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The Merck Manual, the "Cliff Notes" of medical school, says that psoriasis has an unknown cause and no real cure. If the medical doctor's black bag is empty, that does not mean that there's nothing else to do. It means that it is now necessary to know Nature's nutritional knapsack. (What a nice alliteration that turned out to be.) 

With psoriasis, there definitely are some worthwhile clues to track down. After all, as Sherlock Holmes said, "if all common explanations fail to solve a problem, then the answer must be some uncommon one." To many people, the therapeutic use of fish oils, vegetable juice fasting, zinc, and vitamins do indeed represent something completely different. Different, but not actually all that unreasonable. 

Psoriasis may be partly due to a difficulty in the way the body handles oils, or to a lack of oils in the diet itself.  Studies have shown that consuming a fatty acid found in fish called EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) may provide symptom relief. EPA is an "omega-3 fatty acid." All that means is that the first carbon-to-carbon double bond is located three carbons in from the far (omega) end of each molecule. Most vegetable oils that you eat are omega-6 fatty acids (such as linoleic acid). Now just why would it matter if a chemical bond is by Carbon Number Three or Carbon Number Six?  As they said in Kung Fu, "There are many mysteries, grasshopper" and this seems to be one of them. 

Can you stand any more of this? Let's see. The two most common fish oil omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (mentioned earlier) and DHA (docosahexenoic acid) People who don't eat fish need to know that there is a third, vegetarian omega-3. It is called LINOLENIC ACID (NOT omega-6 linoleic acid mentioned above)  This omega-3 "fish oil" is found in linseed oil and more importantly in soybean oil and GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES. 

Linolenic (omega-3) acid is slowly converted into both DHA and EPA in the body. Ah ha! Could this be the problem that psoriasis patients have, namely, that they are slow to make this conversion? If so, the psoriasis patient probably needs fish in the diet to provide EPA ready made.  It is a sensible thing to do anyway. The Japanese have the world's longest life expectancy among all the "Westernized" cultures, and they eat a LOT of fish.  The Japanese also eat very little red meat. 

A way the omega-3 fatty acids might work is by actually getting into each cell membrane, making them more bendable, adaptable and durable.  Improved immune response is another benefit of fish oil consumption, and it is especially important in the treatment of lupus. 

So, as my kids would ask, "How much of this stuff do we have to eat?"  Well, oily fish (trout, mackerel, salmon) are best and a little dab will do you.  Non-oily fish (cod, flounder, haddock) are also worth having, but you'd need to eat a bit more of them. Tuna packed in (omega-6 vegetable) oil does not count. 

Alternatively, you could eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, use soy oil more often, and take an EPA supplement. Around 300 to 1,000 milligrams of EPA daily is frequently recommended. 

Incidentally, the New England Journal of Medicine (312:1205, 1985) reported that as little as 30 grams of even low-fat fish per day reduced the 20-year death rate from coronary heart disease by fifty percent! That is only about ONE OUNCE of fish daily, actually providing less than 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each day. This is very strong support indeed. Helping your skin could actually save your life. 

Since vegetables, especially green ones, provide omega-3 linolenic acid, a diet fortified with quantities of fresh vegetable juice makes more sense than ever. You also avoid any worries about fish and water pollution. Grow you own veggies and you can avoid pesticides and other agricultural chemicals as well. I've been gardening for 20 years and have never used anything but fertilizer, mulch, and compost. You simply don't need the petrochemical bug- and weed-killers. (I suppose you could even raise your own fish, for that matter. I hope my daughter doesn't see me eying her aquarium right now. Just kidding.) 

A diet of juiced vegetables may provide such an abundance of linolenic acid that it overcomes any bodily reluctance to metabolize it properly.  I know of two people who tested this theory by going on periodic one-week juice fasts. Both individuals had been properly diagnosed with psoriasis by medical specialists. Over a period of weeks, both fully recovered.  Since psoriasis often comes and goes anyway, the real significance is that each person has remained symptom free for many years now. 

Vegetable juice fasting is not starvation. It is just a lot of liquefied salad. A lot of veggies go into the daily quart or more of juice that a person commonly drinks while fasting. That is NOT too much liquid; doctors often recommend four to eight glasses of water daily. It is NOT too much "vegetable" in the diet; you simply cannot hurt yourself with produce. The juices DO provide carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and more protein than you might think. It is certainly a low fat diet, but a little fish oil may of course be added to take care of that. 

Your skin contains one fifth of your body's zinc supply. Rats and mice that are deficient in zinc develop a skin condition called keratogenesis that is very similar to human psoriasis (Hoffer and Walker, Orthomolecular Nutrition, p 156-157).  Zinc deficiency in humans is the rule, not the exception.  The US RDA for zinc is only 15 milligrams a day, and yet the average American takes in even less than that. (Williams, Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 7th ed., page 253)  In spite of this, it is most uncommon to find either dietitians or doctors ever recommending a supplement of this mineral. 

Research has shown that supplements of zinc are safe up to about 500 mg. daily. At that huge dose, over a period of weeks or months, a copper deficiency may develop. A more sensible daily dose of 50 mg to perhaps 100 mg may be maintained for as long as is desired. A good multiple vitamin along with this will provide some balancing copper, as will (believe it or not) the copper water pipes in your home. 

The "amino acid chelated" form of zinc is better tolerated and better absorbed than zinc sulfate or other inorganic forms of the mineral. 

The skin is your largest and most visible organ. It is therefore a good indicator of health in general. Vitamin shortages are often indicated by skin problems. Classic clinical deficiencies of riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), vitamin A and vitamin C all result in skin disease. At the very least, psoriasis patients should be urged to take a good multivitamin daily.  Everyone knows that it can't hurt, but not everyone knows how much it might help.  Additional vitamin A is best taken as non-toxic carotene, which is in vegetable juices mentioned earlier. A B-complex supplement provides a balance of all B-vitamins, ensuring safety. Vitamin C is also non-toxic, even in very large doses. In our overfed but undernourished culture, vegetable juice fasting and dietary supplements make sense to try. There is no medicine on the market as safe as these. 

Medicine deficiency does not cause psoriasis, but nutritional deficiency might. 

Carper, Jean (1993) Food: Your Miracle Medicine. HarperCollins. pages 445-446 

Harris, William S. (1985) "Health Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids." Contemporary Nutrition, 10:8, August. 

Hoffer, Abram and Walker, Morton (1978) Orthomolecular Nutrition. Keats Publishing,  pages 156-157 

Pfeiffer, Carl (1978) Zinc and Other Micro-Nutrients. Keats Publishing.

Vorhees, J.G.; Chakrabarti, S.G.; Botero, F.; Meidler, L. and Harrell, E. R. (1969) "Zinc Therapy and Distribution in Psoriasis," Archives of Dermatology, 100:669-673.

Copyright  C  2004 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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