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by Deirdre Earls, MBA, RD, LD
Implementing a healthy diet to help promote natural healing of psoriatic symptoms in children is often a special challenge for parents. The goal of a healthy diet is to counter systemic inflammation rather than contribute to systemic inflammation. Basic dietary principles for natural healing of psoriasis include plant-based, gluten-free whole foods.
What's that? A plant-based diet is simply one that includes primarily plant foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains that remain whole and have not been repurposed as baked goods like bread, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and quality oils like olive oil. Although meat, dairy and eggs can still have a place in a healing diet, they are to be eaten on an occasional-to-rare basis. Reducing saturated fat by choosing white meats like poultry and naturally lower-fat cheeses like Parmesan is always recommended in lieu of red meat and high-fat dairy foods.
To the degree that the diet represents items we find in nature—as Mother Nature intended—that food is a whole food. The best way to ensure this is to begin with an item that includes no other ingredients than itself. And you know you can see that product growing as is or occurring in nature.
Changing to a gluten-free diet can be an especially difficult transition, but well worth the effort when warranted, with significant results. Wheat glutens and their derivatives are often the biggest culprit in the standard American diet. Going gluten-free usually positions one to eat more brown rice, quinoa, and corn—preferably of organic, non-GMO origin, where possible!
Because so often the diet of an American child is characterized by heavy amounts of processed foods, sugars, bread, meat, and cheese, combined with the inclination of some children to be very picky eaters, these dietary recommendations can be overwhelming at first.
1) Speak with your child about what and why you're trying these dietary recommendations. Explain how it might personally help them in ways that are meaningful to them. Get their agreement to proceed. If they are older children, explain how practicing this diet may help heal psoriasis and certainly will help them to optimize their health and physical appearance. Discuss school lunches with the child and the teachers supervising your child, to maximize compliance. Provide teachers with high-quality, gluten-free snacks like fruits and nut butters, crisp vegetables and hummus, and bars such as LäraBars®
2) Become familiar with the idea of blending in more nutrition. Use stirrable foods like nut butters, seed butters, bean dips, pasta sauces, and smoothies to increase the child's nutrient intake. In moving to a plant-based diet, many parents worry about adequate protein. Use stirrable foods to blend in chia/flax/hemp seeds, or gluten-free protein powders like hemp, pea, and brown rice. You can even blend in beans or lentils and hide them in sauces like pasta sauce. Dark stirrables like pasta sauce, black beans, and blackberry smoothies allow you to hide and blend in greater nutrient density such as greens (for example, romaine leaves, spinach, spring mix). As you move toward a more plant-based, whole-foods diet, make it a goal for your child to have at least 5 bites of whole plants for every bite of meat, dairy, and bread.
3) Discover acceptable gluten-free items and treats. Although many children will accept some of the gluten-free breads, make it a goal to replace the processed-grain or flour-based breads, cereals, pasta, and cookies in your child's diet with more whole grains like brown rice and grain substitutes like quinoa. This generally works best as a step-by-step progression, but try to set your sights on not only going gluten-free, but focusing on healthier whole-grain options in your child's diet. Keep some gluten-free treats at the house and in your car to enjoy as rewards and to ensure your child doesn't feel constantly deprived.
4)"Fast" food doesn't have to be junk. Use effervescent mineral waters to make homemade lemonade or limeade with fresh-squeezed juices and stevia drops, and get your children involved in making it. Most kids love to make lemonade! To boost nutrition, interest and flavor, stir 100% raw chocolate powder into nut or seed butters, then smear them on gluten-free waffles for a yummy breakfast or treat. Plug in your crock pot to make healthy soups and stews and hide otherwise foreign items like quinoa and new varieties of beans. Freeze smoothies into popsicles for summertime fun.
5) Given that it's recommended to reduce intake of dairy, use quality supplements to ensure adequate dietary calcium. A molecularly-distilled fish oil supplement is also highly recommended for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Peruse the calorie-controlled diet plans offered by DermaHarmony for other ideas on how to develop your game plan. Then review this with your child and family. Determine that the daily struggle of disease may amount to more "trouble" and expense than implementing a healthy diet that can optimize all aspects of life.
When you and your child start to feel better because of your efforts, it's likely you'll never look back!
For almost 30 years, Deirdre Earls struggled with severe psoriasis. This time included two months in Texas Childrens' Medical Center in Dallas. In June 2002 her condition worsened. The topical steroids she'd used for decades were inadequate to address her increasing discomfort. With nothing to lose but a disease and unwanted weight, Deirdre committed herself to a new way of eating for six months. Because psoriasis tends to exhibit unpredictable remissions, she continued her whole foods diet for two years before returning to the field of nutrition and begining work on her book Your Healing Diet: A Quick Guide to Reversing Psoriasis and Chronic Disease. Deirdre now puts her 25 years of dietetic experience to good use, helping others experience the healing power of food in the midst of busy lifestyles.