Psoriasis is a dry, scaly skin disorder. It is a common, chronic, autoimmune inflammatory disease that affects both men and women, and people with cardiovascular disorders and metabolic syndrome are more likely to get it. Research has shown that it is definitely a genetic disorder and it tends to run in families. Psoriasis is one of the most baffling and persistent of skin disorders. It’s characterized by skin cells that multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. As underlying cells reach the skin’s surface and die, their sheer volume causes raised, red plaques covered with white scales
Psoriasis typically occurs on the knees, elbows, and scalp and it can also affect the torso, palms, and soles of the feet.
Mechanism of Psoriasis :
To fully understand psoriasis, you need to see what’s happening underneath the skin.
Patients develop psoriasis when their immune system sends faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly, normal all skin cells takes 20 to 40 days to produce new skin cells and shed the old ones but during Psoriasis the immune system is overactive, triggering skin inflammation and causing skin cells to be produced faster than normal. The new skin cells are pushed to the skin’s surface in 3 to 4 days instead of the usual 20 to 40 but the body can’t shed the new skin cells at such a faster rate, so while new skin cells are being produced, the old, dead skin cells pile up on top of each other.
Psoriasis gets aggravated in Winter
Winter season is not considered a good season for people suffering from various skin disorders. Psoriasis is no exception. In fact, psoriasis and weather change has a direct relationship. Cold winds, low humidity and higher susceptibility to cold and flu- all these can flare up psoriasis.
Reasons for the flare-up in winter:
- Cold weather – Environmental conditions during the winter can take away the moisture from your skin to make it utterly dry. Psoriasis itself is a skin condition which is characterized by extreme skin dryness hence the overall dryness effect would increase tremendously to flare up your psoriasis.
- Prolong use of room heaters –We use room heaters to keep the environment warm and comfortable but for a person having psoriasis, this continuous indoor heating can be a trouble maker, it has a drying effect on your skin and prolongs exposure of your skin to these hot radiations can make your skin dry and itchy.
- Reduced exposure to sunlight – The UV rays of sunlight have a natural healing effect on your skin, deprivation of sunlight, and even when the sun rises, your skin would not get enough exposure to sunlight because of your heavy clothing.
- Attack of cold and flu – During cold and/or flu, our immune system gets hyperactive, to fight off the infection causing viruses and bacteria this furious immune system would further increase the growth of skin cells to make the psoriasis patches thicker and denser.
- Increased stress level – Winter months would be more stressful for people suffering from psoriasis. Increased stress means severe psoriasis. The winter blues is the medical term used, it is a type of seasonal affective disorder (depression related to weather change) – depression due to less sunlight in winter, also play a role in worsening psoriasis.
- Drinking less water – In general, we drink less water in winter. Less water consumption means less hydration of skin (less moisture) and hence, dryness effect of cold weather would be highly visible as drinking less water would obstruct the process of smooth elimination of toxins from our body. Accumulation of body toxins can also flare up psoriasis.
- Uncomfortable clothing – In winter, people wear heavy clothes. These heavy clothes would rub against your psoriasis patches more frequently. Also, heavy clothes can make you sweat sometimes and when the sweat would not find any way to evaporate, it would ultimately aggravate psoriasis by making you rub the skin again and again.
Conventional methods to combat Psoriasis during winter
- Keep your skin moist – It is very crucial to keep your skin moist with various herbal/natural topical solutions, Opt for a fragrance-free, natural moisturizing cream with active ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Shea butter, cocoa butter, honey etc. Smear coconut oil or sesame oil on the body before taking bath. Gently remove dried skin flakes without hurting the underlying skin. Use moisturizing agents which are thick and greasy.
- Opt for a warm water bath instead of hot water- Long bathing in hot water can strip off moisture from your skin, choose warm water for bathing to apply moisturizing cream immediately after bathing to lock the water in your skin.
- Using a humidifier – To counter the drying effect of room heaters, use a humidifier to keep the indoor air moist.
- Drink water in liberal quantities- Drinking enough water is one of the easiest ways of flushing of the toxins from your body and keep your internal body metabolism healthy. Also, it hydrates your skin to retain the natural moisture. When you drink less water, moisture level in your body decreases. Hence, drinking enough water is one of the easiest, yet very effective ways of keeping your skin moist. You can make a small self-check, check the color of your urine. If it is pale yellow to colorless, you are drinking a good amount of water. But, if it is dark yellow, you need to drink more water.
- Relieve stress – winter can make you feel sad, stressed and even depressed, practice yoga, meditation, regular exercises, massage therapy and other relaxation techniques. Meditation and yoga can help clear your mind, relax your body, and relieve anxiety. Exercise increases production of chemicals known as endorphins, which improve mood and energy. It can also improve sleep and decrease anxiety. These can act as game changers to fight against Psoriasis
- Wear soft clothes and use thin layers of clothes. Wear soft cotton clothes and use layers of thin clothes instead of wearing thick heavy clothes. It would make it easy for you to remove the outer layers of clothes in the sunlight to get enough sun rays.
- Keep a check on smoking and alcohol consumption- Alcohol is diuretic in nature and it can make your skin dry and also there is a general tendency that people drink and smoke together. Smoking is one of the most common triggers for psoriasis.
- Keep cold and flu at bay– If you are a frequent victim of cold and flu, then wash your hands frequently, take proper rest, eat healthy food and make every possible effort to stay away from getting infected with cold and flu.
- Taking omega 3 fatty acid supplements– Omega 3 fatty acids are the essential fatty acids which your body can’t synthesize by itself. These healthy fats reduce the skin inflammation and nourish your skin. If you are a strict vegetarian, then you can try flaxseed oil supplements also.
- Take Vitamin D supplements– Vitamin D deficiency is often related to psoriasis.
Ayurveda recommends the following self-care tips:
- Harsh soaps or body wash strip the natural oils from the skin. This makes skin dry and susceptible to infections. Use a natural body scrub. Mix flours of orange lentil (Masoor), fenugreek (Methi) seeds and green gram (whole moong) in equal proportion. Sieve the mixture of flours and store it in an airtight container. Soak three teaspoons of this mixture in water for five minutes and then use as a body scrub instead of soap or body wash. Neem and Tulsi soap is usually recommended by Ayurvedic physicians as these herbs help in combating Psoriasis. This leaves skin clean and glowing without stripping natural oils.
- Skin injuries like scratches, sunburn, or irritation can flare up psoriasis. Avoid overexposure to the sun, skin irritants like hair dye, skin bleach etc. Even chopping few vegetables like onion, radish, garlic etc can harm skin. Cover your body with cotton clothes and wear a cap which has a sun shade. Use latex kitchen gloves while chopping vegetables.
- Do not control natural urges like vomiting, urination, bowel emptying etc
- Take care not to consume foods which cause indigestion. Avoid opposite foods. Curd, salt, Brinjal, sour fruits, meat, prawn, pork etc… should not be consumed with milk. The above-mentioned foods should not be consumed by mixing one item with another. Sprouts, honey, and milk should not be consumed with meat and fish. Fish & milk: fish and sugar cane juice; jaggery and pork: honey and pork: milk and mango, banana and milk are opposite foods. Avoid salty sour or acidic foods. Say no to radish, urad dal (Black gram), sesame, jaggery (Gud), curd, fish and other sour foods.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is raved about for its active ingredient Curcumin which has been noted to have very powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has proven that curcumin is able to inhibit the enzyme PhK which is blamed for the overactive skin cell growth associated with Psoriasis. Make thick turmeric paste with water sufficient to meet your needs for your psoriasis lesions in a glass bowl, apply the paste and cover it with gauze to prevent it from shifting and staining. Rinse off with warm water in the morning or after an hour or two removing the gauze.
Tips for Winter Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that arises from psoriasis. Like other types of arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in affected joints, those with Psoriasis are often diagnosed with Psoriatic arthritis within 10 years of the onset of Psoriasis.
The main symptoms of Psoriatic arthritis include:
- swelling or swollen toes and fingers
- foot pain, especially in the sole of the foot and the back of the heel
- lower back pain
- Joint pain, joints can become swollen, warm to the touch, and painful. These symptoms’ impact ranges from mild to severe.
Triggers of Psoriatic Arthritis flare-ups:
- Skin trauma or injuries, such as cuts, bumps, bruises, scratches, scrapes, and infections: Prevent injuries by being careful when cooking, gardening, nail trimming, and shaving. Wear gloves and long sleeves when doing an activity that could potentially cause injury.
- Dry skin: This type of skin injury can cause a flare-up. Aim to keep skin hydrated with moisturizing lotions and creams.
- Sunburn: While the sunshine is good for psoriasis, getting sunburned is not.
- Stress: Relaxation and stress reduction tactics such as yoga and meditation can help lower stress and anxiety. Consider joining a psoriasis support group.
- Alcohol: In addition to potentially causing flare-ups, alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications.
- Climate: Cold, dry weather that sucks the moisture out of your skin can worsen symptoms. Drying heat units also strip moisture from your skin. Additionally, the season’s lack of sunlight can trigger flare-ups because the sunshine can improve psoriasis. Minimize your time spent in the cold and use a humidifier at home to add moisture to the air.
- Certain medications: Drugs that can worsen psoriasis include antimalarial drugs, certain beta blockers that help treat high blood pressure and some heart conditions, and lithium, which is prescribed for some psychiatric disorders. These medications get in the way of your body’s autoimmune response and can cause a flare-up. If you take these medications, find out if they can be substituted.
- Excess weight: Extra pounds can stress joints. Additionally, psoriasis plaques can develop in skin folds. People with psoriasis are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, which can be triggered by an unhealthy weight.
- Smoking: Quitting might help clear your skin
- Gluten: Studies have found that this protein found in some grains, including rye, wheat, and barley can aggravate psoriasis.
- Common infections: Thrush, strep throat, and upper respiratory infections are all potential triggers for a flare-up.
Lifestyle Remedies of Psoriatic Arthritis
- Use assistive devices during flare-ups – Immobilize certain body parts so they can rest during a flare-up with the use of splints, braces, orthotics, crutches, or walkers.
- Exercise can help keep joints flexible, strengthen your muscles, and boost your overall health. Walking, biking, swimming, and yoga are just a few exercises that won’t stress your joints.
- Protect your joints by modifying how you perform daily tasks. For example, use a jar opener to remove a lid.
- Apply hot and cold packs – The heat and cold can help lessen the pain sensation.
- Keep your weight at a healthy level – Your joints will have less strain on them as a result.
- Avoid contact with the sick.
- Take adequate quantities of Vitamin D.
Psoriasis flare-ups can be painful enough to interfere with your day-to-day life. However, you can lessen the impact of flare-ups by proactively controlling your symptoms and inflammation by following a healthy and disciplined regime. Studies and research have shown that patients with willpower and by following the dos and don’ts have managed to combat this skin disease.
Also, Read about Ayurvedic Treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis