The other day my friend Kim told me she was feeling depressed. She regularly suffers from skin breakouts—thick, red patches of skin covered with white and silvery scales.
Her most recent outbreak was noticeably featured on her face, elbows, and around the scalp. Other days, it shows up in other areas of the body, such as her knees, buttocks, backs of the wrists, lower back, palms, fingernails, soles of the feet, toenails, and mouth.
You see, Kim has psoriasis—a common skin disorder that affects roughly three percent to four percent of the American population. Kim also noticed other symptoms with her psoriasis, including dull, thimble-like nails, dry skin, and blisters on the palms of her hands and soles of her feet.
Psoriasis has also been linked with inflammatory arthritis of the toes and fingers, a condition Kim has recently developed as well. As mentioned, Kim also felt depressed. As it turns out, depression and psoriasis have a lot in common as well. Let me explain…
Does Psoriasis Increase Risk of Depression?
Both depression and psoriasis are thought to be connected with the following other health issues:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Hormonal imbalances
- Fungal overgrowth, like candida
- Other nutrient deficiencies, such as B12 and omega-3 fatty acids
- An overall poor diet
It is not a surprise then research supports a link between psoriasis and major depression. In a new study published in the journal JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Dermatology, researchers linked psoriasis with an increased risk of major depression.
For the study, researchers examined data from participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2012. A health questionnaire helped diagnose major depression. The results found 351 psoriasis cases and 968 major depression cases. What’s interesting is that 16.5% of psoriasis patients also met the criteria of major depression. Further analysis found that 23.6% of psoriasis patients reported that symptoms of depression caused problems with daily functioning. On the other hand, 15.4% reported depression symptoms without psoriasis.
Previous studies have also connected depression with psoriasis. A report from 2014 published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that over 10% of psoriasis patients suffer from clinical depression, and twice as many have depressive symptoms. A survey from the National Psoriasis Foundation also found that 63% of psoriasis patients believe their emotional well-being is significantly affected as well.
Natural Remedies for Depressive Psoriasis Patients
Needless to say, depression and psoriasis have a lot in common. They also share similar treatment methods. For instance, phototherapy is a conventional treatment used in depression and psoriasis. Phototherapy is a type of ultraviolet light exposure that can help clear up psoriasis for many consecutive months. Studies have also found that phototherapy is a safe and effective treatment for seasonal depression, and possibly non-seasonal depression.
1. An anti-inflammatory/Mediterranean Diet
A healthy diet is incredibly important to treat depression and psoriasis. Both conditions may improve from similar eating habits. A 2003 study published in the Rheumatology International suggested that minimizing the consumption of pro-inflammatory foods and substances may help improve inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis. The Mediterranean diet contains many anti-inflammatory foods and spices.
In a 2009 prospective study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers suggested that adequate omega-3 intake from fish, monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil, and natural folate and other B vitamins from vegetables, fruits, and legumes could significantly reduce the risk of depression. Effective anti-inflammatory herbs and spices include garlic, ginger, rosemary, basil, fennel, anise, cumin, and cloves. An anti-inflammatory diet is also high in essential fatty acid sources, such as cold-water fish (i.e. salmon) and freshly grounded flaxseed.
2. Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Psoriasis and other inflammatory conditions are low in people who consume high amounts of fish oils. Fish oils are also high in omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). One double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the journal The Clinical Investigator in 1993 found that infusions of omega-3 decreased the severity of guttate psoriasis (psoriasis that appears as tiny, pink droplets on the skin) by between 45% to 76%. Other studies suggest an imbalance in omega-3 and omega-6 will increase depression rates.
A high quality fish oil supplement with EPA and DHA, and a tablespoon of grounded flaxseed will both help people with depression and psoriasis.
3. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
Low levels of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are also linked with depression and psoriasis. For instance, a large cohort study with people 65 and older found that depression status and severity was linked with low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is also important in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis.
Skin cells will convert 7-dehydrocholesterol to vitamin D3 from ultraviolet-B (UVB) light. Although sunlight can be helpful for psoriasis and depression, vitamin D supplementation is also highly recommended to help improve both conditions.
4. Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B complex supplementation is also used for both incidences of psoriasis and depression. High homocysteine and lowered levels of folic acid are associated with an increase in the severity of psoriasis. That is important since homocysteine levels will be elevated in those deficient in B vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Deficiencies in folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are also known to cause depression. As a result, a high-quality B complex supplement can help address the B vitamin deficiencies related to both depression and psoriasis.
5. The Homeopathic Remedy Sepia
Sepia is the homeopathic remedy derived from the ink of the cuttlefish. It is considered one of the best homeopathic remedies for psoriasis. It is a good remedy for those with depressive psoriasis since depression is a symptom in those who require sepia. Cold air or dampness will worsen the conditions; however, bathing or a warm room is thought to improve symptoms.
Sepia is also recommended for hormonal imbalances. Other homeopathic remedies prescribed for both depression and psoriasis include arsenicum album and staphysagria.
Other Natural Treatment Methods for Depressive Psoriasis
There are other natural remedies for psoriasis and depression. It is a good idea for depressive psoriasis patients to seek emotional support, such as a body-centered psychotherapist or a life coach to help improve their mental outlook. Stress reduction practices can also improve mental outlook, including exercises like restorative yoga, tai chi, qigong, or Pilates.
Getting adequate sleep can further help reduce stress related with depression and psoriasis development. Most people should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Certain food allergies can also trigger or worsen an episode of depression and psoriasis. Common food allergens to avoid include wheat, gluten, dairy, and citrus. Alcohol should also be avoided, since it can trigger psoriasis and act as a depressant.
Other natural remedies for depression include
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
- 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP),
- Ginkgo biloba
- DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone).
Other Natural Remedies for Psoriasis include:
- Aloe vera
- Capsaicin from cayenne pepper
- Curcumin from turmeric
- Milk thistle
- Hydrochloric acid
- Vitamin A
- Digestive enzyme
- Gentian root
- Reishi mushroom
- Probiotic supplementation.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Psoriasis, Risk of Depression in the U.S. Population,” JAMA Network web site, September 30, 2015; http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/psoriasis-risk-of-depression-in-the-u-s-population/.
Balch, J., et al., Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 191-197, 474-478.
Schalock, P.C., “Psoriasis,” Merck Manuals web site; http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/psoriasis-and-scaling-disorders/psoriasis, last accessed October 5, 2015.
Coryell, W., “Depression,” Merck Manuals web site; http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/mood-disorders/depression, last accessed October 5, 2015..
Murray, M., N.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Third Edition (New York: First Atria Paperback, 2012), 478-502, 923-931.
Cohen, B.E., et al., “Psoriasis and the Risk of Depression in the US Population,” JAMA Dermatology, 2015; doi: 10.1001/jmdermatol.2015.3605.
Dowlatshahi, E.A., et al., “The prevalence and odds of depressive symptoms and clinical depression in psoriasis patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2014; 134(6): 1542-1551.
Lam, R.W., et al., “Phototherapy for depressive disorders: a review,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 1989; 34(2): 140-147.
Adam, O., et al., “Anti-inflammatory effects of a low arachidonic acid diet and fish oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” Rheumatology International, 2003; 23(1): 27-36.
Sanchez-Villegas, A., et al., “Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up (SUN) cohort,” Archives of General Psychiatry, 2009; 66(10): 1090-1098.
Hoogendijk, W.J., et al., “Depression is associated with decreased 25-hydroxyvitamin D and increased parathyroid hormone levels in older adults,” Archives of General Psychiatry, 2008; 65(5): 508-512.
Grimminger, F., et al., “A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of n-3 fatty acid based lipid infusion in acute, extended guttate psoriasis. Rapid improvement of clinical manifestations and changes in neutrophil leukotriene profile,” The Clinical Investigator, 1993; 71(8): 634-643.