I rode my bike to work yesterday. It’s been an age since I’ve had the bike out of the shed, but it was a nice day and the trip would take me along the beach for a couple of miles and then through some nice parks. So why not? I pumped the tyres up, put my iPhone in its handlebar holster, set up Runkeeper and then plotted my trajectory with Google Maps. Continue reading
Summer is here, the sky is blue, the scent of freshly cut grass lingers in the morning air, the waft of BBQs fills the afternoon air and the evening brings a happy haze enveloping the woodlands along this part of glorious English coastline. It’s perfect for a bike ride! Come along for an evening cycle with me. And with Runkeeper.
Let me show you Coy Pond, full of carp. And Branksome Chine, one of many chines that run through otherwise concreted neighbourhoods down to the beach. Under the arches. Over streams and brooks. Till we reach the golden sands of Bournemouth’s long stretch of coastline. Currently densely inhabited by foolishly revealed and slowly burning flesh. Maybe it wasn’t the BBQs that I could smell….
Sometime in, I think, 1996 I developed a strange scabby rash on my scalp. It came out of the blue, for no apparent reason, and soon spread across my head to my hairline. It wasn’t painful, just a little itchy. But it didn’t go away, so a trip to the doctor was in order. First diagnosis was either a fungal infection or psoriasis. My GP leant towards fungus. She leant the wrong way – it was psoriasis. It has accompanied me for most of the last 16/17 years since.
It was a year before I was finally prescribed an effective treatment. There are no cures for psoriasis, only treatments. I went through a dozen bottles of potions and creams before I tried Cocois. It’s a thick coconut based compound that needed to be left on overnight and scratched off in the shower in the morning. But it was a relief to be, albeit temporarily, free of the scaling. For a few days.
When I went to Mexico in 2005 I took several tubes of Cocois with me. But it ran out and a new treatment was needed. Cocois wasn’t available in Mexico. My father in law turned up one day with an unlabeled plastic bottle with a strong smelling liquid in it. I gave it a go. It was much easier to apply than Cocois, and to my delight even more effective. What exactly was in the bottle was anyone’s guess. At the end of 2009 my psoriasis completely disappeared, and didn’t return.
Not until I got back to the UK anyway. Six months of British life later and the first scales appeared. It came back worse than ever. It even ventured on to my cheeks, although only mildly. Back to the doctor. Cocois is no longer made, but a new product called Sebco was identical to the last ingredient. On to my scalp it went. And in the morning I scratched it off, with all of the psoriasis. And layers of skin. My best guess is that the Mexican potion was full of steroids which had thinned the skin. This turned into a serious problem, as the wound became infected. It took five courses of different anti-biotics over several months to get shot of it.
Normally, a photo accompanies my posts. I had included a shot right here. But it’s not a terribly nice photo. Maybe not everyone really wants to see it. So I took it down. But if you are curious as to what an infection can do to a psoriasis plagued scalp – namely my scalp – then just click here and have your curiosity sated.
My head has recovered, you’ll be pleased to hear. You might be wondering what this has to do with Mexico, though. I’ll get to it. First of all, I should point out that there is no known scientific explanation for psoriasis, nor a real cure. There’s a million different treatments. I know if I tell someone I have psoriasis, there’s a fair chance they’ll me exactly what the cure is. There is a Mexican metaphor to this sort of information. It’s much like someone proudly announcing they know exactly what you need to get a Mexican residency visa. In other words, they’re probably about to spout a lot of rubbish. Like the infamous Mexican visa, everyone’s journey is different and what works for one person may well make things worse for someone else.
I’ve tried many potions, some prescribed, some natural. I’ve bought ointments in Sri Lanka – they did nothing. I’ve just bought a little pot of coal tar type oil in Morocco, which is working wonders on my cheeks. I’ll go so far as to say that, if you’re thinking of suggesting something, I’ve almost certainly already given it a go. And my opinions and suggestions are no more valid, if we’re going to be completely honest. But sometimes, hearing other people’s experiences and weighing them up against what you’ve tried and experienced can help. So while I can’t promise a cure, maybe it’ll work for someone out there.
There are two things that have really helped my psoriasis. Both of them entirely natural, and perfectly healthy even if it has no positive effect on the psoriasis. The first one is well known. Swimming in the sea. A couple of hours of splashing around, and I can feel the scales fizzing off. After a couple of days, it’s gone. And not a single medical potion needed. The saline content of the water has miraculous qualities that has helped almost everyone I know with psoriasis. This is no secret. But it has a drawback. Not everyone lives near the sea. And in the UK, most of us would rather put up with the psoriasis than swim in freezing British waters.
The second thing? I mentioned that my psoriasis completely disappeared in late 2009. It also disappeared in 1999 for a couple of months. Back then I had given up smoking and was getting fit, ready for entry into the Royal Air Force. I put it down to quitting smoking. But then in 2009, I didn’t quit smoking. Was there anything in my life that was similar in ’99 and ’09? Indeed there was.
Sweat. Lots of of it. In 1999 I was running a marathon a week, albeit split into chunks. In 2009 I started training for a marathon. I also got into cycling, riding my mountain bike up to 15 miles in day, several days a week. Under the hot Mexican sun. Boy, did I sweat. It dripped off my head by the bucketful. Little waterfalls of sweat. And, at a guess, it took my psoriasis with it. I reckon this is a pretty good guess. It makes sense. Sweat, just like sea water, is very salty. I kept up the cycling and running throughout 2010 and the beginning of 2011. And the psoriasis kept away. Completely. Not a scale in sight. Cured. I find it harder to sweat in the UK, even when I do go out and ride. In winter it’s just so cold, you never quite build up the temperature needed*.
So there is my cure. Move to Mexico. Get on your bike. Sweat. Get fit and healthy at the same time to boot. And a tan. What’s not to love about this ‘cure’?
* I did recently go on a long bike ride wearing a thermal hat, which I kept on even as I felt my head reach boiling point. This was surprisingly effective, loosening up the psoriasis enough to remove quite a bit of it without Sebco. But I simply don’t have time to do this three times a week.