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What’s in a picture?

Posted 13/04/2016 - By Harley Farmer

What’s in a picture? Often a thousand words.

The lacework picture below seems quite pretty and innocuous. 

Yet it has earned a “god guy – bad guy” reputation. Ironically the people who hate it the most actually rely on it the most. It’s cortisol, the main stress hormone which protects us. It’s also known as “steroid” and that’s the name under which it  earns most derision and hatred.

There’s even a condition called Steroid Withdrawal Syndrome which arises in a select few people who decide to stop applying steroid-containing skincare products to their red skin. Typically they had been using the steroid products to reduce the inflammation of eczema. Because they develop such a dislike of steroids they stop applying them and then enter a phase of very intense skin inflammation often at a level much greater than they were encountering in eczema.

Yet this is the same compound produced when a human hurtles down a ski slope or screams with glee on a roller-coaster. Both of those activities are quite new to the human species so the protective stress hormone which was developed to defend us against being eaten by sabre-toothed tigers is still the body’s answer to stress — good or bad. Our adrenal glands have no way of knowing whether a modern person in enjoying the ski slope or facing a snarling lion in the wild. To the adrenal gland neither situation is favourable so it pumps out cortisol as the “fight or flight” hormone.

Cortisol is there to defend us. It’s on our side.

Then why does it generate such venomous revulsion? In general terms it’s lack of information so by way of example let’s focus on a specific situation relevant to modern life. I’ll use the word steroids in the common sense.

Ending childhood eczema is one of my delights and here steroids stop new skin cells making material needed to create an intact skin barrier. That makes the skin barrier more porous and excess water escapes so the skin feels dry. It also lets outside chemicals into the skin where the immune system reacts against them with inflammation. We call that eczema.

Witnessing eczema in her tiny suckling baby can really stress a mother. That stress increases the level of steroids in her blood and those steroids pass through her milk to the baby. Since her baby already has inflamed skin the steroids will make it harder for the skin to repair itself. That makes her baby more prone to damage from the skincare products she is being told to apply to her baby’s skin. Learning that can cause even more stress in the mother. The cycle becomes pernicious, especially when the mother is told “eczema can’t be cured”.

How do we jump from the misery in that picture of a stressed mother and red itchy baby to a picture of joyous happy mother and baby?

We end the eczema turning misery into happiness. It can be done within weeks and you’re on the right website to learn how. Have fun.