Do mineral baths hold water as a psoriasis treatment?

| Melissa Leavitt

Testing the waters of an age-old psoriasis treatment has uncovered a possible explanation for why bathing in mineral water can improve psoriasis.

Over the years, many psoriasis patients have found relief from mineral water. The Dead Sea, for instance, has been a destination for those seeking an alternative psoriasis treatment for decades.

The reason why the treatment may help improve psoriasis has not always been clear. But a study published in December in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology suggests that mineral water therapy — known as balneotherapy — might treat psoriasis by changing the bacteria living on your skin.

Researchers studied 29 patients attending La Roche-Posay, a center in France that uses thermal spring water in dermatological treatment. The patients, who all had moderate-to-severe psoriasis, underwent balneotherapy for three weeks, which involved taking high-pressure showers and baths and drinking La Roche-Posay thermal spring water.

A previous study of 92 patients with moderate psoriasis found that three weeks of balneotherapy led to an average skin improvement of about 50 percent, researchers reported.

For the more recent study, researchers tested how the waters affected the skin microbiome of patients whose psoriasis improved.

Your microbiome is the community of microbes living on and inside you. Past research has found that a diverse microbiome is important for immune functioning. In January 2015, a study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology found that people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis may have decreased levels of some kinds of microbes, leading to a lack of microbial diversity.

Before patients started treatment, researchers measured the bacteria living on their skin. In line with studies conducted by other researchers, they found that patients did not have a lot of bacterial diversity. When they tested patients’ microbiome after three weeks of balneotherapy, researchers did not find an increase in bacterial diversity overall.

However, they did find an increase in some kinds of bugs that could have an impact on psoriasis.

One kind was called Xanthomonas, which, according to the researchers, helps regulate keratin. Keratin is a protein that protects the skin. In people with psoriasis, keratinocytes — which are skin cells that produce keratin — grow too fast, leading to a build-up of dead skin cells.

Based on these findings, researchers concluded that the mineral water used in the study may change the composition of the skin by promoting the growth of some bacteria.

Editor's note: Always check with your doctor to find the treatment that’s right for you.


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