When you improve your gut health, chronic inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis, can improve.
People with autoimmune diseases tend to have a less diverse microbiota (gut bacteria) than those who don’t. Probiotics will diversify and improve the microbiota, which will reduce the inflammatory processes that cause the disease.
What’s an Autoimmune Disease?
The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) lists over one hundred autoimmune (AI) diseases and some of the most common include psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many others.
People who have an AI disease may have more than one at the same time, such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
The human body has trillions of white blood cells which are used to fight off infections from viruses and bacteria. Those who have an AI disease, one specific type of white cell, the T cell, goes rogue, attacking and destroying healthy tissue instead.
For those of us who have psoriasis, the T cells attack the lower skin layer called the dermis which causes red, itchy, flaky skin patches. We inherit AI diseases from one or both of our parents, and in my case, my father had psoriasis, and before him, his mother did.
Psoriasis Isn’t a Skin Disease
That seems like a strange statement to say that psoriasis isn’t a skin disease. If it was, that implies that those who suffer from it have defective skin in some way.
Yes, psoriasis is a disease of the skin, but it’s not caused by defective skin genes or an external factor. Instead, it’s an internal disease caused by having an unhealthy gut environment.
When we eat certain foods, the wrong kinds of bacteria thrive in our intestines. Omitting those foods and adding other missing nutrients will heal psoriasis.
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve that hard-wires the intestines directly into the brain. When we have too much of the “bad” bacteria in our intestines, the gut sends alarm signals to the brain to send in the troops to fight the inflammation.
The brain complies and sends in armies of T cells to fight the unseen enemy. Instead of killing the enemy, they attack healthy body parts, such as skin with psoriasis, the bone joints with rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, and the nerves with multiple sclerosis.
In many cases, the damage is permanent. Fortunately, with psoriasis, once the skin heals, it returns to normal and healthy skin again because the skin continually renews itself.
How To Heal Your Gut
If having an unhealthy gut is the key to getting psoriasis to heal, how do we do that?
Psoriasis is a very slow-moving disease, so it takes a long time to heal your gut. If you eat something that you’re sensitive to – a so-called “trigger food” – you’ll end up with a flare-up of your psoriasis four or more weeks later.
You may have noticed that you’ll get these mystery flares that come out of nowhere. You’re frustrated because you don’t know how long it will last, how bad it’ll be, or more importantly, what caused it in the first place.
When you consume a trigger food, about a month later, you’ll have a flare because you’ve triggered a massive inflammatory response in your gut that the brain tries to fight.
To heal your gut, you must omit the trigger foods from your diet and add foods that will reduce the inflammation. Then in time, your skin will heal. I detail all this in a separate article, Seven Ways to Reduce Inflammation to Help Your Psoriasis.
Probiotics Help Inflammation to Heal
So what exactly is a probiotic, and how is it helpful? As I mentioned, if you’re eating the wrong foods (typically simple starches like sugar, grains, potatoes, and legumes), the “bad” bacteria that induce an inflammatory response like to eat these simple starches, so you end up with more of them.
The “good” bacteria like to eat more complex foods like fruits and vegetables. If we have more of the good bacteria in our gut microbiota, they kick out the bad guys, and our inflammation goes down.
A probiotic is a method of repopulating the gut microbiota with the desired bacterial load, so systemic inflammation is reduced.
A 2015 study of psoriatic patients showed that they had less diverse bacterial microbiota than healthy control subjects, suggesting that the less diverse the microbiota, the more likely psoriasis will be present.
A 2017 survey of 1206 psoriatic patients showed that adding probiotics to the diet was a way to lessen the severity of the disease.
What’s the Best Source for Probiotics?
Probiotics come in many forms, including fermented foods and oral capsules.
There are many brands of probiotics sold at the local drug store and online, but unfortunately, most of those don’t work very well, because most of the bacteria can’t survive the stomach acid to make it to the gut.
However, there are specific types of probiotic capsules that have strains of bacteria that sporulate or self-encapsulate. These can survive the harsh stomach acid and become active once they arrive in the small intestine. Dr. Danielle’s probiotic is one brand that I recommend and personally use.
Another way to get probiotics is to eat fermented foods like sauerkraut. You must buy raw sauerkraut in the refrigerator section of the store. The kind sitting on the shelf next to the pickles in the condiment aisle is inert and has absolutely no probiotic value.
The raw sauerkraut has a far bigger probiotic payload than the capsules, and one study showed that two ounces of sauerkraut had more probiotics than an entire bottle of 100 probiotic capsules! This is why I eat raw kraut for breakfast every morning. I love the stuff, but if you don’t like the taste, use the sporulated capsules instead to get the most benefit.
There are other sources of probiotics such as yogurt, but most yogurt has a ton of sugar which is exactly the opposite of what we want in our diet.
Don’t Forget Prebiotics
You may not have heard of a prebiotic before. Prebiotics are the types of foods that the “good guys” want to eat. These are the more complex carbohydrates than sugar, grains, potatoes, and legumes. Consuming more fruits and vegetables is necessary to feed the good guys.
By adding more fruits and veggies to your diet and eliminating the simple foods, you’ll go a long way to help feed the bacteria that you want to keep around.
Dr. William Sears and other medical experts agree that we need seven to ten helpings of fruits and vegetables every single day to get the nutrition that’s crucial for our health. If you make a fist with your hand, that’s the equivalent to one helping of fruits or vegetables, and you need seven to ten of them every day! That’s a lot of food to pound down!
Depending upon where you live or what season of the year it is, you may also have trouble finding a rich variety of plants to eat.
My wife and I have been using a product called Juice Plus+ for nearly two years now. They pack 30 fruits and vegetables into their capsules, and I know that I’m getting all the micronutrients and phytonutrients from a wide variety of plants. This is a fantastic way to get prebiotics into the diet without any effort at all, and eight of the top ten most antioxidant-rich plants are in the capsules.
Juice Plus+ has over forty independent clinical studies that show the efficacy of the product in improving immune health and reducing inflammation.
The science is clear that those of us with psoriasis and other AI diseases can control our disease through diet modification. I’ve personally seen a dramatic improvement in my skin since I removed grains, legumes, and sugar from my diet and added probiotics and prebiotics.
Please connect with me here with any questions.