Psoriasis and Ayurveda
Itchiness, coloured patches, hard skin, flakes falling off wherever you are, deformed nails… Many of these problems faced by people affected with psoriasis. And they largely influence one’s quality of life and confidence. But Psoriasis is more common than we think. Among every 100 people all over the world, 2-4 may have psoriasis, in varying severities. (https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)36098-X/fulltext) It is more common in the western world than east, loosely attributed to availability of sunlight, food habits and stress.
What is psoriasis?
The word literally means itchy skin, but psoriasis is definitely not just itchy skin. It has a lot more symptoms and the basic reason too, is deeper than the skin.
It is a long lasting skin condition. The main symptoms are reddish patches on skin which vary in size, white flakes on the patches which often falls off especially when the skin is dry, itching, sometimes pain, oozing of fluid and occasionally pus in the lesions. Often the nails are also affected and they become deformed and discoloured. Many are also troubled by painful joints and mobility limitations.
People mostly get several circular patches over their arm, elbow, shin, knees, scalp, behind the ears and back. But it could cover large areas of the body also. The disease may also affect joints and cause pain and swellings over the years.
What happens to the skin in psoriasis?
The symptoms happen when the most outer cells of your skin divides very rapidly and older cells are removed faster than usual. This causes flaking. Along with this, inflammation of the skin layers and increase in blood circulation happens. This accounts to symptoms of itching, redness or burning sensation.
Why this happens?
Though the reason is not completely understood, scientists believe that an autoimmune mechanism causes the symptoms. That is, an error in the immune system makes it attacks the skin cells as if they are microbes or foreign bodies.
Chances of getting psoriasis is increased by genetic factors. If your parents or close relatives have psoriasis, the likeliness of getting the disease increases by 15-50%.
The triggering factors which exacerbate the disease are:
Anxiety and Stress
Stress increases the inflammatory reactions in the body. So stress can trigger psoriasis if you are predisposed to it. Also stress may cause a flare up if you already have the condition. Also vice versa, having psoriasis can increase stress, anxiety and even depression.
If you are genetically susceptible, psoriatic rashes can develop over skin injuries like bruises or cuts or even sun burns.
Certain infections like HIV, streptococcal infections etc are found to trigger the condition.
Some drugs which influences the immune system, anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAID), antimalarial drugs etc can trigger or exacerbate the symptoms.
What are the treatment options for psoriasis?
Contemporary medical practice seem to suggest that psoriasis is an incurable condition. And people feel that the options left are to use steroids and immune suppressants medicines to get temporary relief.
But ayurveda refuses to consider that anyone should bear the burden of a disease for life long.
How do ayurveda view psoriasis?
Skin diseases or “kushta’ as they are called in sanskrit, has got special attention in ancient ayurvedic texts.
As we know, skin is a mirror of our general health and skin health is a reflection of overall health. This idea that we have to be healthy from the inside to be having a better skin was understood and documented centuries ago in classical ayurvedic texts.
The cause or trigger for psoriasis have a lot to do with the metabolism according to ayurveda. The main trigger factors described are:
Improper diet habits: Combining incompatible food, heavy and excessively greasy food, too much of sour and fermented items etc . Improper routines and habits: Frequent exposure to hot and cold. This is common for many people as we tend to go out from cold air conditioned offices or vehicles to hot sun and back frequently. Improper sleeping habits: day sleep and not sleeping at night. Habits contributing to physical and emotional stress. (Charaka Samhita, Chapter 7)
These disrupts the ‘pita’ and other doshas inside the body and also over the skin causing all the disturbing symptoms.
If we analyse these causative factors according to modern scientific understanding, they cause accumulation of metabolic toxins and inflammatory chemicals in the body. This progress to what the modern world understands as auto immune reactions.
What are ayurvedic treatment options for psoriasis?
Ayurvedic skin care treatments are rooted on the concept that anything happening on skin is a reflection of what happens deeper in our system. Be it ayurvedic treatment for acne, or be it the treatment for psoriasis or eczema or lichen planus. The treatments are designed in a way to influence the metabolism, immune system and also skin directly.
So the treatment for psoriasis involves diet, lifestyle modifications and medicines to consume and apply externally.
Stress and Lifestyle management
As stress is a main triggering factor which disrupts the balance of all doshas. Especially in psoriasis, managing stress is a very important factor in treatment.
In our experiance, early raising, guided meditations , yoga and other light exercises are found to be very effective.
The anti-inflammatory effects of these practices are supported by modern research also. (https://www.nature.com/articles/nri3041).
Learning to avoid rushing and be calm is one of the key steps in psoriasis management.
Maintaining proper digestion is very important in the treatment of skin diseases including psoriasis. Improper digestion leads to more ‘aama’. ‘Aama’ causes more inflammations and skin problems.
Specifically for psoriasis, there are some food items which are to be avoided.
Examples are sesame, certain lentils like black grams, some of the nightshades, few tubers like radish, certain varieties of sweeteners, fermented and sour food like yogurt and cheese, dairy products.
Moreover, we have to be careful to avoid incompatible food combinations.
The most common bad combination is mixing milk with fruits, especially sour fruits.
Taking together milk and fish, eggs along with fish or meat, melons or pumpkins with proteins or dairy are also not recommended in ayurveda.
Panchakarma are ayurvedic detoxification or cleansing treatments. Procedures like medicated vomiting, purging and nasal cleaning are found to be very effective in managing psoriasis, if administered scientifically.
The recommended frequency to take panchakarma treatments differ according to the severity of the condition. Consult your ayurvedic doctor to know whether you need a detox treatment.
Ayurvedic health care products and medications to manage psoriasis
These include internal medicines like decoctions and tablets. Common medicines used include Mahamanjishtadi kashayam tablets, Guggulutiktakam tablets, Tiktakam Kashyam tablets etc.
Also there are external applications in the forms of oils like psora herb oil, dineshavalyadi keram, ointments like dermosap ointment etc.
Scalp psoriasis and dandruff gets excellent result with application of scurf oil.
What is the prognosis of psoriasis with ayurvedic treatment?
As you may have understood from the above explanations, ayurvedic treatment is not about taking pills and forgetting about the condition. That gives only temporary and superficial relief from the problem. Your active participation is very important in effective ayurvedic treatment. It includes lifestyle and diet modifications, taking herbal medicines on time etc. And with that, we have seen a lot of wonderful results which have transformed the lives of many.
How to get ayurveda treatments online for psoriasis?
Proper consultation with a qualified medical practitioner is essential before you start treatments for psoriasis. This helps you to choose the right medications according to the imbalance of doshas.
It is recommended that you consult with an ayurvedic physician n person or through online methods available.