Heat Trigger: What I Learned From Traditional Chinese Medicine
After a lifetime of dealing with atopic dermatitis and going through so many changes throughout the years, finding my personal triggers took a long time. Unfortunately, I didn't become aware of one of my biggest (and most obvious now) until much later.
Heat as an eczema trigger
I always hear people talk a lot about how winter is toughest on their skin. It makes perfect sense because the air is much dryer then. In my case, it has been the complete opposite.
My worst flares are in the summer
After going through topical steroid withdrawal, I realized my worst flare-ups would typically happen during late spring or summer. My body simply couldn't handle the heat, and I still don't do too great with it when it is extremely hot.
As a kid and teenager, much like most other people, I couldn't wait for summer to come. Now, I actually tend to dread it and can't wait for it to be over and for the fall months to begin.
Limitations during summer
I'm personally not able to be nearly as active during the hot summer months. It takes a toll on my mental health as well, as nature is one of my most important "medicines." It lowers my stress levels and thus helps any flare-ups too, and helps prevent them as well. Aside from that, I've noticed my skin just naturally flares up when it gets hotter outside – even if I am in air conditioning! It is like my skin notices every single change outside and responds to it.
Traditional Chinese Medicine helped
It causes me to be quite miserable most of the summer, admittedly. Thankfully, Traditional Chinese Medicine helped in that area quite a bit, but it is still a struggle.
TCM is based on the elements
Through using TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) personally, I learned a lot about how they diagnose and the terminology they use. In their "world," they use words like heat, damp, cold, etc., to diagnose, based on the elements. It is a much different concept than what we are used to in Western Medicine.
Heat means inflammation
In Chinese medicine, "heat," which, of course, corresponds to the element of fire, essentially means inflammation. This helped me make sense of why I flare so much worse in the summer.
Heat internally and externally
As heat is naturally higher in my body, and the heat outside is also higher, it only makes sense my body reacts even more! My body's protection mechanisms against the outside are not as strong as the average person's. That includes regulation of temperature as well – one of our skin's primary functions.
Body temperature regulation with herbs
For me, a lot of the treatment in TCM was taking what they call cooling or heat draining herbs. The purpose was to lower the heat in my body and skin. I noticed that as I continued to take the TCM herbs, my skin was able to regulate temperature much better. I didn't get hot as easily as I did before. It was one of the biggest signs of my healing.
I'm not immune, but it helped
However, I'm still not fully immune to it being a trigger. My skin still tends to get a bit worse when it is hotter outside, although not nearly as severe as before. But now, I am much more aware of it and the precautions I need to take. And through treatment with TCM, I've gained a better understanding of why this is the case for me.
It has all aided in my healing and motivated me to keep going and, most of all, keep learning.
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