Lichen sclerosus and stress


Tight &





With January being LS awareness month, I decided it was a good time to repost one of the LS series blogs. This was one of the most read posts over this past year. It is also an area we can all work to alleviate.

As I mentioned in What causes lichen sclerosus?, it’s a soup of causes and each person’s experience is unique. Among the online communities, there is one thing we tend to share as an LS trigger: stress. While I enjoyed coming up with the stress antidote acronym above, stress goes deeper than we think.

Photo by Maria on

So, what’s up with lichen sclerosus and stress?

We have an interesting relationship with stress. We throw that word around as often as we do the word busy. Perhaps they’re related. Let’s break it down.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress is natural:

Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That’s stress. Stress responses help your body adjust to new situations.1

The stress response helps us to adapt and grow. It fosters resilience.

But what if we’re stuck in a stress response?

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to talk to you about stress. What I do want to talk about is stress and LS.

There are many types of stress. We tend to think of the kind that creates emotional/mental difficulties: work, family, finances, health…

Then there’s stress on the body. My spine reminds me every time I overdo something and it takes me longer to recover.

A deeper stress is one we cannot see: oxidative stress or OS. LS and OS are in a relationship together. And it’s not going very well. According to a 2019 National Library of Medicine article:

It appears evident, as in other chronic inflammation processes, that OS plays an important role not only in the pathogenesis, but also in the development, maintenance, and progression of LS. 2

Oh, yes. I just found some rather interesting research that has me rethinking stress and LS. The article continues (let me run with this for a bit. It’s fascinating):

The presence of an oxidative imbalance in the diseased tissues can thus contribute to destroy the tissue of the skin and mucous membranes during LS. 3

Wait for it…

Sander et al (2004) found that the following were present in LS lesions: products of lipid peroxidation in high concentration in the keratinocytes of the epidermal basal cell layers; oxidative DNA damage in all LS lesions; oxidative protein damage in the areas of dermal sclerosis… 4

What’s lipid peroxidation got to do with it? I may be way out on a limb here… this next research is not related to LS but came up in answer to my question of how to heal/prevent lipid peroxidation:

A combination of vitamins C and E (ascorbic acid, tocopherol) or solitary supplementation with vitamin A (retinoic acid) prevented lipid-peroxidation. 5

National Library of Medicine

Even though the focus of the research above was not LS, it appears to address a pretty major component of the LS research article:

OS, through lipid peroxidation, is likely the most significant cause of tissue damage and consequent fibrosis, which, as the disease progresses, causes its late complications. OS is, therefore, integral part of the disease and has an influence on its progression, including its possible malignant transformation. 6

I’m not telling you to go out and buy vitamins and experiment with your health. I am sharing what I find as exciting bread crumbs (gluten-free, of course) on the path to healing LS.

I’ll let the research wrap it up:

Considering the role that OS plays in LS, therapeutic use of antioxidants, therefore, appears to be rational and possible, in association with other types of treatment. The purpose of this treatment option is not only that of reducing the damaging effects of OS on cells and tissues, but also of hindering the progression of LS and reducing the risk of malignant transformation. 7

It is important to work with a professional in order to get the right combination of vitamins/minerals, as well as dose, timing and delivery system.

It doesn’t, however, mean we can’t improve our consumption of foods containing these antioxidants as part of our nourishing protocols. And have the conversation with your health care practitioner.

Of course, more research is needed.

This is only one piece of the LS puzzle, however, we need all of the pieces in order to put it together. If we can’t yet prevent or cure LS, perhaps we can address each of the major factors involved.

I’ve mentioned gut health often as being a big piece of this puzzle. We can also look to cellular health and address the oxidative stress in our tissues and the mental/emotional/physical stress in our lives. It’s all connected.

I had no idea when I began writing this post that I would end up talking about OS and antioxidants. And to think…

…I was going to tell you to breathe.

Actually, I’m still going to do that but I’ll make it a separate post. 🙂

So, stress really is about Sitting Tight & Resisting Eating Something Sweet. Instead, opt for foods high in antioxidants.

Much love,


Read the next post in the series: Lichen sclerosus and trauma

Or pick up your copy of the award-winning book Lichen Sclerosus: Body, Mind & Spirit Practices to Heal the Stress of LS

**This blog is meant to inform, not diagnose or treat specific health conditions. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always consult your doctor or health care practitioner.




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