Psoriasis and Gut Health: Is there a Link?

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic illness caused by a dysfunction in the immune system. It is referred to as an immune-mediated disease, which in simple terms means a disease with an unclear cause that involves inflammation caused by the immune system malfunctioning.1 

In an average body, skin cells grow and shed within a month. With psoriasis, the immune system speeds up the process, and the skin cells grow entirely within 3-4 days.

This causes the skin cells to pile up on the skin's surface, giving the appearance of red patches on the skin. These patches are called plaques; they can itch, burn and sting, which can be very uncomfortable or even painful.1 

Psoriasis plaques can appear anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the elbows, knees and scalp. They look different on different skin types but usually appear raised and scaly.

It is common for the symptoms to appear between 15 and 25, but they can begin at any age.2 As psoriasis is a chronic condition, there is no cure and lifelong condition. Symptoms can be managed to reduce discomfort and pain. 

Psoriasis can affect other parts of the body - not just the skin. It can impact other organs and tissues in the body, and 1 in 3 people living with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis.2

What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a symptom of psoriasis that includes swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, it can cause permanent joint damage if untreated; early diagnosis is essential to manage psoriatic arthritis. 

It often starts between the ages of 30-50 but, like the other symptoms of psoriasis, can appear at any age, including childhood. It can progress quickly for some people and gradually for others. An injury can trigger it, or you can be genetically predisposed to it.3 

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can be fatigue, tenderness, pain or swelling in the tendons or joints, swollen fingers and toes, reduced range of motion, nail changes, redness and pain in the eye, or morning stiffness and tiredness.3

There isn’t a link between the severity of psoriasis of the skin and psoriatic arthritis; you can have mild psoriasis and still develop arthritis or extreme psoriasis and not get arthritis. 

How is Psoriasis Linked to the Gut?

To understand the link, we need to understand the Gut-Skin Axis. The gut plays a vital part in the health of our skin; the Gut-Skin Axis is the relationship our gut has with the health and appearance of our skin.

Our gut plays a vital role in inflammation, and we suffer inflammation when our microbiome is unbalanced. Our microbiome being healthy is essential in regulating skin turnover and mediating inflammation in the skin.4 

As we know, psoriasis is an inflammatory condition. Some studies have shown that people with psoriasis have less good bacteria in their gut, therefore having a less balanced gut microbiome.5

Our skin is an organ that spans a total surface of 25m² 6 and is the first line of defence against foreign invaders from the outer environment. Our gastrointestinal tract spans 30m²so is another vast area that deals with bacteria that enter our body.6 

Treatment Options For Psoriasis 

There is no cure for psoriasis, but there are treatments that can help with symptoms such as the plaques on the skin. If symptoms are severe, your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist, as they are specialists in all things skin.

Emollients are moisturisers that reduce water loss and cover the skin with a protective film. This treatment can be bought from a pharmacy or prescribed.

It can be an effective treatment for mild psoriasis and will usually be the first treatment recommended by a Doctor. The emollient reduces itching and scaling on the plaques by moisturising the skin.

For mild to moderate cases of psoriasis, creams and ointments such as topical corticosteroids are used in most areas of the body. They work by reducing inflammation, which slows down the production of skin cells and relieves itching.

They will only be prescribed for small areas of the skin or particularly thick patches, and they can only be used short-term, as overuse can lead to skin thinning. 

For more severe cases, phototherapy may be used - a treatment that involves exposing your skin to certain types of ultraviolet light. For the highest severity, systemic oral or injected medicines that target the whole body may be used.7

These treatments can be used in combination, and for the most effective results, they often will be. 

Probiotic Treatment For Psoriasis

Probiotics supplements can be a valuable tool for reducing symptoms of psoriasis. At The Gut Co, we created a range of probiotic supplements that heal our bodies from the source; the gut. Our product “Skin Health” heals your skin from the inside out with its gut-boosting and skin-nourishing formula. 

It is clinically proven to rebalance and diversify the gut microbiome and deliver a blend of vitamins, botanical extracts and live bacteria that positively affect the gut-skin axis.

The bacterial strains Lactobacillus Rhamnosus SP1 and LB21 have been shown to reduce the symptoms of inflammation and irritation associated with psoriasis by sending detoxifying and anti-inflammatory signals to the skin. 

We know from the gut-skin axis that our gut can play an essential role in the appearance of our skin. Probiotics can be hard to gain through diet - they appear in fermented foods that generally aren’t a part of our everyday diets.

They appear in foods like kimchi, pickles, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir and tempeh. Taking a daily probiotic supplement can take the pressure off and become a fundamental part of your daily routine that you don’t need to think twice about. 

Final Thoughts

Psoriasis can be debilitating for some sufferers, but treatment options are available to reduce symptoms and make the condition more bearable. It’s always recommended to seek advice from a Doctor, and particularly important not to self-diagnose.

Psoriasis symptoms can mirror other conditions, so a formal diagnosis will ensure you can use the proper treatment for yourself.

Related content: A Guide to the Gut-Skin Axis

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