There is not much written in the self help books about this problem. My opinion is because there is not much known about it. The meaning of the word scleroderma is literally ‘hard skin’. Unfortunately this hard skin can be on or in any organ of the body, not just the out skin of the body. It is diagnosed when the body produces too much collagen. It is as if the body is trying to build a scab on that part of the body. Unfortunately the scab is not needed, and gets in the way of proper body functions.
All indications are that this is another autoimmune disorder. It is not clear what triggers it. In some people they have identified exposure to organic solvents such as trichloroethylene. This is a degreaser, but can also be found in some drinking water. In other people there is no known link to this solvent. The first reaction of the body is inflammation. This can make the joints hurt and the hands become puffy. It can continue by developing muscle weakness. This can be dangerous for organs that depend on muscles to do their work. These organs include the esophagus and intestines. It is interesting that almost everyone with scleroderma also has Raynaud’s disease.
Because it is thought to be an autoimmune disease many doctors treat the symptoms of scleroderma by inhibiting the immune system. There are other experts that believe in improving the immune system for those with an autoimmune disease. They feel that if you strengthen the immune system the symptoms will initially get worse, and then get better. They relate it to a scared animal that will strike out at anything. Once the animal begins to feel in control of their surroundings they can calm down and distinguish between friend and foe. One recommendation for improving your immune system is plant sterols such as those found in Sterol Max.
Because scleroderma starts with inflammation anything that combats inflammation would be helpful in dealing with the problem. Along with Antioxidants such as those found in Metabolic Complete, products that soothe inflammation can also be helpful. My favorite product for this is the Aloe Ace-Max. This is a concentrated form of pure Aloe that comes in capsule form and works from the inside out.
Naturopathic Doctors will sometimes recommend Bromelain for inflammation. This is one of the enzymes in Plant Enzymes. These enzymes not only quiet inflammation but also seem to inhibit the body’s production of fibrin, part of that scab we talked about earlier. They will sometimes prescribe a combination of enzymes and curcumin, which is in the spice turmeric.
Another reason for reaching for the Plant Enzymes is that many people with autoimmune disorders seem to have trouble digesting foods. This can lead to a problem called ‘leaky gut’ where molecules from foods and bacteria are seeping through the intestine walls and into the bloodstream. These molecules trigger the immune system to go into overdrive, often causing it to attack the body itself. Another possible cause or contributor to leaky gut is an overabundance of bad bacteria, and therefore an under abundance of good bacteria in the digestive tract. Many doctors recommend acidophilus for this problem. Acidophilus is just one of the eight bacteria strains in Probiotic with FOS.
Limiting your ‘bad fats’ and increasing your ‘good fats’ has also been shown to be helpful in relieving the symptoms of scleroderma. To do this you would reduce your intake of conventionally grown red meats. Instead eat organic meats, which have been shown to be lower in saturated fats and higher in the omega 3 fats. These fats can also be taken in supplement form from fish oil, evening primrose, borage, or black current oils. Flax seed oil is also another good source. These are good recommendations for everyone, even if you don’t have scleroderma.
As with all natural ‘remedies’ you may not see immediate results. Some people react to the enzymes and curcumin in as little as a week or two. Some of the other options can be four to six weeks or more before noticeable changes occur. In our society of instant gratification this can seem like a long time. Naturally better health takes time, but is usually worth the effort and patience.
Nature’s Medicines by Gale Maleskey and the Editors of Prevention Health Books, copyright 1999 by Rodale Inc.