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Healthy Diet Tips to Reduce Use of Corticosteroids

Tips from the Skin Dietitian
by Deirdre Earls, MBA, RD, LD

Virtually everyone with psoriasis, eczema and/or dermatitis has been prescribed topical or systemic synthetic steroids to address the localized and systemic inflammation of these chronic skin challenges. Synthetic steroids are designed to mimic and heighten natural anti-inflammatory processes that our body is designed to produce on its own under certain conditions. To optimize total health and reduce dependence on corticosteroids, it's important to optimize the body's ability to manage inflammation, and this can be accomplished several ways via diet.

Stabilization of blood sugars in conjunction with consumption of a plant-based and whole foods diet is most important. Dietary additions and supplements like ginger, turmeric and a molecularly distilled and/or pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplements also offer anti-inflammatory benefits, but they are no substitute for proper diet and stable blood sugars combined with a plant-based, whole foods daily routine.

Stabilizing blood sugars can mean different things for different people, and it's only one part of the anti-inflammatory picture. A good first step towards stabilizing blood sugars is to eliminate refined and processed foods including sodas, breads, sugary cereals, cookies, pastries and snack foods like microwave popcorn, ice cream, candy, and pretzels. To stabilize blood sugars, it's important to start the day with something that delivers quality protein. Instead of cereal or toast for breakfast, make a quick smoothie and blend in nut or seed butters, frozen berries, aloe vera (tasteless), Chia or flax seeds (for omega 3s and more fiber and more protein).

To build more plant-based foods into your diet, try nondairy beverages like hemp, coconut, hazelnut, almond or organic soy milks. Coconut yogurt and coconut kefir also make good bases for morning smoothies. Then eat something nutritious and whole (i.e. unprocessed, as you find it in nature) every 3-4 hours to avoid the blood sugar crashes that often precede binging on processed fast foods and refined junk foods. For snacks, try vegetables or lettuce wraps with hummus, whole food Lärabars, or pomegranate juice with a handful of nuts. Lunches and dinners should be built around vegetables, beans and lentils or nuts, and seeds as primary protein sources with occasional small portions of (preferably) lean, wild meats or organic eggs. True whole grains that have not been pulverized into flours have a solid place in an anti-inflammatory diet, too. If you're following a gluten-free diet, build your grain intake around grains like brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, or buckwheat. Because it's a complete protein, quinoa can be particularly handy, especially in the morning as a hot cereal for a quality breakfast. Make your own salad dressings with quality oils like olive oil and toss in some fresh squeezed lemon juice and herbs for extra zing.

It's important to reiterate that stabilizing blood sugars will help, but it won't deliver the anti-inflammatory power that it can unless your diet is also plant-based. For instance, the high animal protein in the Atkins diet will stabilize blood sugars by eliminating processed junk foods like cookies, cereals, sodas, chips, and breads. But the Atkins diet, especially red meat, is strongly contraindicated for those with systemic inflammation (such as chronic skin diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity) and potentially life-threatening concomitant diseases of psoriasis including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer. For more information about the animal protein-cancer connection and how to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, I encourage you to read The China Study by Campbell and Campbell.

To the degree that you want to not only manage but reverse and heal the consequences of systemic inflammation, a diet must be built upon whole, unprocessed vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, quality oils like olive oil, and only occasional sources of meat, eggs and dairy.

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Once you complete this simple form, Deirdre Earls, registered dietitian, can help you implement a sustainable healing diet to improve your psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis symptoms. Deirdre, who has extensive personal experience with chronic systemic inflammatory disease and 25 years of professional dietetic experience, will work with you to develop an individualized nutrition plan based on your health history, lifestyle, and needs to improve your symptoms. Meet with Deirdre to discuss your progress and share any setbacks you may be experiencing. She will evaluate your progress and help you modify your plan to help you attain maximum health.

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Campbell, C.T. & Campbell T.M. (2006). The China study. Dallas, TX: Benbella.

Principal Author: Deirdre Earls, MBA, RD, LD
Date of Publication: 06/02/2010
Updated: 06/02/2010