What does it mean to live with psoriasis? Many people do not know what it is, and for this, it means a lot of staring. Strangers ask if I am contagious, if I’ve rolled in poison ivy, or if I’ve been attacked by a horde of mosquitoes. Psoriasis can mean hours upon hours a day of applying creams and ointments, difficulty sleeping, constantly feeling itchy, and a new meaning to the phrase ‘uncomfortable in my own skin.’
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that pronounces itself through the skin. I suffer from dry, itchy skin that is thin, tender, and bleeds easily. These lesions can surface anywhere on the body, including genitals and under fingernails, on the scalp and inside the ears. Many of us who suffer from psoriasis tell ourselves that it could be much worse, and this is true, it could be. I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was seven, but the cream I was prescribed worked well enough for the next 10 years that at times I found myself surprised when I’d discover a patch.
It’s been about another 10 years since my flare ups became uncontrollable. Little by little the patches began to cover my body, until almost suddenly I was severely covered. I was in college in upstate New York at the time, and none of the doctors specialized in skin care and were equipped to treat me. Over the next few years, I tried various medications, some which made me very sick, some which made the psoriasis much worse.
In once case I had flu-like symptoms during the two weeks that I was on the medication; I couldn’t eat without getting sick. Another medication caused me to break out in hives all over my body which wasted weeks, and another gave me a headache that made standing unbearable. I can only imagine the stress my liver endured.
After about seven years of trying various medications and light therapy (UV radiation, whether from sun exposure or light beds, is one of the most effective treatments) I began to break out on my scalp and lose my hair. That was pretty much the tipping point, when I admitted that the process I’d been using was not working. I’d considered seeing a Chinese herbalist, but part of the struggle of having a medical condition, besides the time it takes, is the money involved. I was lucky enough to have a mother who could afford to pay for my visit. It was the beginning of a long road towards understanding my body’s relationship to its environment, my emotions, and what I ate.
One of the first things the herbalist told me was that about 80 percent of our immune system is located in our gut. While this simplifies the biology of the immune system, it helps us non-biologists grasp the importance of what we consume.
I was tested for food allergies, and was very disturbed to find I had allergies and sensitivities to fructose, dairy, soy, gluten, and many additives and preservatives. I was overwhelmed by how little I could eat and how this affected my daily life.
There were many, many times I wanted to return to a doctor and ask for medication, and the first year off medications I was sick at least once a month. But I began to notice what a flare-up, and tease out the details of what had set it off. I discovered, though my own research, personal experience, and conversations with other psoriasis sufferers, a few remedies. Each of these takes some time to adjust to, and it may be a couple weeks before you see results, but out of all the crazy things I’ve tried — from rubbing a banana peel on the sores (some attest to it!) to habitual oatmeal baths — these definitely work.
1. Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
This salt works miracles, and I would recommend it both internally and externally. When I woman first told me her friend had cured her psoriasis by spraying her skin with salt water, I thought she was a little off her rocker, but I was also desperate enough to mix a tablespoon of Himalayan salt into a three ounce tried a spray bottle of water and a tablespoon of the Himalayan salt, and sure enough my psoriasis began to heal. Now, I tend to use a bar of it on my psoriasis, which I find much nicer as it takes a lot less time to dry, is easier to carry around, and I don’t have to apply as frequently.
2. Aloe Juice
I tend to use the Himalayan salt bar, and then do a quick rinse with the aloe. Between the two my psoriasis is in remission and my skin looks beautiful. I’ve found that certain brands of aloe juice give me better results, so if you’re not too crazy about one brand please try another, because it’s worth it.
3. 100 Percent Shea Butter
I’ve tried many creams, butters, and lotions. This has by far given me the best results. Be careful though, because there are many shea butter formulas out there that are not one hundred percent, so read the ingredients. The only downside is that it can be greasy and will get on your clothes, but I like to use it at night before I go to sleep. You’re going to think I’m a little eccentric, but if you take a lighter and melt the cocoa butter it absorbs into your skin much easier and works much better.
4. Alkalinized Water
If you don’t already know how alkalinizing your body helps in all areas of life check out these awesome articles here, and here. If you don’t want to read too much, you should know that the modern lifestyle—complete with diet and stress levels—have led our bodies to have a more acidic ph than is healthy, which increases our chance of disease. There are a few ways to alkalize your water. Chlorophyll is a great way to alkalize, and I’ve also found adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of Himalayan salt, and the juice of a small lemon to 32 ounces of water does the trick.
Turmeric is known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, and you can add a little to any of your meals (I have a friend who adds it to her morning oatmeal). I like to drink it in tinctured form, as a liquid that I add to water or juice, throughout the day. How I discovered the healing properties of this powerhouse of a herb was a bit of a miracle—I’d read about it years before I decided, on a whim, to add it to a broth I was making. The very next day I broke out in one of the most severe cases of psoriasis I’ve ever had, which left me bedridden for a week and unable to walk. Eating was painful,, and all I could consume was the broth I’d made. I still remember the calming sensation that drinking the broth brought to my stomach. Now, when I’m having a stressful day and feel nauseous, I pour a few drops of this little beauty into a glass of water and immediately notice my stomach begin to settle. I’ve found there’s a direct and cyclical connection between my stress levels, my gut, and my flare-ups. I try to stay in control and calm myself before the breakouts become an issue.