If you have heard of hidradenitis suppurativa, you may have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, the agony that comes with this awful autoimmune skin disease. What makes things worse is that very little is known about the causes and there is so little consistency and agreement in treatment that it often leaves those who suffer from it confused and continuously in pain. After my own frustrations with spending tons of money on doctors who have been little help, I started experimenting with any natural treatment I could find.
While I strive for as natural as possible, sometimes you have to do what you can when you’re in pain!
What is HS?
Hidradenitis suppurativa is an autoimmune skin disease. What that means that our own body is attacking itself, thinking it is an unwanted invader! It seems that more and more people are suffering from autoimmune conditions, and chances are that you may have more than one!
HS is a special gem of a condition. If you’re like me, it started out with what appeared to be an ingrown hair, and over a few years became a monster that has left me immobile at times.
Also known as acne inversa, HS mostly affects the groin area (think bikini line and upper, inner thighs) as well as under the arms. Sometimes, people experience it on their butt, chest and neck!
Basically, HS is painful, cyst-like spots that often become inflamed and are incredibly painful.
What causes HS?
Like many other autoimmune conditions, the exact causes of HS are unknown. However, there are a few theories on the causes. One is smoking. Studies have often linked HS with smoking. The other theory is the over saturation of highly processed,chemical-laden and sugary foods in today’s society that leave our bodies operating on a sub-par level. And in today’s fast-paced, convenient-based culture, it is difficult for even the very disciplined among us to stay away from.
What I am going to focus on in this post, however, is what you can do to treat HS without diet change (which is still important and I will have a host of posts in the future on how to slowly but surely lower the amount of processed and sugary foods in your diet).
My experience with doctors
I have seen a few doctors and have researched tons of treatments for HS and there seems to be very little consensus on how to treat it. Initially, I was given shots in the infected areas to try to break up the mass and allow it to drain. Yes, I got shots in my private area, and it did nothing! Talk about adding insult to injury! Next, I was put on antibiotics….indefinitely! Now, I have had more than one dermatologist tell me that antibiotic treatment is what seems to be working, but after 3 months straight, I found no relief from them. And guess what happened when I went off of them? Yes, I got a yeast infection. My OB/GYN was dumbfounded that anyone would prescribe antibiotics for such a long period of time.
There are other treatments as well, including medications and surgeries, but the truth is that if you take these routes, you are just putting your body under more stress and exposing it to unknown side effects when there is absolutely NO evidence to suggest that these things will prevent flare-ups in the future.
So why subject yourself to all of that and add a ton of medical expenses on top when there are quite a few things that you can do to reduce infections and avoid future flare-ups? Maybe even be able to feel confident again!
Natural Remedies that work
I believe that HS and other skin conditions need to be attacked from the outside as well as from the inside to be truly effective. There are a few natural “must haves” I think every HS victim should have:
Tea tree oil is great for the skin. It is an antiseptic that can help heal and stop the spread of infection. With HS, it goes even further by treating the odor that often comes with having pus-filled pockets in the skin.
I have found it very helpful to take wash cloths, get them as hot as possible with water and place them on the infected areas for at least 20 minutes a day, re-wetting the cloths when they start to cool down. When you finish with the hot cloths, be sure to put the tea tree oil on immediately after. It is also beneficial to put the tea tree on in the middle of your hot cloth treatment.
What this does is allows the bumps to drain and also opens your pours to let the tea tree seep deeper into the skin, allowing it to heal.
While many debate the benefits of silver, I have seen it do wonders for myself and others. Silver is believed to be a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal remedy that can also tremendously boost immune system. After all, HS is an autoimmune condition, so it makes sense that we work to fix our immune system.
Silver is often applied to the skin, but I find it more effective as a “from within” remedy. Take colloidal silver drops several times a day (as recommended on the product) to build up immunity and then once or twice a day when the HS is “behaving” a little better.
My skin does not get as irritated as it used to since I have been taking colloidal silver.
Zinc supplements are great for regulating the immune system as well. Remember, we are trying to rebuild our immune system so it stops attacking us!
Antibacterial ointments that contain zinc have been helpful as well when I have had flare-ups. After using your hot cloths and tea tree oil, it can help to apply an ointment after. Otherwise, its important to keep the areas dry to avoid bacteria build up.
4. Dead Sea Salt for Baths
I have learned to NEVER take a bath with HS unless I have some antibacterial agent im there with me. Otherwise, I have seen my HS get worse- most likely due to how difficult it is to get a bath tub squeaky clean enough to prevent further irritation.
To fix this, I have started using Dead Sea Salt. Antimicrobial, Dead Sea salts have been known to be great for the skin. Laying in a warm bath full of them will open up the pores and allow the salt to treat the infection.
Additional things you can try
I have also found that Hibiclens, a pharmaceutical grade soap, is helpful to use when my infections are really bad and the other things just aren’t working fast enough. When you are applying your hot cloths to the infected area, put some Hibiclens on the cloth so that it can soak into the wounds. Be sure to rinse afterwards and apply your tea tree oil.
In addition to your soaks, ALWAYS make sure you clean the areas several times a day, especially after exercise, swimming or any walking for long periods of time.
Wear loose clothing
One sure way to irritate infected areas is to wear tight clothing and underwear. I have searched long and far to find the best underwear that does not have seams near the bikini line and they make all the difference!
Cut out the sugary drinks
Lord knows I love a good soda every once in a while, but its good to try to take out the amount of sugar we are consuming just from drinks. This includes juices! It is ridiculous how much extra sugar is added to already sugary fruit juice! Don’t even get me started on high fructose corn syrup.
Cutting out these drinks helps the flora (good bacteria) in your stomach reach a healthier balance and thus helps your immune system. It will also help cut out extra calories, especially if you are overweight, as extra weight can make HS worse.
Try a water infuser with fruits or add lemon to break up the monotony of drinking water, because it is so important to drink water and lots of it. Fruits added to it provide flavor and extra nutrients and make your water drinking experience less boring.
I also love green and cranberry Kombucha. The fermentation often satisfies my craving for carbonation.
One of my many passions is finding healthier ways to cook delicious food using less processed ingredients and less sugar without sacrificing flavor- from donuts to pasta and beyond. Keep a lookout for those, because as I said before, it is important to tackle HS from the inside and outside, and what we eat plays a crucial role in how we feel.
Don’t wait for studies and research to find a cure for your HS. Take control today, as it is YOU who has to suffer the pain and often embarrassment that comes with this disease. Not everything works the same for everyone and I am not promising a cure, but I am saying that if you take these steps and stay consistent with them, you should find relief that will allow you more freedom to do the things you want to do in life!