For almost 20 years I’ve struggled with psoriasis. I developed this embarrassing skin condition in my teens (that ideal age when we all have zero body issues…yeah, right). As I write this, though, I’m happy to say that I don’t consider it a struggle anymore. While my skin isn’t 100 percent clear, I have figured out how to control the symptoms and, more importantly, learned to accept living with it. And I’m honored to share that with you here.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis (or Ps for short) is an autoimmune skin disease, which Dr. Mark Hyman explains well: “Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissue gets caught in the crossfire. Your body is designed to fight off harmful things like infections, toxins, allergens, or a stress response. Sometimes and for reasons not fully known, that immune army directs its hostile attack on your joints, brain, skin, and sometimes your whole body.”
In the case of Ps, where a normal person’s skin sheds about once a month when our cells mature, the skin of Ps sufferers sheds rapidly every few days, not giving the cells a chance to mature and faster than the body can handle. What are left are layers of red, thick, scaly patches on your body that are itchy (and downright unattractive!)
You can imagine how devastating this could be for your self-esteem. It was for me. As a result, for most of my young adult life, rather than effectively deal with it, I tried to hide it as much as possible (and did a pretty good job of it, too). Meanwhile, I visited numerous dermatologists, tried every steroid cream or ointment out there, and came close to getting laser treatments. While some efforts proved to be good Band-Aids, I hadn’t known there was a root cause I’d been unaware of all that time and that none of the dermatologists had ever told me about.
It all started with Max…
In my mid-thirties, my little dog Max became very ill. My vet suggested a diet of healthy (human) food such as organic animal protein, brown rice, sweet potatoes, veggies and fruit, saying that the raw dog food I was buying him (at $80 a bag!) was basically leftover scraps of dubious origin. I was so desperate to help Max, I decided to give it a try.
Not only did he love his new diet, in a few months, he went from hardly walking to outright running! He also lost nine pounds and I was able to take him off all his medications. I didn’t know it at the time, but I also added a few years onto Max’s life! Pretty awesome, huh?
Making the Jump
This made me realize there was something much bigger going on and I started looking for a connection between Ps and what I was eating. Around this time, I came across Healing Psoriasis, a book by Dr. John O.A. Pagano that proposes healing Ps through a mostly alkaline, plant-based diet. Given how desperate I was to live a life without Ps, I decided to commit to it.
The diet was structured around veggies, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and a little organic animal protein (which, at the time, I decided to forego). I ate nothing processed, no sugar except that from fruit, no red meat or dairy, and no coffee or alcohol. (My biggest challenges were cheese and coffee, which I’m sure most people can relate to!)
After 10 months—and for the first time in 20 years—I was clear of psoriasis!
You can imagine how AMAZING this felt. I got to wear t-shirts again! I felt empowered and wanted to tell the world, to help others out there struggling with Ps. Did they know about this? Did anyone know you could heal yourself through nutrition? Why didn’t any of my doctors tell me about this? What took me so long to research this on my own instead of just listening to my doctors? I had so many questions!
This was life changing!
But I hadn’t realized one huge thing: How much love I would need to give to myself to maintain this lifestyle. My new life was just beginning and the path was going to be hard—something I have been figuring out these past three years.
Embarking on a Life-Changing Journey
The first year, it was all about my symptoms and figuring out which inflammatory foods didn’t agree with me. It was also a lot of learning and gaining knowledge about which foods nourish our bodies and which don’t. Through obsessively watching documentaries like Food, Inc., Hungry for Change, and Forks over Knives, to reading every book about juicing and plant-based diets, I was disgusted to learn how much sugar and chemicals I’d consumed in my lifetime.
I now had a new perspective about nutrition and couldn’t look back. I knew too much! I told my family and friends about my new venture and they were all very supportive and excited about my progress.
Then came the second year of my journey. Although I was Ps-free for the most part, after falling in love and having a bad accident requiring surgery, I fell completely off the alkaline wagon and found it hard to get back on. Because I was living Ps-free existence for the moment, a big part of me didn’t care that I was now eating “conveniently” again (i.e., processed foods). Soon enough, though, I noticed a few small spots of Ps reappear on my elbows (my biggest problem area).
I was beyond disappointed to say the least. I now realized (again) that there were consequences if I continued to eat like crap. I felt like all my hard work that first year had been for nothing. Seeing spots was devastating on so many levels. I went from feeling so empowered to feeling completely helpless. My outlook descended into “It’s too hard to live like this,” or “I can’t enjoy my life eating this way,” or “This lifestyle is impossible.”
I am a big believer that we get what we expect, so I got what I expected alright!
Going Forward with Love
Looking back, I am grateful everything happened the way it did because it taught me something huge: I had spent a lifetime looking at my Ps as an obstacle, but obstacles are nothing but opportunities.
I’m now in the third year of this journey. I continue to eat a diet of primarily plant-based foods, though I allow myself the occasional animal protein. I still have some spots that I am working on clearing, but have had a huge epiphany this year that I believe changes everything: You have to give yourself a lot of love to heal anything!
Giving yourself love means everything from waking up early and drinking fresh lemon water, to meditating and exercising. It’s not allowing yourself to care what people think of you when you don’t eat that cupcake at the office birthday party. It’s doing what makes you happy no matter how selfish others may think you are. It’s (my biggest challenge!) learning to say no when you need to. It’s chasing your dreams and not allowing fear to get in your way. It’s surrounding yourself with only loving and supportive people. It’s being conscious enough to replace that negative thought with a positive one in any moment. It’s choosing to be present and live in this moment, right here, right now.
For half of my life, my focus was on those red, scaly patches on my skin and nothing else. Now, I wish I’d taken my focus off of it enough to focus on all the things to be grateful for. This life we’re given is so beautiful, and if you focus on all that’s beautiful, you’ll notice a big shift in everything you experience in your life that needs healing.
I’m happy to say that I work on clearing my skin everyday by eating nutritious foods and giving myself a lot of love. I try my best to live consciously and I don’t allow Ps to get in the way of living joyfully. I am appreciative for the Ps because it has guided me to a new chapter where I get to help people. Because of this, I am currently transitioning out of a long TV and film career into what I believe is my true calling, helping people with skin disorders.
I couldn’t be more excited. Ps has taught me how to love myself and for that I am super grateful!
Feel free to read more about my journey here: healingmypsoriasis.wordpress.com
Photo credit: 123RF
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