Secrets of Korean Medicine Part 5: Get Off Steroids

Graduate from skin disease by cleansing the lungs and discharging accumulated toxins
BY Dr. Seo Hyo-seok TIMENovember 27, 2015 PRINT

In the last two columns, I explained the principles of treating and fully curing skin diseases like eczema. In this column I will explain why corticosteroids, which are widely used to treat skin problems, actually degrade the health of many patients and never completely cure them.

First, it’s important to understand how corticosteroids work. Corticosteroids mimic adrenal hormones, which reduce inflammation by suppressing immune function.

The adrenals are two triangular glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Each adrenal is divided into two distinct parts, an external part, the cortex, and an inner portion, the medulla. The cortex is responsible for regulating immune function and does this partly by producing cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone, that is a natural corticosteroid.

Although the natural corticosteroids produced by our body have no side effects, synthetic steroids are inevitably accompanied by side effects.

When the human body is put under stress, it responds by declaring a state of emergency. First, adrenalin is released, followed minutes later by cortisol. Cortisol helps maintain vital functions like blood pressure but suppresses functions that are not immediately vital like immunity and digestion. However, if your stress is chronic, the “state of emergency”continues along with its powerful immune suppression and anti-inflammation.

This powerful anti-inflammatory function is the reason why corticosteroids are widely used as drugs for inflammatory skin conditions like eczema.

But the problem is that majority of diseases induce inflammation as a self-defense mechanism, and inflammation is what helps our body combat pathogens. Synthetic corticosteroids excessively suppress the inflammatory action of the immune system, which results in temporary appearance of improvement in inflammatory conditions like rashes. However, they also allow pathogens to go in deeper into the body because the body counts on its normal defense mechanisms to eradicate the pathogens.

Thus, continual use of steroids will stymie the function of the immune system, promoting the proliferation of pathogens and aggravating infection.

If steroids are used for prolonged periods, the body will be completely wrecked due to a labyrinth of serious side effects, including increased blood pressure, skin lesions and discoloration (atrophoderma), obesity, facial swelling, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, cataracts, osteoporosis, and more.

Let Your Body Heal Itself

In the modern era, many people are very busy and impatient. They have the tendency to seek drugs that work quickly and visit the hospital for minor ailments. Pain reduction, symptom pacification, antibiosis, and anti-inflammation are four major aims of modern medicine, and steroids are the most powerful anti-inflammatory drugs mankind has developed thus far.

Accordingly, steroids are prescribed extremely broadly for inflammatory diseases, including skin diseases, arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, allergic diseases, eye diseases, respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, and diseases involving tumors.

When a patient comes to the hospital with profuse wound discharge, doctors will first administer steroids to quell inflammation since the cause of the disease is not known. It is the same with fever-reducing drugs. Doctors will reduce the fever first without examining the cause of the disease. Although certainly in a time of crisis, when a fever is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, this can save lives, it does not fundamentally treat the illness.

Steroids and fever-reducing drugs are like a fire truck that extinguishes the fire and then leaves. But there is still a lot of repair left to do.

In order for the body to heal itself, the lungs, the key factor in immunity, must become healthier. When the vitality of the lungs is restored, the kidneys also become healthier, which in turn ensures improvement in the health of the adrenal gland.

Clean lungs are like a clean mirror, able to reflect all the problems that have accumulated in the body thus far. The immune system will look into this mirror and easily find where the problems are, where toxic substances have accumulated in the body, and send out commands to treat them effectively.

When all the chemical toxins and waste accumulated in the body have been detected and discharged, the skin will become clearer and cleaner, and patients can experience the miracle of having numerous chronic diseases be completely resolved.

Duration of Treatment 

Steroids quell inflammation but don’t help the body repair. (PUHHHA/iStock)

The duration of treatment is proportional to the duration of steroid use. Fully healing the body takes time, and the length of time it takes to heal depends on the form of steroids used and on how long they were used.

In comparison with externally administered steroid ointments, orally administered steroids have severer side effects because they circulate throughout the body and can interfere more with the endocrine system.

Based on clinical experience over the last 42 years, I found that the standard period of treatment for atopic allergies like eczema, hay fever, and asthma, is approximately six months when patients cleanse their lungs with herbal medicine and appropriate therapies. Approximately 60 percent of these patients manage to discharge all the toxins during this period and are cured.

I call these patients honor students and consider that they have graduated from treatment. I categorize the remaining patients into four classes. Patients in class 1 take about a year to heal and become part of the 2nd graduating class. Patients in class 4, what I call the addict class, generally have symptoms like high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis, and require more than three and a half years to be completely cured. Patients in class 2 take around two years to heal, and patients in class 3 take around three years.

There is some difficulty defining these classes because there is no device or blood test to measure the level of steroids still hidden in the patient’s body. However, I’ve found I can predict the extent of steroid use based on where my Korean patients received treatment.

The majority of my Korean patients in classes 1 and 2 have been treated at local dermatology clinics or in the dermatology clinics at university hospitals. Smaller dermatology clinics and those in university hospitals generally prescribe lower doses of steroids and, as such, the residual quantity of steroids in their bodies is relatively low.

My patients who have been treated at famous dermatology clinics normally belong to classes 3 and 4 because famous dermatology clinics have the tendency to prescribe high doses of steroids for prolonged periods.

Witth persistence, you can graduate from all classes of skin disease. (DEVONYU/iStock)

The Right Kind of Sweating

Regardless of whether steroid treatments have been used or not, patients with skin diseases, including eczema, must sweat. The duration of treatment will be twice as long if they don’t. However, some methods are more effective than others.

Usually, when someone is told to sweat, their automatic respond will be,”Okay, I will exercise.” However, to eliminate disease, you need to induce sweat from deep in the body.

This kind of sweating is hard to do with exercise alone because normally when we exercise, we begin to sweat from the head and forehead. If we exercise more strenuously, the upper body will begin to sweat. However, what we want to achieve is the sweating in our lower body. In order to ensure that the sweat pores of the lower body are open, we need our shins to sweat.

Getting the shins to sweat is difficult with exercise, so I recommend taking a sauna or hot bath to induce this kind of really deep sweat. If for some reason you can’t submerge the whole body in hot water, then submerging only your lower body is the next best option.

Dr. Seo Hyo-seok.  (Courtesy of  Dr. Seo)
Dr. Seo Hyo-seok. (Courtesy of Dr. Seo)

Dr. Seo Hyo-seok is the director of the Pyunkang Korean Medicine Hospital, which has seven branches in South Korea, one at Stanton University in California, and one in Atlanta. Dr. Seo entered at the top of his class from Kyung Hee University in Korea and after years of research, developed the Pyunkang-Hwan herbal formula, which improves immunity by strengthening lung function. It has helped cure over 155,000 patients of various conditions.

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