Friday, November 26, 2010

A Case of Dermatitis

I have a case of eczema, or atopic dermatitis on my face. I see this condition frequently in others and treat it successfully, but I have never had it. Perhaps I'm vain, but this is a concern for me. Normally, I have a flawless complexion; now it's red and bumpy. And I do believe the skin expresses what's going on internally...

Two mornings ago, I woke up with a itchy, red rash on my lower cheeks, nose, chin, and ears. Immediately, I assumed it was my cat allergy acting up, since in the past, my skin would get inflamed around cats. For the past 2-3 weeks, my kitty (Algonquin) had been sleeping with me in bed after a 19-month ban from the bedroom. So, I washed my sheets and re-instituted the ban. But my facial rash still persists. Plus, my ears are hot, itchy, and scaly -- that never happened with my cat allergy looks like eczema.

According to the Merck Manual, eczema is defined as: "an immune-mediated inflammation of the skin arising from an interaction between genetic and environmental factors", usually found on the face, knees, hands, or feet. It's mostly triggered by:
  • sweating
  • bacterial skin infections
  • rough clothing
  • topical products
  • changes in humidity and temperature
  • emotional stress
  • food allergies
  • airborne allergens (like cat dander)
This makes sense to me -- I've been dealing with emotional stress lately and there has been increased airborne allergens in my sleeping space (cat), as well as major temperature/humidity changes. But Chinese Medicine actually provides a more comprehensive explanation, that makes even more sense....

Some background: There are 5 elements in Chinese Medicine (water, wood, fire, earth, and metal). The 12 meridians/channels are names after organ systems and each organ system relates to an element; each element is also related to a season. Further, some organ systems are related to a sensory organ.

Water = Winter = Kidney = ears
Wood = Spring = Liver = eyes
Fire = Summer = Heart = tongue
Earth = Late summer = Spleen = mouth
Metal = Autumn = Lung = skin

As you seen , autumn is the time for Lung, and the Lung governs the skin, so any rashes would relate to the Lung. Further, Chinese Medicine addresses the emotional aspect of health, and the emotion related to the Lung is grief. It deals with loss and letting go, so any imbalance there will cause an imbalance physically for the Lung.

For weeks now, I've had an irritating dry cough that I've attributed to stress causing Liver Qi stagnation inhibiting proper Qi flow to the lung (Qi flows directly from the liver channel to the Lung channel then to the Large Intestine channel, which is the other metal organ) + Yin deficiency causing heat. This past week, I've been premenstrual, which means my hormone levels are elevated, which contributes to more Liver Qi stagnation and more heat. Because of that I've also been breaking out (acne), so Tuesday I did a betonite clay mask (drying), and in the evening took a hot bath to relax (more heat). It was the perfect storm -- no wonder why I woke up Wednesday morning with a rash on my face along the Large Intestine channel!! It may make no sense to you, but to me, it makes complete sense. I'm dry, hot, and irritated/inflamed, and my Metal is out of balance.

This is the thought process I go through when I try to make sense of someone's disease; I attempt to uncover any emotional connection. Oftentimes, there is one... So what does this mean for me? I'm determined to recover by the end of the weekend. I believe once I menstruate, some "heat" will subside. But I'm also:
  • Taking high doses of fish oil (I had stopped taking fish oil regularly, which I'm now paying for).
  • Taking probiotics -- research has shown that taking probiotics have a preventative effect on asthma and allergies in babies, due to its effect on the immune system.
  • Doing Chinese herbs -- I've customized a formula to clear heat, nourish yin (especially in the lung), move stagnant liver Qi.
  • Taking an oral homeopathic.
  • Applying topicals -- I've gone overboard with a combination of Psoriaflora, a botanical salve to reduce inflammation, and a product call Psorzema Creme -- experimenting with these and using them at different areas to see if I notice a difference (yes I'm conducting my own experiments....I am a scientist, after all).
  • Managing stress -- I've started running and doing yoga again (after a foot injury that had kept me inactive for almost 2 weeks).
It may be surprising that I'm not making food changes since for every eczema case that walks in, I address food. I will, if by Monday, if I don't notice much change. I already limit my gluten and dairy intake as part of my lifestyle, and I have experimented with elimination and reintroduction in the past. Luckily, I don't have major food issues/sensitivities, but these food proteins (gluten and casein) can still be inflammatory, so I will definitely consider an elimination again.

I'm addressing this eczema from the external and internal as well as emotional aspects. I hope this works!

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