July 09, 2024 8 min read

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    Psoriasis is an aggressive, calculated, stubborn enemy that makes its presence known. While the outward problem is very apparent, its core issue remains a mystery. Scientists are still trying to decipher the reason behind the extreme immune cell triggers leading to psoriasis flare-ups, yet their attempts haven’t yielded clear answers.

    Fighting an enemy of this magnitude is hard as it is. Add the veil of mystery surrounding the exact cause of psoriasis to the equation and you’ve got a predicament on your hands. Luckily, by exploring the disease’s connections to certain nutrients, we can better understand the psoriasis conundrum and determine potential treatment options. 

    In this guide, we will dive into the link between vitamin D and psoriasis, explaining how boosted levels of the  “sunshine” vitamincan alleviate unpleasant symptoms and bring long-term relief. 

    What Is Psoriasis?

    Psoriasis is an immune-mediated chronic disease that develops due to an immune system overreaction. It affects over 7.5 million people in the U.S.[3] As a result of this abrupt immune reaction, skin cells begin to proliferate quickly, leading to painful, itchy, inflamed patches on the skin's surface.[1]

    The most affected areas include the knees, elbows, and scalp, but psoriasis patches can appear on other body parts as well. While the psoriasis mechanism is quite straightforward, its root cause remains a mystery even to medical researchers. Nevertheless, the main culprits appear to be environmental (such as stress) and genetic factors.[1]

    Dealing with psoriasis often seems like an uphill battle. Symptoms can come and go every few weeks or months, and just when you think they’re not coming back, another flare-up sneaks up on you. To make matters worse, psoriasis is closely related to other severe conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular issues, metabolic syndrome, and poor mental health.[1]

    Psoriasis plaques can be rather small, hardly noticeable, or broad patches affecting a large area. In some cases, plaques appear all over the body, while some patients deal with so-called high-impact sites. These areas are heavily affected, with a large number of concentrated scales and patches.[2]

    Types of Psoriasis

    Psoriasis comes in many shapes and forms. Understandably, symptoms and treatment options for each of these types can differ greatly. The predominant psoriasis types include[4]:

    • Plaque psoriasis: The most common type, accounting for ~90% of all psoriasis cases. Characterized by plaques (patches of raised, thick, inflamed skin); scales (thin, dry, silvery skin areas); as well as joined plaques that take over larger skin areas.
    • Inverse psoriasis: Usually appears in skin folds and where skin-to-skin contact occurs, such as the armpits. Symptoms include inflamed, sore skin that appears raw and a thin silvery-white layer.
    • Guttate psoriasis: Easily recognized by tiny pink bumps spreading all over the skin (usually the scalp, legs, torso, and arms). The bumps are scaly, dry, small, and luckily temporary. In many cases, this psoriasis type may not even require specific treatment, as it occurs as a byproduct of an infection that disappears when the condition is properly managed.
    • Pustular psoriasis: Often mistaken for an infection, pustular psoriasis is characterized by pus-filled bumps that contain no bacteria. The small dots are extremely painful, making this psoriasis type one of the hardest to manage.
    • Erythrodermic psoriasis: The most severe, rare, and potentially fatal form of psoriasis. Before developing this condition, patients have already had another type of psoriasis that wasn’t properly treated. The skin appears burned, while the patient experiences severe itching, muscle fatigue, fever, and chills. It requires immediate medical care. 

    Psoriasis Symptoms

    While symptoms of psoriasis are individual and depend upon the type and severity of psoriasis, there are some commonly experienced issues[1]:

    • Inflamed, itchy, flaky, red, scaly plaques on the skin (mainly on the scalp, elbows, and knees, but also on palms, feet, ears, nails, eyelids, and skin folds) that can even cause a painful burning sensation
    • Pitted, thick nails
    • Highly affected areas of irritated skin that bleed, causing an itching or burning sensation
    Scalp Psoriasis

    Source: Healthline

    Psoriasis Causes

    While psoriasis has been recognized as an autoimmune condition, its root cause hasn’t yet been pinpointed. In an autoimmune condition, the body is falsely alarmed and tricked into attacking its own cells instead of protecting them. In the case of psoriasis, this process leads to the quick production of new skin cells, which accumulate to form patches on the skin’s surface.[3]

    Factors contributing to the development of psoriasis include:

    • Family history of psoriasis
    • Certain immune system-related genes
    • Lifestyle factors, such as smoking and stress
    • Aggressive medication used in the treatment of certain cardiovascular conditions, malaria, and mental health disorders
    • Obesity
    • Infections (particularly HIV and streptococcal infections)
    • Vitamin D deficiency

    The Science Behind Vitamin D and Psoriasis

    While the discussion about potential psoriasis causes mainly focuses on genetic factors and lifestyle choices, the latest research highlights vitamin D deficiency as one of the key players in severe psoriasis cases.[5] Let’s take a closer look at the “sunshine vitamin” and its role in psoriasis development.

    The Sunshine Vitamin: Why Do We Need It?

    Vitamin D Production in the Skin

    Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays multiple vital roles in our well-being. It is irreplaceable in the calcium absorption process and bone mineralization. Without vitamin D, our bones would become brittle and fragile, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis. It is also an important factor in immune function, glucose metabolism, inflammation management, and cell growth.[6]

    When it comes to skin health, vitamin D affects numerous processes, such as the hair follicle cycle, innate immunity, and permeability barrier formation.[7] Vitamin D is mainly produced in the skin with the help of sun exposure, so it’s no wonder it plays a major role in skin health. Vitamin D3 has been found to aid in photoprotection during sun exposure as well as wound healing.[8]

    How Vitamin D Affects Psoriasis Severity

    Supplementing with vitamin D may positively affect keratinocytes, which are the most abundant cells in the outer layer of the skin. These cells contain vitamin D receptors and represent the body's main sources of vitamin D.[9] Topical vitamin D analogs can bind to vitamin D receptors in keratinocytes, limiting the excess cell production that results in psoriasis plaques.[3

    A 2013 study[10] suggests that in combination with topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs can aid in the management of plaque psoriasis. Corticosteroids act as immunosuppressors in the treatment of pro-inflammatory cytokines that trigger psoriasis flaring. Vitamin D, on the other hand, plays an immunomodulatory role, complementing the effects of corticosteroids.

    The Importance of Vitamin D in Skin Health

    Scientists have discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and psoriasis severity by analyzing psoriasis cases in detail. With a decrease of vitamin D in the blood, symptoms of psoriasis worsened. More specifically, 39% of the study participants in the severe psoriasis group were diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency.[3

    Vitamin D supplementation on its own shouldn’t be considered a psoriasis treatment. It is, however, an excellent solution for promoting vitamin D levels and avoiding all dangers of vitamin D deficiency, including psoriasis worsening.

    A study on vitamin D and its role in psoriasis[11] suggests that psoriatic patients are prone to nutritional deficiencies – vitamin D deficiency included. Therefore, it is recommended to increase vitamin D intake through quality supplementation and reduce the clinical severity of psoriasis, as well as the risk of developing comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.

    Increasing Vitamin D Levels: What’s the Catch?

    Vitamin D is naturally produced in the skin, as long as we’re able to get enough sun exposure. It can also be obtained from dietary sources, but the power of diet to boost vitamin D levels remains insufficient. Vitamin D supplementation naturally emerges as the most effective and convenient method of avoiding vitamin D deficiency, and here’s why.

    Natural Sources of Vitamin D vs. Vitamin D Supplementation

    Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, fish liver oil, and fortified dairy products. While a person’s diet often provides a solid source of vitamin D, the risk of deficiency still exists. The recommended vitamin D intake is around 600 IU per day, whereas the upper limit ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 IU in cases where levels need to be significantly increased.[12

    According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, the average daily vitamin D intake for middle-aged women is 308 IU, but only 140 IU was obtained from dietary sources.[12

    Vegan Vitamin D3+K2

    Vitamin D supplementation represents an easy, convenient, and highly effective way of obtaining the required amount of this significant vitamin. It is also the best solution for people who are unable to get the necessary amount of sun exposure, as well as for people with darker skin tones.[12]

    Sun Exposure and UVB Light Therapy

    Sun exposure is the main prerequisite for natural vitamin D production. Sunlight, or more specifically, UVB rays, are necessary for converting the 7-DHC protein into vitamin D3, which represents the active vitamin D form.[13] 

    Needless to say, the efficiency of the natural vitamin D synthesis in the skin largely depends upon factors such as skin tone, SPF use, latitude, and season. It is, however, necessary to prioritize sun protection to prevent sunburn, which is the only healthy way of promoting vitamin D production.[13] 

    Sunlight, in addition to facilitating vitamin D synthesis and decreasing the risk of a deficiency, plays a role in psoriasis management. Healthy sun exposure has been shown to clinically improve psoriasis symptoms, mainly by reducing inflammatory markers.[14]

    Additionally, UVB light therapy, or phototherapy, is a treatment that uses UV light to slow the excessive skin cell production that psoriasis causes. UVB rays may aid in psoriasis management by slowing rapidly growing skin cells, reducing inflammation, and itching. While UVB rays can be obtained through natural sunlight, artificial light therapy using a phototherapy unit such as an excimer laser may be a more convenient solution for some patients.[15]

    Conclusion

    Both topical and oral applications of vitamin D have yielded positive results in psoriasis management. While it is not a universal solution or magic cure, it is a scientifically-backed addition to the arsenal when fighting psoriasis flare-ups. Oral vitamin D supplementation represents an effective, quick method of promoting vitamin D levels and avoiding the risks of a deficiency. 

    However, with so many options on the market, it can take time to select the adequate vitamin D form. Vitamin D3+K2 represents an optimal solution, as vitamin D enables calcium absorption, while vitamin K2 is necessary for calcium distribution into the bones. Learn more about our premium vegan vitamin D3+K2 formulated with organic coconut oil.   

    Article References:

    1. NIAMS. “Psoriasis.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 12 Apr. 2017, www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/psoriasis.
    2. National Psoriasis Foundation. “About Psoriasis.” Www.psoriasis.org, 14 Jan. 2021, www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/.
    3. Psoriasis: Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to More Severe Symptoms.” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 26 July 2023, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/vitamin-d-deficiency-psoriasis-severity-study. Accessed 9 July 2024.
    4. Psoriasis: Signs and Symptoms.” Www.aad.org, www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/what/symptoms.
    5. Psoriasis: Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to More Severe Symptoms.” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 26 July 2023, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/vitamin-d-deficiency-psoriasis-severity-study#Whats-the-link-between-vitamin-D-and-psoriasis? Accessed 9 July 2024.
    6. National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin D.” National Institutes of Health, 18 Sept. 2023, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.
    7. Bikle, Daniel D. “Vitamin D and the skin: Physiology and pathophysiology.” Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders vol. 13,1 (2012): 3-19. doi:10.1007/s11154-011-9194-0
    8. and, D. “Vitamin D and Skin Health.” Linus Pauling Institute, 2 Jan. 2019, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-D.
    9. Bikle, Daniel D. “Vitamin D and the skin: Physiology and pathophysiology.” Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders vol. 13,1 (2012): 3-19. doi:10.1007/s11154-011-9194-0
    10. Segaert, Siegfried, and Mads Ropke. “The biological rationale for use of vitamin d analogs in combination with corticosteroids for the topical treatment of plaque psoriasis.” Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD vol. 12,8 (2013): e129-37.
    11. Barrea, Luigi et al. “Vitamin D and its role in psoriasis: An overview of the dermatologist and nutritionist.” Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders vol. 18,2 (2017): 195-205. doi:10.1007/s11154-017-9411-6
    12. Vitamin D.” The Nutrition Source, 18 Sept. 2012, nutritionsource.hsph.harvard.edu/vitamin-d/.
    13. Raymond-Lezman, Jonathan R, and Suzanne I Riskin. “Benefits and Risks of Sun Exposure to Maintain Adequate Vitamin D Levels.” Cureus vol. 15,5 e38578. 5 May. 2023, doi:10.7759/cureus.38578
    14. Søyland, E et al. “Sun exposure induces rapid immunological changes in skin and peripheral blood in patients with psoriasis.” The British journal of dermatology vol. 164,2 (2011): 344-55. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10149.x
    15. Light Therapy for Psoriasis.” Www.psoriasis.org, www.psoriasis.org/phototherapy/#:~:text=Ultraviolet%20light%20B%20(UVB).



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