Feeding Your Skin & Bones (Eczema, Psoriasis, and Arthritis)

IMG_3200The knee bone’s connected to the…skin?

Yes, it is. And a holistic view of the body and its functions is firmly rooted in Jewish spirituality.

The soul and the body have an intricate and important relationship in Judaism. We’re taught that the soul is a permanent guest in the body during one’s lifetime and they have a symbiotic relationship. The soul comes down into the body to complete a mission, which it could not complete in its purely spiritual state. Hillel taught that care (but not obsessive devotion to) of the body is a commandment since a healthy body can help the soul accomplish its mission.

(An illness may also be part of a soul’s mission.)

The soul can also be said to be a blueprint for the body (a blueprint that can change over time.) This doesn’t necessarily mean if you have a physical ailment you have a spiritual deficit of great proportion. Sometimes, very spiritual, even holy individuals struggle with health issues for a variety of reasons. And sometimes criminals lead long lives in apparent good physical health.

(There are Torah explanations for these seemingly “unfair” occurrences but that’s a whole other blog post.)

It is Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Iyar is the month associated with healing, in part because it is an ♥acronym (in Hebrew) for I am G-d your Healer. During Iyar, we engage in counting the Omer, which, when done with focused intention, bring awareness and personal growth.

Spring is also the time of year when physical healing naturally accelerates. Perhaps this why we’re innately drawn to learning about healing, cleansing, dieting, exercising, and so on, in the spring. Because the body and soul spend the lifetime in an intimate dance, focusing on our physical health and healing can (sometimes) bring spiritual benefits and vice versa. Of course, we can make an effort to do both simultaneously.

Spring is the time of year when our internal processes rise upwards and outwards more quickly. This often shows up in the skin, as imbalances rise from the core to the outermost surface of the body. Of course, our skin reflects our physical (and often spiritual) health at any time of year, though each person’s experience of this differs in intensity.

In spring, for example, eczema symptoms either become more extreme or else begin to fade or otherwise change. What has been stagnant, now shows new energy. The sunlight of spring, which is less intense than summer, can provide gentle healing for many skin disorders, including eczema.

For many eczema sufferers the eight days of eating Pesach matzohs might trigger itchy skin, eczema, dryness. Also at Pesach time, breakouts might be triggered from the consumption of more wheat, fats, fish, and fruit than usual. People who only suffer skin disruptions during Pesach often find near-immediate relief when returning to their regular diets after Pesach. The sun and warm (but not hot) weather have something to do with this.

But just as spring can reflect inner energy expressing itself at the surface, eczema and psoriasis are often signposts for inner dysfunction which is related to the joints and bones. Both eczema and psoriasis often co-occur with joint pain and joint disorders, including arthritis and knee-problems, as well as some bone disorders including osteoarthritis. This helps us understand why the same dietary improvements will help both disorders. After all, both disorders are really symptoms of a larger imbalance. They are also both linked to inflammation, which is usually a function of our diets.

What’s hard for many people to swallow is that foods they have believed to be “healthy” are the foods that are causing problems. It’s as hard to change your diet as your mindset.

It’s easy to experience and understand that our bodies change over time. We also understand that our food sources have been rapidly changing and the quality, quantity, and variety of foods we eat has changed dramatically every ten years or so, especially over the past century.

Torah also teaches us that human physiology has changed. And Rebbe Nachman teaches that each new scientific advancement is counter-balanced by a new disease or disorder in a kind of spiritual physics.

For many people, repetition is itself a cause of illness. Eating even a “healthy” food regularly over months or years can lead to food intolerance. *Elimination eating plans are generally the best way to address food intolerances and allergies. But you may not have to give up your favorite food—you just have learn how to rotate it.

Here are the foods that often trigger eczema, psoriasis, as well as arthritis and other joint and bone problems including tendonitis, unspecified joint inflammation, and so on.

The Top Three Foods That May Inflame Your Eczema, Psoriasis, and Arthritis

Members of the Nightshade Family: Eggplants, Potato, Tomato, Tomatillo, Bell Peppers and Chili Peppers, and Wolf Berries (aka Goji Berries).

Milk and Dairy Products that have been pasturized and/or homogenized and/or is from non-grazing cows. This includes all dairy products including cheese and ice cream. However, many people who are sensitive to dairy, are not sensitive to goat milk or to raw milk from grazing (pastured) cows or ewes. See HJC for more information about dairy allergies and intolerances.

Eggs from factory-farmed chickens. Sometimes, merely switching to pastured eggs helps. Sometimes, limiting eggs to one or two a week helps. See HJC for more information about choosing eggs.

There are usually positive results when people with eczema, psoriasis, and arthritis remove or limit these foods.

Other foods, too can cause problems.

Soy, especially unfermented in the forms of tofu, soy oil, shoyu, soy nuts, pasturized miso (raw miso and tempeh are fine as long as no allergies are present) and soy as an additive to all kinds of foods is highly inflammatory. For more information see Soy? Oy! 

Fish (!), some people cannot tolerate fish. Though usually considered a benign and healthy food, I’ve noticed that it seems to trigger eczema and digestive disorders in some (though I’ve never noticed fish contributing to joint or bone problems, in fact, usually the opposite).

Grains Whole grains, too, maybe even especially. The gluten containing grains, like oats, wheat, spelt, rye, and barley, as well as non-gluten oats and all forms of rice (except wild rice) can trigger eczema. Sometimes, sourdough (real sourdough, not the fake variety containing yeast) or slow-raised yeast breads, especially spelt, might not be a problem. HJC’s sourdough info and slow, yeast raised info and recipe and more info. Info on gluten, too.

For some, chocolate, corn, any chemical additives or preservatives, yeast, sugary foods, can aggravate symptoms.

Foods and Supplements That May Help Heal Eczema, Psoriasis, and Arthritis

These foods contain beneficial nutrients, especially essential fatty acids.

Avocadoes Lashings of vitamin E and healing fats.

Fish and Fish Oil Yes, it is medicine for some, and a toxin for others. Zahler’s Pharmaceutical Grade Fish Oil is one of the best. (If you order through this link, you help keep healthyjewishcooking.com online.)

Sprouted Grains, Beans, Seeds, Almonds but not too much, they can be weakening. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, GABA rice, chick pea sprouts, and so on. Even if you are sensitive to the grain and its flour, you will most likely benefit from the sprouted version. But be careful. Sprouts must be prepared in sanitary conditions. Info on GABA rice.

Wheat Grass or Barley Grass Juice, the kind from powder is fine, may even be better in some cases than fresh. I’ve been using Pines Wheatgrass Powder for years. I’ve tried other brands and also juiced fresh wheatgrass, but find the powder doesn’t spike blood sugar like fresh wheat grass juice can. Don’t overdo it, though.  Start with 1/2 teaspoon and take up to 1 teaspoon twice a day, maximum. Five days on, two days off for specific treatments.

Spirulina, Algae, and Seaweed Spirulina and other algae supplements in very small doses; seaweeds are delicious in bean and soup dishes or in a salad by themselves. Nutrex Spirulina is a great brand to try. I keep it sealed tight in my freezer (along with my wheat grass). I use only 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon serving and often mix it into a drink containing wheatgrass powder. You have to shake well because it clumps if you stir it. Five days on, two days off, for specific treatments.

Fermented and Cultured Foods must be made with unrefined salt and NO VINEGAR. They must be RAW (not pasturized). Vegetable pickles, real raw sauerkraut the only brand that is real that is kosher is Bubbe’s), lemons, beets, kim chi, as well as yogurt from good quality milk help you sustain healthy flora in your digestive tract which leads to glowing skin and healthy joints. You can make homemade versions of these. Cultured butter and kefir are good, too. As we age, many of us need to eat small amounts of fermented foods several times a week and/or add probiotics to our diets. Grow your own probiotics!

Raw Dairy (see Dairy, above)

Meaty Bone Broth which must be made from the bones of grazed (pastured) cow, sheep/lamb, goat. Really healing for joint and bone issues. Tiny amounts are needed for most people. If you can’t tolerate it (it is very rich and I cannot stomach it) try a broth from pastured, organic chicken, turkey and/or duck bones. Although not considered to be as beneficial, a very rich broth or congee made from a whole carp (cleaned, of course) is also nourishing for the skin, joints and bones. You can add any vegetables you like (radishes, onions, leeks, turnips, carrots are a nice combination). You can also add millet, quinoa, teff, or amaranth, all of which are usually well-tolerated. Also you can try rice or jobs tears. For information see the Weston Price foundation which will show you how to create a bone broth. For a congee, I’ll try to post a recipe in the future.

Healing Veggies: Almost all Leafy Greens (kale, collards, turnip greens, romaine), Onions, Turnips, Red and Green Cabbage, Carrots (they can be very sweet, so don’t overdo it), Radishes (cooked and/or raw), organic cucumbers with their skin, and more.

In my experience, virtually all eczema, psoriasis, and many cases of some types of arthritis and tendonitis and joint inflammation respond to removing inflammatory foods and adding healing foods.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. There are other nutritional options which can help skin, joint and bone disorders which are not discussed in this article.

♥You may have heard of gematria, which enriches our understanding of texts, language, and spiritual concepts. In gematria, each letter, word-root, and word have corresponding numerical values (a variety of systems are used to calculate these values). Gematria reveal layers upon layers of meanings and connections which the average person wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Acronyms are also used to reveal the meaning of words and phrases.

*If you want to do an elimination eating plan email me, Chaya Rivka, at: healthyblog@optimum.net.

You may want to check out Spring Cleaning and Your Liver

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