Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects over 5 million Americans each year. It is characterized by lesions over pressure points such as the elbows, knees, bra line, and belt buckle. Large amounts of the epidermis become scaly and are continually shed. Psoriasis is unusual in children but can occur at any time after puberty. It is not at all unusual for psoriasis to disappear with exposure to sunlight and to reappear in the winter. -Adapted from Pfeiffer.(1)
Psoriasis is not a single disease. In many cases psoriasis is concurrent with arthritis. Psoriasis is also intimately associated with diabetes. Often, the correction of one will result in the correction of the other.
"Severe psoriasis may be accompanied by arthritic changes in the joints which leads us and others to suspect that excess copper and deficient zinc and sulfur may be one metabolic factor psoriasis patients require more than the usual amount of zinc to restore their serum levels to a normal of 1000 mcg percent..."(2)
While the conventional treatment of psoriasis consists of the use of cortisone creams and other topical remedies, modern nutritional research has yielded much safer and often more permanent ways to control and correct this common condition.
Several thousand hair mineral tests conducted at our laboratory indicate that zinc levels are consistently low in individuals suffering from psoriasis. This has been confirmed by other sources.
As early as 1956 Braun-Falco and Rathjens found that zinc was markedly decreased in the outer layers of the skin of patients with psoriasis. This was confirmed in 1966 by Ponomareva, who found high levels of zinc in the scales. Plasma zinc levels were low in psoriasis according to a 1967 report by Greaves and Boyde, and this was confirmed by Vorhees et al. in 1969. Pfeiffer(3) also found that psoriasis patients require more than the usual amounts of zinc to restore their serum levels to a normal of 1000 mcg%.
A zinc deficiency is extremely common today. Dr. Pfeiffer has stated that the entire American population is borderline deficient in zinc. There are several reasons for this:
We know that a zinc deficiency is involved in many skin eruptions including eczema, neurodermatitis and other non-specific skin rashes. Zinc is required for adrenal hormone production. Cortisol, an anti-inflammatory adrenal hormone, is commonly used to treat psoriasis. Zinc is depleted during stress, and it has been noted that a stress can trigger or aggravate a case of psoriasis.
Zinc is also needed for digestive enzyme production, and it was noted by Dr. Carl Pfeiffer that sufferers from psoriasis often had low levels of gastric hydrochloric acid. Low levels of hydrochloric acid are commonly associated with low levels of cortisol production or secretion.
In some cases, psoriasis will respond to topical zinc ointment and to oral administration of zinc.
A review of several thousand mineral tests reveals a very high percentage of psoriasis sufferers have a copper imbalance. This finding is confirmed by research reported in Acta Vitaminol Enzymol 2:9-16, 1980 in which the author found that; "compared to healthy controls, plasma copper levels in psoriatic patients were significantly higher as measured by atomic absorption spectrophotometry."
In 1962, Lipkin et al. found serum copper levels to be increased while ceruloplasmin was not proportionally increased and red-cell copper might be decreased. Molokhia and Portnoy in 1970 found significantly higher serum copper levels in psoriasis patients. Zackheim and Wolf in 1972 found much the same. In 1973 Zlatkov et al. found elevated serum copper which decreased with effective therapy - in this case, ultraviolet tanning of the skin.(4)
Copper imbalance is known to be involved in other skin conditions such as acne and some types of dermatitis. Copper is involved in protein and collagen synthesis.
A confusing aspect is that in some studies copper was found to be elevated, while in others it was found to be low. However, this dilemma is resolved when we understand the dynamics of copper metabolism. Copper may be present in body tissues; yet be biologically unavailable. This would account for an elevation in copper levels, however, in reality there is a deficiency of available copper.
Copper availability is controlled by the adrenal glands, which stimulate production of ceruloplasmin by the liver. Weak adrenal glands result in deficient ceruloplasmin synthesis, which in turn leads to unavailability of copper.
Copper imbalance is very common today for the following reasons:
Adrenal insufficiency can be due to chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies, or congenitally weak adrenal glands. About 70% of those tested by our laboratory show weak adrenal glands to some degree.
Copper Water Pipes - Copper plumbing was hailed as a great advance in the 1940's, and today the majority of homes in the United States have copper plumbing. Especially in areas with acidic water, copper can be leached from pipes. Water coolers and ice-makers in refrigerators also use copper tubing. Water that sits in these units can contain dangerously high levels of copper.
Copper Cookware - Copper tea kettles and other copper cookware can be a source of copper toxicity if used frequently over a period of time.
Drinking Water - Some areas of the United States have high amounts of naturally occurring copper in their water supply. Copper sulfate is also added to some municipal drinking water supplies to kill yeast and fungi.
Intrauterine Devices - One of the side affects of birth control pills is to raise copper levels in the body. This is due to the close association between estrogen and copper levels.
Several hundred milligrams of copper a year can easily be absorbed from a copper IUD. Many women still utilize the Copper-7 intrauterine birth control device, although it has been taken off the market. The only intra-uterine birth control device sold today, is a copper-T. These devices can be harmful for women prone to high copper levels.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements - Copper is frequently added to vitamin supplements, particularly prenatal vitamins. Although this is a benefit for some people, it can be harmful to others.
Fungicides for Swimming Pools and Foods - Copper sulfate is added to swimming pools and may be sprayed on fruits and vegetables to retard growth of algae and fungus.
Vegetarianism and Other High-Copper Diets - Many diets today are high in copper. In particular, vegetarian proteins such as soybean, nuts, seeds, tofu, avocado and grains are high in copper content. Fast food hamburgers and other popular foods are frequently soy-based. Soybean protein is coming into wider usage, due to its low cholesterol level and lower cost.
Other high-copper foods are chocolate, organ meats, shellfish, wheat germ, bran, yeast, corn oil, margarine, and mushrooms.
Occupational Exposure - Plumbers, welders, machinists, and others who work with copper are at risk for copper toxicity.
Dental Appliances - Copper is used in dental alloys in fillings, crowns and other appliances.
Zinc and copper are antagonists. As zinc levels decrease, copper levels tend to increase.
Thousands of children are born today with a copper imbalance that is passed on from their mothers. This is a very serious problem today.
Zinc and copper metabolism are closely related. Zinc is required for adrenal gland activity, which in turn controls copper availability. Zinc is considered a copper antagonist. At times we find that the zinc/copper ratio is therefore a better indicator of a tendency for psoriasis than either the copper or zinc level by itself.
Some individuals have a tendency to accumulate copper in their body tissues as a defense mechanism to cope with fears and pressures from their environment. This we call the copper personality.
"The eczema-like skin condition psoriasis appears to result from the faulty utilization of fats. People with this abnormality usually have excessive amounts of cholesterol in their skin and blood, and by the time their blood cholesterol has been reduced to normal their psoriasis has cleared up..."(5)
Any factor that depletes zinc or causes a copper imbalance may result in psoriasis. Stress, dietary deficiency, weak adrenal glands and even a congenital weakness, can all contribute to psoriasis.
Nutritional therapy aims at restoring zinc levels and correcting a co-existing copper imbalance. Along with supplementing zinc, often synergistic nutrients such as vitamin B6 and vitamin A are very helpful. Restoration of adrenal gland activity often requires B-complex vitamins, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin E. To aid absorption of nutrients, betaine hydrochloride with pepsin may be needed. To improve energy levels for more rapid healing, it is important to balance all the important mineral levels and ratios.
Results may be noted in several weeks or months, but in some cases more time is required to reverse long standing or severe nutritional deficiencies. Patience is needed, and will usually produce extremely gratifying results even in stubborn cases.
Because there are many complicating factors that should be taken into account, we find that the hair mineral test is an excellent guide for determining the dosage of nutrients that are required, and to guide food selection as well.
Stress can be an important factor in psoriasis. Excessive stress will interfere with any healing approach. Any technique or modality that enhances one's ability to cope with stress is helpful in the correction of psoriasis.
As with all health conditions, proper attention to lifestyle and diet will greatly facilitate progress. By using a natural healing approach, a rapid and permanent correction of psoriasis is possible.
It has been noted that when a woman becomes pregnant often her psoriasis will subside, only to return after she delivers a child. We known that pregnancy causes important alterations in copper metabolism, and perhaps this is one of the causes of the phenomenon.
Psoriasis is often triggered or aggravated by a stressful episode or incident. It is known that zinc is lost in varying amounts within minutes of a stressful event. The result is an excessive amount of copper.
It has also been noted that psoriasis is associated with elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There is ample medical evidence that alteration in cholesterol metabolism is associated with a copper imbalance. Copper is stored in the liver, and, in excess impairs liver function. This could explain the connection between cholesterol and psoriasis.
Psoriasis may be associated with a specific form of arthritis. Again, in mineral research there is a close connection between copper metabolism, adrenal gland activity and arthritis. The same medication that helps psoriasis, cortisone, is helpful in reducing the inflammatory process associated with various forms of arthritis. Cortisone production within the body, as stated earlier, is dependent upon adequate zinc levels.