Friday, May 20, 2011

Gluten sensitivity and psoriasis

I ran into a friend last night after Rob and I took a walk around the neighborhood.  She noticed a red spot on my face and asked if I had been in the sun too much.  Nope.  Just psoriasis ruining my life.  I tell her about how much I've been to the doctor lately and how many different medications I'm on just to keep it this crappy looking.  I forgot she also had psoriasis. 

She tells me...I went gluten-free and my psoriasis is essentially gone.  She shows me her elbows.  There is nothing there! 

YAY!  Ugh.

You know all about me and trying to cut something completely out of my life.  How'd that whole no-yeast thing turn out?

I know a couple of people who have gone gluten-free and it has done wonders for them.  This is definitely incentive to try it.  This is the worst my psoriasis has been in probably 8 years.  But I so lack willpower and cutting something out just makes me want it more.  Gluten/wheat is in EVERYTHING.  Even frickin' Doritos CORN chips have wheat in them!


A growing body of evidence is beginning to show that there is a connection between psoriasis and gluten intolerance (celiac disease). For a small percentage of psoriasis sufferers there exists an important connection between what they eat and what happens to the skin.
When wheat flour is mixed with water, a complex protein called gluten develops. Gluten is what gives the dough of wheat an elastic structure that allows it to be crafted in a variety of ways. If wheat is high in gluten content it is called "brown" or "white" If it is called "weak" or "soft" the gluten content is low. If you are sensitive to gluten, avoiding wheat products containing gluten is the only way to prevent reaction.

About Gluten Intolerance

An estimated 2 million Americans suffer from an allergy that many don't even know exists. Celiac or gluten allergy could be the most common allergy afflicting Americans today. Recent research has revealed that an undiagnosed gluten allergy can be especially problematic for those suffering from psoriasis and other skin conditions. Though occasionally patients are asymptomatic, usually symptoms mimic other conditions, and often physicians misdiagnose it as Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS). The wide array of symptoms include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Canker sores
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular Menstrual Cycle
  • Joint Pain
  • Sleep Irregularity
Dermatitis Herpeformis, a persistent, itchy rash with red skin and watery blisters often appears on the knees, elbows, backs and buttocks of individuals with wheat allergies.

Celiac disease is a genetic condition where the body reacts to giladin, a gluten protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, by producing an enzyme called tissue transglutamise. The enzyme triggers an inflammatory reaction in the bowels which eventually leads to flattening of the villi lining the intestinal wall.

Villi, are finger like protrusions which line the sides of the intestines and filter out nutrients as waste passes through. When villi become flattened and unable to function, malnourishment can occur from vitamin deficiencies. If intestinal distress, and malnutrition aren't motivation enough, the Mayo Clinic website states that gluten intollerant people who continue to consume gluten are "at higher risk of developing cancer, especially bowel cancer or intestinal lymphoma."

Often celiac patients seek help from their doctors because they are suffering from mal-absorption problems and don't yet know the root cause. The most commonly seen problem is anemia due to lack of iron in the blood. Symptoms of anemia include: dizziness, insomnia, pale skin, and difficulty concentrating. Other often seen problems stem from lack of folic acid, B-12, Calcium and Vitamin D, all of which have troubling symptoms and some, like calcium deficiency, can lead to irreversible conditions such as osteoporosis. Those severely deficient in Vitamin K may experience abdominal bleeding. Because the villi are virtually stripped away, or severely incapacitated, often harmful bacteria build up in the small intestine causing a host of other problems such as Candida and/or Leaky Gut.

Celiac and Psoriasis

Since both celiac disease and psoriasis are conditions which affect the auto-immune system, research seeking connections between the two has recently increased. A 2004 article in Psoriasis Advance, a magazine published by the National Psoriasis Foundation, conducted an interview with Gerd Michaelsson, M.D., Ph.D, who in 1993 preformed a study which found that some patients with psoriasis also had one of the markers of celiac disease; increased antibodies to gliadin. Dr Michaelsson stressed that "most patients with psoriasis are not gluten intolerant. However, there is a subgroup with silent celiac disease/gluten intolerance and it is important to identify these patients, as there is a chance to considerably improve the skin lesions on the gluten-free diet (GFD). In some patients there may be a total or nearly total clearance on the diet. When gluten is reintroduced there is a flare up of the psoriasis." Dr. Michaelsson thinks that it is possible that some celiac sufferers may be predisposed to psoriasis, but have not had any problems since they adhere to a strict gluten-free diet.

An article in the April 2007 issue of World Journal of Gastroenterology, by L Abenavoli, L Leggio, G Gasbarrini, G Addolorato, seems to corroborate Dr. Michalessons research. Psoriasis patients who tested positive for the markers that indicate celiac and were put on a GFD. Researchers noticed "thirty of 33 patients strictly complied with GFD, have showed a significant decrease of psoriatic lesions." Celiac is a systemic disease, and not one that is isolated simply to the digestive system. The link between psoriasis is some people is clearly tied to a gluten-sensitive enteropathy (pathology [disease] of the intestine). While the cause for psoriasis still remains unknown, and may in fact be the result of numerous factors, celiac is a genetic condition.

The Psoriasis foundation quotes yet another researcher, Dr. Kruger who thinks that the link might just be odds "simple math dictates that it would be surprising if there weren't some people with both diseases." Indeed," Dr. Krueger says, "there is a certain small percentage of people in the general population with celiac disease, and a certain small percentage of people in the general population with psoriasis, so one should not be surprised to find a significant number of people who have both. Notwithstanding, many psoriatics go into remission when adhering to a GFD.

For many, the link between celiac and psoriasis is common sense. Digestive specialist Elizabeth Lispki, Ph.D., CCN asserts in her book Digestive Wellness, that diet is the cause of most auto-immune afflictions ranging from psoriasis to colitis. Dr. John O.A. Pagano and Deirdre Earls, RD, psoriasis specialists, believe that changing what we eat can help to alleviate psoriasis outbreaks.

At DermaHarmony we offer "Your Healing Diet, a Quick Guide to Reversing Psoriasis and Chronic Diseases with Healing Foods" by Deidre Earls RD, LD, an informative book which clearly outlines rules for an effective healing diet, to our clients. Though these diets don't rule out wheat completely, they suggest it be consumed occasionally in whole grain rather than processed form. All stress the importance of wheat avoidance for celiac sufferers. The consensus among these authors seems to be "healthy gut, healthy skin."


Has anyone else gone gluten-free?  How has it worked for you and how do you deal with eating out or passing up yummies that you know are bad for you?  How 'bout I just go with watermelon and protein shakes.  Does that work?


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  3. Thanks for this great article…