Life Extension Magazine September 2009
Soothing Psoriasis and Stress-Related Skin Conditions
By Robert Haas, MS
Since drug companies are not going to educate doctors about effective natural treatments for psoriasis1-3, patients continue to suffer side effects from toxic medications.4
The drug Raptiva® was approved by the FDA to treat psoriasis. It was recently withdrawn due to potentially fatal brain infections. While there is no absolute cure for psoriasis, recent studies show that nutraceutical products containing bioactive sweet whey extract (BSWE), when used alone or in combination with conventional medical treatments, provide clinically significant relief for people suffering from mild-to-moderate plaque psoriasis, the most common form of the disease. The clinical efficacy of using BSWE is related to the presence of growth factors, active peptides, and immunoglobulins that block skin inflammation at the molecular level.5
In this article, you will learn how BSWE can prevent and mitigate “the heartbreak of psoriasis” by reducing the size and severity of skin lesions and greatly improving their cosmetic appearance. In addition, you’ll learn about other nutraceuticals and botanical extracts that work synergistically with BSWE to moderate the underlying biochemical causes of psoriasis and other inflammatory and stress-related skin conditions.
Who Gets Psoriasis?
On average, over 150,000 people are diagnosed with psoriasis every year. The disease causes red, scaly skin eruptions—primarily on the elbows, knees, scalp, back, and buttocks—and social embarrassment to its victims. The unsightly cosmetic changes of psoriasis are deceptive; although many people regard psoriasis as a skin disease, it is actually an immune process run amok that can trigger other diseases, including cardiovascular disease,6 hypertension, and diabetes.7
Family history has been shown to predict psoriasis occurrence. When both parents are affected by psoriasis, siblings have a 3-to-6-fold higher risk of getting the disease.8 While genetics plays an important role in the genesis of psoriasis, research shows that such environmental factors as alcoholism, HIV infection, smoking, and UV light also play a role in the pathophysiology of this disease.9 As if we needed another reason to get thin and stay thin, a recently published large prospective study found that increased adiposity and weight gain are strong risk factors for psoriasis in women.10
Psoriasis often strikes when people are young. Grammy Award-winning recording artist LeAnn Rimes was first diagnosed with psoriasis at age two. Throughout her childhood, her condition worsened to the extent that, at one point, psoriatic plaques covered more than 80% of her body. As in LeAnn’s case, people will live with the disease for a lifetime; long-term treatment safety is, therefore, paramount.
Bioactive Sweet Whey Extract (BSWE): A Nutraceutical That Acts as a Cosmeceutical
Faced with the known risks associated with UV light treatments and systemic drugs used to treat psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases, doctors and patients would like to find an ideal compromise between risk and relief. This is where nutraceuticals that contain BSWE can play an important role. Regrettably, mainstream US doctors remain unaware of BSWE, a proprietary, purified, non-GMO whey protein isolate that has been validated in clinical trials for mild-to-moderate psoriasis. BSWE is manufactured using a patented process that concentrates this extract at 60 times the amount found in whey; therefore, consuming ordinary whey protein powder will be entirely ineffective at treating psoriasis.
BSWE safely quiets the overactive immune response in psoriasis by reducing the pro-inflammatory effects of certain immune system cells.5,11 The safety advantages of BSWE over UV-light treatments and systemic drug treatments for psoriasis cannot be overstated. This makes BSWE a valuable new treatment for the 90% of psoriasis patients who suffer from mild to moderate forms of the disease—comprising an incredible 2% of the US population.
Effective Psoriasis Relief
Clinical studies show that bioactive sweet whey extract provides dramatic relief for individuals suffering from mild-to-moderate psoriasis.5,11-13
Scientists first identified whey extract’s benefits for psoriasis in an open-label study in 2005. Adults with chronic, stable plaque psoriasis affecting 2% or more of their body surface area consumed BSWE for two months. More than 60% of the study participants experienced improvements of 10-81% on a standardized score of the extent and severity of psoriasis.12
These findings were confirmed in a larger, double-blind study the following year. This clinical trial showed that patients who supplemented with BSWE for two months had improved Physician’s Global Assessment scores, compared with those who received placebo.13 A 2007 study further confirmed the efficacy of BSWE in relieving mild-to-moderate psoriasis, while demonstrating its outstanding safety profile.11
A study from 2008 uncovered even more evidence of how effectively BSWE fights psoriasis. In this double-blind clinical trial, adults with mild-to-moderate psoriasis received 800 mg of BSWE or placebo every day for two months. Individuals who consumed the whey extract experienced decreased itching sensations, improved quality of life, and decreased scores on a scale of disease area and severity. These findings are even more dramatic in light of the fact that participants originally suffered from psoriasis on 4-15% of their body surface area.5 Clearly, BSWE can dramatically improve the well being of individuals challenged with psoriasis.
Bioactive Sweet Whey’s Mode of Action
While the science behind BSWE’s mode of action isn’t nearly as well understood as its clinical effectiveness, facts are emerging that reveal how it successfully blocks the activation of proinflammatory helper T cells, which are lymphocytes (white blood cells) that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity.5,14
Upon activation, T lymphocytes release TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha), a key messenger in the inflammatory process that promotes deep skin cell (keratinocyte) proliferation. This hyperproliferative response decreases the time it takes for normal maturation of skin cells from 23 days to 3-5 days and produces the typical reddish and scaly plaques of psoriasis.15 Studies have shown that psoriasis patients produce an excess of TNF-alpha in their skin.16
BSWE contains immunoglobulins, active peptides (e.g., IGF-1), and TGF-beta 2,5 a transforming growth factor that blocks the actions of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).17 This suggests that BSWE helps fight psoriasis in part by blocking the inflammatory cascade initiated by TNF-alpha.5,16,17
In doing so, BSWE provides a powerful yet safe treatment for the vast majority of psoriasis sufferers with mild-to-moderate forms of the disease.11
While BSWE is not a psoriasis cure-all, it is certainly at the top of the list of safe and effective non-prescription treatments that can be used alone or as an adjunct to standard medical therapies. As such, BSWE represents a true innovation in the treatment of psoriasis and other intractable stress-related skin problems. BSWE may be effective against other inflammatory skin conditions that share the same physiological response mechanisms as psoriasis, however more research is needed to determine its effectiveness in other diseases.11