People with psoriasis try to remedy symptoms with different solutions, alternative remedies, and medications. New research points to the fact that there may be a link between low vitamin D levels and psoriasis development. For many, increasing vitamin D may significantly improve symptoms.
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects about 2-3% of the general population. It primarily manifests on the skin in the form of inflammatory red, itchy patches. Skin cells rise to the skin’s surface too quickly because of an immune abnormality involving T-cells. Healthy skin will experience cell turnover once a month. People with psoriasis have skin cells that multiply 10 times faster than normal, causing an accumulation of skin cells on the surface. This creates the itchy plaques that characterize the condition.
What Is Vitamin D?
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is quite unique. When the skin is in direct sunlight, the body can make and store vitamin D. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D actually transforms into a hormone that may support the brain, immune system, nervous system, lungs, cardiovascular system, bones, teeth, and insulin levels. The skin plays a role in the synthesis of vitamin D, and researchers characterize this as a complex reaction.
Newer evidence has slowly emerged that vitamin D may also modulate certain immune reactions and mechanisms. It’s also commonplace for people with psoriasis to have low vitamin D levels. Since vitamin D levels help regulate immune response, the low levels may contribute to the condition’s development, but this is not yet confirmed. While research is in preliminary stages, it’s possible that vitamin D supplementation may be an adjunctive treatment option for psoriasis patients. Continue reading to learn more.
Vitamin D’s Effect On Psoriasis
First of all, the epidermis consists of four layers: basal layer, spinous layer, stratum granulosum, and stratum corneum. Several in vitro studies found that vitamin D promotes keratinocyte proliferation. Keratinocytes are the primary cells that exist in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. A decrease or deficiency of vitamin D, or loss of function of its receptor, has been associated with epidermis disruption. This may cause hyperproliferation of the epidermis’ basal layer, causing the classic psoriatic plaques. By regulating the synthesis of glycosylceramides that are necessary for the integrity of the skin’s barrier, researchers believe vitamin D can reduce the risk of psoriasis.
Researchers also found that UVB light therapy may be effective at reducing symptoms of psoriasis. UVB light therapy mimics the sun’s UVB rays, which trigger vitamin D production in the skin. Currently, however, there is not enough evidence that proves that light therapy alone is responsible for improving the condition.
Topical Vitamin D For Psoriasis
Topical vitamin D therapy proves to be a popular method for people with localized plaque psoriasis. It’s a common first line of defense that has proven efficacy and safety. Certain areas of the body are sensitive to steroid creams, but topical vitamin D ointments are much gentler on those areas. Topical vitamin D therapy doesn’t exhibit the same adverse effects as corticosteroids. One meta analysis found that topical vitamin D therapies were comparable to corticosteroids. Additionally, they exhibited superior effects when combined with a potent topical steroid.
How To Get More Vitamin D
There are several ways to increase vitamin D levels in the body. The easiest way is to expose the skin to direct sunlight, which consists of both UVA and UVB rays. UVA exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer, so psoriatic patients should consult a doctor to see how much sun exposure is necessary. Vitamin D supplements are also beneficial ways to raise vitamin D levels. According to the Institute of Medicine, an upper limit of 4,000 IU per day may prevent psoriatic side effects. Lastly, there are are some food sources of vitamin D, but try to steer clear of fortified foods. It’s best to focus on more natural foods that contain vitamin D.