Imagine. You’re sitting on a bench enjoying the summer sun and suddenly your legs begin to itch and burn. You begin to scratch and the pain is excruciating, and you look down and your skin is blistering and red.
This may sound like a nightmare to some, but to about 7.5 million in the United States (according to the American Academy of Dermatology) this is a reality. It’s called psoriasis, and it can affect anyone, but more commonly individuals between the ages of 15 and 35.
Psoriasis is not contagious, nor are the lesions infectious. The actual cause of psoriasis is unknown, but doctors and scientists believe it has to do with the immune system. In normal skin, protein called cytokines are released to send the immune system messages, but in psoriasis, those signals get mixed up and the skin begins to thicken and becomes inflamed.
Typical treatment for psoriasis can include over-the-counter topical treatments, medications, and even phototherapy. But scientists are now learning that a more natural approach to preventing psoriasis flare-ups may exist.
Selenium is a trace element found in many foods that is essential for your body. The recommended dietary amount of 55mcg (micrograms) per day can be obtained through eating a variety of foods such as Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, halibut, and sardines, among others. But if you’re not one to typically eat these foods every day, you may be deficient in selenium. In fact a prospective study by Serwin et al1 discovered that a lack of selenium in the body was related to increase psoriasis flare-ups in patients who had to condition for more than 3 years. Recent studies have also shown that selenium supplementation can reduce markers of oxidative stress and can significantly reduce psoriasis symptoms.2
Want to make sure you’re getting enough selenium through diet? Eating two Brazil nuts per day can significantly increase your blood levels. Three ounces of yellowfin tuna also contain 131 percent of your recommended daily value, and three ounces of halibut or sardines contains 67 percent and 64 percent of you daily needs, respectively.
For vegan and vegetarians or those who simply do not enjoy these foods, a selenium supplementation may be recommended. Start with 200mcg daily and see if your symptoms subside within a few weeks. The upper tolerable intake of selenium is 400mcg, so speak with your doctor or dermatologist before taking more than 200mcg per day.
- Serwin A.B., et al. Selenium status in psoriasis and its relationship with alcohol consumption. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2002; 89: 127-137
- De Luca C, et al. Clinical and biochemical effects of coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, and selenium supplementation to psoriasis patients. 2009; 25 (3): 295-302
About the Author
Angelique Johnson is a Registered Nutrition and Dietetics Technician from Miami, FL. Through her own journey in weight loss, she discovered her love for health and nutrition, and through her venture realized she wanted to help others suffering from obesity and other medical illnesses achieve a healthier lifestyle. She graduated with honors from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. She was the winner of the Dean’s Academic Excellence Award for her graduating class and the 2014 recipient of the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Clara St. Augustine Scholarship.
Angelique has been featured as a nutrition consult on CBS4 Miami News, and is a published author on MindBodyGreen, SheKnows, and Natural News. She is passionate about debunking diet rumors and showing her clients how to have a healthy, balanced relationship with food. No starving. No dieting. Just real science-based advice on living and loving a healthier life. She currently works as a nutrition counselor and educator in Miami, FL.