Nutrition Tips for Lichen Planus
Posted: May 04, 2017
Categories: Skin Care
Lichen planus is a fairly common skin disorder, with over 3 million people in the United States being affected by it. While usually not considered serious, there is currently no cure. Managing lichen planus can be an uncomfortable and prolonged experience for many people. With prescription drugs often expensive and in some cases damaging, we unravel the condition and look at nutritional choices you can make today to empower your body to heal itself.
What is Lichen Planus?
Lichen planus manifests itself as a skin rash that is likely caused by a reaction from the immune system. Although the exact reason for this reaction is unknown, lichen planus is thought to arise from an autoimmune disorder—where the body attacks healthy tissue by mistake.
Lichen planus can affect anyone; however, women are twice as likely to develop the oral variety. When it comes to developing the skin form of the disease, on the other hand, both men and women are at equal risk. The disorder is most commonly found in middle-aged people.
The most common symptoms of lichen planus found in patients include:
- Purple lesions (most commonly found on the forearms, genitals, wrists, or ankles)
- Small, flat-topped bumps
- A rash forming on the inside of the mouth
- Thin white lines forming across the rash
- Itchiness at the affected site
The most common form of the disease is found on the skin. The usual prescribed treatment is topical application of corticosteroids. With no cure being currently known, conventional medical treatment, like Emuaid, is concerned with the management of symptoms of lichen planus. Lesions usually clear up naturally within 6-9 months, or much sooner depending on the severity of the disease.
In contrast, lichen planus lesions found in the mouth persist for many years, can be difficult to treat and carry with them a high rate of recurrence.
Food for Thought
With autoimmune diseases being considered as the chief cause of lichen planus, many people are reporting symptomatic relief just by making nutritional choices that help put the autoimmune disorder into remission. That’s right, they’re turning to a lichen planus diet to solve the problem. There is mounting evidence to suggest that tailoring your diet to remove certain foods that cause inflammation can lead to an improvement in condition.
The reasoning behind this is that irritation in the gut brought on by triggers in specific foods causes the autoimmune disorder to arise. It has been scientifically proven that there is a link between the gut and the immune system. Certain foods also seem to cause the symptoms to flare up, particularly in those with a history of the disorder.
The development of autoimmune disorders has been linked to leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut is characterized by the spaces in between the cells of the intestinal wall expanding, thus allowing undigested food molecules into the bloodstream. This in turn triggers the immune system to fight off the foreign bodies. When the food molecules come into contact with the small intestine lining, the immune system tries to counteract the invasion, damaging the intestinal wall even more and causing the inflammation.
Gluten is comprised of a mixture of proteins found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. Many try not to eat gluten. It has been widely recognized as a main offender for exacerbating autoimmune diseases and other painful conditions like cancer and certain allergy reactions. Some doctors are coming around to the idea of avoiding gluten too. Dr. Sharon Norling, MBA, asserts that gluten sensitivity can lead to gut permeability, and gut permeability can in turn cause gluten sensitivity.
Chronic condition specialist, Dr. William Cole, suggests testing the level of gluten intolerance by removing it from the diet for 60 days and then reintroducing it, taking note of results.
Consume Fermented Foods
Eating fermented foods is a widely recognized way of replenishing the beneficial bacteria in your body and no alcohol doesn’t count. When added to your diet the benefits include anti-inflammatory effects and strengthening of the gut mucosal barrier.
The theory behind this is that the body is lacking in beneficial bacteria it would naturally consume due to the majority of our food being sterilized or pasteurized—this compromises the immune system. The microorganisms that once covered our foods are no longer being consumed; as a result our immune system is minimally challenged, which is actually often seen as detrimental to overall health and the strength of the immune system.
One sufferer of autoimmune disease recommends drinking a glass of kombucha tea for breakfast while eating sauerkraut or other lacto-fermented vegetables (for example cauliflower, cabbage or pickles). In adding these foods to your diet you will be providing your body with a wealth of probiotics.
Drink Green Tea
Green tea has been shown to dampen the autoimmune response in the body and there are many home remedies that people take with green tea in them. When consumed, green tea increases the number of regulatory T cells that play a crucial role in the suppression of autoimmune disease.
This was demonstrated in a 2011 study by Oregon State University. When a group of mice were administered a compound containing a key ingredient of green tea, scientists observed a significantly higher production of T cells. It was concluded that although the effects were not as potent as some prescribed medications, this form of treatment carries little concern for toxicity or long-term use. In light of this, make a cup or two of green tea part of your morning ritual.
Western Diet Drawbacks
The medical community has already correlated the ‘western diet’ with the west’s high rate of autoimmune disease experienced by patients in and out of clinical situations.
This diet is characterized by food which is heavily refined, processed or deep-fried with oil, confusing the body. The food is often grown with lots of chemicals and packed with added sugar and refined flours.
While the underlying metabolic and immunologic mechanisms are still being explored, these dietary factors are thought to be key causes in the development of autoimmune diseases. By limiting your intake of them you are giving your body a greater chance of healing itself.
Though medication can go a long way to relieving discomfort, a lichen planus diet will always be a part of the healing process. Whatever medical treatments you decide to try, you need to be discerning with what constitutes your diet. We have seen how certain foods have repeatedly caused increased risk of autoimmune diseases, as well as flaring up related symptoms.
The important thing when auditioning dietary changes is consistency. The issue with a lot of high allergen foods is that any ‘cheating’ can cause significant setbacks. But with some sensible choices, combined with a bit of willpower, you can help nourish your body back to health. Try the lichen planus diet today.