Something that only a handful of people know about me is that I suffer from scalp psoriasis and alopecia areata. I use the word suffer lightly, but if you've dealt with either of these disorders then you know how difficult life can be during flare-ups.
You may be asking yourself, "what are psoriasis and alopecia?" Well..
- Psoriasis is a common skin disorder that creates raised, reddish, often scaly/itchy patches of skin. It can pop up as a single patch or several, and can even affect your entire scalp. It can also spread to your forehead, the back of your neck, or behind and inside your ears.
- About 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, and about half of those have it on their scalp.
- Psoriasis has been determined to be an autoimmune disease, which causes skin cells to grow too quickly and build up into patches.
- Alopecia areata basically means hair loss in patches.
- Alopecia has also been determined to be an autoimmune disease due to the fact that the immune system attacks the hair follicles.
I haven't had a flare-up of either disorder in YEARS, but after I had Amelia both came back full-force. My entire scalp has been covered in patches, I wake myself up multiple times a night scratching my scalp, and my hair-loss has been in full-swing for over a year now (postpartum hair-loss coupled with alopecia is no joke). I've had to resort to hardcore steroids in order to get rid of the patches, but after a couple weeks off the steroids, everything comes back. It's just been a viscous and itchy cycle.
I only recently found out that each of these disorders were AUTOIMMUNE diseases.
So what is an autoimmune disease? An autoimmune disease is a condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. Although autoimmune conditions typically start with a genetic susceptibility, there are other factors to take into account. The foods you eat or don't eat, vitamin deficiencies, stress levels, sleep habits, and exposure to toxins are all lifestyle/environmental factors to be aware of. That being said, a large portion of symptoms caused by autoimmune conditions can be reversed by taking a more proactive approach with your health.
A few tips for reversing autoimmune symptoms:
- Heal Your Gut. Over 70% of our immune cells reside in the gut, therefore when you have issues, such as leaky gut, it can give rise to an autoimmune response throughout your body. There's a lot I could say about gut health and how you can make your gut happy, so I'll be working on a separate blog post about this issue!
- Go Gluten Free. Gluten, which is found in wheat, spelt, rye, and barley, is known as a big disrupter when it comes to autoimmune conditions. If you are unsure if you have a gluten intolerance try removing gluten for 60 days, then reintroduce it and see how you feel. But I suggest steering clear of gluten all-together if you have an autoimmune condition.
- Find Your Cross-Reactive Foods and Remove Them. With any inflammatory condition, it's important to figure out which foods trigger your symptoms. There are many ways of doing this, but I suggest looking into an elimination diet. There are many out there, but the two that I suggest looking into are the Whole30 and the Autoimmune Paleo Diet.
- Detox Regularly. Everyone should be detoxing their bodies regularly, but those with autoimmune conditions should be taking extra care in helping their bodies remove toxins. Two ways of doing this are incorporating more leafy greens into your diet, as well as crowding out sugar and processed foods. Another great way I like detoxing my body is to start my day with 24oz of warm lemon water. Warm lemon water aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, and will give your body a natural flush.
- Add Green Tea and Turmeric Into Your Diet. These foods have been shown to taper the autoimmune response in the body, especially the brain.
- Manage Stress. If you have an autoimmune condition you should be checking-in with yourself throughout the day in order to manage your stress levels. Easy ways to manage your stress:
- Exercise! Move your body! It doesn't matter if it's a walk or a HIIT class, just work towards maintaining a regular exercise routine.
- Yoga and Meditation
- Journal. Keep a journal near your bed and jot down what's on your mind. This little habit will not only help manage stress, it will also aid in more restful sleep.
- Sleep! You should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order to fill your bodies sleep quota.
If you're like me and have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, try and remember that although autoimmune conditions are not curable, they are manageable. These tips are simple steps you can take to reverse your autoimmune symptoms and live a more vibrant, gut happy life.