“Ah. I can fix you!” my new dermatologist said, tapping away on his keyboard.
These words were so welcome! I had been referred to him by my general practitioner because my psoriatic arthritis was not improving despite all the pills.
I was in pain, couldn’t work and couldn’t face the world while looking so disfigured and debilitated.
The dermatologist did fix me, or so I thought. He prescribed a course of phototherapy (the first of 3 I would go on to have) but the symptoms came back after each course.
This forced me to research my condition and in time develop a new philosophy about my health.
You see, many of us expect medicine to prescribe the magic pill that will make our illnesses go away.
But for most conditions, especially chronic ones, the problem will rear its ugly head again as soon as the treatment ends.
To have some sort of lasting respite, it makes sense to try and attack the problem at its roots.
After almost a decade with this condition, I have noticed 3 factors that significantly impact my problem: stress, diet, lifestyle
It is now common knowledge that prolonged stress is at the root of mainy ailments -The World Health Organisation actually called stress “the health epidemic of the 21st century”.
We end up releasing stress hormones putting us in survival mode to help meet the challenge causing us stress. But too much of those (cortisol for instance) becomes poison in our bodies.
In my case, when my condition surfaced, my job had become very competitive, with little certainty and very poor management. The office had become extremely toxic.
Truth be told, I wanted out that job but felt trapped. I did what I had to do for a while, brought work home, structured my day for more productivity but in the end, the return was not worth it. Instead of a promotion or some sort of acknowledgement, I actually got demoted.
Unsurprisingly, my health then plummeted and I was eventually let go.
Thankfully at the time I write this, there is a real conversation happening about work/life balance. I see the idea of sustainable productivity winning out over extreme hustling.
We need systems in our lives to ensure we do not sacrifice our health, sanity, relationships and other ressources to the bottom line.
As I have written before, studies have proved that working long hours doesn’t necessarily equate higher output. In fact short focused work sessions are much better.
Furthermore, devoting time to side projects, hobbies and other activities just for the joy of them helps us recover (as long as it doesn’t encroach on sleep of course), reset to fight another day.
Lastly, it’s also common knowledge that exercise is good for our cognitive faculties, as well as our bodies. See my post about this back in the day.
These would be a welcome part of a self-care routine.
All of the above was virtually inexistent during the time my stress was flooding my body with cortisol.
I now know that there is a strong connection between our thoughts and our physiology. This has opened a field of study called Psychoimmunology
In hindsight, I should have devoted time to recuperate, do things I enjoyed, work out while feeding my mind more positive fuel.
Last and by no means least, diet is a crucial factor to watch in any dis-ease.
Our diet has changed a lot in the last generation, and not for the better. Sugar (my drug of choice) is everywhere even in savoury food.
During the decade prior to my illness, my diet consisted of pasta, rice and sugary drinks. Rarely any vegetables, rarely any water.
Then I discovered that diet is at the centre of a lot of diseases. When I changed my diet to introduce vegetables, drastically reduced processed food and sugar, it took 6 months for all my symptoms to disappear.
It’s an ongoing battle but with trial and error, and some research I have realised that some foods just are a no-no or my skin gets worse within 24 hours.
In my case these include junk food (what a surprise!), acidic fruits, vegetables from the nightshade family (such as potatoes, green peppers) and processed sugar (very potent culprit)
In conclusion, your health is your wealth.
Fuel your body right, take care of your mind, allow your body to recuperate and heal itself, just like our green planet has been able to do during the COVID-19 lockdown period!