CNN anchor Zain Verjee: How I fight psoriasis
CNN — (CNN) -- One of the most powerful experiences in life is to have deep, meaningful connection. Without it we are empty. Each message I received about my struggle with psoriasis was a new connection that brought with it a tapestry of fulfillment, gratitude and inspiration for me. Thank you.
Many of you have asked me about diet. For me, it was, the most long-term solution to heal my severe psoriasis then, requiring the toughest self-discipline and a team of cheerleaders. Here's what I did, with what I learned at the clinic in South Africa, and my mother, Yasmin's help. Mum and I also used the book "Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative" by Dr. John O.A. Pagano to help explain diet in more detail and the science of natural healing.
Stuff I did not eat: Sugar, coffee, tea, soda, red meat (except for lamb), shellfish, oranges (I had very little citrus at all), "hot" spices, pumpkin, onions, garlic, tomato, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, chili, paprika, cheese, white rice, white flour, bread, eggs, butter, cookies, chocolate, alcohol, tobacco, cranberries, blueberries, plums, strawberries, cream, lentils, peas, white potatoes, yeast.
Stuff I could eat: Brown rice or wild rice, plain chicken or lamb, honey, apple, melon, banana, leafy green salads (no dressing), plain low-fat yogurt, celery, spinach, broccoli, corn, sweet potato pear, papaya, apricot, grilled fish, turkey, wholegrain muffin or bagel, bran, almonds, low-fat milk, wholegrain pasta. Loads of water.
Mum and I devised some menus like this:
Breakfast: Lemon in hot water, high fiber cereals/bran and milk, papaya, low fat yogurt, chamomile tea, occasional eggs.
Lunch and dinner: Stir-fry vegetables (celery, carrots, French beans, corn, cabbage, broccoli) in one desert spoon of olive oil along with fresh herbs, like basil, rosemary, oregano and fresh coriander, salt and pepper to taste. Chopped nuts. Apricots, honey;
Grilled lamb with salt, pepper and honey -- white sauce over it, (made with wholewheat flour, milk and seasoning).
Plain grilled chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper plus honey; fresh chicken soup; grilled turkey breast; roasted duck (white meat only); wholegrain pasta in white sauce; grilled fish (trout or sole or mackerel); vegetable lasagna.
All foods served with leafy green salads and with vegetable sides such as asparagus with low fat margarine, steamed cauliflower with beans, broccoli and carrots, corn or sweet potato.
Sweet tooth: Baked bananas, stewed apple or pear, plain low fat yogurt with fruit, pomegranate, dates, cantaloupe, fruit salad, whole grain, apricots and prunes.
Drinks: Diluted apple juice, melon juice, low fat milk, and water.
Munchies: Carrots, salad, pear, apple, avocado, sunflower seeds, Barvita biscuits, snack bars that are oatmeal (no preservatives or coloring or flavoring).
Vitamins: B12, CoQ10, Folic acid, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D
Exercise: I worked out for at least 1-2 hours a day.
Steam: I drank two liters of cooled American yellow saffron tea while sweating in the steam room for at least 30-60 minutes a day.
I would go in and out repeatedly so-as not to overheat. I would rest and eat bananas afterwards (which contain potassium).
Meditation: At the clinic in South Africa, I learned how to do deep relaxation and creative visualization. Three times a day I lay on the floor of my bedroom for at least 30 minutes and mediated. I imagined myself windsurfing in a bikini with the naked sun on my clear skin.
I imagined making a deal with my psoriasis, I would maintain the diet, and it, in turn would go away. I visualized that all the time.
I used naturally based topical creams from the Meyer Zall clinic to help sooth my skin. The clinic is now closed.
This worked for me back then and put me in remission for about 10 years, where I could eat anything I wanted and live completely normally.
I have suffered recently from significant flare-ups that are stress induced (need to handle stress better ...). I needed a "quick fix" and first was on Enbrel injections, then Methotrexate and now Humira, a biologic drug, which is currently helping.
There is clearly a place for medication like this in healing, but my experience with diet forces me to believe that is a longer term, side effect-free solution.
There is much debate in the value of food: which are immune boosters, what is more or less acidic, what is toxic for certain illnesses, is gluten-free the way to go; can food only provide cures? There is no one size fits all.
The only universal truth in all this, for me, is maintaining a positive attitude no matter how hard it is, with the love and support of friends and family.
Once again, thank you.
For more information on psoriasis, Verjee suggests visiting the National Psoriasis Foundation (U.S), Psoriasis Association (UK) or Africa Psoriasis Organization (Kenya). Medical advice is that sufferers work with their doctors to establish a treatment plan.
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