Jul 122010

juice If you have or know someone with psoriasis, this post may be of interest to you. If not, I apologize for posting something with a rather narrow focus on a site that’s usually very general. But if you’ve struggled with psoriasis, as I have for many years, any suggestions or ideas are usually welcome. So I thought I’d discuss an experiment in juice fasting I’m going to try for the next few weeks.

As a bit of background, psoriasis is a skin disorder that is currently thought of an auto-immune disease, with probable genetic components and various “triggers”. Basically, the body’s immune system attacks its own skin cells, causing those cells to die off at a much faster rate than normal. Everyone sheds skin cells every day, but in the case of psoriasis, the immune reaction causes itching, painful red patches that quickly form white scales and flakes, which shed like dandruff (in fact, some dandruff is caused by psoriasis).  If you’ve ever seen this on someone, rest assured that psoriasis isn’t contagious – just painful, aggravating and embarrassing. Among the things that can trigger outbreaks are stress, weight gain, lack of sunshine… but many outbreaks seem rather random.

Psoriasis is notoriously difficult to treat, and most of the treatments have dangerous side effects. For me, none of the treatments have ever done much good at all. Only one thing seems to have reversed psoriasis for me. On two occasions when I had gall bladder issues that were so bad I couldn’t eat for a week or more – the condition began to disappear. This caused me to wonder about the dietary triggers for psoriasis.

As it turns out, there have been alternative health practitioners for years (including Edgar Cayce in his trances) who have believed that psoriasis is a reaction to various foods, possibly in relation to so-called “leaky bowel syndrome”. The theory is that in some people, the intestinal wall becomes too permeable, and allows various substances to pass into the bloodstream that don’t really belong there, causing various problems including triggering psoriasis outbreaks. I’m not so sure about this theoretical mechanism, but I can personally attest that for some people, food and psoriasis are linked. Whether this is “leaky bowel”, allergies, or simply some interaction with the immune system I’m not sure.

In any case, many people, as it turns out, report some success with fasting, and with juice fasting as a treatment for psoriasis. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who’s books I’ve discussed elsewhere, is a big proponent of therapeutic fasting.  I’ve tried fasting completely (taking only water) several years ago. It helped the psoriasis quite a bit, but I was unable to continue a complete fast more than a week without becoming too weak to function normally. And one of the things about treating psoriasis is that if you stop too soon – if there are patches left, the condition tends to simply come right back. If I had the resources to do a medically supervised fast, this might be an option. But at the moment it’s not.

During my gallbladder episodes, the only things I was able to keep down were lemon-lime soda and a bit of apple juice. This suggests that a juice fast might be able to do the job. Quite a few people report success in treating psoriasis with either a juice fast for a number of weeks – or alternating juice one week with fruits and vegetables the next.

So I’m giving it a try. I’ve been primarily on juices for three days now, and I’m already seeing about a 30% improvement in the psoriasis (I’m also losing a bit of weight, which is just fine). I am, however, making some modifications to the “ideal” juice fast which I feel are necessary for my situation.

1. Fresh, raw juices are said to be the best for juice fasting. I don’t have the time or money to go that route. I’m using store-bought apple, grape, orange and “green” juice.

2. If I get so hungry that I feel in danger of going off the diet, I’ll have fruits and veggies if needed. At the end of a week of juice, I’ll evaluate and decide if I want to stick with juice or alternate with a week of fruits and vegetables.

3. I’m occasionally expected to eat out on business. If this happens I’ll stick with a salad.

4. I’m allowing myself tea. I tried allowing coffee but it didn’t go over too well, making me suspect caffeine has been a problem. 

5. I take a multi-vitamin just to cover the bases.

So far, this is working out much better than the total fast. I’m much less hungry, my energy is good, and the results so far are as good as a total fast. It remains to be seen if this will continue.

If you or someone you know has psoriasis, you might look into juice fasting. I’ll report on my results here and tweak the diet as needed as I go along.

Jan 262010

I’ve mentioned Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat To Live in several posts, but I realize I’ve never actually written a full review of it. That situation needs to be fixed, because this is my favorite diet and nutrition book of all time (so far at least).  I ran into this book when I was having health problems. After a period of largely raw foods, I fell back on Joel’s diet for more long-term eating and it’s wonderful.

Dr. Fuhrman is the doctor that other doctors send their patients to when their lives depend on losing a lot of weight. And his diet does the job for them. But it’s  not simply the diet that makes the book a must-have. Dr. Fuhrman’s explanations of nutrition and the kinds of food that cause weight problems is simply brilliant. Light bulbs went off all over my head when I read it. In brief, Dr. Fuhrman is concerned with the nutrient density of foods.  Our body is well equipped with “detectors” in our stomach and digestive system that can sense the density, calories, and basic nutrients in our food. Using this information, the body can make sophisticated calculations about when it is full and what it wants us to eat that keep us at the perfect weight. At least, that’s how it works with real food – with the kind of food human beings have been eating for thousands of years.

Our body’s sensory equipment is completely overloaded when when fill our stomach with foods that contain enormous amounts of calories with almost no nutrients. It’s like putting a 50 lb sack of sugar on a postal scale. It completely sabotages the body’s regulatory mechanism. As a result, you think you are still hungry. And you ARE. You are hungry for nutrients. You are suffering malnutrition while packing away huge numbers of calories.

Dr. Fuhrman’s plan, then, is to fill yourself with nutrient-dense foods. These foods will make you feel full and satisfied, because your body can properly  sense that it is getting all the nutrition it needs.

Dr. Fuhrman’s diet has a few simple rules. You eat a lot of greens and vegetables, some cooked and some raw. You eat a lot of fruit. And you eat a little whole grain or starchy food and nuts. You minimize other fats and meat. How strict you have to be with these depends on how much weight you need to loose. The plan is not completely raw-food, but it incorporates much more raw fruits and vegetables than most of us are used to. Fuhrman is one of the experts involved in the “Raw for 30” program for reversing diabetes, so he understands the value of raw food.

Fuhrman has other books that expand on the recipes and diet choices of this first book – but this one is where you learn the nutritional facts – all meticulously researched – that are the basis of his programs. Highly recommended.

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