Psoriasis - Jackie's Story

by Myra Charleston

"My neck looked so bad a starving vampire wouldn't have bit it!" Jackie Roper's sense of humor helps her deal with psoriasis as much as clipping her nails. Jackie suffers from psoriasis vulgaris, the most common type of psoriasis. In her case, the flaking is usually confined to her scalp, but occasionally works it's way down her neck to her back and chest. In November of 1998, she was at her wit's end with this chronic disease.

Psoriasis causes skin cell reproduction to accelerate. A normal skin cell takes about a month to mature. For those with psoriasis, this process takes only 3 or 4 days. These skin cells are poorly developed and push their way up to the skin surface faster than the old cells can be shed. Consequently, the skin cells pile up and form raised, scaly "plaques" that may itch and leave skin below red and inflamed. At least 2% of the population world wide has some form of psoriasis. Of these, 60% report no itching, 20% report itching during flare-ups and 20% report constant itching. Jackie falls into the middle group.

"I thought at first it was just dandruff." She recalled, "I used dandruff shampoos just about every night, no good." Finally she saw a doctor who diagnosed psoriasis. Aside from the physical discomfort, Jackie also endures occasionally embarrassing moments because of the disease. Grocery shopping, visits to her daughter's school, even going out to dinner or a movie can draw stares if the psoriasis has progressed past her hair line.

After ten years, Jackie has run the gamut of home remedies to calm the itching. This includes having her husband wrap her yogurt slathered head in cling wrap, applying ice cubes to her neck and bathing in everything from Epson salts to corn meal.  She recalls with a chuckle the afternoon her 10 year old daughter and her friends caught her wearing an oatmeal "cap". She heard one girl whisper to her daughter "Your mom has oatmeal on her head!" Her daughter nonchalantly replied "Yeah, she does stuff like that."

Although there is no scientific evidence that diet plays a role, there has been enough hearsay evidence to cause Jackie to try changing her diet to try to ease the outbreaks. She eliminated tomatoes for a while, but finds that eating the low acid yellow tomatoes does not aggravate her psoriasis. "It makes for unusual looking lasagna" she quips. She also reduced her consumption of beef and pork. "It made an obvious difference, but I was constantly craving something to eat! I snacked my way to 200 pounds!" In November she started eating emu meat instead of beef. Her cravings were satisfied, she has begun to lose weight, and most importantly, the itching has not been as bad.

At the same time, a girlfriend suggested she try emu oil for her skin. The oil gave temporary relief of the itching, but required frequent applications. She discovered by accident that there were emu oil shampoos, conditioners, cleansing bars and lotions available. "Once I started using the (emu oil) shampoo and conditioner, my scalp started clearing up. I use a emu oil bath bar now instead of the medicated bar I used before and use emu oil lotions after my bath."

Jackie reports that after three months of using emu oil based skin care products, her neck completely cleared up. She has been using the products for nearly five months and reports that while the scalp is an ongoing battle, it no longer itches. "Most of it (the psoriasis) is gone, just two small patches are left up near the top of my head. I am NEVER giving this stuff up!"

Reprinted with permission from Emus Zine, The Online Magazine,