Do you worry about the future?

 

When you are diagnosed with arthritis, regardless of the type you have, you begin to have feelings of uncertainty. You also have many questions, many which are unanswerable especially at the time of diagnosis. The important thing that patients look for when it comes to a prognosis is measurable results. However, that is not something that anyone can provide.

In my case, after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I wanted to know whether things would get worse for me and whether I would continue to be able to work and to take care of my family. I desperately wanted someone to give me a response that was measurable and the only response I received from my doctor was that she did not know and that the course of the disease was different for everyone.

Most doctors inform patients that arthritis is not the same for everyone that symptoms can range from mild to severe. This includes periods of flares as well as periods of remission. The fact is that there no way of predicting the future and as a result, patients have fears that set in.

The questions that stood out for me were:

• Will I become disabled?

• How will having arthritis affect my life and my future?

• Will I continue to work and take care of my children?

Those answers came later. I don’t necessarily know at this point in my life where I will be in five or ten years. I just know that the plan is to continue to focus on managing my disease and putting aside my fears. I have done everything I can to learn about my disease. I have worked closely with my rheumatologist on my treatment plan and I have focused on adhering to it. I have kept a positive attitude and I have surrounded myself with support. As far as I am concerned, I have done everything that is necessary to set my fears aside.

What I do know for sure is that my fears are normal. At the time of diagnosis, however, I needed a clear perspective. If I were to focus too much on the fear, I wouldn’t be able to cope and manage my disease. Fears can elicit feelings of stress and that stress has a negative impact on your disease and overall health. By accepting your situation, you give yourself best chance of having a good outcome.

I still worry about the future but what I have learned in the past few years is that I can make things work. I have had to change some of my dreams as a result of having been diagnosed with RA but I still have dreams! My dreams changed because of having had to make lifestyle adjustments but also because of seeing life in a different perspective once I made those changes. For example, I gave up going to law school but having had the opportunity to find a job that was less stressful, I decided law school was not part of my future and I made different plans. Additionally, I gave up volunteer commitments but had more time with my kids. In my view, everything happens for a reason. So yes, I still have fears but I know now that I can overcome those fears and any limitations that stand in my way.

What fears have you had? What fears do you have now that you have had an opportunity to access your situation? Do you still worry about the future?

Having a Social Life Despite Chronic Illness

I know that this is an area that a lot of us do not like to discuss. How is maintaining a social life even possible when you are always sick and in pain? Your healthy friends may try to understand and support you, but they still have a social life and that is nearly impossible for you on most occasions.

Despite your many obstacles, it is important to have a social life. This is because dealing with your condition and its unpredictability is not something you want to go at alone.

Some things to consider:

• Your true friends will try to understand your condition and support you so they will understand your limitations when it comes to your social life so don’t cut yourself out completely.

• Know that you are not your disease and your disease is not you. This distinction is important and it might help to remind yourself of this.

• Let you friends know when you are unable to be a part of something but also let them know that they can still ask you to participate.

• You should have two sets of friends, those with chronic illness and those without. It is important to separate your identity so that chronic illness is not a constant reminder of your limitations.

What other reasons are important to having a social life when you have a chronic illness? Have you been limited by your chronic illness when it comes to having a social life? How have you been able to overcome some of these limitations?

 

Nutrition Role in Arthritis Management

Do you know the role that nutrition plays in management of arthritis pain and symptoms? This is something the research has looked at for nearly 80 years. Despite information out there pointing to the link between diet and arthritis, there has not really been a specific correlation that is agreed upon within the medical and research communities regarding nutrition in management of arthritis. However, as an arthritis sufferer, you know better.

What we know for sure is that consuming a diet that allows you to maintain your weight is important. Each pound of weight we gain adds more stress on the joints so weight management is important to our pain management. Further, a healthy diet means balance and we know that whatever goes in must come out. You cannot expect to put bad quality foods in your body and expect to get high quality back.

To ease arthritis symptoms, avoid foods that form acid in the body. Foods such as bread, coffee, corn, honey, oatmeal, peanuts, rice, soy, pasta and wheat are all culprits. If you dealing with a flare-up, it is a good idea to stay away from saturated fats.

Foods that are high anti-oxidants are brightly colored fruits and vegetables that will offer you substantial protection against arthritis. If you eat more yellow and orange fruits and veggies, you consume carotenoids which lower the changes of developing inflammatory arthritis. Some dietitians suggest avoiding nightshade foods if you struggle with arthritis symptoms. Some nightshade foods are peppers (red, green & yellow), potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants.

Some really good foods to add to your arthritis diet are alkaline forming ones such as most berries, bananas, fresh beans, beets, dates, figs, raisins, almonds, prunes, asparagus, avocado, cabbage, broccoli, celery, cherries, chestnuts, coconut milk, fresh sweet corn and cucumbers. If you focus on veggies rather than proteins, you will ease many other symptoms and help reduce weight.

It is also important to stay hydrated. Drink half your weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water. If you must drink alcohol, coffee or soda, drink an extra 16oz for every drink you consume in addition to the water you would normally drink.

There are other foods out there that help and some that hurt. Pineapple has bromelain in it which is an enzyme that reduces inflammation and lessens pain joints. Tart cherry juice can help to relieve arthritis and gout pain by reducing inflammation in the joints. You can also combine lemon juice with baking soda to help relieve arthritis pain. The mixture produces a pH of 7 which is almost perfectly balance. When you drink it, you affect your body’s pH producing alkaline-forming state. Waste materials like uric acid are therefore unable to form into crystals that cause gout.

Arthritis sufferers should avoid MSG, wheat and wheat gluten. MSG is used in many foods to add flavor and act as a preservative. Consuming it causes joint pain, stiffness, aching, swelling and redness. If you eliminate MSG from you diet, you can cut down on the frequency of arthritis flares so read your labels carefully. All forms of wheat and wheat gluten may contribute to joint pain, especially those made with highly processed white flour. Eliminating wheat and gluten from your diet can help with reducing arthritis pain and symptoms.

Fibromyalgia Tip: Get the Sleep You Need Despite Fibromyalgia Pain

Because you live with fibromyalgia, you know that deep, restorative sleep is nearly impossible. And because you don’t get the restorative sleep you need, you often wake up more tired than you were before you went to bed.

Fibromyalgia pain patients generally do not get to stage 4 (deep sleep) of the sleep cycle, and that deep sleep is what restores the body. Scientists are unsure of the specific reason for this, but they speculate it’s because of one or more of these factors: pain, unbalanced pain chemicals or inability to get muscles to relax.

Still, there are ways that you can help yourself have the best chances for a good night’s rest.

To get better quality sleep, free your bedroom from distractions and create a restful environment. The TV, a tick-tocking clock or a playful pet can all throw off your sleep pattern. A sleep environment that is dark, calm, quiet and cool has the best chances of beating the insomnia associated with fibromyalgia.

Your sheets and blanket should be comfortable and not bother your skin. Your mattress should be one that relieves pressure on your fibromyalgia pressure points. There are a lot of great mattress options out there, including Tempur-Pedic, which conforms to your body in a way that traditional mattresses do not.

Prior to bedtime, consider soaking in a warm bath or massaging tender points with a self-massaging device. You can listen to calming music or meditate to get rid of intrusive thoughts and tension. Avoid caffeine at least a couple hours before bedtime and go to sleep at the same time every night.

Exercise daily and consider activities that are helpful to fibromyalgia pain such as swimming, yoga and stretching. If none of things are working for you, consider a natural sleep supplement such as melatonin which can be taken an hour before bedtime.

Sleep deprivation leads to fibro fog so it is important to your physical and mental health that you sleep well. The lack of adequate sleep results in the inability to concentrate, memory loss and decreased decision making capability. Getting adequate and good quality sleep will allow you to feel better and think more clearly.

RA Tip: Spring Cleaning and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Your calendar is a reminder that spring is here in addition to the warmer weather. With spring in the air and wintertime behind us, many of us want to spring into action. By that I mean, spring cleaning but rheumatoid arthritis flares may prevent you from completing everything you would like done. That is the valuable lesson I learned in the spring of 2011 about overdoing things. I spent most of April swore from head to toe as a result of my insane desire to get rid of the clutter in my life. As a result of that experience, I gained some much needed knowledge.

Here are those lessons learned:

Prioritization. Decide what cleaning projects are best suited for spring and which can wait for the other seasons.

Planning. Create a system to complete tasks in an efficiently and orderly manner. Some jobs you can do in the morning, others maybe better in the evening hours. For example, you may want to tend to your garden during the day when temperatures are warmer and clean out closets in the evening. Switch from hand work to reaching or bending work so that you do not overwork one area of the body for too long.

Do not everything at once. Spring lasts for three months so you can spread projects over days or weeks.

Rest. Plan rest periods. By skipping a rest period, you may get one task off your list but you may also overdo things and end up having to rest for days.

Avoid repeat trips. Use an apron with pockets or a utility cat to avoid repeat trips for cleaning supplies. Or buy multiple supplies to keep in several areas of your home especially if you have steps to climb.

Protect joints. Keep your hands flat when wiping things down with rags or use dusters that fit over the whole hand to keep your hands and fingers from becoming inflamed. Use large sponges so that you can squeeze water out by pushing down on rather than pressing the sponge into the palm of your hand. Consider joint friendly cleaning supplies such on long handled dustpans. Make sure tools and products are light weight, easy to use and long handled. If possible, sit down during a project and use foot rests.

Last year’s spring cleaning left me in bed for several days. Now that I reflect on upon that, I think that not only should we spring clean our homes but also our minds. Think about it – it is so important to sort your thoughts, address concerns you may have and eliminate issues that no serve no purpose but constant stress and worry.

RA Tip: Keep a Positive Outlook

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) may limit the things that we can do. However, it does not have to control our lives. A positive outlook plays an important part in self-management of RA symptoms and overall health.

Having a positive outlook involves the following:

• Thinking positive thoughts

• Having a sense of humor

• Eating a healthy, balanced diet

• Surrounding yourself with positive people and support

• Enjoying activities and time with friends and family

• Following your treatment plan

• Taking your medication properly and

• Practicing relaxation techniques.

While this seems like a lot to do, consider the following:

• Don’t focus on the pain: find ways to take your mind off the mind.

• Every one of us has the ability to distract ourselves from the pain: the more you focus on anything other than pain, you becomes less aware of the pain.

• Try positive self-talk: A favorite quote of mine comes from Susan Jeffers and reads: “Remove those ‘I want you to like me’ stickers from your forehead and instead, place them where they truly will do the most good – on your mirror.” Think about it. What we say to ourselves determines how we feel about ourselves.

You can live well with rheumatoid arthritis if you are willing to be positive and stay positive regardless of the pain and limitations.