One of the readers of our blog has recently asked me to give some tips about how to relieve psoriasis itching because it is giving him sleepless nights. Psoriasis is characterized by a high degree of skin dryness, coupled with skin inflammation and itching. If we observe closely, it seems that itching is not the primary symptom. It is actually a byproduct of other two symptoms- Skin dryness and inflammation.
When your skin is extremely dry and inflamed- you are prone to rub it and then a chain reaction starts- the more you itch, the more intense it becomes. Eventually, you end up making your psoriasis worse. It is known as Itch-Scratch cycle.
Also, this continuous itching can hamper your personal and professional life badly. For example- improper sleep, lack of concentration, social isolation, lack of self esteem and many others. All these negative after-effects would lead to more stress and anxiety in your life and would take you few more steps away from psoriasis healing because stress is one of the most obvious culprits for psoriasis.
Important note: Sometimes, during the early stages of recovery, the itching increases. Don’t worry about that. It simply indicates that you are healing yourself from inside. So, keep walking on the path of holistic healing because a healthy skin and body awaits you 🙂
How to Relieve Psoriasis Itching
We have understood this fact very well that Psoriasis is a gut related disorder and the lesions on your skin are just a reflection of the internal disorder. Hence, the real healing is an Inside-Out process where you focus on internal body cleaning, re-strengthening of the whole digestive tract and stress management. Various pillars of Psoriasis healing are:
- Restrictive psoriasis diet
- Positive lifestyle
- Use of dietary supplements and herbs
- Stress management techniques like Meditation, Yoga, Relaxation
- Use of natural/ herbal topical solutions such as creams, oils and shampoos
All said and done, this is a long term journey and the results come slowly. Gradually, the psoriasis lesions would start disappearing and hence, the related symptoms would also fade away.
But, if the psoriasis itching is beyond your tolerance limit and it is taking a toll on your life, then definitely, you need to do something about it.
Let us understand various lifestyle related countermeasures which can help calm down the affected skin and relieve itching:
- Stress management
We itch more when we are stressed or anxious!!
A case study, published in the The British Journal of Dermatology, August 2012 issue concludes that when you are emotionally vulnerable, you itch more.
Stress is a common trigger for psoriasis. That we all know. But, now, it is interesting to see that under the attack of stress, you can just rub the psoriasis lesions madly without even knowing.
Below stress management initiatives not only relieve the psoriasis itching, but helps in internal body healing also:
> Regular exercise is a proven stress buster. It increases the production of chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are positive mood enhancers. Also, regular exercise helps in reliving obesity to reduce inflammation. Psoriatic people have compromised digestive tract and regular exercise can strengthen the digestive tract.
> Relaxation techniques such as Meditation and Yoga calm your mind and clear your thoughts to relieve stress. Practicing Yoga for psoriasis helps in internal body detox also which has its own benefits.
> Spend time with your family members and friends. Try to be more open about your skin problem and discuss about it openly. It would lift a lot of burden off you.
> Spare some time for your hobbies such as dancing, gardening and outdoor games to name a few.
In case of complex emotional issues, you can consult a counselor for professional help.
- Keep your skin’s natural moisture intact
Your skin is blessed with a certain level of natural moisture and it can help neutralize the dryness effect of psoriasis up to some extent.
> During bathing, you may add Epsom salt or Dead sea salt in the warm water bath and soak in it for 20 to 25 minutes. Adding 2 to 3 teaspoons of baking soda in this soaking bath further helps in reducing the itching. After bathing, pat dry your skin gently with a fluffy bath towel and immediately (within 2 to 3 minutes) use a natural skin moisturizer to keep the natural moisture lock in before it evaporates.
> During winter, avoid hot water bath. Hot water bath strips off the natural moisture from your skin. Use warm water instead. Also, try to limit the bathing time to 10 minutes.
> Keep your skin moisturized. You can apply a natural skin moisturizer/ moisturizing cream up to three times a day- in the morning after bathing, in the evening after returning home from the work and at night before going to bed. Do remember that moisturizing cream is thicker than a moisturizer, hence, more effective on dry skin. If you are looking for cheaper alternatives, then you can opt for topical oils such as virgin coconut oil, neem oil, tea tree oil etc. You can either use these oils alone or in combination with each other. The best idea would be- to use a natural skin moisturizing cream for face and a mixture of the above mentioned oils for rest of the body parts. Some people find a mixture of virgin coconut oil and tea tree oil very effective while others find neem oil mixed with virgin coconut oil better. It is quite user specific. Hence, try yourself and find the right option for you.
> Avoid steroids based harsher topical treatments. Do you know that most of the steroids based topical creams, shampoos and soaps primarily work to rub off the psoriasis lesions harshly without bothering much about the natural moisture of your skin. Prolonged use of these products can make your skin (and hairs) dry, brittle and lifeless. Going further, various steroidal topical creams make your skin thin also. Hence, stop using these products and opt for natural/ herbal products which are quite effective on psoriasis lesions and gentle on your skin (and scalp). I have already discussed in detail about how to select soap and shampoo for psoriasis.
> Stay away from Perfumed/ scented products. A natural/ herbal topical product would either be non scented or naturally scented. That’s pretty fine. If you are using a non herbal product, make sure that it is non scented. Most of the artificially perfumed products contain alcohol and phthalates (chemicals) which can make your skin further dry. Not only the topical products, but, other household products such as detergents, cleansers and fabric softeners should also be mildly scented only. Do check the label if they are marked “fragrance free” or “hypoallergenic”. Hypoallergenic means that the product is less likely to cause any allergic reaction.
> Drink enough water. Drink plenty of water throughout out the day. It hydrates your skin and maintain the natural moisture level. Also, it helps in the smooth elimination of body wastes in the form of urine, stool and sweat. Doctors recommend drinking at least 2 liters of water (8 cups) a day. For psoriatic people, this standard is a littler higher. We should drink at least 3 liters (12-14 cups) of water every day for good results. Results would be even better if we can include some warm water along with normal cool water. Avoid ice chilled water as it gives a shock effect to your digestive tract and hampers the digestion process.
> Don’t be too harsh to your skin. Scratching the skin never helps. The urge of scratching is very intense and hard to get over. But, with practice, you can learn to tame this scratching tendency. The next time, when you feel a strong urge for scratching- just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Try to shift your focus from itch to your breath. With practice, you would develop a sort of self control. In her book- Psoriasis Healing from Inside-Out– Heather J. Ferris has explained the use of deep breathing exercise to master self control over the scratching habit.
> Choose your clothing wisely. If you have inverse psoriasis, then avoid inner wears made up of synthetics like nylon or polyester because they have poor sweat absorbing properties and hence, excessive sweating can cause itching and scratching. Replace them with natural fibers such as cotton and rayon. They have better moisture management properties. Similarly, avoid tight clothing because they can rub against the psoriasis lesion frequently to stimulate itching. Choose easy fitting natural clothing for less friction and better sweat absorption.
> Quit Smoking. There is no concession in that. Smoking is, certainly, one of the most harmful lifestyle habit a psoriatic person can have. Research studies show that smoking is a bigger culprit for woman than men dealing with psoriasis.
> Limit your Alcohol consumption if not possible to quit completely. The harmful effects of frequent drinking include- skin dryness, nutritional deficiency, obesity, yeast overgrowth (Candida) and liver damage. In case, you are on methotrexate to manage your psoriasis, then alcohol is a big NO for you. Long term consumption of methotrexate impairs your liver so as alcohol. Their combined effect can seriously damage your liver.
> Avoid sugar- the refined, white sugar that we add in various food preparations and drinks certainly tops the list of “not to eat” foods for natural healing of psoriasis. It is highly acidic in nature; feeds the bad bacteria (and yeast) in your gut; accumulates toxins in your liver; reduces body immunity and triggers itching.
> Limit your overall salt consumption and replace table salt (iodized common salt) with a better, natural alternative like Himalayan pink salt.
Quite interestingly, sometimes, drinking a glass of alkaline water such as lemon water can subside the severe itching in no time. Possibly, the alkaline water neutralizes the internal body acidity to tame the itching sensation.
Turmeric and Fish oil (Omega 3 fatty acids) helps
Curcumin and Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most potent anti-inflammatory nutrients that I have come across. Oral consumption of turmeric (curcumin) capsules and fish oil (omega 3 fats) capsules can help immensely to reduce skin inflammation. Lesser inflamed skin means lesser itching.
As we all know, there is no “one for all” treatment available to overcome psoriasis. Similarly, no single itch remedy would be equally effective for all the psoriatic people. Try the above discussed easy to adopt remedies and discover the best suited ones for you.