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Psoriasis and Celiac Disease 10/12/2009 - I recently read an article in The Economist, of all places, that intrigued me.  Titled, “Breathe Easy”, (The Economist, May 23, 2009, page 85) it explained a link between eczema and asthma.  What intrigued me was the mechanism:  researchers showed that a signaling molecule called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) secreted by damaged skin cells can enter the blood stream  and eventually sensitize the lungs to react to what should be harmless allergens.

So, why my intrigue?  Well, I am severely gluten intolerant and have had psoriasis my entire life.  Natural doctors bemoan the fact that my ultra sensitivity to anything and everything (from vitamins and whole-food supplements to Chinese herbs) prevents them from being able to help me.  I wondered if TSLP from damaged psoriatic skin cells had sensitized my gut to react to what would otherwise be harmless food substances. 

A quick search proved quite helpful.  First and foremost, Scott Adams had already reviewed an article that established a link between celiac disease and psoriasis back in November of 2004 (Br.J. Dermatol. 2004 Oct;151(4):891-4) 2004).  Also, a peer-reviewed journal search yielded hundreds of results that showed this was not one isolated study.  So, what about celiac disease and asthma?  Well, once again, a quick search of the site showed many bloggers and authors personally discussing this very link. 

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Next, I went to the medical literature in the hopes of finding whether or not TSLP could be considered the culprit for hyper sensitizing me to an ever increasing list of food substances—gluten is only the start.  Researchers have proven that elevated T cells (Bulletin of Experimental Biology & Medicine. 2004 Mar; 137(3):302-7) and eosinophils ( Allergy & Asthma Proceedings. 2004 Jul-Aug; 25(4): 253-9) are found in the intestinal mucosa of patients with asthma thus proving a link of lung mucosa to gut mucosa.  If elevated TSLP from damaged skin cells could lead to asthma, and the mucosa of the lungs is linked to the mucosa of the gut, then hypothetically elevated TSLP could lead to a hypersensitive gut. 

In other words, damaged skin cells from psoriasis elevate levels of TSLP and patients with psoriasis often have celiac disease.  There is also a link between TSLP and asthma and a link between asthma and celiac disease.  Thus, it could be argued that the TSLP from damaged skin cells plays a role in sensitizing the gut to previously harmless food substances.  Now if only a researcher out there would design a study to prove me right!

What does this to for me?  Not much at the moment, although, I do find it incredibly interesting.  What can this exercise in possible commutability do for all of us?  Maybe train us to view our bodies as an entire, interrelated system and to take our skin lesions seriously.  What do I do to keep my psoriasis at bay?  I hold fast to the gluten free diet and consume vast quantities of fish oil which, incidentally, also aids in restoring a damaged intestinal lining… welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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9 Responses:

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said this on
02 Nov 2009 1:57:35 PM PST
Jennifer, thank you for your thoughtful article. I had asthma as a child and was finally properly diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago, after a lifetime of problems. You mention fish oil, but with psoriasis I hope you are also mega-dosing with the B vitamins. Under stress I take 5000% of the daily requirement of B5 and B6 especially. The part of the intestine that absorbs the B's is the part most likely damaged by celiac. Also, beware of xanthum gum. As another super sensitive I can tell you it can be highly allergenic. thanks again for the great inquiry.

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said this on
05 Nov 2009 5:41:33 AM PST
Rita, I appreciate your comment. I have recently found a B-complex that I tolerate well (Solgar B50) - around 2500%. I will watch xanthan gum. I know I don't tolerate tapioca, which is in a ton of gluten free products.

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said this on
01 Jan 2010 6:44:20 PM PST
I was diagnosed Celiac 10 years ago but have just recently developed psoriasis. What does"vast quantities of Fish Oil" mean exactly?

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said this on
02 Jan 2010 5:05:13 AM PST
Someone asked me what "vast quantities of fish oil" really meant. Since writing this article, I have recently changed my regime and now add about 1tsp of Nordic Arctic brand of fish oil to half a tablespoon of Hemp oil. Since it's a food, though, I will increase the fish oil according to need or how I feel I'm responding to it, so I can't give you an exact amount. I also have noticed with psoriasis that I have to really limit refined gluten-free carbs. I hope this answers your question.

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said this on
24 Jan 2010 8:36:44 AM PST
Psoriasis is a disease whose main symptom is gray or silvery flaky patches on the skin which are red and inflamed underneath. In the United States, it affects 2 to 2.6 percent of the population, or between 5.8 and 7.5 million people. Commonly affected areas include the scalp, elbows, knees, arms, stomach and back. Psoriasis is autoimmune in origin, and is not contagious. Around a quarter of people with psoriasis also suffer from psoriatic arthritis, which is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in its effects. Psoriasis was first given that name in complete differentiation from other skin conditions by the Austrian dermatologist Ferdinand von Habra in 1841, although there are what are believed to be descriptions of the disease in sources going back to ancient Roman and possibly even biblical times.

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said this on
31 Aug 2010 8:38:21 PM PST
Great read I had been thinking there was a link between celiac disease and Psoriasis. After my last flare up (caused by Phototherapy) I did some diet research and found a Psoriasis diet that was gluten free wheat free and night shade free. I started late March this year and had my skin totally clear by late June.
It seems chloramine might also play a part in causing flare ups and since most water systems use chloramine.I've also only been drinking spring water.To me dr.s really should be looking into hypersensitivity of the gut/liver in a main role in causing Psoriasis.My main guidelines to keeping things under control are 1/Keep the alkaline foods to a minimum (NIGHTSHADE foods)
2/Eat gluten-free wheat-free foods
3/drink spring water
4/cut refined sugars to a minimum
5/exercise daily and get good amount of sleep
Sorry for going on and on but If I can add anything to this situation which will help someone out there I'll be happy.

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said this on
04 Feb 2011 1:32:55 AM PST
Thank you for comment; 11 year old daughter suffering with psoriasis of scalp for more than 1 year. What I was told at the pediatrician's office was less than what I found on-line and what I read there did not include anything on nightshades and chloramine. I will look into that. Thanks. Unfortunately, psoriasis hit after she'd been gluten free for nearly 3 years.

...and to Jennifer--Thank you for this article. Helps me understand the mechanism for 5yr old/eczema-laden son's elevated risk for asthma (I pray it doesn't hit him!)

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said this on
22 Oct 2010 12:22:17 AM PST
I suffered from moderately severe asthma as a young child, as the doctors said I grew out of it. I acquired (for lack of better terms) psoriasis at the age of 8 and have dealt with creams, injections, biologics, you name it. About two years ago I cleared my skin without any drugs, but i don't know how I did it. I was exercising, taking evening primrose oil & fish oils, eating healthier, but mainly I was gluten free. I went off of my gluten free diet when I got onto a new medication. I am now back to being gluten free but am tempted to get off of the cyclosporin and attempt my GF diet again. Point in case, I also believe there to be some connection between digestion & allergies to psoriasis; this article just opened by eyes to the third piece of the puzzle, my adolescent asthma.

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said this on
26 Jul 2012 6:39:59 AM PST
This is very informative for a doctor, also. Thanks!

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Thought cyrex is very similar to a celiac testing panel? Mostly I was just curious if IGG test results are worth anything as an indicator. I've read they can just indicate that you're actually tolerate or have recent eaten the foods (I was prior to the test).

The other alternative is just eliminating it from your diet and seeing if you do end up feeling better. There?s a chance your not celiacs and could be intolerant which is just as bad for reactions but can?t be proven with the celiac testing. It depends on how bad you would feel eating it every ...

I am the only one in my immediate family (out of my 3 siblings and both parents) to have celiacs even thought I inherited the autoimmune thyroid issues from my parents, but have a second cousin who was diagnosed 8 years ago and that?s it.

One other thought to consider is other food allergies/intolerances you may have that you didn?t know of before that could be causing this change. Is there any food that you may have added in or increased the frequency of eating since removing gluten from your diet? I know this has happened with...

Hey I?m new here too- but totally get what your talking about! I have some friends that claim to be ?gluten free? but if they are hungry will eat a piece of bread and it can be frustrating to have them later complain to you about how hard it is to eat a gluten-free diet!