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Better Nutrition (1989-90)

Nutrient therapy relieves skin ailments; B-complex vitamins, Omega-3 fish oils, vitamin C and zinc help alleviate psoriasis and eczema

Nutrient therapy relieves skin ailments; B-complex vitamins, Omega-3 fish oils, vitamin C and zinc help alleviate psoriasis and eczema

Frank Murray

Nutrient Therapy Relieves Skin Ailments

B-complex vitamins, Omega-3 fish oils, vitamin C and zinc help alleviate psoriasis and eczema

Since the skin is the largest organ in the body, it is subject to a number of afflictions. Fortunately, most of these can be eased somewhat with dietary intervention and supplements.

For women ages 25 to 45, acne is reaching almost epidemic proportions, according to James E. Fulton Jr., M.D. Ph.D., founder of the Acne Research Institute, Inc., Newport Beach, Calif. The problem is exacerbated by stress, birth control pills, environmental pollutants and ingredients in some commercial cosmetics. For those susceptible to acne, a high iodine intake also can be a problem, Dr. Fulton said.

In Orthomolecular Medicine For Physicians, Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., discusses the case of a 16-year-old boy who was depressed because of a severe case of acne. The patient was started on a sugar-free and milk-free diet, along with a daily dose of 3 grams of niacin, 3 grams of vitamin C, 250 mg of vitamin B6 and 220 mg of zinc sulfate.

“One month later his face was better,” Dr. Hoffer said. “The vivid reddening had begun to recede, his face was no longer infected and his mood was better. He told me he was no longer considering suicide. After three months his face was almost clear. He was cheerful and had begun to resume his social activities at school and elsewhere.”

Another patient, age 29, had suffered from acne since she was 13. An antibiotic and birth control medication offered only temporary relief. And she had become allergic to a number of ointments as well as to soap. Sunlamp radiation improved the acne on her face but worsened it on her chest. A vitamin A, vitamin E and B-complex preparation had not alleviated the problem and she was bothered by an itchy scalp, white areas on her fingernails and a pungent odor under her arms.

Dr. Hoffer suggested that she eliminate sugar and milk from her diet and prescribed supplements of niacin, vitamin C, vitamin B6, cod liver oil, dolomite and zinc sulfate.

“After a week her acne began to clear,” Dr. Hoffer said. “After three weeks her face was better but she had several mild relapses. Three months later she was normal but had to increase her zinc sulfate to 220 mg per day. She has now been clear of acne for eight years.”

A study by Peter E. Pochi, M.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine, found that stress triggers an overproduction of adrenal male hormones in women, which can result in acne and more serious problems such as polycystic ovarian disease.

“Past studies on the underlying causes of persistent acne in women have assessed the role of higher testosterone and adrenal and pituitary hormone levels,” Dr. Pochi said. “However, this was the first time that estrogen levels also were measured. Our research shows that the same hormonal imbalances present in women with polycystic ovarian disease, which may cause infertility, are also present in women with certain types of persistent acne, despite the fact that these women don’t necessarily show the usual symptoms associated with hormonal upset — excess hair growth, menstrual irregularities and deepening voices.”

Affecting between 5 and 6 million Americans, psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder in which red, scaly plaques and lesions appear on the skin, elbows, knees, trunk and lower extremities. In severe cases, psoriasis can cover between 30 and 90 percent of the body.

Thought to be hereditary, psoriasis is caused by an abnormal rate of skin cell production. Normally, skin renews itself constantly, with a cell life of 26-28 days. With psoriasis, the cells reproduce every three to four days. Therefore, before cells can mature and shed, new cells appear and form plaques on the surface of the skin.

An earlier study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that 16 of 58 patients with psoriasis had a deficiency in folic acid, the B vitamin. Apparently even a mild folic acid deficiency can affect some patients with this disease.

In California Medicine, Dr. John M. Douglass reported that six patients with psoriasis all improved on an elimination diet. One patient improved after eliminating citrus fruits, milk, corn and nuts, while the other five improved by avoiding acidic foods such as coffee, soda, tomatoes and pineapples.

In a double-blind study initially reported in Lancet, 18 patients with psoriasis were given 10 fish oil capsules, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, daily, while 18 controls received placebos containing olive oil. The group taking fish oil capsules reported significant reductions in itching, redness and the size of the skin lesions. None of the people in the control group improved during the three-month study.

Fish oil capsules and a low-fat diet benefitted some of the patients with psoriasis at Marselisborg Hospital at the University of Aarhaus in Denmark. During the 4-month study, 58 percent of the 26 patients with psoriasis vulgaris reported moderate to excellent improvement; 19 percent experienced mild improvement, and 23 percent experienced no improvement.

In Growing Younger, Gershon M. Lesser, M.D., wrote that although psoriasis is difficult to treat, it can often be helped by avoiding stress, and including wheat germ, olive oil, borage oil, sunflower seed oil and fish oil in the diet. The psoriasis patients should use cotton clothing to cover psoriasis lesions and should exercise as often as possible. Dr. Lesser recommended supplements of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, lecithin and olive oil (unless it is already included in the diet.)

Eczema occurs as red skin rashes that appear in patches on the skin. It often is the result of an allergy and causes itching, burning and swelling.

An estimated 12 percent of all preschool children have eczema, according to Patrick Quillin, Ph.D., R.D., in Healing Nutrients. Asthma, eczema, hives and other symptoms often are caused by an allergic reaction to food, he said.

“Patients with atopic eczema have been found to have problems in fatty acid metabolism,” Dr. Quillin said. “They apparently have low or missing levels of a crucial enzyme for changing certain dietary fats into the desired prostaglandins for skin health. These patients have more cis-linoleic and less gamma-linoleic [GLA] acid in their system than normal. They probably have a defect in the ability to convert the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid, to a more complex fat, GLA.”

He added that oral doses of GLA were effective in treating many patients with atopic eczema. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, 50 patients with eczema found significant relief by using GLA.

Even if they are not allergic to anything, patients with severe cases of eczema, who have failed to respond to traditional treatment, may improve by eliminating coffee from their diet, according to U.S. Pharmacist. Improvement seems to occur only if the patient has been consuming about 10 cups of strong coffee daily and regularly drinks alcohol. Beer, nuts, chocolate and cocoa also can aggravate eczema.

Skin problems often are related to allergies, dietary indiscretions and occasionally vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A good diet and supplement program may go a long way towards improving these conditions.

PHOTO : Proper cleansing, combined with nutritional therapy, can solve most skin problems.

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