Written by Dr. Olivia Rose, ND
Often, when we notice dry, cracking skin, a new pimple or a red patch, we turn to topical creams, moisturizers and make-up to help cover up the lesion. However, the reality is that the conditions which create these pesky blemishes actually originate from within the body. Therefore, if you are looking for a long-term solution for common skin issues, you’ll have to take a look inside the body.
Two common skin conditions which can cause both discomfort and visible changes to the skin are psoriasis and eczema.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease which causes the body to create excess skin cells. The body makes new skin cells every week or so, however, if you have psoriasis you tend to make new skin cells in a matter of days. There are several different types of psoriasis however the most common form is a plaque psoriasis.1 This subtype is characterized by scale-like patches of skin with red with itchy areas underneath. In general, the skin may also become cracked and dry.
Eczema is caused by excess inflammation in the body. Just as in psoriasis, there are many subtypes of eczema, however, the most common form is atopic dermatitis.2 Atopic dermatitis causes symptoms such as dry, itchy, red skin. It is also found in patches throughout the body.
When looking to target skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis, inflammation needs to be addressed. In both conditions, the inflammatory pathway in the body has been disrupted, leading to increased inflammatory chemicals known as inflammatory mediators.3 There are other factors to consider such as the environment, stress, and sleep. However, food is usually a great place to start when targeting skin issues and inflammation, in general.
Foods to Include
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and herring are a great addition to the diet to boost skin health. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly anti-inflammatory and can help reduce systemic inflammation which may result in less inflammation in the skin.5
- Anti-inflammatory foods. Other anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables including leafy greens and berries are great to incorporate into your diet on a regular basis.
- Healthy fats such as olive oil, seeds and nuts are also great for the skin.
Foods to Avoid
- Eliminate Food Allergies and Sensitivities - If your body is over-reacting to food, it can often show in your skin in the form of rashes and patches of eczema. When your immune system overreacts, it can further complicate autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis. You can determine your food sensitivities and allergies by working with a healthcare professional such as a naturopathic doctor.
- Eliminate or Reduce Processed Foods - Foods such as conventional granola bars, frozen dinners, canned soups, and processed meats can be detrimental to your health. All of these items have high ratios of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids and they can also be loaded with s This combination of ingredients can exacerbate inflammation in the body.
- Consider Nightshade Sensitivity - Nightshades are a class of vegetables that contain solanine such as eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Solanine can trigger inflammation in the body in people who are sensitive to it. In a study with psoriasis patients, 52% of patients who reduced nightshade consumption saw an improvement in their skin condition.4
- Check for Gluten Sensitivity -In the same study mentioned above, 54% of participants who decreased gluten found an improvement in their psoriasis. Gluten and dairy are common food sensitivities and can cause excess inflammation in the skin.4
Although the bulk of the work for psoriasis and eczema should be done through making specific diet and lifestyle changes, some products can also be used topically to help during flare ups. Focus on natural and organic skin products that include ingredients such as: gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA), celadrin, oats, aloe, or jojoba.
When looking to cover-up blemishes, remember to read the labels and avoid harmful ingredients which can lead to more inflammation in the long run and potentially have other negative health impacts on the body. Some ingredients to look out for include: Formaldehyde, Quaternium 15, Mercury, Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates, Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens.6
It is easy to get frustrated both with the uncomfortable symptoms and your visual appearance when living with chronic skin issues. However, in order to deal with the condition properly and get to the root cause, the whole body needs to be supported; which is why it’s time to start from within.
- Mayo Clinic. Psoriasis. May 2, 2020. Accessed. March 10 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355840#:~:text=Plaque%20psoriasis%20is%20the%20most,plaques)%20covered%20with%20silvery%20scales
- The Eczema Society of Canada. Types of eczema. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://eczemahelp.ca/about-eczema/types-of-eczema/
- Boguniewicz M, Leung DY. Atopic dermatitis: a disease of altered skin barrier and immune dysregulation. Immunological reviews. 2011 Jul;242(1):233-46.
- Afifi L, Danesh MJ, Lee KM, Beroukhim K, Farahnik B, Ahn RS, Yan D, Singh RK, Nakamura M, Koo J, Liao W. Dietary behaviors in psoriasis: patient-reported outcomes from a US national survey. Dermatology and therapy. 2017 Jun;7(2):227-42.
- Millsop JW, Bhatia BK, Debbaneh M, Koo J, Liao W. Diet and psoriasis, part III: role of nutritional supplements. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2014 Sep 1;71(3):561-9.
- Environmental Working Group. The Toxic Twelve Chemicals and Contaminants in Cosmetics. May 5, 2020. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.ewg.org/californiacosmetics/toxic12