Skip to main content

CNN anchor Zain Verjee: How I fight psoriasis

By Zain Verjee, CNN
updated 8:57 PM EST, Mon January 13, 2014
  • Earlier this month, CNN anchor Zain Verjee wrote about her battle with psoriasis
  • The sometimes debilitating skin condition plagued her physically and mentally from age 8
  • Verjee described finally sending the disease into remission after attending a clinic
  • Readers asked for details of the diet and method she followed -- she outlines them here

Editor's note: Zain Verjee anchors the Europe morning show for CNN International from London. Earlier this month, she wrote about her battle with psoriasis, a condition that sees skin cells duplicate too frequently, resulting in scale-like plaques. Verjee successfully sent the condition into remission after attending a clinic that focused on mind, body and spirit and adapting her diet. In response to questions from readers, Verjee now shares more detail of how she tackled psoriasis. This is her personal experience only and is in no way an endorsement by CNN of the methods described.

(CNN) -- One of the most powerful experiences in life is to have deep, meaningful connection. Without it we are empty. Each message I received about my struggle with psoriasis was a new connection that brought with it a tapestry of fulfillment, gratitude and inspiration for me. Thank you.

Many of you have asked me about diet. For me, it was, the most long-term solution to heal my severe psoriasis then, requiring the toughest self-discipline and a team of cheerleaders. Here's what I did, with what I learned at the clinic in South Africa, and my mother, Yasmin's help. Mum and I also used the book "Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative" by Dr. John O.A. Pagano to help explain diet in more detail and the science of natural healing.

Stuff I did not eat: Sugar, coffee, tea, soda, red meat (except for lamb), shellfish, oranges (I had very little citrus at all), "hot" spices, pumpkin, onions, garlic, tomato, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, chili, paprika, cheese, white rice, white flour, bread, eggs, butter, cookies, chocolate, alcohol, tobacco, cranberries, blueberries, plums, strawberries, cream, lentils, peas, white potatoes, yeast.

Stuff I could eat: Brown rice or wild rice, plain chicken or lamb, honey, apple, melon, banana, leafy green salads (no dressing), plain low-fat yogurt, celery, spinach, broccoli, corn, sweet potato pear, papaya, apricot, grilled fish, turkey, wholegrain muffin or bagel, bran, almonds, low-fat milk, wholegrain pasta. Loads of water.

CNN anchor talks 'traumatic' skin disease
'Ugly' skin condition has no cure
CNN International anchor Zain Verjee has psoriasis, a disease that can consist of raised, inflamed skin patches covered by silvery flakes of dead skin cells or scales. Verjee is one of many public figures who deal with the effects of the sometimes debilitating disorder. Click through the gallery to view other recognizable people who have psoriasis. CNN International anchor Zain Verjee has psoriasis, a disease that can consist of raised, inflamed skin patches covered by silvery flakes of dead skin cells or scales. Verjee is one of many public figures who deal with the effects of the sometimes debilitating disorder. Click through the gallery to view other recognizable people who have psoriasis.
Famous folks with psoriasis
Famous folks with psoriasis Famous folks with psoriasis

Mum and I devised some menus like this:

Breakfast: Lemon in hot water, high fiber cereals/bran and milk, papaya, low fat yogurt, chamomile tea, occasional eggs.

Lunch and dinner: Stir-fry vegetables (celery, carrots, French beans, corn, cabbage, broccoli) in one desert spoon of olive oil along with fresh herbs, like basil, rosemary, oregano and fresh coriander, salt and pepper to taste. Chopped nuts. Apricots, honey;

Grilled lamb with salt, pepper and honey -- white sauce over it, (made with wholewheat flour, milk and seasoning).

Plain grilled chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper plus honey; fresh chicken soup; grilled turkey breast; roasted duck (white meat only); wholegrain pasta in white sauce; grilled fish (trout or sole or mackerel); vegetable lasagna.

All foods served with leafy green salads and with vegetable sides such as asparagus with low fat margarine, steamed cauliflower with beans, broccoli and carrots, corn or sweet potato.

Sweet tooth: Baked bananas, stewed apple or pear, plain low fat yogurt with fruit, pomegranate, dates, cantaloupe, fruit salad, whole grain, apricots and prunes.

Drinks: Diluted apple juice, melon juice, low fat milk, and water.

Munchies: Carrots, salad, pear, apple, avocado, sunflower seeds, Barvita biscuits, snack bars that are oatmeal (no preservatives or coloring or flavoring).

Vitamins: B12, CoQ10, Folic acid, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D

Exercise: I worked out for at least 1-2 hours a day.

Steam: I drank two liters of cooled American yellow saffron tea while sweating in the steam room for at least 30-60 minutes a day.

I would go in and out repeatedly so-as not to overheat. I would rest and eat bananas afterwards (which contain potassium).

Meditation: At the clinic in South Africa, I learned how to do deep relaxation and creative visualization. Three times a day I lay on the floor of my bedroom for at least 30 minutes and meditated. I imagined myself windsurfing in a bikini with the naked sun on my clear skin.

I imagined making a deal with my psoriasis, I would maintain the diet, and it, in turn would go away. I visualized that all the time.

I used naturally based topical creams from the Meyer Zall clinic to help sooth my skin. The clinic is now closed.


This worked for me back then and put me in remission for about 10 years, where I could eat anything I wanted and live completely normally.

I have suffered recently from significant flare-ups that are stress induced (need to handle stress better ...). I needed a "quick fix" and first was on Enbrel injections, then Methotrexate and now Humira, a biologic drug, which is currently helping.

There is clearly a place for medication like this in healing, but my experience with diet forces me to believe that is a longer term, side effect-free solution.

There is much debate in the value of food: which are immune boosters, what is more or less acidic, what is toxic for certain illnesses, is gluten-free the way to go; can food only provide cures? There is no one size fits all.

The only universal truth in all this, for me, is maintaining a positive attitude no matter how hard it is, with the love and support of friends and family.

Once again, thank you.

For more information on psoriasis, Verjee suggests visiting the National Psoriasis Foundation (U.S), Psoriasis Association (UK) or Africa Psoriasis Organization (Kenya). Medical advice is that sufferers work with their doctors to establish a treatment plan.

This article is about Zain Verjee's personal experience only and is not an endorsement of the method of treatment she describes.

Part of complete coverage on
CNN Living reflects your life. From advice for modern parents to the freshest news in food: It's all here.
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
Travis and Joyce Miller started producing hickory syrup as an experiment. Demand for the unique flavor has turned into a full-time business.
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
These happy couples kept the campfire flames burning, and turned summer flings into lifetime commitments.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
Shanesha Taylor says a moment of "desperation" led her to leave her children in a car during a job interview.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Bikinis might dominate the beaches, but style editors and trend forecasters say the one-piece is the "fashion-forward" choice this season.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Are you ready for this? These guidelines tell you when to wash everything, from sheets and cars to bras and hair.
updated 7:21 AM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
"I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading," says tattoo artist Kat Von D. Is this a good thing?