On the 29th of July, I received a message via messenger from a Web MD journalist looking for some insight into how to effectively treat psoriasis. Although it was a tight deadline, I jumped at the chance to share my experience as I know first-hand the challenges of having psoriasis and finding a solution. Like so many other people, there have been many times I have thought, “Why me?”, “Why do I need to suffer from this terrible disease?” “Why am I being punished?” I have kept this a secret for so many years, as I had so much shame and embarrassment for having this red, flaky skin condition that often had people staring at me and moving away. Here is my story.
When I was 11 years old, I went to Greece with my mum to visit family. It wasn’t too long before I was feeling homesick, and sadness came over me. It was so intense that I cried every night before bed. By the end of our 5-week holiday, I noticed some small spots on the base of my scalp. They were itchy and annoying, but I didn't know my life as I knew was about to change forever.
By the time we came back to Australia, I had some new spots on my arms. We then realised, we should go to the local doctor and find out what is happening. He said, “This is called psoriasis and this cream will fix it up for you”. I didn’t think much of it until it seemed to spread and the cream in fact seemed to make it worse.
Within a short period of time, we began the journey of seeing several different dermatologists. Reflecting back now, I don’t know why we saw so many different dermatologists, when they all said the same thing and prescribed the same type of treatment. I think we were hopeful that maybe the diagnosis was wrong or perhaps they knew something the other dermatologists didn’t; but this wasn’t the case.
Living with Psoriasis
Over the years I tried many different treatments. The one thing I can attest my success to is my mum’s determination and willingness to try anything. She literally left no stone unturned and without that drive and dedication, I honestly don’t know where I would be right now.
We saw so many different doctors, therapists, healers and everyone in between. I believe I did learn small things along the way, but it wasn’t until I was older, where I could take the knowledge I acquired, and use it to help manage the psoriasis.
A life changing moment for me was in 1994 when I tried Chinese Medicine.
A few weeks after being discharged from my second hospital visit (1992), the psoriasis came back. This time I was shocked because the Methotrexate was working while I was in hospital and just without any warning, the spots started to come back and spread to cover my entire body. While soaking in a tar bath, my mum called the dermatologist to ask him what we could do next. He said, “There is nothing I can do. I suggest you go elsewhere.” Just like that, dumped. I felt so many emotions, but one clear emotion was abandonment. I felt over the years, these doctors needed to help me. It was their duty to help me, but why can’t they? What was wrong with me? Why was my body letting me down?
In 1994, while I was still desperately searching for answers, I came across a Chinese medicine practitioner in Essendon. Although I was hesitant, my mum said we are running out of options and we need to try everything, so we went to an appointment.
I followed her treatment protocol to a tee and within 2 months my skin cleared. I knew it wasn’t a cure, but I realised there is hope for me yet. The the biggest motivator for getting ourselves out of challenging situations; is hope.
My journey was far from over, in fact I felt I needed to find a solution on my own and no longer rely on others to help me.
Fast forward today, and I have completed a double degree in Chinese Medicine and Human Biology, spent an academic year in Nanjing, China working in Nanjing Hospital and have been practising in private practise for almost 19 years. This journey to date has been one of exploration, patience, trust, faith and the willingness to look beyond the surface. Finding peace when your life feels like it's in turmoil is a life changing moment that can transcend many of life’s lessons. The one thing I thought was out to destroy me, made me stronger.
The biggest realisation I had with psoriasis was:
“Yes, we can’t cure psoriasis, but we can do so many things to keep it in remission.”
Skincare products developed by me, Dr Irene Pratalos (Chinese Medicine), are focused on many of my own challenges around having psoriasis and scalp psoriasis. To truly understand psoriasis and all its symptoms, both physical and mental, you have to go through the journey yourself.
To all the psoriasis warriors out there, don’t look at this disease as a burden, look at it for what it is; your body letting you know something is just not right. Change the narrative you have been told for years by your doctors. It’s not your immune system attacking itself for no apparent reason, but in fact your immune system bringing awareness to inflammation in your body that needs to be dealt with.
I developed Salubre skincare to treat my psoriasis as I realised what my skin actually needed to improve and which healing oils, botanical extracts, and natural ingredients can deliver the nutrient profile my skin was looking for to become healthy again. Even though I still get a spot here and there, it certainly isn’t a flare up and I now have my resources available to me to help me kick it in the butt before it becomes a problem.
Read why each product in the range was developed:
One of the biggest issues with scalp psoriasis is the oily treatment creams make your hair greasy, so you wash it incessantly to remove the oils which causes the scalp and hair to become dry. Another issue is the thick plaques on the scalp stop the healing ingredients from reaching the inflammation on the scalp, so you really end up going around in circles.
For this reason, I developed the Triple Threat Scalp Pack that solved all my issues with scalp psoriasis:
The bentonite clay-based mask helps to gently lift and exfoliate the thick plaques on the scalp. Together with white willow bark (a natural salicylic acid) and botanical extracts, the flakiness reduces and makes way for the other products in the pack.
If you are like I was, you find the scalp gets dry and itchy during the day. So, I thought the best way to tackle this problem was to hydrate the scalp without any greasiness so it could be used during the day. Less dryness = less flakiness, less itchiness = less flakiness. We all know how embarrassing it is to have snowflakes on our shoulders, this was developed to reduce the flakiness and embarrassment.
Nighttime is a time for deep hydration and rejuvenation of the scalp and hair. So many people suffer from dry and brittle hair while trying to manage scalp psoriasis. The Enriched Scalp Oils was formulated to hydrate the scalp, support the hair follicles, and hydrate the hair to prevent hair from falling out and breakage.
The three products in this pack support the health of the scalp and hair and prepare the scalp for the next stage. This pack is probably the most popular amongst our customers and the feedback has been amazing. The protocol is simple, by addressing the key issues with scalp psoriasis, it makes it much easier to manage and see the results you are looking for.
I can’ tell you how many people have told me over the years they have used paraffin or Vaseline to hydrate very thick plaque lesions on their body. I know the pain of plaque psoriasis; it reduces elasticity, and it can cause so much pain when the skin cracks and bleeds. When I was thinking of my experience with plaque psoriasis, I realised we needed to deeply hydrate the skin, but it had to be with natural ingredients. Products with coal tar, Vaseline or paraffin aren’t great and with a damaged skin barrier as with psoriasis, these ingredients are being absorbed into the bloodstream, which is not ideal.
This balm is 100% healing oils, preservative free and vegan (no beeswax). It is deeply hydrating and aims to reduce tightness in the skin to help with moving freely and reduce itchiness in skin.
Was formulated for the scalp and psoriatic lesions on the body that are not as thick as plaque psoriasis. This is a light cream which easily washes out of the hair and gently hydrates the skin on the body. It is a mixture of botanical extracts and healing oils with MSM and colloidal oatmeal to reduce itchy skin.
While I was writing my book, Feel Great in Your Skin, I realised anyone reading this book would be really struggling to successfully implement the changes to their diet I was recommending.
Over the years, I have had many patients tell me that they were unsure as to what they can eat once I gave them the diet plan. Understanding these challenges would have transcended between my readers and patients, I asked my mum if she would consider writing a cookbook with me. Knowing how to implement these changes to your diet is so important in reducing the inflammation in the skin and effectively seeing the results you are looking for.
To my delight, my mum said yes, and we got to work. We set out to share all the recipes my mum created over the years when I was so sick, especially in my teens and twenties. We came up with 60 recipes that cover all meals of the day, including snacks, vegetarian meals, and desserts. We even have our own yoghurt recipe we make from scratch.
This cookbook is a great start for anyone ready to transform their diet as it includes recipes to regulate insulin resistance and has a glossary of all the benefits each ingredient has to psoriatic skin.
It has been reviewed as being the wellness bible for any psoriasis warrior looking to clean up their diet and heal their skin from the inside out.
For the longest time I was ashamed about having psoriasis. I know it shouldn’t be but having rashes all over your body is intense. Perhaps I thought I was hiding it but deep down successfully hiding a skin disease is stress in itself. When I finally got on the other side and started treating patients in my private practise, I realised so many people were struggling as I once did and felt the same shame and embarrassment I did as well.
Having psoriasis is no one's fault so why must anyone feel shame or embarrassment? At this point I realised this could be something I could help them with. I know how awful it is to have psoriasis, I know the challenges around finding a doctor or therapist that can alleviate the pain, I know the fears around “will this disease ever go away”. This is exactly how I felt, so I decided to write about my entire story and share step by step exactly what I have done to heal my psoriasis from the inside out.
Shortly after, the Feel Great in Your Skin meditation CD followed. The one thing we all can agree upon and that is that stress makes psoriasis worse. I think I have met 1 person in my life that said stress made it better, but this was coupled with a very low-calorie diet which would have inadvertently helped with reducing the inflammation caused by insulin resistance.
In this CD, there are 3 meditations and positive visualisations that can help you calm the nervous system and help with reducing the inflammatory adrenaline and cortisol. When the body is in a restful state, it is in a healing state. All things wellness happens when we are calm and fear nothing. Meditation is the only exercise that can elevate us to that level of consciousness to release the healing chemicals in the body and create wellness. Making it a daily practise of 10-20 minutes will initiate healing within weeks.
How the Salubre Therapeutics range helped Andrea* from Melbourne
Andrea* was a patient at Salubre Skin Clinic. At her initial consultation we discussed the concerns centred around her psoriasis. It first started around 11 years ago and there were plaque lesions on her body and scalp psoriasis extending down the back of her neck. We discussed the characteristics of her psoriasis, overall health and diet. The first step was to alter her diet and recommend an anti-inflammatory diet. Initially there was some reluctance, but by the second consultation, Andrea was keen and on board 100%. Her topical treatments incorporated the Triple Threat Scalp pack for her scalp psoriasis, the Salubrious Skin Balm for her body and to help with making key changes to her diet, Andrea* bought the Healing Psoriasis with Mediterranean Cooking cookbook.
By the second consultation (1 week later), her skin felt less tight and itchy. 1 month later the psoriasis on her face was completely gone, by 3 months her scalp and body psoriasis cleared up completely. During this time, the state was in lockdown so emotions were a challenge and work stress was a problem. Despite these stressors, the topical & internal treatments and diet plan allowed the plaque psoriasis to resolve completely.
*name changed to protection of privacy
Even though it was a great honour to be featured in WebMD, I take greater joy in helping patients treat and manage their psoriasis naturally and effectively. Having battled the disease myself for many years I see it as another victory for the psoriasis warriors with every patient who manages to get on top of their symptoms. Even though suffering from psoriasis can be isolating, we don't have to battle it alone.
Want to read the WebMd article to meet other psoriasis warriors and read about their stories. You can read the full article here.
Or want to learn more about my journey with psoriasis? Read my story here.