Tag Archives: Cortisone

Kisses Again

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It’s 2:30am, awake with the itchies… Thought I’d be able to pull another night off without taking antihistamines. The last two nights I did without. I was just too tired that I didn’t bother. I did have to get up a couple times because the itch was bugging me, but went to sleep soon enough albeit with less ease and more emotional distress. 

The bulk of June has been pretty good. I started getting a lot of sun, which seems to really have helped open wounds close up. The perioral area has improved vastly as a result. Compared to last few months of oozing, redness and hyper-sensitivity, the area above my upper lip has been the best it’s been for a very long time. The way I evaluate this ultimately is the Kiss Test.

I haven’t been able to really kiss Kris for the last 1.5-2 years  of our relationship because of the amount of sensitivity I’ve had. After even a touch of kisses, the skin will break with soreness and oozing, and will need at least 1-2 weeks to bounce back. Despite Kris’ efforts to keep his facial hair to a minimum, even the most minute scrape or touch against my skin would immediate tear my skin.

I’m happy to it’s changed and can kiss like a normal person in a relationship. Yay! I might experience some sensitivity like probably most people but NOTHING like how it was before. This is a new era of healing!

I remember last October 2012 was the worst point. I had rubbed that area and soooo much ooze resulted. I had a thickass crust of dried yellow plastic over my upper lip. It was distressing and terrible to look at. I almost wish I had taken photos of it just to show you have bad it was. I was crying, wondering if my existence would always revolve around my dysfunctional skin. I wondered if I’d ever experience a kiss again. I felt and looked disgusting. And am forever thankful that I found Dr. Rapaport’s medical literature on eczema.

It’s been nothing short of life-changing. 

I went away with my boyfriend for a day trip to Niagara Falls. We wanted to get away after his stressful week of work. So off we went to our favourite close-by destination. I survived the heat at 30-ish degrees Celsius. Luckily we were in and out of a/c’ed buildings but still am pleased that my body didn’t over react as soon as I stepped out in the heat and humidity. I was pretty warmed up but within my comfort zone. I wasn’t sweating either. Still  waiting for the sweating stage of healing to kick in and actually looking forward to it even. Here I come, sweet, sweet sweat.

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Night Itchies and Cortisol Levels

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The itching that inevitably comes with Steroid Withdrawal seems to amplify at nighttime is a regular visitor, although unwelcomed! It was much worse in the earlier months, but is still very present in my 5th month. The itchiest spots are the folds of my arms, wrists, neck, inner calves & inner thighs, ears and jawline. These are also my worst, most damaged areas. The itchiness was so intense before, like down-to-the-bone deep down itching. I’m not sure if the term “itching” gives the horror of the experience justice. The only thing I could do was scratch to give myself some relief. I attempted to push through the itching and not scratch for a few minutes in hopes it would pass. I couldn’t do it for more than 3 minutes — and this took all the will power I could muster. I’m entirely grateful those days are gone.

The itch at present is still pretty bothersome. It’s been getting worse as the warmer days of summer are coming. I have been using 3/4 sleeves and light scarves to mask my skin. I guess the good news is I think that I think things are looking better than they do. I’ve left the house with short sleeves thinking it’s no biggie and then realize how ragged it really looks when I’m out and about. I also get itchies when I’m stressed out, so keeping myself in check with deep breaths helps me regain control. I try to keep the itching at a minimum at night in a couple different ways. 

Dr. Rapaport has attributed the night time itch to lowering cortisol levels. In general, cortisol levels are at its peak around 9am and is at its lowest at midnight. This change throughout the day and night is caused by the amount of sunlight our bodies are receiving — aka circadian patterns. Here’s a chart showing this:

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Cortisol levels are highest during the daytime when our bodies are synhesizing UV rays for its production

The actual episodic bursts throughout the day correlate to our eating patterns (amongst other things). Levels increase soon after we’ve eaten, so snacking throughout the day is also a good idea. 

I also use something called Licorice Root. it’s a herb that prolongs the half-life of cortisol — or in simpler terms, keeps up your cortisol levels up. A naturally-occuring chemical found in Licorice Root called glycyrrhizic acid that prevents the breakdown of cortisol, which is done through enzymes (don’t ask me what kind of enzymes!). I’ve tried Licorice in tea form, pill form and tincture form. Pill form is the easiest – just pop ’em in and go. I don’t enjoy the taste of licorice so tea is a slow and painful way of getting it, although you can blend it with another herbal tea. Tincture is probably the best way to digest it, as tinctures are the most readily processed way to consume herbs for medicinal use. It has more “bio-availability.” I take LR throughout the evening. I start as early as 4:00pm and as late as 6:00pm depending on how I’ve been snacking and how bright it’s been outside (and well how mindful I am). 

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Licorice Root helps to keep up cortisol levels at night

Rapaport recommends antihistamines, particularly Atarax, to reduce itching and help with sleep. I personally use Benedryl, which didn’t work until month 4. Before that, I’d take it (more than the recommended dose) and I’d feel drowsy, but still too itchy to settle into bed.  Often I’d be up for 35 hours at a time. Those were the most bleak of times. I wasn’t sure how i was going to get through it. Now, I can manage sleeping at regular hours, but only with antihistamines. I’ve gone without a couple times and it was a total fail. The itch kept me up for most of the night. So for now, I will continue to use Benedryl alongside Licorice Root and regular snacking throughout the day (no problems with that!).

Even though I take Licorice Root, to say that I don’t itch at all would be false. Much of the itching happens when I get a deep nerve itch and I tend to it. Tending to it (ie. scratching) and applying pressure to the skin to relieve it produces a reaction in your body creating histamine and causing further itch.  However, I have noticed an overall pattern of more intense nerve itching when I’ve forgotten to take LR. 

Happy healing and less itchy days! xo.

Part 1: Reasons to Say No to Corticosteroids

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1. Your body stops producing its own anti-inflammatory defense mechanisms the more steroids it receives.

The steroids that your doctor offers you are a synthetic form of anti-inflammatory agents that your body naturally produces within your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are responsible for keeping your skin calm through its production of corticosteroids, along with the production of many other very important things within your body’s ecosystem. The adrenals are susceptible to malfunction as you become dependent on steroids.

Sometimes your skin/body becomes overwhelmed and is given steroids to speed its anti-inflammatory response. Initially, the cream/ointment will help with the inflammation and keep it at bay when another flare arises. The big issue with this is the body begins to depend on the synthetic feed of steroids for its supply of anti-inflammatory agents, which often results in dependency of the prescribed creams, ointments, pills and injections. The adrenal glands cease to produce its own corticosteroid as it understands that the body is receiving it elsewhere. In a sense, the adrenals become lazy.

I’ve used this analogy before… It’s similar to how your mom does your laundry for you. No matter how many times you tell her, “No, no mother, I’ll do it because I can,” she continues to do it despite the fact that you’re a grown, able adult. Eventually, you know she’s just going to do it anyway, so you stop checking if there’s any dirty laundry as you assume that laundry is no longer your responsibility. Like mom, the steroids are the easy, simple solution to fixing your laundry. And like you, your adrenals just lay back, relax and watch. This dependency often means that our bodies’ natural anti-inflammtory response is impaired as it no longer sees a need to add to the already mass amounts of steroids you’re ingesting through your permeable skin.

The even bigger issue is that your body begins to ask for more steroids more frequently and/or in stronger potencies. What happens when you’ve reached the strongest ointment? You go to pills until you’ve adapted to that dosage. The next step is injections. What about after injections?

Steroid dependency or addiction is marked by this need to increase the dosage. Often, we will continue to increase because our bodies have not yet recovered from this addiction.  Without knowledge of Steroid Addiction, many people continue their prescribed course of steroids as their body/skin is in an “excited state” of abnormal vasodilation, releasing high accumulated amounts of nitric oxide and is unable to withstand allergens without synthetic or natural steroids. It takes months to years for the adrenals to function normally again.

2. Steroids do not heal your dermatitis, but conceal a larger issue.

Steroid creams treat the inflammation of dermatitis on a superficial level. Applying steroids on the skin (or worse, ingesting it via injections and pills) is covering a messier issue with a bandaid. Unfortunately, this “See no evil, be no evil” approach that most modern professionals use on a daily basis is the core issue in the most commonly used treatment of dermatitis. Making the symptoms go away momentarily and continuously will satisfy some, but do not give you a chance to figure out what could be influencing your symptoms. Treating the symptoms and not the core issue is shortsighted and vain at best.

Atopic skin types are sensitive and need to learn about their triggers. There are common triggers like rough fabrics (i.e., wool) and allergens (dust mites, pollen, dander, etc.). Some of you may have food allergies or are sensitive to foods with higher amounts of histamine (we take anti-histamines to calm allergic reactions). Your health deserves a chance and learning more about what your body reacts is going to save your body and sanity.