The flakes made their first appearance over 10 years ago. I was in high school, sitting in class, when I noticed the skin on my thumb was red as hell. At first, I didn’t pay much attention, but then it got sorer and drier, and my mum forced me to go to the local GP. Surprise surprise, I had psoriasis.
What followed is a story known to many flakers. At first the good doc prescribed me a tub of hydrocortisone, and that worked… for a while. Then it didn’t. But luckily he whipped out its bad boy steroid cousin, betamethasone. That healed my skin for a while too, until it stopped having an effect, and the P began spreading to my palms, knuckles, elbows, armpits and other places.
This was around 2006, the year before I was about to go and study at university (Warwick, UK). During that year, after becoming disheartened with conventional medicine, I proceeded to try anything I could get my hands on:
- Traditional Chinese herbs from a little shop in London. Many pungent baths and teas full of unheard-of leaves later, I gave up.
- A homeopathic remedy consisting of snake venom because, according to the Dr., I was “shedding skin, like a reptile.” It didn’t work unfortunately, but I did feel like a badass for telling everyone I was drinking snake poison.
- Invested in ten Garra Rufa doctor fish, which eat dead skin, plus a fish tank and all the gear. Then proceeded to spend hours sitting with one hand submerged, contorted into weird positions, trying to read books one-handed. This was actually good at exfoliating skin but the time investment was too big.
That was an interesting summer, but lo and behold, September came around, and off I went to uni, dry and flaky.
Pieces come together
It was at uni, in my first year, that I first made the connection between diet and psoriasis. The skin is the largest organ of detoxification, so it makes absolute sense that, if crap goes in, crap comes out. I didn’t know how far the rabbit hole went but soon enough was devouring Google Scholar and forums about “Leaky Gut”, “Candida“, “Gut Flora”, “Gluten” — you name it, I had it open in a tab.
My first experiment was with fruitarianism, which lasted two months. I was eating enough fruit for an elephant and I, frankly, got bored chewing. On a typical day I would spend hours chewing though dozens of apples, oranges, papayas, avocados. I felt incredible and full of energy, and the flaking reduced, but the P patches were still there. I think the problem was that fruits contain too much sugar, which feeds years and promotes a more acidic bodily environment.
After this I made a few other discoveries. I went on a ten day water fast and tried various anti-inflammatory diets. Slowly the pieces started coming together.
I noticed that fried foods would cause a flare-up, as would white pasta, white bread and most processed flour products. Beer would cause my P to flip out too, but not a glass of wine, or vodka. Sauces – especially mass produced ones – would make my skin go haywire too, but not homemade dressings.
This process took me years, and it was as much about learning about the link between psoriasis and diet as it was about building the willpower to resist delicious temptations (mmm… McDonalds). But over time it sank in and I could no longer deny that the more anti-inflammatory foods I ate (say hello to green leafy vegetables), and the simpler I ate, the better my skin looked and felt.
Cut to today
Fast forward to this day and I have more or less figured out how to keep my skin looking clear and happy. It’s a never-ending process but it does get easier with time and experience.
Nowadays I am around 90% psoriasis free on most days unless I binge on bad food (my current weakness is burritos), drink a lot, or get the flu. Which unfortunately happens a lot as I currently work in Serbia where, as I write this, its -16 Celsius.
Whenever it starts looking a bit worse for wear though, I know what to do – look at my diet.