the course of a 16-week period, the group that cut back on calories lost an average of almost 34 pounds, while the second group did not experience any weight loss. At two points during the experiment, all of the subjects were asked to complete surveys with questions about how severe their psoriasis symptoms were and provide a personal assessment of their quality of life. The survey responses of the weight-loss group were significantly better as to both the presence of symptoms and quality of life compared to the group that did not lose any weight.
The psoriasis improvements in those participants who had lost weight included fewer or less prominent lesions as well as less stinging and burning of the skin in the areas where lesions occurred. Their relief of pain and other physical symptoms was accompanied by a corresponding psychological boost from not having to endure the embarrassment of the unsightly lesions the disease produces. It all adds up to the subjects feeling better both physically and emotionally, which is why they were able to report a better quality of life than prior to the weight loss.
Losing weight may help with psoriasis for a combination of reasons. Psoriasis affects certain white blood cells within the immune system, which causes the rapid production of skin cells and results in scaly, itchy, abnormal patches of skin.3 As obesity also triggers an inflammatory response in the body and greater quantities of white blood cells,4 decreasing the extra weight that puts stress on the body may help in alleviating psoriasis symptoms.
While this study is too small to provide definitive answers, it is an interesting start in several ways. Although psoriasis is not a tremendously widespread ailment, only affecting two to three percent of the population (that's still about 8 million people), it adds to the long list of health benefits weight loss can provide. Plus, it approaches the disease from a systemic point of view, seeking to relieve symptoms at their roots in immune system dysfunction and internal inflammation. This is a very different approach than that typically taken by physicians, who often seek only to use some pharmaceutical product to suppress the surface indications of the problem, trying to make the symptoms go away rather than addressing the disease's underlying causes. One of these medical treatments, a drug called Raptiva, was taken off the market in 2009 after a link was discovered between this medication and several serious and potentially life-threatening diseases including leukoencephalopathy and meningitis. This was definitely a case in which the side effects were much worse than the actual ailment.
In addition to losing weight if you are a psoriasis sufferer, other natural health remedies may help to rebalance the immune system. Immunomodulators can help calm your immune system and its overactive response. They appear to function by correcting problems within the T-cells and balancing the reactions of the immune system. For more information on natural immunomodulators that can help readjust your immune system, check out Jon Barron's Anatomy and Physiology of the Immune System, Part 4.
- 1. "Psoriasis on Specific Locations." National Psoriasis Foundation. Accessed 4 June 2013. http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/specific-locations
- 2. Thompson, Dennis. "Weight Loss Might East Psoriasis, Study Hints." WebMD. 29 May 2013. Accessed 3 June 2013. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/news/20130529/weight-loss-might-ease-psoriasis-study-hints
- 3. "What is Psoriasis?" National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. September 2009. Accessed 4 June 2013. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Psoriasis/psoriasis_ff.asp
- 4. Nordqvist, Christian. "What is Inflammation? What Causes Inflammation?" Medical News Today. 31 July 2012. Accessed 4 June 2013. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php