Kim Kardashian has a huge following, and they gobble up anything she puts out. I saw an article headline about her psoriasis last week; Kim Kardashian Just Shared Her Makeup-Free “Psoriasis Face”.
This quote stuck out: “I’m always hoping for a cure, of course, but in the meantime, I’m learning to just accept it as part of who I am.” While not letting a condition define you is admirable, I believe she can exert more control over the situation – read on for
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, this is when the immune system is overactive and takes destructive action on our own cells.
“T cells normally travel through the body to defend against foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria.
But if you have psoriasis, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake, as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection.
Overactive T cells also trigger increased production of healthy skin cells, more T cells and other white blood cells, especially neutrophils. These travel into the skin causing redness and sometimes pus in pustular lesions. Dilated blood vessels in psoriasis-affected areas create warmth and redness in the skin lesions.
The process becomes an ongoing cycle in which new skin cells move to the outermost layer of skin too quickly — in days rather than weeks. Skin cells build up in thick, scaly patches on the skin’s surface, continuing until treatment stops the cycle.”2
The immune system is complex. One player, T cells, the thymus produces which take part in the immune response. B cells typically involve antibody production. Since psoriasis
T cells don’t operate on their own. They rely on an interplay of T regulatory (Treg) and helper cells (Th1, Th2, Th17) to
Th17 is pro inflammatory (through interleukin 23, Il-23), which is helpful to correct acute insults, not so much long term.
Th17 and Treg are areas in which we can exert some influence, and they tend to operate on opposing paradigms – Tregs keep Th17 in check.
Lectins are sugar-binding
The main sources of lectins are:
- Grains (wheat, corn, and other seeds of grasses)
- Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc)
- Legumes (beans, peas)
- peanuts, cashews (these are actually legumes too, not classical nuts)
- Squash, zucchini
Dairy (the protein component, not the fat) also has a lectinlike component:
About two thousand years ago, a spontaneous mutation in Northern European cows caused them to make the protein casein A-1 in their milk instead of the normal casein A-2. During digestion, casein A-1 is turned into a lectinlike protein called beta-casomorphin. This protein attaches to the pancreas’s insulin-producing cells, known as beta cells, which prompts an immune attack on the pancreas of people who consume milk from these cows or cheeses made from it.5 This is likely a primary cause of type 1 diabetes.6
Lectins in wheat can precipitate gallbladder disease via a different mechanism, full details are
These alphabet soup pathways are influenced by the feeding state of the body. mTOR is a growth signal ramped up
Most people operate with mTOR continually active and AMPK relatively low. We are a continually fed population.
I will focus on the non-prescription options, even though as a pharmacist I could talk about the $38,000 annual sales opportunities per patient in biologic drugs approved for psoriasis8.
There are two ways to reduce lectin impacts. Avoidance and blunting their effects.
Avoiding at least those on the list above, and then even working back in after a period of time to see if any reaction happens – a kind of elimination trial. See here for more useful tips.
The next level goes deeper. SelfHacked has a full program with detailed menus and lots of information on lectin avoidance. They are well researched and if you are looking to go hard on lectin avoidance, this is a great place to start.
The other angle is to supplement with decoys that occupy the lectins so they don’t bind elsewhere in the body and activate Th17. Glucosamine (N-acetyl glucosamine, NAG) and other supplements have a high affinity for many lectins and can bind to them9. This can definitely come in handy as how many Americans want to avoid something with tomato sauce for prolonged periods of time! We have a
I have two daughters and each have experiences for the above strategies.
One is daughter sensitive to A1 dairy proteins. Any dairy product with lower fat such as milk (cheese, cream are ok) change her personality within the hour. I can tell without even knowing what she had that there was a Frappuccino or hot chocolate milk somewhere. It sets off some kind of process that makes her interact with us completely out of character, to where she now realizes this and stays clear. This is likely brain inflammation, see my whitepaper here, but in someone with psoriasis, any increase in inflammation involving Th17 is counterproductive.
I have another daughter who was getting headaches. I grew up with them (not
Keto and intermittent fasting
Keto diets tend to avoid lectins just by the carb restriction alone. If adding even a slight calorie deficit (burning more than you eat), AMPK ramps up nicely. When you are ketogenic, fat is burned as the primary fuel, which, as we showed above, helps suppress Th17. Combine this with intermittent fasting, consuming your meals in a defined window – less than 12 hours, you can create a synergistic rise in AMPK and reduction in mTOR.
Ketogenic diets have a high rate of failure if not done properly. The copious information on the web makes it hard to pull off since much of it is wrong. Working with a provider trained and experienced in these diets can be helpful. Part of that training should include that keto diets should not be a religion nor a permanent way of life. They are a wonderful tool to be used strategically and periodically.
Most skin problems start in the gut according to what I have read over the years. I summarized in this article the mechanisms. While it may not be the major mechanism involved in all psoriasis cases10, my guess is that leaky gut contributes much of the time.
So here is a list of recommendations to first focus on reducing Th17 cells and increasing regulatory T cells from a class from SelfHacked I took on inflammation. “These include:
● Getting enough sun exposure. You want to work up to 1 hour/day to get all the benefits of reducing inflammation.
● Taking probiotics and prebiotics can help with regulating the immune system as well, again only if you
● Black cumin seed oil, fish oil with DHA, sulforaphane are good supplements that help reduce inflammation and balance the immune system.
● You want to make sure you have adequate vitamins and minerals that the immune system uses, including vitamins A, B, C, D, and selenium, zinc, and iron.
● CBD is a really powerful anti-inflammatory. It also helps reduce Th17 and increase Tregs.
● You want to manage stress really
● Exercise is also a good way to balance the immune system.
● Lastly, there’s fasting and red light therapy that can reduce inflammation
Kim’s Diet/Lifestyle Opportunities
Based on what I have read online, let’s see if we can offer opportunities for additional methods she, or someone else in a similar position, can use to battle psoriasis.
According to this
Breakfast: Blueberry oatmeal pancakes
Lunch: Chicken, sweet potato and vegetables
Dinner: Fish and vegetables
Drink: Four and a half litres a day
Oatmeal pancakes, while according to another page, don’t have wheat flour but do have ground oats. Oats are grains and have lectins. They are also notorious for Roundup (glyphosate) contamination11. Two strikes for breakfast.
Chicken, unless free range and organic,
Fish is great if wild caught.
Chicken Cacciatore, which she is making in the above pic, is a chicken dish topped with tomatoes and bell peppers in some recipies13. Chicken (lectin), topped with tomatoes (lectins), peppers (lectins), served with what looks to be a salad topped with cherry tomatoes (yes, more lectins!). The Atkins bars she is promoting here are also lectin bombs, containing almost all of the avoid recommendations and adding inflammatory seed oils to boot. Not good for psoriasis!
Interesting aside, Italians typically peel and de-seed their
Let’s look at a protein shake she is promoting and credits to success in weight loss,
Pea protein isolate, inulin, brown rice protein, hydroxycitric acid from the dried fruit rind of Garcinia Cambogia (Super CitriMax®), natural French vanilla flavor, natural vanilla flavor, flaxseed (Bevgrad® Xtrasmooth), xanthan gum, cocoa, milled white chia seed, tricalcium phosphate, purified sea salt, magnesium oxide, plum, beet, raspberry, yumberry, enzyme blend (Pepzyme® AG), probiotic dairy (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bibidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium lactis), black currant, blackberry, trap, luo han guo (monk fruit)(Go-Luo®), pomegranate, stevia leaf extract, red grape, banana, blue honeysuckle berry, blueberry, dark sweet cherry, eggplant, guava, purple sweet potato, red bell pepper, red pepper, strawberry, sweet cherry, tomato, watermelon, orange, carrot, cranberry, purple cabbage, cucumber, mango, peach, spinach, zinc amino acid chelate, acerola cherry, apple, kale, ascorbic acid, ferrous fumarate, kiwi, acai, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, boy chop, butternut squash, green bean, green pea, lemon, lime, mung bean, parsley leaf, pineapple, pumpkin, star fruit, sweet potato, yellow bell pepper, selenium amino acid chelate, d-alpha tocopherol acetate, niacinamide, copper amino acid chelate, iodine amino acid chelate, manganese amino acid chelate, d-calcium pantothenate, chromium amino acid chelate, vitamin A palmitate, pyridoxine HCI, riboflavin, thiamine HCI, d-biotin, folic acid, beta carotene, ergocalciferol and cyanocobalamin.
Pea protein and brown rice are high lectin, and
I don’t think the term keto appropriately in describes her diet. This is common. Keto is not just
Further, she is getting lectins all day, ramping up her Th17 and potentially contributing to psoriasis flares.
Kim is known for lots of bikini pics, so you think she would be good on the sun exposure front. However, she is blunting the positive sun effects if this article is accurate in
“In my daily skincare routine, I always make sure to wear products that have SPF!” she writes on her site. “It’s so important for protection, preventing fine lines, wrinkles
It is hard for the sun to get to the psoriasis patches and work its magic if behind makeup with SPF +/- additional sunscreen. Even the National Psoriasis Foundation recommends omitting sunscreen on the affected areas16.
I like that Kim shared her struggle, bringing attention to these conditions can get discussions (like this one) going. We don’t know how much of the reports are accurate, but it looks like she isn‘t getting great advice on how to take a more active role in battling this disease. Further, the presentation available publicly shows she engages diet and lifestyle measures that escalate Th17 and the T cell-based immune response integral to psoriasis.
It is not that lectins have to be avoided for all people – they should be monitored to determine your individual response. Keep in mind, inflammation isn’t always something we notice if it is not from an injury – things like brain fog could signal an escalation. For someone with an inflammatory or autoimmune condition, like psoriasis, lectins are easily a high priority for heightened focus and management.
If I have someone asking me about psoriasis, I would highly recommend the strategies above. If you or someone you know would like assistance here, please reach out for a free consultation. If you happen to be one of the 100 million+ followers of Kim on social media, please forward this to her – it would be fascinating to know if this information can help her. If it helps Kim, her influence could help thousands with this difficult malady.
- Steven R. Gundry M.D., The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain, pg. 32, loc. 561
- SelfHacked.com Inflammation Class