Monday, April 20, 2015

How I overcame over 30 years of Psoriasis.

For over 30 years I had Psoriasis.  Yep, no joke.  I was diagnosed at the age of  2 with Psoriasis but I had suffered from it for about a year prior to diagnosis. I was lucky with my form of the disease because I only had it on my ankles, knees, genitals, fingernails, elbows and scalp.  I did not have the very bad case where it covers large areas of my arms, legs or abdomen.  Although it wasn't easy to have  flaky, red patchy skin where it was visible if wearing shorts, flip flops, or short sleeves I could have had it much worse.

What is Psoriasis?  It's an auto-immune disease where they body attacks the body recognizes certain areas on the body as foreign invaders and starts attacking that skin.  The skin starts to reproduce much quicker than a normal skin cell.  A normal skin cell grows, matures and dies in about 30 days.  A Psoriasis cell grows, matures and dies in as little as 7 days therefore creating thickened patches of skin that can be white and flaky.  It's a bunch of dead skin hanging out on your body.  Fun stuff right?!?!

I clearly remember a spring day in second grade, I was sitting on the sidewalk outside my 2nd grade classroom.  The weather was beautiful, a warm, slightly breezy late spring day and it was time for recess, every child's favorite time of day.  I sat on the sidewalk next to one of my new friends, this was my first year at this school, and she noticed my red flaky knees.  She exclaimed as she noticed them, "Oh gross!!! What's wrong with your knees?"  This started the endless lying about my condition.  I knew what it was.  I knew it wasn't contagious.  I knew there wasn't much I could do about it but use the steroid cream and deal with it but how does a second grader explain that to another child.  My response:  "Oh, it's nothing, just scars from a really bad bike wreck that healed weird."  The response worked.  She never asked me about it again so for years I continued with the lie.  It was simply easier than trying to explain that I didn't have cooties and that I wasn't contagious.

Fast Forward almost 30 years.....
Sitting in the functional medicine doctors office after having 2 colonoscopies by another Dr who said nothing was wrong with me,  for 3 years of ongoing diarrhea without much relief with terrible bouts of gas and bloating I finally heard the words I'd been dreading but knew were possible.
                                            "Sheila, It's time to try going Gluten Free." 

Psoriasis of the scalp

What does this have to do with Psoriasis you ask, hang on it will all come together.  

I knew it was a possibility because we had spoken of it before.  She'd done everything she could to try to help with my constant bowel problems and this was the next step.  I went dairy free first which helped with the gas and bloating, however, the suggestion sounded like a prison term.  How could I do this?  I LOVE PASTA!!!  I have a wonderful homemade cinnamon roll recipe.  I eat pasta at least 3 times a week.  I love bread, pancakes and PIZZA!  UGH!!!

BUT ---- It was still a choice ---

I had a choice.  Continue with debilitating diarrhea, gas and bloating or try going Gluten Free for 30 days.  That was all she asked of me.  30 days of my life gluten free.  I was upset at first but after a couple of days I embraced the decision, because at the end of the day it was up to me to make sure that I did it.  

No one told me that I would have more energy - loose some weight (chronic inflammation), the diarrhea was tremendously better not fixed but much better (more on that later), and best of all my Psoriasis went away.

My Psoriasis went away!!!!

It took longer than 30 days to clear up my Psoriasis, about 8 months to completely clear up actually, but I saw good improvement in those first 30 days.  This gave me tremendous hope to continue my Gluten Free journey.

Since Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition and gluten is a known trigger for auto-immune diseases, it causes AI disease to flare and never heal if you keep it in your diet.  Boy does this explain a LOT!

Stress is also a trigger for auto-immune diseases.  When I am under an enormous amount of stress, even though I'm completely gluten free I can still get a small psoriasis flare.  Stress is absolutely horrible on the body.  Read more about how stress undermines your health from the Paleo Mom.

Does everyone get complete relief from Psoriasis by going gluten free?  Unfortunately I've read a lot of articles where people say it didn't help them at all.  It's hard to say if what they reported was true or not.  I did not see their diet.  But hey, you have to believe them when they say they tried.  If it were my friend and their Psoriasis didn't clear up I tell them to ask their Dr. about "leaky gut" if their Psoriasis did not clear up going gluten free.  Notice I'm not saying anyone should avoid the Dr. You need to consult a Dr and work with a Dr.  You may need prescription medicine to get some relief from the itching and soreness.  I used prescription steroid creams and tar shampoo for YEARS!!!

Psoriasis of the fingernail.  Sometimes there is pitting of the nail but that is hard to see in this picture. 
Things to keep in mind when going GF - Have you inspected everything you consume and verified that they were gluten free?  Have you cleaned out the pantry and gotten rid of all the gluten laden food in the cabinets?  Did you know there is gluten in some Ketchup brands?  When you start educating yourself about gluten you will be amazed at what it is put in, this is why it's simply easier to make your own food.  Processed foods cannot be trusted.  Also previously non labeled, non gluten containing processed foods may change their ingredients and could now contain gluten so you always have to look at the ingredients.  

All I know is that going completely gluten free cleared up my psoriasis that I'd had for over 30 years and assumed I would be plagued with all of my life.  I also no longer have the debilitating diarrhea which I will share more about later.  That was the biggest reason of pursuing the gluten free diet.  I simply couldn't take the frequent trips to the bathroom much longer. 

When people tell me "I know I don't handle gluten very well but I couldn't possibly give up bread, I just love it."  I have two things I un-apologetically say to them:

#1.  Then you don't feel bad enough
#2.  There's a reason you crave bread and it's not healthy.

I'm not sympathetic.  I'm not all "Oh you poor thing, OK, then don't eat gluten free."  I truly believe that they don't want to get better and don't feel bad enough.
They will or they won't come around some day.  

When someone is ready, I will gladly hold their hand and support them when they really want to eat those Olive Garden bread sticks.

Until next time, take care of you!

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