Another year comes to an end and yet another one begins
I wish you and your family a year filled with good health and happiness. I completed 3 years of writing this blog in October last year and it has been an amazing experience for me. As always, I am reminded once again about how fortunate we are as a family in all that we have and how grateful I am for the love and support of my family and friends. We also remain grateful to the wonderful support shown by our doctors in being there for us every step of the way. So thank you all for simply being a part of our lives!
I feel honoured to be able to share with you our experiences in dealing with eczema and most importantly to be able to share with you our experiences of dealing with eczema with the help of Functional Medicine protocol. I want to emphasize upon this last bit since most of you may not be aware that such an option/treatment exists. I have written about this in my earlier post- https://eczema-anindianperspective.com/2015/09/10/the-functional-medicine-and-gut-health-approach-to-managing-chronic-conditions-including-eczema/
We are now mostly familiar with the conventional medical treatments but have lost touch with many others some of which used to be a part of our own culture like ayurveda. In fact, Functional Medicine is similar to our ancient Ayurvedic tradition in many ways since it approaches the individual as a whole and does not just treat the symptoms. However, it differs in many ways since it incorporates the latest science and research, diagnostic testing, use of nutraceuticals amongst others.
Life is full of ups and downs; the trick is to enjoy the ups and have courage during the downs
It has been a while since I have given an update on my daughter’s skin condition and treatment. Since I last wrote about the essential oils, there has been a lot of upheaval with regards to my daughter’s condition. Staph infection, caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is very common among those suffering from eczema. It is a very common bacteria residing on our skin and is invisible for all intents and purposes most of the times. But for those with eczema/sensitive skin it tends to create problems by causing infections. My daughter had recurring bouts of this infection starting in August last year. It notoriously difficult to get rid of once it gets entrenched. This led to a couple of rounds of antibiotics and oral steroids to control her skin condition which had deteriorated rapidly. These medications were added on top of her immunosuppressive medication, Methotrexate, which also had to be increased to manager her eczema.
Thus, till about mid November last year, it was again a very trying time for us as a family. We had to deal with her eczema flare up which had actually became a constant feature since August and it had also somewhat as a shock for us. This was because her eczema had been fairly under control for the past 10 months or so under the Functional Medicine treatment and her medication had been brought down gradually. As part of the treatment we got her Functional Medicine tests like Comprehensive Stool Analysis and Optimal Nutritional Evaluation done to determine her gut/microbiome health and her levels of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and other metabolic markers from the European Genova Diagnostics laboratories.
While the stool test did show some improvement from the earlier test done in January last year, the urine test was a bit of a disappointment but at the same time shed some light on her flare up. The urine metabolite test showed a huge amount of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is akin to the process of combustion in our cells which use oxygen that we breathe in and food as fuel to provide our body with energy. However, in the process of creating energy, some byproducts in the form of extremely volatile free radicals are created which are usually neutralized by our body’s natural antioxidants. But when our body becomes overwhelmed by oxidative stress and/or there are not enough antioxidants to combat oxidative stress, problems occur. Infact this is the process of ageing that we all face over the course of our lives.
However, once we figured this out and boosted her supply of antioxidants with foods and supplements, her skin condition improved gradually. I increased her intake of natural antioxidants like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, spinach, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, beetroot and other colourful fruits and vegetables in various forms such as soups, smoothies, side and main dishes. Under the guidance of our Functional Medicine practitioner her intake of antioxidants like Vitamin A, C and D as supplements were also increased.
Other natural and traditional interventions
For the past year or so, I have been dabbling in and increasing my knowledge of traditional and natural interventions using local herbs and spices to manage eczema and other minor health issues. Over the past 6 months or so I had introduced a Curcumin supplement in a highly bio absorbable form. It is the main active ingredient in our local spice called turmeric used regularly in most of the Indian dishes, but for therapeutic needs one needs to consume much more than we can usually do from food alone. Curcumin is a super antioxidant and is highly anti-inflammatory at the same time. I use the Indian brand Cure Garden Daily Defense and I increased the dosage to combat her oxidative stress.
The other supplement that I had added at the same time is a popular herb called Tulsi (or holy basil) from the brand Organic India Tulsi. Tulsi is a very important herb available locally and is used extensively in our Ayurvedic treatments. It is an adaptogenic herb and is thus very good for stress management, has antibacterial properties and increases the activity of antioxidant enzymes amongst a host of other benefits.
The other 2 local herbs that I introduced were neem from Himalaya Herbals (or Margosa) and Guduchi. Neem is again a common and popular local herb which is extremely beneficial for improving skin health and boosts immune and liver function. Guduchi is an adaptogenic herb, boosts the immune system and improves liver function amongst other things and is again beneficial for the skin. Then there are a few other herbs like berberine and burdock root that I use internally as well according to traditional Chinese medicine to enhance liver detoxification amongst other things. I intend to write about such herbal and natural interventions in a separate post later this year. I also intend to pursue a course in herbal treatments to take advantage of the vast natural resources that our country has in creating health and which we seem to have lost touch with.
Therapeutic grade essential oils continue to be the mainstay of our fight against staph infection. Lavender, tea tree, geranium and other essential oils from the brand Eden Garden are the ones that I use diluted with coconut oil as a carrier oil for applying locally. I have already written about this in greater details in my last blog post a while back – https://eczema-anindianperspective.com/2016/05/27/essential-oils-for-managing-eczema/.
Hopefully, once again over a period of time I will be able to phase out her medications with the help of her doctors. We have a long way to go yet and the road ahead may yet be a winding one but I know that we are pretty much prepared for our journey.
Reclaiming optimal health
You may be aware from my earlier posts that I am a certified Health Coach from the US based Dr Sears Wellness Institute. However, I have not mentioned earlier that I am currently pursuing a one year course with the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA) which is offering this course in collaboration with the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM). My daughter’s ongoing treatment is with the help of a UK based IFM certified practitioner, Pete Williams. My course is an exhaustive one and encompasses diverse topics like positive psychology, coaching process, motivational interviewing and functional nutrition, Functional Medicine structure and operating system like the GOTOIT, Timeline and Matrix; mind body techniques and various relevant systems and technologies.
As a part of my curriculum practicum I have already started counselling a few clients with various health issues on diet, lifestyle changes amongst others. I am really looking forward to completing this course and setting up a clinic in Mumbai. This clinic will be in conjunction with my daughter’s dermatologist and the coauthor of my book “ I have eczema…so what?”, Dr Amrita Talwar later this year. I hope to bring my personal experience of dealing with my daughter’s autoimmune condition with dietary, lifestyle and other changes to the table apart from all the knowledge that I would have gathered in my course as a certified Health Coach.
Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much
I always knew that it is difficult to tackle problems including health related alone, but I realised how critical a support system really is during our darkest days. Our support system of family, friends and health professionals acted as a kind of a well knit community and enabled us to pull through. It is time for me to give something back now using my experience and knowledge. I look forward to doing my bit in building a community focussed on creating optimal health at a time when chronic conditions are rising exponentially and conventional treatments are falling short . As Dr Mark Hyman (Chairman, IFM Board of Directors and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine) has said “The power of community to create health is far greater than any physician, clinic or hospital”. I am excited and look forward to this new chapter in my life.
As a wise person had once said ” Optimal health is a journey taken one step, one habit, and one day at a time“.