There is no question that the more experienced, qualified professionals you have on your healthcare team, the better, but – big but – all of your treatments must work in harmony with one another.
If one treatment is in direct contradiction with another treatment, one or both treatments have a much higher risk of failing, leaving you thinking that neither worked.
It can be tempting to fudge the truth at your dermatologist visits about what you are really doing at home, but don’t! A dermatologist worth their mettle will be interested in what you are doing, what is helping you, and what didn’t work. They will also be very much invested in what you are taking, because it may interact with something they are giving you or are planning on giving you.
You may have a professional naturopath or nutritionist working with you on your skin condition, or you may be scouring forums in search of ‘the cure’. For the former, make sure all your practitioners know about the others, and what treatment strategy they are following. Your practitioners can talk to one another regarding treatments if necessary, but both professionals have the internet: they can look up the treatments the other is providing and ensure not only safety, but synergy, or at least no interaction at all.
Taking supplements and/orherbal medicine and drugs at the same time
If you are put on a course of supplements, herbal medicine or pharmaceuticals, you must inform all practitioners who treat you – this really does matter. Herbal medicines, supplements, and drugs can all interact to either increase the effect of, or reduce the effect of, drugs. This may be beneficial, neutral, or unsafe for you, and you need to know before you mix your medicines.
Herbal medicines are powerful and while they are considered ‘natural’, natural doesn’t equate to safe. (Think of the many ways nature can kill us!)
Applying problematic solutions, including pure essential oils, to the skin
The internet is full of stupidity and wisdom, but it’s hard to know the difference. If you are considering applying something to your skin, find some evidence from a reliable source that it first will not cause harm, and second, that it will not interact with something you are already taking, and thirdly, will be helpful in some way.
No essential oil should ever be applied to the skin undiluted, because it will burn and cause irritation – the opposite of what you want for your skin. Tea tree oil, for example, is a marvellous antibacterial oil, but if you are going to use it on the skinto help kill bacteria or fungus, dilute it with another carrier oil such as almond or avocado. Even olive oil is better than pure essential oil.
Alternative treatments as part of an integrative plan
There are so many great adjuncts to your conventional treatments. Your diet is going to be a huge factor in any disease, for example, but particularly skin disease, though how and why this works is still largely mysterious. Acne, for example, is a classic crap-in-crap-out scenario for many sufferers due to the action of insulin on sebum-producing skin cells. Each of you has your own biological makeup that will respond to different lifestyle changes and herbs or supplements, and it seems wise and useful to find out what affects your skin condition – and what doesn’t.
Other great adjuncts to some skin conditions include coconut oil for helping to control staphylococcus on the skin, sunflower seed oil as a moisturiser, topical vitamin B12 as an anti-inflammatory, probiotics to help improve the microbiome of the body, and vitamin D supplementation to boost immune function. What each of you responds to will vary, but some of your choices could make a difference.
Talking about complementary and alternative medicines with your dermatologist
If your dermatologist is ‘against’ you trying alternative or complementary therapies to try to solve your skin problems, find a new dermatologist. There is room for everyone in this conversation, and all your practitioners need to work together as your healthcare team, and this includes importantly checking for safety. It is up to you to be honest with all your practitioners so don’t be scared. Gone are the days where doctors get to have the last say – the internet has taken care of that.
Discuss with your practitioners any drugs, over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements or herbs you are taking or using topically – and what seems to be helping and what didn’t help. While there is often minimal scientific evidence for many alternative treatments, the evidence is being collected and the first step is your Melbourne dermatologist being aware of what you are doing and what helps you. All great studies started somewhere!
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