Natural Psoriatic Arthritis Treatments from a Functional Medicine Provider
Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes not only the red, scaly patches of skin typical of psoriasis, but also inflammatory joint pain. While conventional treatments such as medication and physical therapy can help manage the psoriatic arthritis symptoms, here’s where they go wrong: they don’t get at the root cause of psoriatic arthritis.
Conventional medicine focuses on treating the skin or joints, but forgets about the fact that psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease. That means the most effective natural treatments for psoriatic arthritis have to address any immune system imbalances and the underlying causes.
In this article, I will explore holistic approaches to relieve pain and improve the overall quality of life for those living with psoriatic arthritis. A variety of natural remedies have shown promising results in reducing inflammation and easing joint discomfort. If you’re ready to take control of your psoriatic arthritis symptoms, keep reading to discover the natural remedies for psoriatic arthritis we use at the Caplan Health Institute. Our approach has been highly successful at improving the health of psoriatic arthritis patients.
What is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic autoimmune condition. It’s one of the autoimmune diseases that affect the joints, and it also affects the skin. It’s a form of arthritis that occurs in about 30% of people with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition characterized by red, itchy, and scaly patches.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, making it difficult to perform daily activities. It can affect any joint in the body, including the fingers, toes, knees, hips, and spine. In addition to joint symptoms, individuals with psoriatic arthritis may also experience fatigue, pitted nails, and eye inflammation. The severity of the condition can vary from person to person, ranging from mild to severe.
Psoriatic arthritis is thought to be related to an abnormal immune response that leads to inflammation and autoimmune damage of a person’s own joints and skin. Autoimmune diseases like psoriatic arthritis arise when a person’s immune system attacks their own tissues by mistake. Conventional medicine does not know what causes psoriatic arthritis, but genetics, immune system dysfunction, and environmental factors have been proposed. Psoriatic arthritis often develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can occur at any age. It affects both men and women equally.
Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms
The inflammation and autoimmune problems associated with psoriatic arthritis can cause symptoms throughout the body. These include:
- Deformed hands and feet
- Flaky scalp
- Lower back pain
- Neck pain
- Painful and swollen feet
- Pitted nails or nails lifted from their beds
- Red eyes
- Scaly, inflamed patches of skin on the scalp, elbows, or knees (typical of psoriasis)
- Swollen fingers and toes
Where Conventional Psoriatic Arthritis Treatments Go Wrong
Conventional treatments for psoriatic arthritis focus on controlling inflammation to slow down the progression of the disease. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to reduce pain and inflammation. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are prescribed to slow down the progression of the disease and protect the joints from further damage. Biologic drugs, which are a type of DMARD, target specific parts of the immune system to reduce inflammation. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are often recommended to improve joint mobility and function.
While these treatments can be effective in managing the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, the problem is that they don’t get at the root cause. Or as I like to say, the root cause of the root cause.
A lot of conventional doctors will zoom in on whether it’s a joint problem or a skin problem, depending on your symptoms. And then they’ll refer you to a rheumatologist or dermatologist, or both.
But the joints aren’t the problem, and the skin isn’t the problem. The problem is the immune system.
Because it’s an autoimmune disease, you can’t just treat the surface of the skin or only treat the joint inflamamtioninflammation. We have to look at what’s driving that inflammatory process. What’s really behind the excess inflammation in the body? Why is the immune system causing this type of attack against these tissues? Those are the questions we want to answer in order to achieve a psoriatic arthritis cure, or at the very least turn off the autoimmune process and the inflammation-driven symptoms.
Psoriatic Arthritis Diet
A lot of people that have arthritis problems—whether it’s psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis—will have food sensitivities that cause problems for them. For example, arthritis patients will may have issues with nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and chilis. Eating these foods can act as psoriatic arthritis triggers and lead to more inflammation in these patients.
With skin psoriasis, we find a lot of people have reactions to other foods like nuts and legumes. A few of my patients had their psoriasis clear up when they stopped eating nuts like almonds. One way to help people figure out what foods might cause problems is to identify what foods they most commonly eat. Of all of our patients who have problems with almonds, it’s usually because they have a lot of exposure to almonds. They’re using almond milk, they’re eating almond butter, they’re eating almonds, they’re having almond crackers. They’re overdoing it with these exposures because they’re trying to eat better and eat cleaner. And then they have a reaction to them. Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes are also super common. Pretty much every ethnic food has a lot of tomatoes.
In addition to getting a food sensitivity test, you can wear a continuous glucose monitor to gauge how your body is reacting to certain foods. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, continuous glucose monitors can turn up surprising reactions to foods.
Exercise and Psoriatic Arthritis
If you have joint pain, the last thing you probably feel like doing is exercise. But if there’s pain and inflammation in a specific area, it’s important to increase more blood flow to that area. Exercise becomes very important to someone with arthritis to keep the inflammation down and to flush out the inflammatory fluid in the joints.
Exercise helps strengthen the muscles, improve joint mobility, and reduce pain and stiffness. It can also help maintain a healthy weight, which is important for individuals with psoriatic arthritis, as excess weight can put additional stress on the joints.
Low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and walking are generally well-tolerated by individuals with psoriatic arthritis. These exercises provide cardiovascular benefits without putting excessive strain on the joints. Engaging in activities such as yoga and tai chi can also help improve flexibility, balance, and overall well-being.
You can tell if you’re exercising too hard by using a continuous glucose monitor. Overly intense exercise can spike cortisol levels, which lead to blood sugar rises that are detected by the monitor.
Be Careful What You Put on Your Skin
Even though we want to get at the root cause, it’s a good idea not to do anything that will make the problem worse. I advise my patients to be careful not to use any products on the skin that are harsh or contain chemicals that irritate the skin. If the immune system is already attacking the skin, using chemicals and toxins like those found in a lot of conventional personal care products will make the situation worse. Be mindful of the ingredients in soaps, makeup, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. What you put on your skin matters, but it’s not necessarily going to fix the root problem.
Is Psoriatic Arthritis Caused by Stress?
All of the factors I’ve mentioned—food sensitivities, too little or too much exercise, what products you use on your skin—can all put stress on the body. This, in turn, can make your psoriatic arthritis worse. So when we say stress management may help psoriatic arthritis, we mean not only strategies like meditation, deep-breathing exercises, and yoga, but also addressing all the other factors I’ve mentioned.
Psoriatic Arthritis Supplements
At Caplan Health Institute, we use several tried and true dietary supplements for psoriatic arthritis patients and we also use a personalized approach that dictates what supplements will work best for you.
One popular herb for arthritis is turmeric. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin can help alleviate joint pain and reduce inflammation in the body. Turmeric may also improve psoriasis symptoms.
Other psoriatic arthritis supplements that we frequently use in our clinical practice are glutathione, which reduces a harmful inflammatory process known as excess oxidative stress, and omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain. There is a lot of good research on these supplements’ ability to soothe inflammation and support joint health.
Emu oil, either topically or orally, is another possible approach. Emu oil reduces inflammation and is applied on the skin to relieve joint pain. Animal studies also suggest it may promote wound healing, and a human study found that when applied to the nipples and areolas of breastfeeding mothers after each nursing, it improved skin hydration. Many other animal studies focused more on emu oil’s beneficial effects in autoimmune diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
A Personalized Approach to Psoriatic Arthritis
Any other supplements I recommend for psoriatic arthritis would have to be guided by the root causes of autoimmune disease that I uncover for each specific person. If they have hormonal imbalances or adrenal problems, we’ll have to focus on resolving those, both by using dietary supplements and focusing on lifestyle issues.
In psoriatic arthritis patients who have skin involvement, we look at the gut microbiome because the skin barrier is similar to the gut barrier. A disrupted microbiome in the body can cause problems with the immune system. In these people, we either use probiotics, or natural antimicrobials in somebody who has an overgrowth of bacteria.
In patients reacting to food, we always look at whether they’re digesting the food. If they’re not digesting food properly, it can lead to food sensitivities. Fixing leaky gut can also help some people with food sensitivities.
Live a Fulfilling and Pain-Free Life with Psoriatic Arthritis
As a functional medicine provider, I can help you find the most effective psoriatic arthritis treatment for you. Here’s how it works: sign up for a free 15-minute discovery consultation, and if you come on board as a patient, we’ll develop a personalized approach to healing your psoriatic arthritis pain and other symptoms. By ordering the right tests, we’ll dig down deep to the root cause of the root cause of your symptoms. The result? Natural solutions that last. Say goodbye to your painful, inflamed skin and your joint problems, and say hello to healthy skin and joints.
Board Certified in Integrative Medicine
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner