Managing My Psoriasis: It’s a Lifestyle
My first psoriasis flare was awful. My whole body was covered in itchy, red patches and I was so uncomfortable and self-conscious I barely left my apartment. The first two treatments I tried didn’t work, but gave me horrible side effects. Eventually, I tried a medication that helped clear my skin almost completely in about 6 months. However, the side effects from my medication were so difficult to live with that I knew I needed to stop taking it. I was afraid the psoriasis would come back, but my gut was telling me to see what happened without the medication.
My dermatologist was originally against my decision to stop the medication, but ultimately respected my choice. This approach is not for everyone, so always talk over decisions like this with your dermatologist. Her advice was to keep my stress levels low, protect my skin as much as possible from extreme weather and the sun, commit to a skincare routine, and eat nutritiously. It was up to me to make these changes in real life and find what worked for me.
I knew for sure that I’d need to focus on caring for my skin, keeping it healthy and moisturized. I lathered myself with psoriasis-friendly lotions and other skincare products constantly. I never stopped researching, learning about, and testing products on my skin. I often tried products formulated for eczema-prone skin since I didn’t come across as many products specially designed for people with psoriasis; plus, eczema and psoriasis products tend to have the same ingredients and goal, since the two conditions both involve itchy, dry, sensitive skin.
I looked for skincare products with ingredients that would calm and moisturize my skin, like aloe vera, zinc, glycerin, salicylic acid, manuka oil, and tea tree oil. I specifically love using products containing an herb called Centella asiatica because I’ve found it to be the most moisturizing and effective in calming my flares.
When trying new products, I make sure to do a patch test first, just in case my sensitive skin has a reaction! I put a small amount on one area of my body and then wait to see if my skin reacts. Most of the time, I can tell whether or not a product is working within a day; I can feel a difference in how itchy and inflamed my skin is.
It’s important to patch test different areas with different products or use one product at a time so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. I never stop testing new products, even though I’ve found a few staples that I know work for my skin. Skincare is forever evolving and new research is always emerging.
To stay healthy beyond skincare, I took a holistic approach, which meant adjusting my diet, managing stress levels, and looking into at-home remedies and alternative therapies like acupuncture and energy healing. I tried a lot of different techniques, and they work differently for everyone, so if you’re considering lifestyle changes to manage psoriasis, look to your doctor for guidance.
As for my diet, I tried a whole bunch of things. I read that gluten and dairy can worsen the symptoms of psoriasis in some people so I tried my best to cut them out of my diet as much as possible. I actually still stay away from dairy to this day! It was really hard to make these changes, but I would remind myself that this is what I chose and that I owed it to myself to at least try.
I also began to consume more greens, fruits, fish, and healthy oils. I found most of this information online and through psoriasis communities and online forums.
I also began to add a lot of vitamins and nutrients into my system; I wanted to know what was lacking in my body and any deficiencies that could possibly weaken my immune system’s ability to fight a flare. So, I got my bloodwork done at a holistic health optimization center and started from there. The doctor told me I was incredibly deficient in vitamin D and vitamin B12, and that my hormones were imbalanced. I began to get monthly vitamin D and B12 injections and also take supplements in a pill form every day.
I also started taking black seed oil capsules after hearing many testimonies from those with psoriasis. Some supplements, including black seed oil, can interfere with certain medications or worsen certain health conditions, so talk to your doctor before trying anything new.
Along with diet changes, I also started to consistently exercise, getting to the pilates studio at least a few times each week. Last but not least, I began focusing on stress reduction techniques, as stress is highly linked to psoriasis and is known to be one of the biggest triggers.
I realized over time that my flares would become much more aggressive when I was going through a stressful moment or period of time. My plaques would be redder and itchier, and I even noticed that new spots would appear when I was super stressed out!
Today, I manage my stress levels, calm myself down, and reset my mental stability by meditating, breathing, lounging out in the sun, taking cold plunges, and listening to anxiety relief music. I’ve also benefited from alternative therapies like energy healing and acupuncture.
In an energy healing session, also known as reiki, a practitioner will help balance out a person's chakra and energy from different parts of the body. Doing so can help enable relaxation, reduce stress, improve mindset, speed healing, and more.
As for acupuncture, it can help the blood circulate better in your body and it does wonders in helping me manage my stress. I learned that these strategies could help with psoriasis through researching other patients’ blogs, the psoriasis community, forums, and more.
The thing is, psoriasis is different for everyone. Some may have food triggers and some may have stress triggers and some people may have it all. Some people may heal through lifestyle changes and some may heal with medication and some need a combination of both.
But my main takeaway from my experience is to never give up. Never give up trying new methods to clear a flare. And never give up even after clearing a flare; continue on a healthy journey to maintain your skin.
Take care of both your outer and inner health – that is when you shine.