Ten years ago, I met a man who had strange, scar like tissue on his elbows. I had never seen anything like it and I asked him what it was. “Psoriasis”, he answered.
I had a vague idea of the disease but had never met anyone who had it. The man told me he also had such “skin plaques” on his knees and shins, but he kept those hidden under his clothes. He was embarrassed.
He told me the plaques would sometimes itch and sting so badly, he felt like taking a knife and cutting them out. Instead, he would scratch until they bled, which didn’t help much either.
I later researched what Ayurveda says about the disease and tried to counsel him, nutrition wise. He thought I was nuts, so that didn't quite work out, but I have since met other people with psoriasis who have benefitted from this knowledge, so it's worth sharing.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body attacks itself. The top layer of skin cells becomes inflamed and the overactive immune system speeds up skin cell growth. Normal skin cells grow and shed (fall off) in a month. With psoriasis, this cycle takes only three or four days. And instead of shedding, the skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin.
It itches and is painful, and many sufferers from psoriasis are ashamed of their looks, leading to additional psychological problems.
What causes Psoriasis?
There is no one cause of psoriasis. It’s a complex of many factors, one of them being genetics. Another factor everybody agrees on is stress. Other than that, Western medicine has no answer to the question what causes psoriasis.
Ayurveda on the other hand does, and it’s the same as for almost every disease: a disturbance in the balance of the dosha’s.
Management of Psoriasis
Both Western medicine and Ayurveda offer several forms of management (not treatment!) in the form of salves or pastes to apply to the skin, or (herbal) medications to take orally. Ayurveda additionally suggests yoga, meditation and breathing exercises to reduce stress. Which makes a lot of sense, stress being such a major player in every disease.
However, being a nutritionist, I’m particularly interested in nutrition. Having experienced the power of diet on health firsthand, I am sure that anybody suffering from psoriasis can do quite a lot for themselves by changing their diet.
A diet for psoriasis
The best diet for psoriasis is a vegan diet of non-refined, fresh and ripe products. Lot’s of fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, oils and whole grains.
In addition to that, avoid consuming anything cold: (ice) cold water, ice cream, etc. This is because it extinguishes your digestive fire, so you cannot properly digest your food, which leads to all sorts of trouble.
On top of that, there are certain foods that should be avoided. Many of them feature heavily in the average Western diet these days.
- animal products (meat, fish, eggs, dairy)
- sour foods, including: citrus fruits (lemon, orange), tomatoes, pickles, curd, buttermilk
- fermented food
- fast food (like pizzas)
- fried food
- preserved foods & juices
- bakery, sweets & chocolate (cakes, cookies, etc.)
- refined flour
- cold drinks, ice cream, milk shakes
- commercially made sauces (including but not limited to ketchup)
- fruit jams
- apples, mangos, grapes, pineapples
- nuts (except almonds)
- dried fruits (except raisins)
- common table salt (rock salt in small quantities is okay)
Where to start?
Changing to this diet will, for most people that I know, be extremely difficult if not impossible. In order to get there, go slowly. Take baby steps towards your goals. Psoriasis is not a lethal disease, so there’s no rush. Instead of trying to change everything all at once, make very small, incremental changes. They will get you there in the end. And even if you don't change everything in the end, you are still going to benefit from the changes that you do make.
In order to regain your balance, an important step is to eat according to your constitution. Whether you suffer from psoriasis or some other disease, nutrition always plays a role. But there is no one diet that fits all, because we are all different and unique.
Find out what your constitution is by taking the dosha-test, and subsequently get your personal list of food recommendations. Take control of your health by finding out which foods are good for you and which ones should be avoided.