No skin condition is fun or easy to live with, but some tend to be tricker than others to overcome. Skin rashes–especially those associated with eczema or psoriasis–fall into that latter category. Part of the reason for this is that unlike acne, premature skin aging, and even rosacea, eczema and psoriasis are both autoimmune diseases.
Eczema and psoriasis are widespread, especially here in the United States. Did you know that 31.6% of Americans have some form of eczema? And while 3% of world’s population has psoriasis, 2% of the US population has been diagnosed.
It’s not just about the numbers for me though. In my work, I see how profoundly skin issues affect people on an emotional and spiritual level. Those with eczema have higher risks of developing asthma, depression, anxiety, and skin infections. (source) Psoriasis quality of life surveys have found that more than 50% of sufferers have had their physical activities affected, and experience social relationship disruptions. (source) As a mother, I’m also concerned about the fact that young people with skin disorders are often targeted by bullies.
For all these reasons and then some, I am really happy that my friend, clinical nutritionist and former eczema sufferer herself, Jennifer Fugo has organized the first ever Eczema and Psoriasis Awareness Week, which happens April 16-22, 2018. I was honored that she asked me to be a speaker for this event, and to help spread the word, we did a little broadcast together on Facebook.
Watch my interview with Jennifer Fugo to get a sneak peek at 2018 Eczema and Psoriasis Awareness Week!
Or read the highlights from our interview here:
Rachael: Welcome, Jennifer. It’s so great to have you here.
Jennifer: Thank you. I want to thank you first for being willing to do this, because one of the things that I love about you is that you’re very focused on helping people understand there’s a lot of complexity in skincare. The thing that I recognize and that I learned a lot from you, Rachael, was that there’s a lot of stuff in skincare products that actually makes chronic skin rashes worse. I find it so troubling when people go to the drugstore, for example, and see all these products that are marked for eczema or psoriasis or severe dry skin. They buy it, try it, it burns terribly or it doesn’t work or it makes it worse–and then they end up with this box of products that they can’t return, that were very expensive. Thousands of dollars of ointments, salves, all this other stuff.
Rachael: Yeah, I see it a lot. It always drives me so nuts when I see ingredients on the products that are intended to treat eczema or psoriasis or extremely dry skin that actually make it worse. Eczema and psoriasis are not the same as acne, in that they are considered autoimmune diseases now. Can you speak a bit about that?
Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting. We have to thank the drug companies, actually, funny enough, for that information. Big pharma has made it official that these are autoimmune processes. We’ve known for a long time that psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. Eczema’s a lot more complicated, unfortunately, because it’s not just the immune system and gut health–there are a lot more triggers for eczema, and it’s more complicated. I think one lesson I’ve learned is that, with eczema especially, it’s really a two-pronged approach. It is outside in and inside out at the same time to simultaneously see resolution. Biologic treatments are also not always the best or most effective way to treat these conditions. In case you’re wondering, “What’s biologic?” biologic is involved in stopping these inflammatory processes. But one year’s worth of that biologic, Dupixent specifically, is like something around $35,000 a year. The other ones that they use, like Humira and such that are used off label for skin issues, are closer to $50,000 a year. I know because I pay for my own health insurance and other people do, the deductibles are going up, the co-insurances are going up. So if you’re on a medication like that, it is hard to oftentimes even get them approved because they’re so expensive. So you could look at it from a financial standpoint, but then you also have to be on them for life. It’s not like you do it, the skin resolves, and then you can just go off them. It’s a life-long halting of a process in your body that’s then triggering the skin.
Rachael: Right, and that’s what I want people to understand, is that these treatments, they’re treatments. They’re not cures. They’re not going to make it go away. They’re intended to help you live with the condition and manage the condition, but it’s not going to make it go away. I believe that there is a place for Western medicine in certain instances. But I have to say, when it comes to chronic situations, and when we’re talking about the skin, the skin usually shows us something when the rest of our body’s systems have tried and we haven’t listened. So by the time the skin is like, “Hello, you can’t ignore me anymore because I’m looking right at you and you’re going to see it,” we’ve already ignored other symptoms that have been going on on the inside that I think as chronically stressed, overworked, tired people we’ve kind of just come to accept those as normal.
Jennifer: One of the things I’ll share too is that I’ve been doing all this research over the past so many months and discovered that there are at least 15 different skin triggers for eczema. Eczema alone. That includes genetics, because you can’t ignore the genetic implications of certain proteins that are produced in the skin to keep the barrier healthy. So if you have a problem producing those proteins, then naturally, you may be more prone to eczema or psoriasis. There are genetic triggers, but also environmental triggers. It could be your cat, your dog, or maybe the carpeting that’s throughout your house, the chemicals in the paint, the fumes off gassing, mold, or food. We feel like we have some control over food allergies, but in looking deeper, you then have gut dysfunction, gut infections, gut dysbiosis. You can have allergies to things like nickel, which you’d go, “I don’t eat nickel. Why would that matter? I just won’t wear cheap jewelry.” But guess what, there’s an awful lot of nickel in some very healthy foods. So it becomes more complicated than just saying, “I’m going to throw some Vaseline or Crisco on my skin,” which you and I were laughing about.
Rachael: Yeah. We’re not advising you do that. Spoiler alert.
Jennifer: No, but there’s an awful lot of triggers that people are not … We’re not given that information, and it’s buried and scattered. I, in no way, shape, or form want to be all conspiracy theory, but when you look at it purely from a financial standpoint, what impetus does the drug company, for example, even have to want anybody to stop getting rashes? Because then you don’t buy their products anymore, and they have spent millions and millions of dollars not only paying physicians, by the way. There’s some really disturbing research out there about how much money dermatologists are getting from drug companies and also how much they spend on developing these drugs in the first place. So if the customer base goes away, if the drugs work too well, what happens to your bottom line?
Rachael: Right, and never mind the cost of those expensive TV commercials that they’re now marketing to everyone and their children. My kids are even like, “Why on Earth would somebody risk cancer to get rid of a rash?”
Jennifer: That is a side effect, by the way, of biologics and those that suppress the autoimmune system. It’s important to understand that we all, to some degree, have cancer cells at any given moment, but it’s more about the state, the amount of cells that have been produced that are not healthy, and your body’s ability to maintain that. When your immune system is suppressed, that army, or force, that’s meant to be there to protect you by getting rid of those cells that your body accidentally produces that are not as healthy or appropriate as they should be goes away. So there’s no check and balance, and that’s why there’s a side effect of cancer for those drugs. I had eczema, so I understand very well how awful of an experience this is. I got sick and tired of dealing with, “Here’s a cream, here’s an ointment. Try this.” And it was frustrating from an integrative approach, because I’m already gluten free, I’m already dairy free, I’m already egg free.
Rachael: I find that eczema and psoriasis, as you said, there are more triggers, there are more combinations of things going on, and when you’ve done what you’re supposed to do but you’re still having symptoms that’s when people get really frustrated and they give up, and that’s when they feel like they have no other choice but to go on these biologics and risk these horrible side effects. I think that that’s a big difference we see with eczema and psoriasis versus some of the other skin conditions that occur on a chronic basis.
Jennifer: I think that’s also a good heads up for people who are listening to this that are like, “My doctor told me to go on a gluten-free diet and maybe that’ll stop the rashes.” Sometimes it does, but when I developed my own hand eczema, I was already gluten free, like seriously 100% gluten free, for six years. I was gluten, dairy, and egg free, and it still developed. So you can’t assume that it’s just always tied to food. Food is one piece, but there’s also the complicated matter of what caused the food sensitivities in the first place, and you need to look underneath those. For me, it was like, “Okay, number one, is my skin getting enough of the nutrients?” We need raw nutrients to come in and make sure that we’re not depleted anywhere else, because the skin is the least important … Isn’t it so funny? We spend so much money on making our skin look beautiful, but it is the lowest priority on the totem pole of organs.
Rachael: I know, which is crazy, because it’s the biggest one and it’s our first line of defense against the outside world. The nutrients and hydration that come in all go to nourish and hydrate the internal vital organs first, and then the skin gets the leftovers.
Jennifer: I had to figure out what my unique combo of triggers was and address that because my solution is not necessarily somebody else’s solution. Part of it was food, part of it was nutrients, part of it was stress. There was a big stress component to it. I want to give people hope because there are so many facets to this, whether it’s hormonal, environmental, food, or gut-related. I want to give people the tools that I was blessed to have available to me, so that they can find actual resolution, not just management.
Rachael: Right. Let’s get to the bottom of it. Let’s find your unique bio-individualized solution by doing a little bit of self-detective work here, because that is required. There’s some trial and error required, but really, we’re here to give you hope that this can resolve. You don’t have to live like this, for real. Jen, you’re proof of that.
Jennifer: I have to be more aware of my skin than a normal person, but my level of awareness around my skin now is not nearly as hyper-focused as it was when it felt like my hands had a thousand paper cuts. It’s just so painful. For me, it’s like if I just have to be a little aware, like, “Oh, I’m starting to get a little bit of dryness. Oh, I got to get back on. I just got to do a little bit extra,” and it goes right away. Right now I have zero eczema, and it’s amazing. It changes your life in so many ways. That’s why, Rachael, I’m so excited too because your presentation is just so fantastic and you offer this completely unique view of why skincare products don’t work that are out there on the market and why they’re so bad. You talk about it in a way that’s so relatable, so I’m really excited to have you as one of our presenters, because there’s never been another event like this, ever.
Rachael: No, it’s really unique. I want to talk about that, because it’s not just … this is not a webinar or a course. This is an awareness week that you’ve created. This is the 2018 Eczema & Psoriasis Awareness Week. We’ve talked about some of what’s not working, but as you’ve said, what is going to work is so dependent on each person, so you have put together this entire event with speakers, but with resources that people get as soon as they sign up. Let’s talk about that.
Jennifer: Register (USE THIS LINK) and you’ll get a free seat to this event. It happens between April 16th and April 22nd. What we’ll have every day is presentations that will be shown. I really tried my darnedest to keep the presentations consistent and concise, because I also know that you’re busy. You have a life, especially if you’re a parent and this is for a kid or just even for yourself. You want the good stuff. You don’t want fluff. So we tried to keep everything to about 30 minutes for each presentation, focusing on what works and why it works and what the next steps are for you from a functional and integrative approach, as opposed to just slapping more medication on and giving it a try. There are 25 different presenters. Rachael is one of them, and I’m so, so excited to be able to share what has worked for me and for other people. It’s not just, though, the how to and why. There is some mindset to this, because I recognize that this makes you feel really alone. We want to address that emotional component, the emotional wellbeing, and the impact that these issues can have, because you’re walking around, essentially, with a red scarlet letter on you making you look different, and people do treat you differently when they see that your skin is not clear. They’ll say you’re infected or diseased or whatever, so we want to address this from all pieces, all facets of how it affects us, people who suffer with this. When you sign up, you’re also going to get immediately a copy of the Eczema & Psoriasis Awareness Week Skin Supporting Cookbook. It has 34 recipes that I’ve conglomerated from all the different presenters of things that they recommend to their clients. These are practical, great recipes to try, and there’s a lot of different flavors and all sorts of stuff, so you’re not going to feel like you’re eating weird diet food or anything. We want people to be happy. Something for everyone. We also have over $2,000 in giveaways from natural skincare companies and food product companies of things that I use in my kitchen and things that have helped me and my clients.
Rachael: I want to thank you for coming on today to share about 2018 Eczema & Psoriasis Awareness Week. Jenn, before I let you go, what is one bit of a preview, like your favorite thing, that you gleaned as you went through all of these materials that you want to give people as a little sneak peek?
Jennifer: One thing that’s been really interesting and fascinating is the piece on mold, because we’ve had these huge natural disasters in the U.S. specifically, but people have had hurricanes and typhoons and things all over the world. We don’t realize that when our home is exposed to water, the mold that can grow behind the walls where we don’t see it can actually cause a really big problem. One way you know if mold is a potential trigger is if when you go on vacation and everything seems to start clearing up, and then you come back home and, you get another flare. That’s usually a sign that it’s something in your home, and it may be mold, because actually is a suppressor of the immune system. We’re going to talk about that and what the implications are and how you can test and whatnot. That’s one little preview.
Click HERE to secure your free ticket to the presentations (including mine!), your complimentary recipe book, and entries to all the amazing giveaways Jennifer mentioned.
And on a personal note, I really do hope you share this event with anyone you know who might be struggling with skin rashes, extreme chronic dry skin, eczema, or psoriasis. This is information that is going to help a LOT of people!
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