Too many Americans suffer from an ailment they can feel but not see. This "phantom menace" is, with all due respect to fans of Star Wars and others familiar with the prequel of the same name, a much greater threat than anything George Lucas made fans endure for 133 uninterrupted minutes of mediocre storytelling, poor casting, atrocious dialogue and the C-SPAN equivalent of filmed debate between the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Council.
The real phantom menace is idiopathic itch, the annoying sensation that induces an irresistible urge to scratch affected areas of the skin. This acute or chronic condition can cause physical and emotional damage, resulting in cracked, bleeding or infected sores, as well as poor quality of life.
Imagine, for example, enduring at least six weeks of constant itching and scratching—picture the reddened arms and legs, or the inflamed hands and feet—where the pain is too intense, and the psychological agony is too exhausting, for someone to even go outside. Consider, for a moment, your immune system gone haywire: A breakdown in the way your body communicates, the vast network of signals and responses gone awry, resulting in an almost unavoidable need to scrape or scratch the skin.
This condition, like all the topics I write about, is a matter of the highest personal interest to me because, in my role as founder of Kiss My Itch Goodbye®, I seek to help men and women battling this disorder.
I want to call people's attention to this issue for three reasons.
First, the standard approach to "treating" this condition involves the use of antidepressants and anticonvulsants, which are not without their voluminous (too many to cite here) share of side effects.
Secondly, the overuse of topical steroids—the sort of reflexive tendency among some doctors to prescribe steroids for any and all skin problemswill not work in this situation because idiopathic itch is not the byproduct of inflammation or excess histamine in the skin.
And thirdly, we need to act as our own caretakers; cataloguing our reactions to certain foods, chemicals, drugs and various stimuli, which may aggravate this mysterious (to physicians and patients alike) condition. We must, in other words, never outsource our health and wellness to a committee, as if those things are open for sale to the highest bidder.
Scratch for Knowledge: The Urgency of the Informed Patient
The takeaway theme to this discussion is simple: If you plan to stop a phantom—if you try to chase a ghost—you must know how that specter behaves. You must think of this apparition as something very much real, because it is, as opposed to something beyond your control.
So, do not merely scratch the surface for clues . . . scratch your mind for answers or hypotheses. Perform the due diligence concerning your routine, including an inventory of the foods you eat, the chemicals your skin absorbs and the external factors you encounter on a daily basis. Contact a healthcare provider to discuss your unique condition and any possible changes to your dietary regimen.
At a minimum, be aware—and active—with regard to your health. Accept, in short, that what you feel is a fact; it is proof of something serious enough to warrant your attention, and severe enough to demand your interest (to learn more about health and wellness), period.
As an informed patient, you will enjoy more influence over your whole life, in addition to the whole foods that symbolize your passion for strength and vitality.
That plan will do more to menace any phantom that would dare to intimidate or frighten you. WF
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Posted on WholeFoodsMagazine.com 3/26/15
This piece is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Speak to a healthcare provider to get more information about diabetes and any potential side effects.