Monday, April 30, 2012

More on Sunshine

A couple of years ago I was at a local psoriasis supporters meeting and was chatting to a guy who was very depressed about his bad psoriasis. It was an interesting chat and i was glad to be supported in my opinions by a lady who had similar experiences to what I have had.

This guy is an inside person. He is single and with no significant other in his life. He has psoriasis that is treated by a dermatologist. He told me that nothing that the dermatologist had tried worked for his psoriasis and he was going to have biologic injections to sort it out. I am not a lover of the concept of those injections, they are a crazy price that just pushes up the cost of health-care unnecessarily and they have potentially lethal side-effects. So I asked him a few questions about his lifestyle and what treatments had been tried. It was enlightening.

Living alone and not caring for cooking, he eats out all the time. Mostly fast food burgers, fries and sodas. I asked why he doesn't opt for the much healthier salads now offered by most fast food chains but he doesn't like salads. A diet composed almost entirely of beef burgers, fries and sodas is guaranteed to mess up your body in one way or another. For him it shows as psoriasis, for others it might cause type 2 diabetes, heart problems, morbid obesity, cancer or other nasty conditions.

He doesn't do any outdoor activities, at all. He has an indoor job and stays indoors all weekend as well. So, he gets virtually no sunshine on his body. He does not use UV light in the treatment of his psoriasis and he does not take vitamin D supplements. He was surprised to hear that UV light is a treatment for psoriasis as it had not been offered by his dermatologist. He suffers from chronic depression and is on anti-depressant drugs. He said that it was his psoriasis that caused him to be depressed.

I urged him to sort out his diet by eating more vegetables, fresh salads etc and to get out into the sun. Those changes should improve both his psoriasis and depression problems.

The human body needs vitamin D to be healthy. Most of this is processed by our bodies from exposure to sunlight. The amount of sunlight that our bodies can take is controlled by the pigments in our skin, so people who naturally lived close to the equator are dark-skinned to minimise absorption and those from higher latitudes closer to the poles have lighter skins to maximise absorption. If dark-skinned people move into areas of low sunlight they suffer from depression because they are deficient in vitamin D. They must either get more sunlight to make more vitamin D or they must take vitamin D supplements to compensate.

The answer to this depression by many doctors is to just medicate with anti-depressants. If they prescribed vitamin D instead, there would be much less need for anti-depressant drugs.

Depression is a problem in modern society for various reasons, including pressure of work, spending too much time working at indoor jobs and watching sports on TV instead of outdoors. Added to this is the concern for the dangers of exposure to UV rays, so everyone covers themselves with sunblock creams and sprays to block out the UV when they do get into the sun. Blocking out the UV rays stops your body from producing vitamin D, so you end up with a deficiency and a chance of depression. The answer is to expose yourself, unprotected, to natural sunlight for a few hours each week, preferably 30 minutes or so each day. The more skin that you can expose, the shorter the time can be. Twice as much exposed skin needs half as much sunlight time to process the same amount of vitamin D.

If you have a private garden or balcony, strip completely naked and absorb the sun all over. It will help the psoriasis in your groin much more  to be exposed to some direct sunlight than to get it indirectly through vitamin D processed through exposure of your arms and legs. It is also surprisingly invigorating to feel the warmth of the sun and the feel of a breeze on parts of your body that are normally covered.

Don't overdo it though. Sudden exposure of a pale body to many hours of sunshine will result in sunburn. Damage from repeated sunburns will build up in your body and you can expect skin cancer to be in your future. Peeling skin after sun tanning is an indication that you are over-doing it. Blisters are a major no-no and an indication that you are looking for trouble. I have been in the sun many thousands of hours in my 63 years but have not peeled in at least the last 30 years and have not blistered since I was a teenager.

Building up a tan slowly will give some protection from damage and reduce the chances of skin cancer. Maintaining a constant moderate tan will be safer than tanning excessively every summer vacation and staying out of the sun the rest of the year.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The sun is the Essence of Life

Most people who have psoriasis have used sunlight or UV light in one form or another at some time in the treatment if their condition, whether under the direction of a dermatologist or as self-treatment. It has long been known that psoriatic lesions react positively to UV light.

When I lived in South Africa I used the sun a lot. Being a surfer and a sailor, I spent many hours each year in or on the water, with my bare skin absorbing the sunshine. I have worked from home from soon after I was diagnosed, so on any sunny day I also spent lunch time naked in my back garden. Even the winter sun was able to help to keep my skin clear and it was only in late winter or early spring that my all-over tan would fade somewhat and my skin deteriorate to the point of showing lesions on my lower back and elbows. By mid to late summer they would be completely gone again.

After we moved to USA, the situation changed. The combination of a less healthy diet and weaker sunshine was bad for me. It proved to be easier to improve my diet than to convince the earth to let more UV light through for me to use. The hole in the ozone layer makes the sunshine stronger in the southern hemisphere than north of the equator. While the summer sun is hotter here in Virginia Beach than in Cape Town, the UV rays are weaker.

I found that to compensate I had to resort to using a sunbed to increase my UV exposure in the cooler months, with at least weekly visits to a tanning salon. Even that didn't fully do the job, although it did keep my skin nicely golden. Note that it is important to apply plenty of moisturiser to your skin multiple times a day if using a sunbed, or you will not only become golden but also crisply crinkled. I moisturised all over first thing each morning and after tanning. I also use a moisturising bar rather than soap in the shower.

Then one day a thought crossed my mind that maybe my body lacked Vitamin D rather than UV light. After all, our bodies produce Vitamin D from UV light. So, I went on-line and Googled Vitamin D and psoriasis. I found one reference to research that is being done into the effects of increasing Vitamin D intake to treat psoriasis, which said that the preliminary results were positive. I had also read elsewhere that there is new thinking and research into the Vitamin D requirements of the human body, which shows that the Recommended Daily Allowance that has been used for decades is very inadequate.

That prompted me to try Vitamin D supplements over the past 6 months or so. I started early autumn, when my skin should have been starting to deteriorate. In previous years I would have started to visit the tanning salon by about the beginning of December. This year I have not had to use a sunbed even once. Now, about the middle of spring, my skin is about the same as it would have been in Cape Town at this stage of the season. I have three small lesions on my back and a few tiny pink spots elsewhere. Few people looking at me on the beach would realise that I have a skin condition.

While this is not a scientific finding by any means, it is a good indication to me that I have benefitted by using a Vitamin D supplement. The drawback (there is always a flipside to the coin) is that I have to work a bit on my tan this spring, which I have not had to do before. The other flipside (this coin has three sides) is that I am exposing myself less to the risks of skin cancer without the sunbed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Improving digestion

Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition and auto-immune conditions generally have their origins in the digestive system. That means that anyone with an auto-immune disease or condition should do all that they can to ensure proper digestion of whatever they put into their body.

Your psoriasis shows on the outside of your body. Most people reason that the problem is on their skin so that is what they treat, with topical steroids and other creams and lotions that must be absorbed through the outer layers of skin to reach the layers where the excessive cell growth is taking place. These topical medications do help but they treat the symptoms rather than the cause of the problem. Also, many of the medications have long-term effects like thinning the skin and making it more easily damaged, if used for long periods. I prefer to use the topical solutions as a backup to improving what is happening inside my body to cause the symptoms seen and felt on my skin.

Digestion doesn't only happen in your stomach and intestines, it starts as soon as you take in something through your lips, into your mouth. I am sure that most of us remember being told by our parents to eat slowly and to chew our food properly. Our teachers at school told us the same thing. Most of us heard the message but didn't really listen to it, continuing our bad habits. Most adults don't chew their food properly, even when telling their children to do so.

Have you ever noticed that many people who really wolf down their meals are over-weight and those who eat more slowly are slim. There are two reasons for this.

1) Incompletely digested food makes more fat than properly digested food. It applies more load onto the digestive system, which cannot work as efficiently. Your digestive juices cannot break down large pieces of food as easily as it can smaller pieces that have also been well and truly beaten up by your teeth, in the same way that a studded mallet tenderizes steak and allows the marinades and sauces to get into the meat.

2) It takes your brain about 20 minutes to catch up with your stomach, to receive the message that you have had a meal. Cram in lots of food in 20 minutes and you will fill yourself up to capacity, placing strain on your stomach. Eat slowly for 20 minutes and your brain will tell you that you have had enough before the food puts pressure from below on your gullet. You will feel more comfortable for it and will be much less likely to need antacids to get rid of that bloated feeling and heartburn. If you suffer heartburn regularly take it as a sign that your eating habits are possibly not what they should be.

There is an excellent saying that I keep in mind to help maintain my digestive system in good order. It goes "Chew your liquids and drink your solids". What it means is:-

A) Don't just pour your liquids (soups, fruit juices etc) straight through your mouth and down your gullet. There are ingredients in those liquids that need the alkaline juices in your saliva to kick off conversion into the good stuff that your body needs. You should swill the liquids around your mouth to mix it with saliva before you swallow.

B) Chew your solids very thoroughly to break them into smaller pieces, break down the cell structure and to mix it with saliva. If you sometimes battle to swallow a piece of meat or other food then you have not chewed it anywhere near enough. It is too large and it is also too dry with insufficient saliva around it.

If your food is well mixed and softened before it reaches your stomach then it has a head-start to being properly converted into nutrients as it travels through your system. You will get more nutrition from your food and will be more healthy as well. Your psoriasis should show some improvement and you may lose some weight along the way.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cabbage - the magic vegetable

When I went through the process of identifying the foods that I was eating that aggravated my psoriasis and eliminated them from my diet, I continued the process and went into a cleansing cycle of a couple of weeks. Most of what I had in that period was fruit and fruit juices.

After the cleansing cycle I got into the habit of having oatmeal for breakfast, lunch of coleslaw with wholewheat bread and margarine then dinner of grilled chicken or fish with vegetables. The coleslaw was made primarily from finely chopped cabbage and carrots with mayonaise thinned with 2% milk. It happened more by accident than any other reason that I settled on coleslaw for lunch. It was a happy accident for me because it might have been a major factor in clearing my psoriasis.

Since then, as I learned progressively more about good and bad dietary habits, I read of the good things that cabbage and the cabbage family can do for good health. The whole family is known as cruciferous vegetables and they all have similar characteristics, some stronger than others. They include the various types of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, collards, mustard greens and aragula, among others.

These vegetables are all chock full of anti-oxidants, which clean up dangerous free radicals in your body, helping to fight off cancer and other diseases. The darker the colour, the stronger the anti-oxidants are likely to be. They are also full of fibre, to help with digestion by cleaning out the intestines and helping with elimination.

All of these vegetables can be eaten chopped or shredded in salads, pickled (think of sauerkraut) steamed or included in stews, chop suey, stirfry etc. They should not be over-cooked, to maintain their healthy characteristics; they are best slightly crispy.

These vegetables are also among the best for supplying calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and others to your body in a natural form. Make cruciferous vegetables a part of your diet to help with a wide range of ailmants, particularly those that are related to the imune system.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watch what you mix

I am going to stick with the digestion theme for a few posts.

We all like to mix all sorts of flavours into our meals. Nothing wrong with that, is there, as long as we cover all of the food groups? Wrong.

The North American breakfast of a stack of pancakes with syrup and eggs and bacon and sausage and ham and whatever else can be layered into the stack is really not a healthy way to eat. Yes, it contains cereal, protein, carbs etc but you really should not be eating all of that stuff in one sitting.

So, what is the problem with it? The problem is that protein is hard to digest and goes through your digestive system slowly. Sugar, at the other extreme, is easy to digest and and goes through your system very quickly. If you mix the two together in your stomach then the sugars are trapped in amongst the protein and cannot move through quickly. They start to ferment inside your intestine, which is not a way to promote proper digestion of the sugar. The fermented sugar is more likely to turn into surplus fat on your midriff and also to cause problems with your immune system.

OK, so you don't eat stacks of pancakes with all of those tasty things layered into them. Are you in the habit of eating a sweet desert or some fruit after a meal? It is a nice way to round off a nice dinner but it queues up the sugars behind the proteins in your digestive system. The sugar cannot take a fast lane to bypass the protein blockage, it has to stay in the queue and wait its turn. You will be better off health-wise to have a piece of fruit an hour before a meal, as a snack. Get it through your system before you have a heavy meal, to remove the problem. If it is a big family gathering with a roast or barbecue, have the main meal and play games or socialise for a few hours, then have the desert course when everyone will be less full and might enjoy it more anyway.

It is a habit of most people to drink a soda with a meal, particularly if you eat often at fast food chains. The sugar (lots of it) in the soda is mixed in with the protein of your burger and gives the same problem. It cannot rush through your system as it should, so it ferments, adds inches to your girth in the form of fat and it messes up your digestive processes. Don't replace the soda with an iced tea either, unless you take the unsweetened variety. There is as much sugar in sweet tea as in soda.

You will be far better off drinking a glass of water with your meal but don't overdo that either. Too much water will dilute your digestive juices and you will not digest your food properly. Incomplete digestion makes excess fat and promotes immune problems.

Do you think that following these simple rules takes away the fun of eating? Then think about the hassles of out-of-control psoriasis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other not-such-fun medical conditions. Eat the tasty things but do keep them in the right order, with sugars an hour or so before a big protein binge. The other things can be mixed but, for the sake of your own health, keep those two apart so that they can't fight inside you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prune Juice Sets You Free

At the time that I was diagnosed to have psoriasis the medical profession still was not sure what was the cause. Now they have defined it as an auto-immune problem. Auto-immune problems generally have their origins in the digestive system, more particularly the large intestine. Incomplete digestion aggravates these conditions, so it is worthwhile to do what you can to improve that aspect of your body. Any improvement is likely to result in an improvement in your psoriasis. It all comes down to proper elimination of bodily waste products

The title of this post, "Prune Juice Sets You Free", comes for a British radio comedy show that we used to listen to many years ago; I can't remember what show it was, maybe The Goons. It was a funny line in the show but it is true, so take heed. Eating prunes or drinking a small glass of prune juice each day can do wonders to help elimination. Prunes (dried plums) contain lots of fibre and fibre improves elimination.

When I looked back over my diet testing I saw that much of it tied in with good and bad digestion. The foods on the list that aggravated my psoriasis were generally hard to digest. The foods that improved my psoriasis were easy to digest or improved digestion. Vegetables are full of fibre, so they are good for digestion and good for treatment of psoriasis or any other auto-immune deficiency. Red meat is tough to digest so it proved to be bad for my psoriasis.

First thing in the morning when I get up I drink a small glass of water, to flush myself out. Some people make this a glass of warm water, which will probably improve the action. I follow up with a small glass of prune juice at breakfast.

The net result is that it is very rare for me to suffer even mild constipation. If you have any kind of auto-immune condition and you suffer constipation then the two are likely to be related. Irrespective, it is worthwhile to look after your digestion to ensure a long and healthy life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


My diet testing came up with a range of foods that I had proven to be bad for my skin. I dropped all of those foods from my diet for a few months. In that time I lived mostly on a vegetarian diet, with cereals for breakfast and salads, fruits and bread for lunch. Supper was the exception and was generally grilled chicken or fish with salads or vegetables. The result was that my skin cleared up completely.

Now I had found out how to clear my skin but I was also missing out on some of my favourite foods. I needed to decide:-

1) Which bad foods I really did not need to have in my life and which ones I wanted occasionally.
2) What level of psoriasis was acceptable to me, as the cost of having those foods back in my life.

I settled on a very low level of psoriasis as an acceptable price for the occasional naughty treat. I lived in the Southern hemisphere, with the hole in the ozone layer letting through more UV rays than happens in Virginia Beach, where I now live. Being a surfer and sailor, I spent much of my life in the sun and ocean with little or no clothing, which helped to control that minor level of psoriasis. I was generally clear all summer and had very mild lesions by the end of winter, which quickly cleared again in the spring.

After we moved to USA the UV benefit disappeared because less of it gets through the intact ozone layer. The surf here is seldom as good or as frequent as in Cape Town, so I am not in the ocean as much. Falling into the less healthy American diet was also working against me, so my skin deteriorated somewhat over the next few years. Eventually I decided that I must take more care with what I eat because it is so easy to eat unhealthy food here. I had to remind myself which foods had proven to be bad for me and should be reduced or eliminated again. My research of 20 years ago proved its value and I was able to almost totally clear my skin again.

Monday, April 16, 2012


The dermatologist who diagnosed my skin problem as psoriasis told me that diet does not affect psoriasis, then in the next sentence he told me that alcohol affects it badly. Those statements by a medical man were what started me on the road to finding diet answers for myself. Eventually I would have to test the alcohol comment as well.

In South Africa the legal drinking age is 18. I have never been a big drinker but in my late teens and early 20s I did have a few binges with friends who were much heavier regular drinkers than I was. After my bachelor party I was not able to drink beer for a decade without feeling nauseous. I drank spirits and mixers until beer again became palatable.

By the time that psoriasis started, I was racing offshore sailboats twice a week, with every race ending in the yacht club bar. I was also on yacht club and sailing administration committees, with every meeting also ending in the yacht club bar. Not heavy drinking but 2 or 3 beers each time added up to quite a few.

Remembering what the dermatologist told me, I eventually decided to test it. I changed my orders from beer to soda, completely eliminating alcohol. The response by my body was pretty quick.

I expected to see a slow improvement in my skin but I was wrong. Instead of a slow improvement I saw a rapid decline. After a week or two I went back to beer and eliminated the soda. My skin improved again. A couple of weeks later I followed the same process again, with the same result.

I did not prove that beer is good for my skin, I proved that soda is a lot worse for me than beer is. I guess that is not surprising, considering all of the junk ingredients that are in sodas and are dumped into the human body at every opportunity.

I have never gone off alcohol completely, I keep it at a very low level. I very seldom have more than two beers in any one day and most days I don't have any. I sometimes have a glass or two of sherry or port and never have any skin reaction that is strong enough for me to see any difference. Maybe if I were a heavy drinker the reaction would be strong enough for me to see the difference. At my low level of alcohol consumption it does not appear to make any difference.

I was lucky enough to have a great grandfather to appreciate well into my childhood. One of his favourite sayings was "Everything in moderation, including moderation". I don't remember what his regular tipple was but he enjoyed a glass after meals and when friends or family visited. He passed on while dozing peacefully after a good meal. I picked up on the "everything in moderation" part of his philosophy and try to apply that to all aspects of my diet.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Are you on Acid?

I found acid foods to be a big contributor to my psoriasis. The main culprits seemed to be citrus, pineapples and tomotoes. I found that I could take these things in small quantities but not on a continuous basis. A slice or two of tomato in a salad is OK but don't have pineapple or a glass of orange juice the same day. I changed over to drinking apple and other juices instead of orange juice.

This all happened in Cape Town, where the pineapples seem to be particularly acid. Here in Virginia Beach the pineapples are sweeter and don't seem to be anywhere near as acid. My body seems able to tolerate these pineapples in greater quantities without a psoriasis break-out. My wife used to get mouth ulcers from the Cape Town pineapples but doesn't from the pineapples in Virginia Beach.

I am a lover of tomato bredie, which is a traditional South African dish that is high in tomato content. It is a stew of tomatoes, potatoes and mutton or beef over a bed of rice and is very delicious, a great meal for a cold winter evening. I now use pork in my bredies and stews to help my skin. When I cook a stew-type meal I normally cook enough for an extra serving, which I cover and refrigerate to have for lunch another day. If it is tomato bredie and I have it the next day I feel the effects through itching but don't have that reaction if I have it the 2nd day.

Citrus, tomatoes and pineapples are high in vitamin C. If I take vitamin C tablets then my skin deteriorates, so I cannot be sure whether it is the vitamin C or acid that is causing the problem. I have had arthritis problems from about the same time that I was diagnosed with psoriasis, so possibly I have psoriatic arthritis. I need the vitamin C for my joints but my skin will not tolerate it. My solution has been to supplement with glucosamine chondroitin tablets. I have found that the brands that also contain hyaluronic acid are much more effective for me. Vitamin C is processed by the body into hyaluronic acid, which is a main constituent of the lining of joints in our bodies. Taking a supplement that contains hyaluronic acid bypasses the need for vitamin C and puts the required component into the joints.

We are told that arthritis cannot be reversed and I guess that is true of bone spurs that can be part of the problem. However, the problems with deteriorating linings inside the joints can be improved considerably. When I was in my mid-40s I could not bend my one knee past 90 degrees and it was becoming painful to walk. I had to find solutions to what was happening in my body or I was going to become a cripple. I was able to gradually improve my joints over a few years, it was a long and slow process. Now, heading into mid-60s, I have full movement in both knees, I am still an active surfer and sail a rather physically demanding dinghy that requires excellent agility. I can't do these activities as well as the young guys but am still doing better than most guys of my age.

Being sensitive to the messages that my body has been sending me for the past two decades has ensured that I have been able to stay active and  strong much further into my life. This is an important part of taking ownership of your body and taking on the responsibility to keep it in good shape yourself. If you figure what is happening to your body due to these conditions and why it is happening then you can find ways to improve your life.

Handing over this responsibility to the medical profession is personal choice. Your doctor can advise but has a narrower vision of the solutions than you can have by investigating alternatives. Remember that it is you, not your doctor, who has to live with the results and side-effects of what you put into your body.

Friday, April 13, 2012


Once the main baddies were out of my diet I was able to home in on other things that affected my psoriasis. Excess protein fitted into this category.

Red meat did not give me as strong reactions as the other things but I did notice that if I ate beef for a few days in a row my skin deteriorated and if I ate chicken and fish, with no red meat for a few days, it improved. That led me to drop red meat from my diet and keep chicken and fish, prepared by grilling, baking or roasting.

Then I noticed that peanuts also aggravated my skin. I love peanuts in any form and used to eat loads of them coated in sugar, chocolate, honey roasted or salted. I had already found that excesses of chocolate were not good for me and had replaced the chocolate coated peanuts with carob coated. Somehow the carob was like a very poor cousin to the chocolate coated, so that did not work for long.

I know that we all need protein but it did seem that any excess of it was not doing me any good. I rationalised that protein builds cells and my skin was growing too fast, so the excess that I consumed above my normal body needs was going into my skin and aggravating my prosiasis. There is a good chance that my rationalisation was not accurate but it did help my psoriasis to reduce protein intake.

Since then I have got most of my protein from poultry and fish. I replaced beef with pork, which does not seem to affect me adversely. There are many ways to prepare those foods to make tasty and satisfying meals, so I have never really missed the beef. A nice T-bone or rump steak is nice but I haven't had one of those for a long time. Pork is generally more tender, so easier on the teeth and digestion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I used to drink masses of coffee. It was always black, unsweetened and strong. I don't know how many mugs each day, probably about 8 or 10. I have never liked Ceylon tea and only occasionally drank hot chocolate, so it was coffee almost all of the time.

After dropping the fried and spicy food from my diet I needed to look for other culprits. My copious coffee was a logical one to investigate. I simply stopped drinking it for a week and observed the resulting improvement in my skin. Then I started drinking it again and saw the deterioration after a few days. I went through the same process again to confirm  the result, then stopped drinking it completely.

Now I was left without a hot drink. Hot chocolate was too expensive to drink in quantities and I still hated Ceylon tea. I had to find an alternative. I searched the supermarket aisles for other drinks, which were not as numerous then as you see on the shelves now.

I tried cereal drinks but they were not very tasty. I gave them a chance for a couple of weeks but the taste did not grow on me. I made lemon verbena tea with leaves picked in my garden. That tea grew on me but still was not something that I wanted to drink more than one or two cups a day.

Eventually I settled on rooibos (red bush) tea. This is a South African herbal tea that is tasty, with a pleasant aroma as well. At first I drank it black (if a red liquid can be described as "black") but without milk I found that it gave me heartburn. I started to drink it with a small amount of 2% milk and that cured the problem.

Rooibos tea is very high in anti-oxidants, so it is a very healthy drink. I replaced my coffee of questionable health benefits with very healthy rooibos tea and watched my skin continue to improve.

I do occasionally have coffee, mostly if visiting someone or travelling and there is nothing else available. I no longer like it black and do appreciate the flavour with milk. When I remember I take a stash of rooibos teabags with me on a trip but they often come back with me unopened because I forget that I have them tucked away in a suitcase pocket somewhere. That is another reason why my skin normally deteriorates when I travel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spicy Food

I used to love a good curry, not the kind that blows off the top of your head but strong enough to raise a really good sweat, the kind that needed me to alternate between a mouthful of curry and a mouthful of water, to cool my lips and tongue. I came to the conclusion that the water really did not help and may have aggravated the burn, nevertheless, the burn wouldn't let me go without the water. Banana helped, as did ice cream.

The curry was the second food to show up on my food testing as being bad for my skin. I guess that milder curry might have had more subtle effects but the stronger curry that I was eating showed up pretty quickly. Not all hot spices will have this effect, so you will have to test the particular spices that you use.

The yellow colour of curry comes from turmeric, also called curcumin. This is a worthwhile spice to have in a healthy diet because it is a strong anti-oxidant that protects against cancer. While I don't often eat curries any more, I do use turmeric in many dishes, on steamed vegetables and grilled fish or chicken. I also add it to rice while cooking, to make yellow rice. There have been claims by some people that turmeric has improved or even cured their psoriasis. This might be due to its anti-oxidant properties. My advice is to use turmeric as an ingredient in your cooking but leave out the hot spices that go with it in a curry mix.

Last year I was away from home on a camping weekend with some friends. One of them brought along a big pot of curry that he had made to a new recipe but had not tested. It turned out to be somewhat hotter than he intended and the kind that set my lips on fire and caused my eyes to water. Within hours I was feeling the itch.

If you can't do without your curries then at least tone it down, to a level that will result in a healthier skin.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fried Food

When I started testing my diet and its effects on my psoriasis, the foods that had the strongest effects were the ones that showed up first. In restrospect, it is clear that most of the bad ones are things that are bad for healthy living, no-matter what your ailment might be. In general, if you eat healthy then your body is better able to look after itself without any help from the medical profession.

Right at the top of my list is fried food. At that time I used to eat a fair amount of fried food, in the form mostly of French fries, fried fish and stir fries. I saw in my diet diary that my reaction to some of these items was very rapid. Within 3-4 hours the itch and redness would start.

I cut fried food totally out of my diet while I continued to test for other foods. After my skin had cleared and remained clear for many months, I gradually reintroduced some of these things in moderation but generally with changes in how they were cooked.

Whenever possible I replaced fried meats and fishes with grilled or baked. French fries were replaced by oven-baked chips. Stir fries and risottos still need some frying but I changed to cooking over medium heat instead of high and cooking with extra virgin olive oil in place of sunflower oil.

I found over the years that it was when travelling that it was most difficult to stick with a diet free of fried food, so it was during and soon after trips that my skin would sometimes deteriorate. When away from home it is all too easy to go into the nearest fast food joint to grab a quick meal. A burger and chips was the normal fare. Since then most of the fast food chains have buckled under the pressure to offer healthy options, so salads, healthy sides and grilled chicken burgers are now on most menus and give the opportunity to eat quite healthy meals if you take care.

Now my skin is about 99% clear, with just a few small spots on my back and elbows. Last week we had a treat of take-aways from KFC. They had no grilled chicken ready, with a wait for 10-15 minutes for grilled instead of the standard fried options. We ended up with original fried chicken boxes. This is how it is with fast foods, we go into the shop expecting to come out a few minutes later with our order. The 10-15 minute wait is not in the spirit of fast food, so we took the fast alternative. Within about 4 hours I could already feel the itch from it. Next time I will wait the few minutes, in the interests of better health.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Diet and Psoriasis

As I said in an earlier post, the dermatologist who diagnosed my psoriasis told me that diet does not affect psoriasis but alcohol does. That told me not to believe the first part of what he had said because alcohol consumption is a component of diet. So, strong-willed as I am,  I decided to test it for myself.

Many people have told me that their psoriasis is unaffected by their diet but I believe that generally they have not taken the trouble to really test it for themselves properly. Almost without exception they have told me that they have tried the avocado diet, the fish diet or some other kind of diet and nothing worked. The problem is that they were all looking for foods that would improve their psoriasis symptoms while continuing to eat everything else as before.

That is not the way that it works. You will not find a miracle food that will cure psoriasis, allowing you to continue with your unhealthy food habits and dosing up on whatever will cure your psoriasis. What you can find, is a whole bunch of foods that will aggravate psoriasis but may vary to some extent from one person to another. Identify those and you are well on your way to reducing or even eliminating your symptoms.

The way that I went about it was to buy a medium size page-a-day diary. It needs to be a reasonable size to fit in all of the information that you need to record, otherwise you may leave out something of value due to lack of space.

In that book I wrote down everything that I ate or drank every day for a few months. I also wrote down how my skin felt and what it looked like. If that changed during the day I wrote down the change as well, including what time I noticed the change. This was generally a change in discomfort level, with increased or decreased itching or pain.

When I had been doing that for a week or two I had enough info to start looking for patterns. I began looking at the notes about my skin condition, where it was improving and where it was deteriorating. Then I would look at what I had consumed the previous day or two. Within another week I was seeing patterns that linked to what I had put into my body.

Those patterns allowed me to identify foods or drinks that might be adversely affecting my skin. Once identified I was all set to start my own form of testing, which was possibly not very scientific but was very effective.

Once I had identified a possible culprit food or drink, I stopped having that item for a week or so, then I would have it again and observe the results over the next few days. If my skin improved then deteriorated again in cycle with the change of diet then I had identified that item as a bad component of my diet. I then dropped that item completely.

I continued on that basis until I had identified a range of foods and drinks that were apparently aggravating my psoriasis. I dropped all of those items from my diet and within a few months my psoriasis had almost completely disappeared.

Some foods caused a pretty aggressive reaction in my skin, showing up as increased itching or inflammation within just a few hours. They were the easy ones to identify. As my testing progressed and those "big baddies" had disappeared from my diet, the changes became more subtle and would take a bit longer to show. Even then, I could generally see the effect within a day.

It was at this stage that I dumped the dermatologist. He was not happy that I had stopped using the cortisone creams without consulting him first. He listened to me when I told him that I had cleared my psoriasis with diet but he was not interested in hearing the details of what I had found. My research had found that there was research going on about the effect of diet on psoriasis and it was seeing some positive results, yet he did not know about it and said that he could not believe that changes to my diet had cleared my skin. A closed mind does not benefit anybody, so we parted ways.

Some of the bad foods are things that I love, so I had to choose between abstinence with a totally clear skin or occasionally having those things with possible mild consequences. The important thing was to know what was bad for me then to set a level of psoriasis that was acceptable to me. I set that level where very few people were aware that I had the condition but I could still occasionally reward myself with something that I really liked.

Next post I will go into some detail about the foods that I found to irritate my skin. If you are serious about clearing your psoriasis you will do your own testing. Or you may prefer to take the easy route and just take note of my findings then limiting the bad ones in your diet. It may help you.

I recommend that you do the testing for yourself. It is part of taking ownership of your own body. Take note of what others say but don't believe it until you have proven it to yourself using your own body. Too many people take the easy route with everything in life then hold others to blame for a situation over which they should hold control themselves.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Psoriasis Diagnosis

I guess that I should start at the beginning, to show that I do have some history with psoriasis.

When I was about 35 years old there were some upsets in our lives that created much mental stress for my wife and me. We all deal with stress, each in our own way. Some people shout and scream and let the world know that they are in pain, possibly venting much stress in the process. I almost always have an outward appearance of being totally calm and unflustered but nobody sees what is going on inside. It might be that internalising issues builds up inner stress that shows elsewhere.

The result soon after was that I burst out in strange spots all over my body and I started to shed flakes of skin all over the place. My scalp started to itch, became tight and grew a tight-fitting cap of something that I could not identify but which felt awfully uncomfortable.

Eventually I made an appointment to be examined by a local dermatologist, who was also a professor at University of Cape Town. He told me that I had psoriasis, a word that I have never heard before. He had to spell it to me so that I could research it for myself.

He immediately put me onto strong cortisone creams and lotions. I asked him how psoriasis was affected by diet and he told me that diet has no effect on the condition. Almost his next breath he told me that alcohol affects psoriasis badly, so I should go easy on drinking. I have never been much of a drinker anyway but told him that alcohol is part of diet so I would not accept that diet has no effect without proving it for myself.

I proceeded to watch my diet very carefully and its effect on my skin. I had weekly visits to the dermatologist and a few months later he declared me clear of psoriasis. He told me that he did not know what had cleared my symptoms but he could not believe that it was my diet. He said that I did not need to come back to him unless I felt the need to.

I walked out of his office and never did return. I did not want someone with such a closed mind advising me on how to take care of my own skin. After consultation with my personal doctor, an open-minded lady, I made an appointment with a much younger lady dermatologist who was also more open to alternatives. She soon told me that I knew my skin and how to control it much better than she did, so she served more to guide me if needed and to do occasional inspections for possible skin cancer. We are now 8000 miles apart but I still go to her for a checkup when I am in South Africa.

That is the basis that I have worked on for the past 25+ years. I took control over my own condition. I am the one who has to live with the consequences. I don't want to be part of the system that rushes patients in and out of the consulting room, leaving with hastily scribbled pieces of paper prescribing drugs that may clear my psoriasis but have a possibility of some very serious side-effects. Since I left that first dermatologist I have never used any medication that requires a doctor's prescription. Everything that I use is over-the-counter and relatively cheap.

In future blog entries I will explain what I did and what the results were. In the meantime, stay calm and keep clear.

Dudley Dix

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Goal with Psoriasis Spot

I have lived with psoriasis for a long time. It was diagnosed by a well-qualified member of the medical profession, who immediately started me on the road of treatment with powerful medications. My research led me to realise very soon what dangers lay ahead on that road, so I decided to find my own path through the treatment minefield.

In the years since then, I have had many successes and a few setbacks. I occasionally have a dermatologist check my skin but on the whole I do what I have found to work for me without reference to doctors, my psoriasis has minimal effect on my life and my treatments cost me very little money.

During those years I have also been involved, in a small way,  in helping others to deal with their psoriasis. I was on the committee of the Cape Psoriasis Association in Cape Town, South Africa for many years and I was chairman of that body for a few years as well. We ran public meetings at which we had experts in various aspects of psoriasis treatment talk about their specific area of expertise, ran treatment workgroups and supplied support to anybody with psoriasis who needed whatever support we could provide. All the time I encouraged people to take control of their own condition.

I feel that too many people do not take responsibility for their own bodies, they sub-contract the maintenance of their own bodies to the medical profession, which has often proven itself to be unworthy of the trust that people place in it. My intention with this blog is not to make war with the medical profession but to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health, to take ownership of their psoriasis.

Dont' just follow what the doctors prescribe without first researching the implications of what you are doing.  Your doctor is not the one who will have to spend the future dealing with the side-effects of  what he/she is instructing you to put into or onto your body. You are the one who must live with those results. Don't blame your doctor when something happens that you don't like because you blindly followed instructions. Listen to what he/she says, research for yourself what the medication does and what the possible implications are if it goes wrong, then decide for yourself what you will do.