Nitika Chopra: Improving Psoriasis + Arthritis with Integrative Medicine

Nitika Chopra: Improving Psoriasis + Arthritis with Integrative Medicine


My name is Nitika Chopra and I am a talk show host,
a self-love expert, and I’m also a chronic illness advocate. I was diagnosed with
psoriasis at the age of 10, so it’s been 27 years now and I have been
dealing with my health through that condition and also,
psoriatic arthritis for a very long time. It’s been a huge part of
my journey and my story and why I do everything that I do. It was in the middle of Ohio
and I went into the bathroom and I saw that I had this tiny, dry patch on my left arm. I called my mom into the bathroom
and I asked her, “What is that? That doesn’t make any sense. It’s so weird.
I’ve never seen that before.” She thought
that it was eczema, which is something that my parents have both
had before and it was pretty controllable. [With] their version of it, they would put
a little cream on it and it would go away and it was never
a big deal for them, so they didn’t think it was
going to be a big deal for me either. Then I ended up being sent to
the dermatologist for the first time and they did a biopsy on me and they were like, “We need to see
if this is psoriasis or it’s eczema.” One of the greatest memories or
the strongest memories from that time is my uncle who is a doctor, was talking to my parents
and he said to them, “I really hope it’s not psoriasis because if it is, her life is going
to be greatly affected by it.” I’ll just never forget that because
there was such a heaviness to it before I even knew what
was going on with my body and of course,
it ended up being psoriasis. I, then went on journey of
having psoriasis from basically, the tip of my foot to
the tip of my head. It was covering my body
except for my face. It didn’t really have it that much and my hands
and my feet didn’t really have it that much, so I used to always say that
the universe was protecting me so I could wear long sleeves and
pants that I really needed to and no one would really have to know. I had severe plaque psoriasis. What plaque psoriasis shows up as is
these thick scaly patches of skin. The fact that I’m wearing black right now, it’s not lost on me that there were
decades of my life where wearing a dark color anything was so challenging
and pretty much impossible because I looked like I was flaking
all the time on such a severe level. When I was 18 or 19, my psoriasis got so bad
that you know when your lips chap and bleed in the winter and they are just so
painful to even move? My whole body became like
that, just from my skin. I ended up being sent to a specialist
at some big fancy hospital and we had been through so
many treatments and things. I had tried everything
from Chinese herbs to Reiki to homeopathy to
Ayurveda to everything. When I was 19, I got on a medication that
actually helped for the first 6 months. It didn’t completely take it away but
I remember I had more patches of skin. My thighs were clear, parts of my
arms were clear, parts of my stomach, but I wasn’t completely clear and
I was waiting for that to happen. Then, about 6 months in,
it started to reverse and it stopped working and then,
I ended up getting psoriatic arthritis. I remember, I was in my dorm
in school, sitting there, trying to open the bag
inside the cereal box and I remember my hands weren’t
working and I was just like, “This is weird. Why is this not working?” I had already experienced so much
pain and suffering with my skin and to add something on top
of it was really devastating. Then, I ended up going to India and my parents had moved to India
and I was living in the States and I just went for a few weeks and I ended up staying for six months because I found an acupuncturist
who said that he could heal me. I’ve been told this many, many, many,
many, many, many times before but I had a connection with this man who was
like an older uncle kind of figure in my life. He’s very sweet and he had
helped a lot of people heal. I was in college,
so my parents were like, “Take the semester off,
come stay, let’s try to heal you.” That was a really pivotal
moment in my life because I refer to it now as a moment where
I really tried to force my healing and it was really, honestly, one of the
more cruel things I have done to myself. I went to India and I was doing
acupuncture 6 days a week, twice a day for 6 months straight. I had psoriasis all over my body. If you imagine just a scar, a wound of
any kind on your body that scabbed over and sticking a needle in that 38 times. I did that to myself. I allowed people to
do that to me for 6 months straight. I was better at the end of it. I was getting married to,
at the time, the love of my life and we decided to
get married in India and my whole thing was
I wanted to be a healthy bride. I needed to be healthy on my wedding day. I did not want this man to
marry me as a sick person, so I forced the crap out of my healing. I stopped eating certain foods. That was also the first time
a doctor had ever told me that my diet actually made a difference
to what my health was doing. In America, no one ever talked about it. They would always say,
“No, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” Still to this day, my dermatologist
and my rheumatologist say that but this Ayurvedic acupuncturist was like,
“No, you have to cut out nightshadesÉ” I didn’t know what nightshades were… anti-inflammatory diet, all of that and I did it and I lost 23
pounds in 2 months, just from eating differently and I was healed by the end of it and
I was healthy on my wedding day. Then the day after my wedding, I decided to eat Pizza Hut pizza because I had not eaten
anything like that in 6 months and I was like, “Well, I’m healed now.” I wasn’t going to indulge
and go crazy but I was like, “It will be fine.” Like you’ll be fine.
You have it once, you go back to your diet, it’s
not a big deal. You’re healed. Immediately, within 24
hours of having that pizza, my psoriasis started to
break through my skin again and I started a 6-year journey of
being the sickest I have ever been. Because I couldn’t stay in India,
I had to move back to New York and start my life with my husband, I ended up being so
physically debilitated. I couldn’t move without severe pain.
I couldn’t take the stairs. I couldn’t get myself dress properly.
I couldn’t chop vegetables. I was weeping in pain on a daily basis. I, also, simultaneously had started
this introspective part of my life that was very different from
the first decade of me being sick. The first decade was with my family. No one’s really that introspective.
No one really talks about God that much, or spirituality or positive thinking. It’s really like immigrant,
stress, fear. It’s very different. I started to really go into
the depths of this introspection and learning about how do
you change your identity, how do you think positively, how do you manifest the life of
your dreams and all of this stuff. While I was really sick,
I was not taking any medication. I wasn’t sure what to eat because I felt
like I had done this really strict thing and it worked but then,
it totally backfired. I was honestly really lost but the only thing
that felt real was this positive thinking, so it was pretty much
all I did for 6 years and I was the sickest
that I have ever been. I was in bed a lot and
I was in severe pain. After about 5 or 6 years of that,
I remember calling my parents, who had then moved to Hong Kong and I was telling my mom, I keep
talking about God and spirituality and the power of the universe and I think God made me
a medicine for a reason and I think I need to see. If there’s
something there, I can’t live in fear, so I ended up going to
a rheumatologist for the first time. He’s just someone who helps
you with your bones, specifically. I was 25 at the time. My doctor looked at
me and he just said, “You know, your bones are
starting to physically deformed.” My fingers are deformed,
I can’t bend this wrist. My toes are deformed and he looked at me and he just
was like, “If you don’t stop it now, you will be crippled by
the time you’re 30,” and that was in 5 years. That was real. I tried a medication
and I was so terrified. I believe in the power of our
bodies to heal ourselves. I’ve really deeply,
actually believe that. It felt like I was going against everything
that I have believed in so deeply and it was really hard for me, even as someone in the wellness
industry and the self-help space, sometimes it’s something I still have
to work through shame around and know that my body
needed medication at the time. I went from not walking and being so debilitated to literally
skipping down the street within 2 weeks of my first
dose of my medication. I remember calling my mom who
had gone back to Hong Kong and hysterically crying
to her on the phone because I was wearing a dress for the first
time in forever and it changed my life. Since then, I’m still on medication but that’s been a whole other journey.
That was like 12 years ago. That journey was about figuring out like how
do I honor that my body needs this drug. It needs medication right now
and it might need it forever. It might need it for the next 10 years.
It may need it for the next 3, I don’t know but it needs it right now and how do I, also fully show up
for it at the same time. When I first started my medication,
I was like, “I could eat all the things now. There are no symptoms. It’s going to be great. I can just go
and just lean on the medication totally,” and that to me is not the point. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, I was taking medications still and I found that I had a lot of
symptoms seeping through. I still had psoriasis on my legs. My bones would still hurt often and actually, it’s so funny
because all of that was happening but there was a normalcy
to that for me almost because I had been
used to it for so long. I got this Candida rash on my back.
It just like these little white dots on my skin and it was really itchy.
I don’t know why. It just totally triggered me
to start asking questions. I just stopped asking
after a while, you know? I think I just got so tired
of trying to heal myself so much that I needed a bit of a break. A couple of years ago when
I got this Candida rash, I had this experience.
I went to my dermatologist and I had gotten really comfortable
asking my dermatologist to give me things and he gave me an
ointment for my Candida and the next day,
it was twice as bad. I called a friend of mine who’s
a health coach and I was like, “So, I have this thing like, I feel like
there’s got to be a natural remedy for this but I don’t really know what it is,” and she said like, “Obviously,
diet is like, the biggest thing, but in the meantime,
you can put coconut oil on it and that’s actually a natural
anti-fungal and you can use that. It really helps.” I stopped using the appointment and
I put coconut oil on it and the next day, it was almost completely gone. I just have this deep message, if you don’t go back to what you know
is true about how powerful your body is, you’re not going to be
around much longer. I know that sounds like really dramatic but
the medication that I am on is really intense and it just became really clear to me
that I was leaning on it too much. I was so ready to take ownership in a way,
that I never really had the energy, honestly to take ownership of my health and I ended up realizing, I needed to find
a doctor who was willing to get messy with me and he was willing to do the work because I have met a lot of doctors
who I’m sure are wonderful people but they’re just not
signing up for the messy, hard work that’s most chronic
illnesses really demand. I went to the Blum Center,
which is in Rye, New York and they have all different specialists
there that you can see which is great and I saw Elizabeth Greig over
there and she’s been amazing. They did the gut test. They did
hormones test. They did blood test. They did all these different things and I found out some insane stuff
about my gut. Out of 1 to 100%, let’s say 100% as a totally
healthy gut, I was a 3. Apparently, we’re supposed to
have like 30 different bacteria and small amounts of each bacteria in
your gut and your immune system, 90% of it is in your gut,
so it’s all connected. I knew these things that I would
tell people this stuff all the time but I wasn’t actually
doing it for myself. I had 5 different bacteria
in large amounts of each, so I was just totally out of whack and I started to really just
attack this with food. I do believe that everybody should get
tested and figure out what their body needs but just first and basic things, psoriasis and a lot of chronic
illnesses are based on inflammation. There’s a lot of
inflammation in the body. If you just think about that,
I think of inflammation as heat and the incidence of
having a pizza or something. It’s like the tomatoes are highly acidic. They are nightshade.
It causes a lot of heat in your body. The cheese is the dairy, that
just skyrockets the inflammation for everybody but especially,
if you have psoriasis and gluten for me,
my body doesn’t process that. I don’t have celiac but it
doesn’t process it well at all. There’s just a trifecta
that is very unfortunate. Then also, sugar and actually, that’s
probably the thing I’m most grateful for, that I don’t crave
the way that I used to. I really try to watch my sugar intake and I don’t really have dairy. Sometimes, I have a little bit of feta
cheese and a salad or something because I want to be able to have some
and not feel like I’m depriving myself. But during the first year…
it’s been two years now… But during the first year…
of me doing the healthy food regimen, I didn’t have any dairy.
I didn’t have any sugar. The only sugar I had was berries and that’s only blueberries, raspberries and
blackberries because I can’t eat strawberries. I couldn’t eat most fruit. It would just
cause reactions, so I didn’t miss it. Then I started to do this
thing, where I would get a really dark, dark chocolate
that had basically, no sugar in it and combine it with
a little bit of cashew butter. It’s like finding hacks like that. I’ve been a junk food
person since I was a kid. I’m not the person who’s like, “I can’t wait
to have my green juice in the morning,” but I have found ways to just make
it real and make it sustainable and make it satisfying and
you have to work at that. Now, although I start
to take medication, I can’t walk without it, I am so much healthier
than I have ever been. I have no symptoms on the medication,
which has never happened to me before. I’m on the path to seeing how
can I reduce my medication and hopefully one day, get off of it.
I think it’s possible. I just haven’t figured out what is the exact
key that’s going to unlock all of that yet but I am grateful and proud
to be on the journey of that. I feel like I’m strong enough to ask
the questions and meet the people and take the tests and even now, as I’m doing much better and
I’m in remission with everything, I made a commitment to myself
to get retested for everything once a year on my birthday and
even if everything seems fine, it’s like that’s how I end up, all of a sudden, there’s like 20 different
symptoms that I’m really not doing well and I have to start over
and it’s like not OK. First is just being on top of it,
managing it myself and also, being on top of my diet and cooking
and being consistent with all of that.

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