The first truly impactful story on the emotional effects of health-related conditions to go live on TCM came from a brave woman with regard to her stress-induced anorexia. Another authentic story on a brave woman’s battle with diabetes opened our eyes to how we can find light and acceptance amidst a health challenge. Through emails, many of you have been brave enough to share your health issues with me. As I am not a medical practitioner - just a healthy lifestyle enthusiast - I am so humbled by your openness and the courage it takes to share with me your stories, whether it’s for a magazine feature or just to enjoy a private place to talk. These conversations have made this TCM journey all the more worthwhile to me, as I have they have to you.
As the Founder of TCM, I feel I have an obligation to share more about my own chronic health issues, in the same way that many of you have shared with me. One of these chronic issues I am referring to is psoriasis. For those of you unfamiliar with psoriasis, it’s an auto-immune disease marked by red, scaly and often itchy patches on the skin. These patches can be contained in specific, concentrated areas (such as your body’s trunk) or in acute flare-ups, speckle your entire body. Unfortunately, this is what I’m currently undergoing; something that has caused me to postpone photo-shoots and branding meetings with regard to some of TCM’s next steps.
Now, part of the reason I share this story is because I am by no means alone in this, and it is something that some of you half a million readers might also face. According to scientific research, an estimated ~10 percent of the population inherits one or more of the genes that could lead to psoriasis, with only 2-3 percent actually developing the disease. Researchers believe that the latter percent that actively develops the disease are exposed to specific, external triggers in addition to this particular gene combo.
So what are the triggers? Triggers can be anything from stress, to injury to the skin (i.e. sunburn or scratches), to medications (especially Inderal, a high blood pressure medicine that worsens the condition in about 25-30% of patients with psoriasis who take it), and infection (like Strep Throat.) Other potential triggers can be allergies and changes in the weather.
The cause of my most recent flare-up is hard to say - maybe stress, food allergies - and it’s been about 8 months since my last, acute reaction, which believe it or not I’m grateful for. I treated my last flare up with an intense combination of treatments recommended by my dermatologist, beginning with the Light Box and XTRAC Laser, and ultimately moving to the medication Otezla. Dermatologists have used UV light therapy for decades as an effective method for treating many skin disorders, including psoriasis. XTRAC produces a monochromatic wavelength of ultraviolet light known to positively impact the psoriasis action spectrum. With XTRAC, your dermatologist can treat just the affected areas, making it a good option for those that have psoriasis in a concentrated area but a less promising approach for those affected all over. For me, personally, the XTRAC laser worsened the patches before improving them, leading to uncomfortable burning feeling post-treatment.
I experienced pretty rapid psoriasis clearance on Otezla (about 2 months.) With that being said, the side effects were real; it killed my stomach, which is not great for a person that already suffers with GI problems. So, despite some of the external benefits, I'm back to natural remedies in dealing with this condition – everything from pure, organic aloe gel, to coconut oil, to sea salt baths + more.
In the coming weeks, I’ll share with you the natural remedies that have helped to heal my psoriasis, though admittedly, the condition can take longer to improve using such natural products and solutions. Still, good health is about sustainability, and unless it’s absolutely necessary, I’d rather improve slowly, over time, knowing that I’m not adding toxins to my body to make improvements. These remedies will also help if you suffer from eczema and other rashes or skin conditions from allergies (including reactions from dairy.) Needless to say, they will also help with stress management, which is so essential in healing your body of anything and ensuring that you do not exacerbate any current conditions you have.
So why do I share this story? Is it so you guys can empathize with me? Pity me? Absolutely not. I share this story to impart knowledge to my female readers going through any health-related issue that you are not alone and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. I say this because, at times, I have felt these ways, both embarrassed and ashamed, no matter how much emphasis I put on my health and no matter how much I believe in loving and embracing oneself, despite imperfections.
Candidly-speaking, at the gym, I’d cover my psoriasis-ridden arms with hoodies, sweatshirts or long-sleeve tops, even though I was brimming with sweat. Part of this was because I didn’t want to epitomize the opposite of the healthy lifestyle I represent, through my red, rash-affected skin. But the truth is, I created this brand because of these issues; because I wanted to begin to educate myself, and through that, others. When it comes to you guys, I’ve actually been less of a teacher and more of a student; learning everyday how health & happiness move you. I'm so so grateful for that.
Bottom line: we are all human and every one of us experiences frustrations. These frustrations can be even more pronounced when they have to do with our health, as they can make even simple, day-to-day tasks difficult. I say this with full knowledge that what I possess health-wise can be a fraction of what some of your readers might have.
So rest assured that whatever you’re dealing with health-wise, there is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. And if it’s something that has externalized itself, like psoriasis, remember that your beauty, literally, is not skin-deep. So, stop covering up. Even I have to continue to remind myself of this, as I reminisce over when my skin was tan and clear. As women, we are so socialized to represent this perfect image. But your perfection is not in your skin, it’s in your character, your unique qualities and abilities, your ability to give and receive gratitude and love for what you do have – despite your challenges.
And while you deserve to live a life free from health-impairing conditions, you can embrace who you are even with your challenges - internal or external. This is advice that I, too, vow to practice.
| For more information on psoriasis, including access to support, visit the National Psoriasis Foundation. |