My view ...

The private blog of Andy Prevost. My experiences, my words. On any topic ...

Expanding on seborrhea treatments

The pH of skin is 4.7 ... quite acidic.

Here is a list of interesting products and pH levels:

- Optimal pH level of healthy skin surface: 4.7
- Vinegar: 2.5
- Dead sea salts: 5.8 pH
- Sea salts: generally around neutral once dissolved (7.0 pH)
- Epsom salts: 5.5-6.5 (considered a neutral salt)
- Baking soda: 8.2
- Most soaps: 7.0

The acid mantle on our skin ideally is at a pH of 4.7. And, for a short article explaining pH ...

I have a number of health issues. One of those is Idiopathic Chronic Pancreatitis. The defining symptom of this disease is extreme pain, typically treated with narcotics and opioids.

Fortunately, my background involves a significant amount of research. I have become a "master" at research. I ended up finding a pain treatment program that has kept me completely pain free for well over 4 years. What is amazing about this is this self-treatment costs me about 1 cent a day. Compare that with up to $1400 a day some pancreatitis sufferers are forced to fork over monthly for expensive prescriptions.

I also take a few natural supplements. You see, I discovered something I did not expect in my lab tests. For the past five or six years, I have had blood work (lab tests) at least once each year. I always ask for a copy of these so that I can do research on those as well. I plotted the results over a five year time span and what I discovered was completely unexpected. Markers that are extremely low. One in particular brought a comment from my doctor that in his entire 35+ year career, he had not seen this marker at such a low level in a "live" patient.

The two most important are 25-hydroxy (vitamin D3) and B-12. Both were extremely low. The other marker that caught my attention was in the Urinalysis section ... my urine pH level was at 5.4. That is also extremely low and indicates my body is quite acidic. The ideal ph level for urine (or saliva) is 7.4 – or slightly alkaline.

I started a supplement with each at the upper limit of the recommended daily allowance. I also started taking supplements to increase my pH level. Over the five years, I had absolutely no impact on changing my urine pH level. Throughout the five years, it remained at 5.4.

Before going any further with a pH discussion, I need to point out that the pH of urine (or saliva) is different than the pH level of your blood. It is extremely costly to get your blood pH level tested and measured, so doctors settle on a number of key markers in a urine test (urinalysis). The blood pH range is 7.35 to 7.45, which tends to be a reflection over a longer period of time. Measuring pH by urinalysis is more dynamic and can change within seconds of ingesting food or drink. For that reason, I have personally never been a fan of saliva pH tests, anything that has been in your mouth recently (including mouth washes, bacteria, etc) would have an immediate impact on a pH test and not reflect the reality of your body's internal pH. It is also a concern with urine pH levels, that is a reflection of what your body is processing through your kidneys.

My pH level did change in July 2016. It dropped even further to 5.0. Now that is quite concerning. The range recommended by the lab company is between 5.0 and 8.0.

When I glanced at that pH number, I was quite disappointed. After over five years of my self treatment program – focused on getting my pH up – to have dip to the lowest measurable point is not the result I expected. I went into over-drive. I started more closely monitoring dosage levels, times and frequency, and total daily intake. All within a 30 day window, I managed to do this properly with my next lab results (Aug 19 2016) showing pH at exactly 6.0. Not only reversed the negative trend from one earlier, but went much higher than I have measured in 5+ years.

Here's where it gets interesting.

I have issues with Seborrheic Dermatitis (SD or, commonly, Seborrhea). Over the past few months it seems that my seborrhea is starting to get out of control. Redness, indicating inflammation and irritation, is spread throughout my face. It's on my forehead, eyebrows, nose, sides of the nose to mid-cheek, top lip, and chin. It's bright red ... so much so that a family member mentioned I had a sun burn. Not a sun burn I replied, it's seborrhea.

The other annoying symptom is heavy flaking. There's also scaling, but no one sees that unless they look closely. The flaking is bad enough. Seborrhea has been called "dandruff of the face" ... it's red, it's itchy, and it leaves dandruff residue every time we scratch to relieve the itch.

The flaking is caused by a fungus called malasseiza. It gets out of control and feeds on the "sebum" (a secretion through our sebaceous glands). The sebum is the body's way to replenish our skin ... when the fungus feeds on the sebum, the body makes more and more skin. That's the flaking, the sheer quantity and piling up process is the scaling. Malasseiza is a lipophilic fungus, meaning that it feeds on oils and fats to grow and increase. Any product considered a lipid should be avoided.

Some interesting points about this:

1. Everyone has the malasseiza fungus. Healthy or sick. IT IS NOT A HYGIENE ISSUE.
2. The amount of malassezia fungus is the same whether you are healthy or not. With seborrhea (cause unknown), no one knows why the fungus decides to feed on the sebum.

Understanding this process leads to the first method of dealing with this disease. The medical community will prescribe corticostereoids as a first line of defence to control the malasseiza fungus. The medical community will also recommend using an anti-dandruf shampoo, leaving it on at least two minutes before rinsing off to have effect. For those afflicted with facial seborrhea, the recommendation is to extend the use of that shampoo to the face as well.

There are also a number of natural supplements and topicals that can help.

The first and most obvious is to help the skin out ... apply acidic topical treatments to control the fungus. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has a pH level of between 2.8 and 3.0. Cleanse your face with ACV and let it dry on your skin (followed by a thorough rinse) and you essentially help the body destroy the malasseiza fungus. No fungus, no flaking. While many on forums mention specific brands or types of ACV, quite frankly any acidic wash would work (unsweetened lemon juice – and I suspect so would a diet coke or diet pepsi).

There are also a number of topical creams that are even more convenient. Apply and leave on. Those are creams that contain any of the "azole" family ingredients. The two I prefer are in Nizoral shampoo (ketoconazole 2%) and an anti-fungal cream containing miconazole nitrate 2%. Both of these will control the fungus, flaking and help tame the redness and irritation. All will help with itching.

I have found a number of triggers that launch a seborrhea flare up. The first is water. Normal everyday tap water. We drink it, we bathe and shower in it, and it can cause significant harm. In the area where we live, we have moderately hard water – and our community uses chlorine extensively to control bacteria in municipal water. The amount of chlorine varies depending on the season. For most of the year, the chlorine level is kept to a reasonable 0.3 ppm. In the summer, our community adds more chlorine to fight off bacteria that flourishes in warmer weather. I've measured our household levels of chlorine at nearly 3 ppm. The reason I started to suspect chlorine in the water was that I started to notice that the redness and irritation was most prominent after a bath. I even ran a test and purchased a $30 showerhead filter to eliminate the chlorine while showering. And it worked.

That was a eureka moment for me. Discovering that bathing in chlorinated water triggers inflammation and irritation that is a cornerstone of seborrhea.

It was also a eureka moment in another way ... we're drinking this shit water. We're consuming chlorine. At 0.5 ppm, we barely notice it. Above that, you start to smell your water ... it has a slight "bleach" like smell. The health issues caused by chlorine are legend. Could it be the cause of the other symptoms? Scaling? Flaking?

The answer is I don't know. I do know that bathing/showering in chlorinated water was a trigger for me and I've heard it is a trigger for others as well. I also know that if I remove the chlorine from bathing/showers, but still drink chlorinated water, the effect is not quite as good as eliminating chlorine from the whole house. Which is exactly what I did. I purchased, and installed, a whole house water filtration system that removes chlorine and softens the water slightly. And it worked on the inflammation and irritation.

If you are following my story, odds are that you have seborrhea too, or you are a family/friend supporting someone with seborrhea. We all have the frustration of finding a treatment that works but ends up having a limited span of effectiveness. Such was the case for the water. It does work, it does control the inflammation and irritation – but there is also something else that can cause the redness. At this point, I don't know what that is – but I do have a sense of the process.

On August 24 2016, I had one of those "epiphanies" like I did when I discovered my self treatment that has kept me pain free for well over 4 years. It's one of those moments where you slap your forehead and that little voice says "why didn't I think of that" ...

I research medical and scientific research projects and papers. The medical and scientific community do not know what causes seborrheic dermatitis. Neither do I.

They do know that there is no cure and I agree with that. We can get rid of the symptoms for some time, even years. But it always comes back.

So, here's a breakthrough, here's my eureka moment – and a new treatment that is working wonderfully.

At the top of this article, I mentioned that I had noticed a trend in my lab tests and in the lab tests of manyh others with digestive diseases. They were all pretty much the same in what was missing.

Again, D3 and B12.

D3 – 25-hydroxy – keeps coming up in every single negative aspect of my health.

In the SD forums that I participate in, several users mentioned one "natural" way of improving their seborrhea ... spending time in the sun. The sun helped control the redness and flaking. The sun – to our body, the source of 25-hydroxy. The supplement you can take if you don't get enough sun: Vitamin D3.

So, there. I can't get enough sun, so I decided to up the quantity of vitamin D3 I take daily. I increased mine from 1000 IU to 6000 IU – result: overnight, my flaking and scaling is nearly 100% gone. The redness doesn't even show up when I shave.

And, on a related note ...

Some seborrhea sufferers have posted messages suggesting relief from Dead Sea Salts. If you note above, the pH level of Dead Sea Salts is 5.8. That will help control the fungus quite well and will also help with the inflammation and irritation, reducing the redness. Notice that is ONLY Dead Sea Salts. Any other Sea Salts have a pH of 7.0 and will not have the same effect. I personally prefer to use Epsom Salts to do the same. I add about one-half cup to my bath water and soak in it for at least 20 minutes – washing my scalp and face in it throughout that entire time. It's costs considerably less than Dead Sea Salt and has an even lower pH value (meaning it is also more effective). And another quick note for anyone with cardiac issues. These are called "salts", but have minimal (if any) impact on your blood pressure. Dead Sea Salts would be better called Dead Sea Minerals. And Epsom Salts are actually magnesium sulfate.

And, another "clarification":

On a facebook page, someone claiming to have created their own treatment for seborrheic dermatitis has posted "taking Omega 3 and 6 supplements are essential" ... please do not take any additional Omega 6. We already get far too much Omega 6 and it actually may be the source of many of our illnesses. The same person posts "Jojoba oil and olive squalene is the closet to the skin's natural oil." ... while I have no way of knowing if that is correct or not, do not apply either to your skin or scalp if you have SD. Both are lipids and feed the malasseiza fungus. 

Categories: Health

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It's frustrating ... seborrhea

I do quite a bit of research. It's been a mission to resolve some of my health issues. In all of this research, I have focused primarily on medical and scientific data. I tend to ignore the outer fringes – those that claims "cures" or try to sell ebooks and other information.

Most of my health issues are due to a barely functional pancreas. With only 1% to 2% functionality remaining, I am diabetic and insulin dependent. My pancreas also does not product any digestive enzymes, so meals and snacks require prescription enzymes. Despite these enzymes, I am plagued by poor absorption of nutrients from the food I eat (mal-absorption) and mal-nutrition. This causes another condition called "steatorrhea". Other malnutrition issues include seborrhea.

My pancreatitis (Idiopathic Chronic Pancreatitis) is defined primarily by excrutiating pain. Through my research I have discovered a treatment that costs me less than one cent a day and has kept the pancreatic pain away for over 4 years (as of summer 2016).

This article is mainly about the only area left that eludes my ability to manage or control it. That is Seborrheic Dermatitis (seborrhea, or SD).  I have managed to find several Facebook pages that discuss seborrhea with many of the participants offering treatments that have worked for them and possible triggers.

I am not participating in these pages any further. I'm quite fed up with claims by some of a "cure". Fake users offering specific product by brand and name. One even claimed to be suffering from SD and offering links to a website that he controlled and sold products that he was claiming "helped him with his SD". The products were shoddy cosmetics industry products that would have harmed anyone trying them and would distinctly aggravate the SD condition.

There is no cure for seborrhea (or SD or seborrheic dermatitis). None, no cure, period. You can treat the symptoms, you can make them go away for short or long periods ... there is no cure. You can treat the symptoms to control outbreaks and reduce the possibility of infection(s).

Seborrhea is not caused by poor hygiene. It is not an allergy. And it does not harm the body. 

I've had seborrhea for at least the past 45 years. It started out mainly on my scalp with heavy "dandruff" and redness up to the hair line. I also had a spot of redness and flaking below my nose and above my lip on the right side (in the mustache hair area). My doctor at the time suggested trying out dandruff shampoos starting with the tar based shampoos until I found one that worked. I went through all of those and none were really effective for any length of time. I then switched over to "Selun Blue" which worked for a few months. After it stopped working, I tried a few of the different Head and Shoulders products. Nothing really worked for any length of time, until I discovered Nizoral. I could tell from the moment I tried it the first time that this would work. There was a tell-tale "tingling" that came me a comfort level that the redness would go away – and the flaking. I would use the Nizoral daily until the redness and flaking stayed away for at least a full day and then alternate days between Nizoral and regular soap until the redness and flaking stayed away for at least a full two days. Then I switched to weekly, then monthly, then stopped if I remained redness free for at least one month. Small amounts of flaking weren't an issue. If you have had seborrhea, you'll know what I mean ...

I always could foretell when my seborrhea was coming back. I have one spot on the right side of my scalp, just above my ear, that would build up like a hard scab. When that spot started itching, I knew the redness and heavy flaking wasn't far behind. The recurrence of seborrhea was about once a year for most of those years.

Over the past five years, the recurrence has been more often. I attribute that to my pancreatitis. The symptoms of pancreatitis have been there for most of those 45 years, it's just in the last five years that my pancreas has effectively stopped working. It's called Idiopathic Chronic Pancreatitis, meaning no known cause and irrepairable damage to at least 80% of the pancreas. For the past five years, I have been totally dependent on insulin and prescription digestive enzymes to function. Some of the side effects include steatorrhea (oil discharge through the anus from improperly digested fats and proteins) and seborrhea. Seborrhea, incidentally, is also a discharge of oil through the pores near sebasceous glands.

It's that oil that carries the malassezia fungus to the skin surface that causes the problems. The fungus irritates the skin and that increases sebum (skin cell) production that causes the flaking. 

Before I continue with treatments that work for me, I need to point out that malassezia is referred to as a fungus and as a yeast. While both are correct, I don't like to call it a yeast because of the confusion it creates. There are many people with seborrhea looking for treatments that work. When they read about a "yeast", far too many assume it is the most common yeast they hear about and focus on treatments for that ... 

The most commonly prescribed medication to control the symptoms of seborrhea is a topical corticosteroids. Many of us that suffer from seborrhea are well aware of the complications this class of medicine causes. Thinning skin, stretch marks, easy bruising, localized thin hair growth, and in a few cases (mine included) some puss filled growths. A treatment that can be worse than the symptoms it is intended to treat.

Seborrhea is a nasty disease. Many that suffer with seborrhea become shut-ins embarassed with the heavy flaking, constant scratching and infections the scratching can cause. All are looking for a cure, that one miracle to take this all away.

There is no single cure. There are some effective treatments though. What I am going to discuss below are strategies that have worked for me. I am not a doctor, and certainly not involved in the medical community. I do a fair amount of research – focused on my own health issues, and to find natural treatments that work. 

This is where it gets interesting. One of the symptoms of my pancreatitis that is quite similar to seborrhea is steatorrhea ... not because of the name similarity, but because of the output of "oils". I have found a way to control the output of steatorrhea. My doctor and dietitician had suggested using a bulking agent (bran or psyllilum husks) to absorb the oil. That worked, but also causes some additional problems. I discovered, quite by accident, that an omega-3 supplement would also control the steatorrhea and also remove some of the foul odor as well. There were other benefits to the omega-3 supplement and I've been using that for several years now. If I get any steatorrhea returning, it is usually because I have forgotten to take my omega-3 supplements.

So, to test out if omega-3 would help with seborrhea, I double up on the dosage. And, sure enough, the seborrhea symptoms started to improve. I suspect that worked by reduce the output of the oils.

Next, my research focused on the malassezia fungus. Everyone has it, everyone. There are 14 species of this fungus, and they are opportunistic. That means that if you give them the slightest edge, they seize it and grow rapidly ... causing such issues as heavy flaking with extreme itching. It's not a hygiene issue and it cannot be transmitted to anyone else. Can it be controlled? Destroyed? The Nizoral shampoo helps quite a bit. Nizoral's active ingredient is 2% ketoconazole.

While the shampoo worked quite effectively, it's effect needs to be helped out occasionally. That's where my research took me too ... looking at anti-fungal products that could be used sparingly on occasion. Not just any anti-fungal, but an anti-fungal that would be effective on the malassezia fungus. That's part of my gripe with those promoting products, no research ... they read about malassezia and associate it with a yeast and immediately go looking for a yeast treatment – go ahead, look it up on Google. What you end up with is a bunch of treatments designed for candida. Those would have some effect on malassezia, but not really that great.

I ended up finding references to imidazole and ketaconazole with alternatives as zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and (interestingly) propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is also an ingredient in e-cigarettes that I have just quit using. The second interesting coincidence is that ketaconazole is the main ingredient in Nizoral.

More research leads to quite a few of the "azole" family of anti-fungal products. Since I am searching for self-treatment and low-cost options, I did not return to my doctor or visit a dermatologist for this part of my research. I was focused on finding an OTC solution (OTC = Over The Counter). I found a product that contains 2% miconazole at a local pharmacy. A bit on the expensive side at $18.99 for a 15g tube, but worth trying. A bit of a eureka moment following the first 4 or 5 uses ... between the Nizoral and this miconazole cream, the redness was pretty much gone and the flaking stayed away for at least 24 hours. What was most important was finding that the redness stayed away for all that time too ...

I've now found a source for 2% miconazole. I get six tubes (15g each) for about $2 per tube (including shipping).

One of the more expensive solutions was determining one of the triggers of my seborrhea. We have recently sold the house that we lived in for over 30 years. We raised our family there and it was a difficult move. It wasn't just a house, it was a home. It was "just right" for us in every aspect except size. Since our children moved away, we had at least three times the square footage that we needed. Our new home is the right size, just needing that same personalization that comes with time.

One of those "personalization" issues came up rather quickly. Since moving to this new home, my seborrhea has kicked into high gear. Happening frequently and with a ferocity that I haven't seen before. One of the ways that I managed my seborrhea before was to take a shower or bath. That helped get rid of the scaling and flaking ... and with Nizoral, the seborrhea stayed away for quite some time. At the new house, a shower or bath would cause the seborrhea to flare up immediately. The redness was dramatic – someone in the family remarked that I had a sun-burn. 

In my research, I discovered that chlorinated water is a trigger for dermatitis. We installed a whole-house chlorine filter and that trigger is now gone.

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Browser add-ons (for Facebook)

Facebook has become a central communications point.

Since Facebook is now a public company, the pressure to constantly make more profits means that we are increasingly presented information to get us to click more links and view more advertisements.

Many of those hide behind "Sponsored Posts" ... I'm sure you have seen them with catchy titles like "What this person did after seeing this amazed me!" ... click the link and you have to go through multiple pages of one or two paragraphs of information at a time with pictures that do nothing more than entice.

I'm getting tired of the misleading titles, enticing pictures with no depth, inappropriate advertisements. The appeal for profits is taking its toll, not just on me, but countless others as well.

I've found a number of browser add-ons that I'll share with you. They make a huge difference – presenting only information that I want to see and blocking everything I object to.

For the Chrome browser, there's QClean. I installed this mainly to get rid of the Suggested Posts and the more obtruse advertisements on Facebook. After installing QClean, I refreshed my Facebook page and it worked exactly as I expected.

For the FireFox / Waterfox browsers, there is an application called F.B. Purity. This is a major effort and will work on many other browsers as well including Chrome, Safari, Opera, and a few others. I tried it with Waterfox (Waterfox is the 64-bit version of Firefox) and was completely impressed with the vast number of options FB Purity can control over Facebook displays. It's absolutely outstanding and a must-have. I'll be installing it on my other browsers as well.

Enjoy a new Facebook experience ... just the information you need and want. 

Categories: General

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