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How Light Helps Fight Psoriasis

May 23, 2009 | 44,647 views

sun, light, skinUltraviolet light is a proven treatment for psoriasis, and sunshine itself can also beat back the chronic autoimmune disorder of the skin. But explaining light’s therapeutic effects has been difficult.

A new clinical trial is attempting to find out the reasons. Researchers have recruited the first of what will be 20 patients who will visit the hospital three times a week for up to four months to receive narrowband ultraviolet light B (UVB) treatment. Patients will give skin and blood samples as the treatment takes its course, giving the scientists the possibility to study what is happening at the molecular level as the skin gets better.

UVB therapy is known to kill off T cells, which are partly to blame for the inflammation caused by the disease. UVB may target a pathway involving two immune system proteins called cytokines, which could disrupt certain types of T cells and another specialized group of immune-directing dendritic cells.


Vitamin D Dose Recommendations
Age Dosage
Below 5 35 units per pound per day
Age 5 - 10 2500 units
Age 18 - 30 5000 units
Pregnant Women 5000 units
There is no way to know if the above recommendations are correct. The ONLY way to know is to test your blood. You might need 4-5 times the amount recommended above. Ideally your blood level of 25 OH D should be 60ng/ml.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Ultraviolet B light (UVB) therapy is an effective and natural method to treat psoriasis, and now researchers are looking into exactly how and why it works so well.


Psoriasis is a chronic disease of your immune system that causes cells to build up on the surface of your skin, leading to thick, red, scaly patches that are very itchy and sometimes painful. Up to 7.5 million Americans suffer from the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Again, although psoriasis appears as a skin condition, it is actually an autoimmune disease. Part of the reaction occurs when a type of white blood cell called a T cell mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. These overactive T cells then trigger other immune responses that collectively speed up the growth cycle of skin cells, causing them to move to the outermost layer of your skin in a matter of days rather than weeks.

Because the dead skin cannot be removed quickly enough, it builds up into the thick patches characteristic of psoriasis.

UVB therapy likely works so well because it helps to kill off T cells that contribute to the inflammation associated with psoriasis. But the researchers are also interested in finding out whether UVB targets a pathway involving two immune system proteins, which may also disrupt certain types of T cells and other immune system cells.

It will be interesting to hear what the team finds out, but in the meantime you can continue to use UVB light, and sunlight, as an effective psoriasis treatment.

The Bright Side of Psoriasis

Light therapy is a natural way to help treat psoriasis, and is far preferable to topical steroid creams, which can wreak havoc with your adrenal system.

It works, in part, because UV rays in sunlight and certain types of artificial light kill off the activated T cells in your skin. This slows down cell turnover and reduces the scaling and inflammation of your skin. Even brief daily exposures to sunlight may help improve psoriasis, as can controlled doses of UVB light from an artificial light source.

Ideally, you’ll want to get your vitamin D from appropriate sunshine exposure because UVB radiation on your skin will not only metabolize vitamin D, but will also help restore ideal skin function. High amounts of UVB exposure directly on affected skin -- but not so much as to cause sunburn! -- will greatly improve the quality of your skin.

Vitamin D in the form of sun exposure is actually one of your best choices when choosing natural therapies for psoriasis.

I produced a one-hour lecture that explains the health benefits of this long under-appreciated vitamin, so if you haven’t seen it already, I strongly recommend you take the time to watch this free video now.

However, if you can’t get sufficient amounts of sun during the winter months, a high-quality safe tanning bed can suffice. A safe tanning bed will provide the optimized forms of UVA and UVB wavelengths, without dangerous magnetic ballasts.

Prevention is Your First Line of Defense

No one knows for sure what triggers psoriasis in some people, but it can certainly be triggered by environmental factors and dozens of other external irritants like the following:

  • Laundry detergent and soaps
  • Household and workplace chemicals
  • Perfumes
  • Animal dander
  • Metals (such as nickel in jewelry)

So avoiding these irritants, if they prove to be problematic for you, is a must. But there are many other triggers as well, and you should be aware of these top factors that could be contributing to your itchy skin:

1. Your diet: A diet high in sugar and processed or refined foods can wreak havoc on all aspects of your health. The condition may also be related to food allergies or intolerances.


If you were to visit my clinic outside of Chicago as a new patient, one of the first steps we would advise would be to go on a gluten-free diet for a number of weeks and carefully observe any health improvements. This is an enormously common problem and many of our patients are surprised to find how much improvement they actually achieve from this step.

Avoiding grains will also reduce the amount of sugar in your system, which will normalize your insulin levels and reduce any and all inflammatory conditions you may have, including inflammation in your skin.

Other common allergens include milk and eggs. I recommend you do an elimination trial with these foods as well. You should see some improvement in about a week, sometimes less, after eliminating them from your diet if either of them is causing you trouble.

2. Lack of animal-based omega-3 fats. When working with any type of skin condition, you need to make sure your skin is optimally hydrated. Skin creams are rarely the answer here, rather you’ll want to hydrate your skin from the inside out by consuming high quality, animal-based omega-3 fats in your diet. Your best sources for omega-3s are animal-based fats like krill oil or fish oil.

3. Stress: Stress absolutely worsens psoriasis and may also trigger it. So make sure you are taking good care of your emotional health.

4. Weather: Cold, dry winter weather worsens psoriasis, whereas sunny, hot, humid conditions make it better. If you struggle with psoriasis and have the option of choosing where to reside, you may want to keep this in mind.

5. Lack of good bacteria in your gut. Many don’t realize this, but the health and quality of your skin is strongly linked to the health of your gut. I recommend taking a high-quality probiotic to ensure optimal digestive health. Eating fermented foods like kefir and natto can be used for this purpose as well.

A Quick Tip to Stop the Itch

If you address the issues I mentioned above, including getting plenty of safe sun exposure, you should be able to clear up psoriasis at its source in time. But I realize the painful, itchy skin associated with this condition calls for immediate relief.

Again, please do not reach for a topical steroid cream for this purpose. Long-term use of steroid creams can result in side effects such as thin, fragile, dry skin and even suppression of your adrenal glands. Plus you’ll likely develop a tolerance to them, making them ineffective over time.

A much better option is to simply put a saltwater compress over the itchy area.

You’ll want to use a high-quality natural salt, such as Himalayan salt. Simply make a solution with warm water, soak a compress, and apply the compress over the affected area. You’ll be amazed to find the itching will virtually disappear!

Secondly, you’ll want to reduce your exposure to harsh soaps and drying out your skin with excessive bathing. Use a very mild soap when you cleanse your skin, especially in the winter, to avoid stripping your skin of moisture, and do so only when necessary as opposed to automatically every day.

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