Communications (December, 1997)

Pregnancy, Caffeine & "Skintreat"
by Nancy

Hi. Thanks for the great site. I'm an ex-Louisvillian now residing in Carlsbad, which I guess makes me a Southern Californian, but it's hard to get that Beach Boys feeling when one has pale skin and isn't comfortable in a bathing suit. Anyway, it was nice to see the site is written by a homeboy. I've had some good times in Lexington even if there was always that little basketball problem. (This is a joke, as I never properly cared enough about that rivalry [University of Louisville vs. University of Kentucky-Lexington] to qualify as a true UofL alum).

As I'm sure you've heard from other writers many times, thanks for the site. I've had flakes for years but have survived it in silence, so it's great to read comments from so many fellow sufferers. In my 20's (I'm now 32) it was focused on my scalp. This was extremely embarrassing as I was
artsy in college and black was the wardrobe color of choice. Now it seems to have settled in my forearms, upper legs, and buttocks—nice for wearing black but otherwise distressing.

Just some antidotal info and some questions posed to you/your readers: My psoriasis improved during my recent pregnancy (January-September 97) only to return worse than ever starting about 1 month after the delivery of a beautiful baby girl (just a proud mom elaboration there). What was different during pregnancy? Well of course there are the incredible hormonal changes that I believe could be the cause of about anything. Then there was the no-alcohol policy to which I adhered. I reduced caffeine intake from 2-3 servings to no more than 1 cup of tea a day. I continued to work full time until 1 month before delivery, but when my disability leave is over this week and I'm quitting my job to be a stay-at-home mom. I was unable to exercise during most of my pregnancy due to intense sciatica [any painful disorder extending from the hip down the back of the thigh and surrounding areas, usually associated with the sciatic nerve], so I gained 40 lbs by the end. As a side note, I tried acupuncture for the first time to relieve the sciatica and it worked better than chiropractic (as with psoriasis, standard medicine doesn't have much to offer for sciatica). I still haven't tried it for psoriasis, but if I do I'll write with results.

What's different after delivery? Everything! You've got kids—you know what I mean. I still rarely drink (1/2 glass of red wine at most, and that only every few weeks) since I'm breast-feeding, which is a major life/hormonal change unto itself. I did switch from tea to a latte (1
shot, 2 cups 1% milk) each morning, mainly because I prefer the taste and enjoy the ritual of sipping liquid out of one of those huge cups. Since I had a hard delivery (baby was 9 lbs and I'm 5'2"—enough said) I've only just been able to resume exercising recently and still have 15 lbs to lose. I wasn't a hardbody before the pregnancy, but I had exercised myself to a good, healthy shape with which I was happy. Now my stretch marks compete with flaky patches and there's much too much skin as a battlefield.

Did anything remain constant during pregnancy and afterwards? Well, I eat about the same diet (light on meat, plenty of veggies and fruit, a soft spot for chocolate, and yes, I love spicy food). I did yoga/meditation during the last of my pregnancy and continue to now, but admittedly my practice is too infrequent to be sure if it has any effect.

My questions: Have any of your readers found a correlation between caffeine and outbreaks? What about coffee specifically? What about pregnancy/postpartum? Weight gain/loss? Exercise?

I know my stress about being a new mom and leaving the work force is having an effect on my condition. I'm very happy about these changes, but they're still a bit overwhelming and certainly move me out of my comfort zone. I 'm working on adapting to this new life, but in the meantime would like to make any behavioral or medical changes I could to help matters along.

Andrew Weil, M.D., the author of "Natural Health, Natural Medicine" and other related books, considers caffeine the source of all evil (not quite, but close). Recent medical news has come down in favor of caffeine or at least not in opposition of small doses. This leaves me in the middle. With a baby who wakes up at 4 am every morning, I'm loath to give up my drug, but willing if it'll make the difference. Guess that reminds me to add sleep-deprivation to my list of possible causes, though I didn't sleep well during pregnancy either.

Also, have you or any of your readers bought the booklet and tried the "solution" advertised at http://www.skintreat.com/psoriasis/psoriasis.htm ? I got spammed with the address and have visited the site, but it's got that creepy feeling of a get-rich-quick (for the host) scam. No specifics are mentioned. Instead things like "major university" are tossed around. I'd love to be wrong and would be willing to shell out the $8 if you've heard of positive results. Searching for gossip about this site (Skintreat) is what led me to your site—if nothing else I owe thanks to it for that.

Well, this is probably far too long and just reading this letter over makes my head itch, so I'll sign off. Take care. -Nancy

*****

Ed's Reply:

Nancy, I guess I always figured people from Louisville, Kentucky, had babies and jobs and led more-or-less normal lives ... I'd just never run into any concrete evidence of that fact, before. Maybe it helps to move to California. :-) Glad to have made your acquaintance! (Pssst. That's the kind of ‘ranking' Lexers and Louers pull on each other all the time, thanks to our basketball rivalry.)

Evidence continues to mount that psoriasis definitely takes a backseat to pregnancy in women (along with other ills). I've heard from half a dozen flakers who report their psoriasis subsided or went away entirely when they were pregnant ... I haven't heard anyone say it got worse—until afterwards.

Lots of people also believe caffeine can trigger psoriasis. (I'm personally convinced anything can trigger psoriasis—except pregnancy.) I'll be one sad puppy if "conclusive evidence" emerges that caffeine is the (or one of the) guaranteed bad guys. Like so many other things, I tend to think caffeine is one of those things to which people are variably sensitive. My mother thinks coffee makes the world go around and made certain I acquired a taste for it. This came in handy when I was in the service, because one way a sailor could demonstrate his "salt," without being overt about it, was to negotiate the passageways, hatches and ladders on a ship in rolling seas with a full cup of coffee in his hand and never spill a drop.

That I must be somewhat sensitive to caffeine may have been "proved" in the mid-eighties. I was overweight and my blood pressure was high. The docs took away my salt and my caffeine (I switched to three or more pots a day of decaf). Then, one day in ‘86, I found myself at an all-morning business meeting in Dallas where there was no decaf. A few hours after drinking about a pot of "high test" real coffee, I landed in an ER "throwing PVCs"—post-ventricular contractions in the heart. And there was nothing that exciting about the business meeting.

Nowadays, I have a cup or two of high test with my wife in the mornings and maybe a cup or two again at night. During the day I drink decaf.... Unlike you, I'd be very UNwilling to relinquish my java consumption.

I tried reaching www.skintreat.com to no avail. My preconception is that any product hocker who won't get specific about his stuff is a snake oil salesman. Since they're selling a booklet at skintreat.com I imagine the help is behavioral, probably dietary. If they're touting results of studies done "at major universities" you should be able to get documentation from those major universities for free. If you find the results are attractive but the process is complex, perhaps a booklet that spells out the process in terms someone can follow is worth $8. (Shoot, Nancy ... all you get from Ed Dewke is some laughs, and that costs you $9.95!)

If my experience with my grandchildren has any bearing, you might expect infant-related stress to go down somewhat when the poop turns brown ... but then the stress goes up again when they start crawling ... and again when they learn how to talk! But this isn't really "stress," Nancy. It's L-U-V. -Ed

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