Have you ever watched a TV ad for psoriasis medications and carefully listened to the list of potential side effects? Has a doctor warned you about the risks involved with long term steroid use? Have you ever asked yourself why such harmful medications are routinely used for such common skin conditions?
The answer is simple: psoriasis and eczema can be incredibly difficult to treat. In western medicine and holistic medicine alike, treating the skin can be a confounding and complex journey.
Here are some tips to help you choose holistic options that actually work.
1. Find a specialist.
Many of my patients have previously given holistic medicine a try with limited or no success. The problem was they didn't see a practitioner who specializes in skin disorders. If you were looking for a western doctor to treat your psoriasis, for example, you'd see a dermatologist, not your general practitioner.
The same should hold true for a naturopath, nutritionist, acupuncturist or homeopath. Many holistic practitioners have never taken a single class in dermatology, let alone treated patients with complicated skin conditions. Question any practitioner you see about his or her education and experience in treating eczema and psoriasis.
2. Treat from the inside out.
It's very rare that psoriasis or eczema can be managed with topical treatment alone. True healing comes from within. In my holistic dermatology practice, I prescribe customized herbal remedies to be taken internally. Topical creams, washes or salves certainly help, but they are rarely used on their own (except when treating babies).
Whether it be through diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy or supplements, make sure that internal therapies lay the foundation for your treatment plan.
3. Eat right for your skin type.
A basic anti-inflammatory diet will benefit any skin condition. Eat lots of leafy greens, fresh fruits, and foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as flax seeds, avocados and fish oils.
Keep in mind that healthy diets vary according to the condition and the individual. Experiment with an elimination diet to find out which foods are best for you.
As a general rule, people with psoriasis should avoid spicy foods, red meat, shellfish, alcohol, and coffee. Some people benefit from cutting out nightshades (like eggplant and tomatoes), while others are fine with them.
Eczema sufferers should avoid allergenic foods like shellfish and peanuts. Test for food allergies to cows' milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish and nuts.
4. Incorporate healthy teas.
Teas have healing properties specific to certain skin conditions. For psoriasis, alternate between burdock (to purify the blood) and milk thistle (to protect the liver and regulate immune function). For eczema, try out oolong tea as a daily drink. It benefits itching and inflammation and has been shown to have antiallergic properties.
5. Don't believe in miracles.
If you've heard about a holistic "miracle cure" that truly speaks to you, research it to make sure that there are no potential risks or harmful side effects. If it fits within your budget, give it a try! But if it doesn't work or you don't get the results that you've seen in a hyped up marketing campaign, don't give up on holistic medicine altogether. It's unusual for cures touted as miraculous to be effective for a lot of people.
In my practice, I'm committed to letting my patients know what they can realistically expect as far as timing and results. Of course, there are always a handful of people who experience what they'd call a "miracle"—a quick and dramatic cure. But I'd never tell my entire patient base to expect a result that only happens in a few outlier cases.
Stay realistic, but know that with time and the right course of treatment, your skin can and will get better.