Ramblings on Poison Ivy, Stress Hormones, Immune Response, etc
Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with investing, and none of this should be taken as medical advice. It's just a blog.
I'm writing this because I am disappointed in the ability of the medical community to treat poison ivy - and allergic reactions in general.
Poison Ivy has a number of different treatments, most of which have been partially or completely discredited. The majority of these treatments only address the symptoms, without addressing the underlying problem. In my opinion, the existing treatments for poison ivy are crap.
A class of compounds called glucocorticoids seem to have the best track record. I hope this doesn't sound too technical, because it really isn't that complicated. Glucocorticoids are naturally-occuring steroid hormones, and they are widely used in the form of Hydrocortisone & Prednisone, among others. Prednisone seems to work fairly well, although it still takes a few days before the poison ivy goes away. And it requires a prescription. I have tried hydrocortisone cream for poison ivy (available over-the-counter), but it seems very ineffective, at least from my experience.
There is another naturally-occuring steroid hormone called Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which for whatever reason has been largely ignored. You probably won't find it at CVS, but you can buy it at the Vitamin Shoppe, among other places. Much like glucocorticoids, DHEA suppresses the immune response (ie: it reduces the swelling and itching).
In response to stress, your body releases cortisol (a glucocorticoid). If you have a lot of stress, then over time you may develop elevated cortisol levels. Too much cortisol raises your blood pressure, and has many other negative effects. You can search for "elevated cortisol levels" and see for yourself the problems that it causes. Related problems are "adrenal imbalance" or "adrenal fatigue". There is some good information on adrenal balance here.
DHEA and cortisol have many opposing effects, and they are considered to be part of a ratio, or balance, that should be kept in check. Info on this can be found here.
So, why do we treat poison ivy using glucocorticoids, while ignoring DHEA? I have no idea. But there is evidence that taking them together could be much more effective than taking glucocorticoids alone. For more info see US patent # 8084444. In some cases the effects of poison ivy were gone after one day of treatment.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attack the body's own cells. Much like poison ivy, lupus is often treated with corticosteroids/glucocorticoids. Again, I am not sure what the logic is of using glucocorticoids while ignoring DHEA.
The patent I mentioned above contains a reference to another US patent, # 6552010, which describes the treatment of lupus using a combination of DHEA & glucocorticoids.
Genelabs Technologies, Inc. is still developing their lupus drug, and Rx Dino is still working on their dermatitis treatment.
US patent # 5859000 describes the use of DHEA for the treatment of another immune-related / inflammatory disease: asthma.
I used topical hydrocortisone with an oral DHEA supplement, and my poison ivy was gone the next day. But again, this is not a recommendation - just a blog.