Psoriasis is a chronic condition affecting the immune system which causes buildups on the skin or thick, red, scaly and itchy patches. According to statistics, about 7.5 million Americans struggle with this disease, and it also has a significant economic impact.
JAMA Dermatology published a study which outlined that direct costs in the US, related to this condition, go up to $63 billion a year. Indirect costs, like loss of working hours, are estimated to $35 billion, and another $35 billion spent on associated health issues, including heart diseases and depression.
Researchers took everything together, and according to them, the annual costs related to psoriasis in the US amounted to $112 billion in 2013.
Psoriasis is not only a superficial skin condition
Many consider psoriasis as a skin condition, but according to experts, it is actually an autoimmune disease. In one phase of the reaction, T cell, a type of white blood cell, attacks healthy skin cells by mistake.
Overactive T cells later trigger many immune responses and these collectively accelerate the growth of skin cells, making them move to the outer skin layer within several days rather than weeks, as they normally do.
It is not possible for the dead skin to be removed quickly enough, so it starts building up and form thick patches — characteristic of psoriasis. About 60% of all people struggling with psoriasis also deal with serious problems in their everyday life.
Sometimes the skin becomes so inflamed that it starts cracking and even bleeding. In some cases psoriasis leads to developing psoriatic arthritis, which causes joint damage.
Psoriasis sufferers run also at a higher risk of other chronic diseases, like vision problems, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases, not to mention the psychological repercussions. (2)
Most people do not actually know much about psoriasis, and see it as a contagious rash. Psoriasis sufferers are often shunned and socially excluded because of this. They often end up being depressed, socially isolated, with low self-esteem, deal with problems at work, which may eventually lead to a lower income. (3)
Vitamin D is essential for all autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis
If you deal with psoriasis, make sure you have your vitamin D level tested, and always maintain its level in a therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml year-round. This vitamin is a powerful immune modulator, which makes it important in the prevention of autoimmune diseases.
According to scientists, “vitamin D could have important immunomodulatory effects in psoriasis,” but health experts say that 80% of psoriasis sufferers in winter, and 50% of the patients in summer, showed vitamin D deficiency. (4)
Vitamin D has proven to be effective in fighting psoriasis on multiple levels. It regulates keratinocyte growth and differentiation, and also influences the immune function of the T lymphocytes and other cells in the body. This vitamin can inhibit cytotoxic T cells and potentially regulates skin cell growth. (5)
In addition to this, vitamin D derivatives are commonly used in the topical treatments of psoriasis, and phototherapy is also a recommended treatment.
We have witnessed at least one published report based on a specific type of psoriasis resolving, after vitamin-D deficiency was treated with high doses of vitamin D3. (6)
Conventional drug treatments are quite expensive and risky. According to NPR, a psoriasis sufferer took prescription drugs for psoriasis, even experimental drugs, and unfortunately he is still suffering.
Raptiva, one of the most common drugs prescribed for psoriasis, was recently pulled from the market because it has shown to increase the risk of life-threatening brain infections. Stelara, another prescription drug, showed good results in the treatment of psoriasis, but his symptoms returned after five years. This man reported that in those five years he spent about $250,000. (7)
Psoralen in combination with UV light exposure (known as PUVA) is one of the most commonly used psoriasis treatment. Psoralen makes the skin sensitive to UV light, but it is usually combined with UVA exposure. UVA rays are linked to skin damages, and UVB light stimulates the skin to produce more vitamin D.
Increase the vitamin D intake if you have psoriasis
Most experts would agree the most efficient treatment for psoriasis is direct exposure to sunlight, as it will optimize vitamin D level. You do not have to consult your dermatologist; you can help yourself.
Regarding this topic, in 2004, Dr. Michael Holick published his book, The UV Advantage. In his book he adviced his readers to get enough sensible sun exposure.
He was a professor of dermatology because of the research he had been doing regarding the active vitamin D in the treatment of psoriasis. Moreover, he got the American Skin Association’s Psoriasis Research Achievement Award, which is quite a prestigious award.
“As a result, I was in the department of dermatology, continuing to do psoriasis research. But once I began recommending sensible sun exposure for vitamin D, which is counter to what the American Academy of Dermatology’s message was, I was asked to step down as professor of dermatology back in 2004…
The American Academy of Dermatology still recommends: you should never be exposed to one direct ray of sunlight for your entire life.”
This is actually highly counterintuitive, because the research showed that vitamin D is extremely beneficial for the psoriasis treatment. Sunlight exposure gives great results because UV rays in sunlight and other specifical types of artificial light are able to kill off activated T cells in the skin.
This eventually slows down cell turnover and thus reduces any scaling and inflammations
Getting enough sunlight will give you enough vitamin D, and it also has some additional health benefits. You would agree that is no coincidence that psoriasis sufferers, who often lack vitamin D, run at a higher risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and metabolic syndrome – these are also linked with low vitamin D level. (8)
Low vitamin D is associated with Parkinson’s disease and cancer
Psoriasis sufferers have an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, and this is also linked to vitamin D deficiency. A study showed that: (9)
“Plasma levels of both dietary and sunlight-derived vitamin D are inversely correlated with the risk of Parkinson disease (PD) … The finding suggests that low vitamin D levels in PD are not simply a result of reduced mobility.”
A research that is supposed to be presented at the 2015 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, revealed that there is a strong connection between high vitamin D level and significantly improved survival in patients diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer. (10)
According to this study, people with the highest vitamin D level had an average of 27.5 ng/mL, and that is still far below the optimum of 50-70 ng/mL. About 200 epidemiological studies have confirmed the theories that associate vitamin D deficiency with cancer, and 2,500 laboratory studies explain its physiological basis.
In 2007, Joan Lappe and Robert Heaney conducted a quite important study which involved a group of menopausal women. These women received enough vitamin D to raise their serum level to 40 ng/ml. They had a 77% lower risk of developing cancer, after just four years (again, 40 ng/ml is a relatively modest level). (11)
Scientists have identified about 3,000 genes that could be influenced by vitamin D levels, and many scientists have confirmed that vitamin D is essential for optimal health and prevention against many diseases.
When was the last time you checked your vitamin D level?
The optimal level for healthy people ranges between 50-70 ng/ml, but the treatment of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune (i.e. psoriasis) and/or neurological diseases, require double levels, or ideally between 70-100 ng/ml.
You have to realize that vitamin D deficiency is a common condition throughout the world, even in places where most people spend more time in the sun.
A recent study conducted in India showed that 69% of 37,000 people involved in the study were vitamin D deficient (at or below 20 ng/ml). 15 percent of the people tested showed insufficient levels (20-30 ng/ml).(12) Men aged 31-60, and women aged 16-30, had the highest risk of vitamin D deficiency, even though the elderly in the US are also at a higher risk.
Sensible UVB exposure is the ideal way to increase your vitamin D level, but you can also take an oral supplement (vitamin D3). GrassrootsHealth offers a great chart you can use to learn which is the average adult dose required to increase your vitamin D level based upon your measured starting point.
Health experts agree that 35 IUs of vitamin D per pound of body weight is a great estimate for your own dose, but you will sure need to test and observe your levels just in case to be sure.
If you take a vitamin D supplement, make sure you take K2 and magnesium as well
If you still decide to go for a supplement, make sure you take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—and take vitamin K2 and magnesium. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, and taking certain forms of healthy fat along with it will sure ease the absorption.
Vitamin K2 has a biological role to carry calcium to proper areas in the body. Without the sufficient amount, calcium can build up in arteries, soft tissues and other areas in your body. This leads to calcification which eventually results in hardening of your arteries.
This was previously thought to be induced by vitamin D toxicity. Now we are aware of the fact that inappropriate calcification is a result of the lack of K2, and it does not occur due to higher levels of vitamin D, as it was previously believed.
Magnesium also plays an important role. It is essential for the proper function of calcium, and for the vitamin D activity, because it turns vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium stimulates the enzyme activity that makes your body use the vitamin D.
To be more precise, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D need magnesium for their proper function. Same as with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency is also quite common. If you lack magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you can actually exacerbate the situation.
Vitamin A, zinc, and boron also interact with vitamin D, and that is quite an essential process. If you consider taking supplements, be careful, you can easily end up with lopsided ratios.
Organic whole food diet and sensible sun exposure are the best ways to get these nutrients. Magnesium is found in sea vegetables, like kelp, dulse, and nori. Veggies are also a good source. When it comes to supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are considered to be the best option.