Focus On The Fight | Stroke

Focus On The Fight | Stroke

Welcome to Focus On The Fight, a series of interviews that will be posted every Friday, focusing on a blogger and their health.


This week we will meet Lisa Deck. She has a multitude of chronic condition including the condition we will highlight this week: STROKE

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The Truth Behind the Gluten-Free Diet Part 1

To avoid making one very long post, due to all the Information out there on the history of gluten and how it's dietary use has changed In the last 76+ years, I will divide this into two blogs. Past and present. So here we go......

Gluten, one simple, short little word that has become the center of many debates and conversations over the last few years! But honestly what is GLUTEN?? A concise definition would say that Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. Gluten free diets have been around for many since the 1940's or earlier. However, at that time they were only used as a type of medical treatment, usually for those linked with Celiacs Disease. Over the last 3 or 4 decades research has been done regarding the gluten-free diet as a medical treatment for those with celiac, and as a choice for those without a sensitivity to gluten. . And interestingly enough it's been found that if people who are not gluten intolerant choose to eat a gluten-free way of life their health could actually be negatively impacted. We have also found that there is a direct link in gluten and inflammation levels in the body. Gluten is so much more than a simple little word.

Let's take a look back in history, the gluten free diet actually emerged in Europe in the 1940's as a medical treatment for children with celiac disease. Since that time it is estimated that MILLIONS of people around the world have removed some or all gluten and gluten containing foods from their diet. Many choose to do this on their own with no doctors recommendation. Until the 1970's a gluten free diet was most commonly seen in those who had celiac disease. Which is a disorder of the gut where the body is abnormally sensitive to gluten. During World War 2 in Europe, people, especially children, were becoming very malnourished because of lack of access to fruits, veggies and wheat. Obviously this was not ideal and weakened the health of many. But doctors noticed that it seemed to improve the health of those with Celiacs Disease. A Dutch pediatrician, Dr. Willem-Karen Dicke, discovered that children who had celiacs were suffering much less during the war than they did before the war. Before the war they had an adequate source of fruits, veggies and wheat. A disease, that before the World War 2, had about a 30% mortality rate was found to no longer be killing anyone. The only link that could be found was an overall lack of availability of wheat. In fact flour that may have included wheat pre-war, was being made with potato starch instead of wheat.

In 1941, Dr. Dicke wrote and published a paper about the effects of a wheat free diet that he had observed. Following the publication doctors started to link symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, pain in the stomach and nausea, to gluten

Following the observations that Dr. Dicke documented in the early 1940's, there really was very little research on the topic for a few decades. Fast forward to the 1970's, when scientists began to find the first signs that celiacs disease could possibly be autoimmune rather than an allergy. The 1970's is when the research was done on how celiac develops (the pathogenesis of the disease). By the late 1970's many studies were published on the pathogenesis of the disease, that clearly linked celiac disease with other immunological disorders. Those studies would eventually prove that celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Meaning the immune system attacks it's own intestines when gluten enters the body. At this point scientist only believed that people with celiac disease could have a reaction to gluten, but the idea started to emerge that gluten could possibly impact the health of people without celiacs disease.

In the 1980's more research was being done that showed there was something called "non-celiac gluten sensitivity." The description of non-celiac gluten sensitivity was published in 1989 in the Journal of Gastroenterology. This specific publication discussed the stories of 8 women who complained of abdominal pain and chronic diarrhea, until they followed a gluten-free diet. These women had blood tests, and biopsies that were all negative for celiac disease. This remained a slightly confusing idea as it was showing new and different things that had been seen in previous research. It was decided at that time that those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity would be viewed as a medical condition that has the same symptoms of Celiac disease, without the immune system causing damage to their intestines. At this point in history they couldn't be completely positive that those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity are sensitive to gluten itself. They were looking at the fact that another protein in wheat could be the problem.

In the early 1990's celiac disease was considered extremely rare, almost nonexistent in the United States. Which was totally opposite of what was being seen in Europe at that same time. Celiacs disease was on the edge of being a total epidemic in Europe at that time. Dr. Alessio Fasano move from Naples to the Unites States in 1993 and he was shocked that the reported incidence of celiacs was so low in the US while it was so high in Europe. He found that this was partially due to the fact that research on celiac and gluten-free diets were almost exclusively being done in Europe, until Dr. Alessio moved to the US. Once he was settled in the US he began to do research to find out why the number of cases suffered so much between the US and Europe. What he found was that celiac disease was just as prevalent here in the US. The only difference was that it was basically being ignored here. He published an article about celiacs disease saying "Now you know, wherever you look for it, you find it, provided there are genes and environment triggers." Fasano would go on to publish a paper with more data, that lead to the change in the scientific community's viewpoint on Gluten in America.

Next time we will look at thoughts on Gluten now and how the gluten-free diet has become what seems more of a fad to many. So come back next week for part 2!

Pick-Me-Up, Pamper, and Prattle by Amy Nora

We will hear that taking care of ourselves can be overindulgent or that you are entitled to it in our society.  Tune out what society says, and as someone with a Chronic Illness here are the facts.  You must utilize self-care.  This means that you cannot run yourself ragged emotionally or physically.  You need to invest in emotional and physical health.  There are days that you must rest, this will prevent you from getting sick.  There are times that you will need to cancel plans; yes this is frustrating, but it is unfortunately our reality.  But, there are things that we can do to help invest into our emotional and physical health with give us strength to fight our chronic illnesses. Emotional health can involve going out with friends, getting away to that quiet place in your home that you love with your favorite beverage, and watching HULU, Netflix, or reading a book.  (I personally prefer a book, but to each his own. 😊)  Go to the movies, take a walk in the park or around your neighborhood, go pet a neighbors cow, or look at the birds that are flying overhead.  Make sure that whatever you do brings a smile to your face, heart, and soul.  It is proven that when sick laughter causes the production of serotonin; find something to laugh about!  Watch a movie, or find that TV series that makes you laugh.  Spend time with your pet, the joy they bring to you is great for your heart and sould.

Your Physical health does not mean that you need to run a marathon.  It can be something as simple as 5 minutes three times a day of some sort of easy exercise, or if you can handle it more.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Walking, Pilates, these are all low impact exercise options that help build strength and help with mobility.  Aquatic therapy is excellent for those with joint issues.  Check with your local community centers and churches, synagogues, or temples to see if they have classes if you are not sure where to start.

Another aspect of your physical health is eating healthy.  Make sure that you are getting 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  Try and eat a healthy balanced diet.  Yet, when you feel awful or are down it is easy to hit that quart of chocolate ice cream (I brought up chocolate ice cream because I went through the 12 step program and I still have problems.  Apparently, they frown on ice cream for 3 meals a day.) in frustration.  Between prednisone and many of the medications that we take for our diseases, weight gain is easy.  While eating healthy won’t prevent it necessarily it does make you feel better.  If you want help with dietary suggestions, check with your local hospital which normally will offer a community class or go to WebMD.com

Remember that while you cannot control everything in life, you can choose to enhance what aspects of your life you can.  Decide today to do what you can to help make a difference.  Even a series of small baby steps over times makes a huge difference.

In Lupie Love,

Amy

My Top Ten Must Have Items For Living With A Chronic Illness

I don't know about you, but I am really bad about taking time to care for myself. Or spending money on things that will benefit me. I often put others needs before mine and that is something I've always done that. Until recently, when I realized that my needs truly need to come before others and I need to do more to take care of myself and not just symptom management and doing only what I feel like doing. So I won't usually take the time or spend the money to take care of me outside of what has to be done daily just to function. Sometimes it will really take a reminder to spend some time taking care of my skin and and body outside of my daily routines. I assume that others are like me as well. Over the last year I've actually been taking the time and spending the money to take care of me. So I decided to share some of my favorite products that I think others with Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain should have on hand and would enjoy.

Bath Bombs/Epsom Salt

One of the things I have found that I enjoy and can be both beneficial and a way to pamper myself is a good hot bath. So I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favorite items I use in the bath.

1. One of my FAVORITE things is to take a HOT bath. So the first thing on my MUST HAVE list is a good Bath Bomb. Most of my bath bombs come from an Etsy shop called "ThisLittleLymeOfMine." Her products are not only aesthetically pleasing, they also have healing properties. She uses Himalayan Pink and Dead Sea Salt to make her products, both of which are known to have a healing properties. One reason that I like to support this shop is because it is owned and run by a fellow Spoonie. She is currently running a special for those who use the code 5OFF15, which will get you $5 off a $15 purchase. You can visit her shop by clicking on the link above.

2. Another must have in my opinion is a good EPSOM SALT! I've tried out many different kinds of Epsom salt throughout the years. And my most favorite is Relief MD Lavender Epsom Salt. I use this a lot at night due to its calming properties. Lavender is known to help one sleep, and the magnesium in the product helps to soothe sore and tired muscles and joints! I have found this in stores local to me but it can also be found on amazon. The link above will take you to the product on Amazon.

Skin Care

The older I get the more I realize just how important taking care of your skin really is. And not just the skin in your face, we need to take care of all our skin. We only get one face so we have to take care of it. I've been looking for some good skin products over the last few years and the following are the best I have found.

3. The next thing I want to share is lotion, because I have been having some major skin issues due to my illnesses. And I know I am not alone in this. Many with chronic illnesses will deal with skin issues. So I felt it important to share a good product with all of you. Recently, I have really been liking the Jergens Wet Skin Lotion! One of my favorite things about this lotion is that you can put it on your skin while it's still wet and you don't feel slimey. When it dries my skin feels so soft and nice!! By clicking the link above or looking at the picture below you will see that if comes on amazon in several size and quantity options, and 5 scents. My favorite is the coconut, it reminds me of being in a beach with a drink in my hand!!

4. Another line of products I've been loving is the Senegence Skin Care Line. (And no this is not a shameless plug because I sell them! I truly love them and that's why I'm sharing!) I use the whole normal to dry line which includes a cleanser, a day moisturizer and a night moisturizer, as well as some other products. Including a polishing exfoliator. Even though I have some major skin issues on my face as of late due to my lupus this line has significantly helped those issues. My skin is much more even and much less red. The dark circle treatment has done wonders as well. You can see before and after pictures below. And if you want anymore information on the skin care products I use just click the link above.

Heat Products

One of the non-pharmacological ways I've found to deal with my pain is by using heat! That's why I want to share my two most favorite heating devices.

5. When struggling with chronic pain a good HEATING PAD is essential. Over the last few years I've tried many different heating pads. Most of which didn't hold up to frequent use. I just got the best Heating Pad I've ever had. They have a couple different size and color options for this pad. The things that I like about this specific heating pad is that it's made more like a heated blanket. This particular product isn't like the older ones where the cover and the pad are separate, and over time the heating pad gets misshapen and doesn't fit in the cover. Another positive thing about this pad is that you have options of how long you want the pad to be on before it shuts off. You have the option of a two-hour timer or no automatic shut off. Another benefit is the automatic shutoff. I also like that the temperature can be set anywhere between 1 and 6. Not like the older models where you got not hot, really hot and way to hot!

6. Heated blankets are simply a MUST when you have chronic pain!! There are different sizes and options for these blankets. I have one that's a heated throw that's nice for cuddling up on the couch. And one that is queen sized and stays on my bed. All of my heated blankets have been made by Sunbeam. My all time favorite is the Sunbeam Dual Control Heated Blanket. One thing I like the most about this blanket is that there are dual controls so if you were sharing the bed with a significant other you can each set your own temperature. And there is a wide array of temperature options. My other favorite thing about this exact blanket is that you can preheat it. I like to turn on the preheat function about 10 minutes before I get into bed so it's ready for me when I'm ready. When you are ready to buy this kind of blanket you should watch the prices. Certain times of year (usually during the holiday season) the blankets will drop in price. .

Sleep

Sleep is so important when you are chronically ill. Yet it is often one of the biggest problems we deal with. I have found a few items that have significantly helped me in my battle of with poor sleep.

7. One of my favorite ways to pamper myself is by putting my super soft sheets and fleece blankets on the bed. The ones I currently have are T-shirt sheets . They feel exactly like your favorite soft T-shirt. In my opinion there is nothing better than getting into a clean, super soft, set of sheets! The particular sheets that I have and are pictured below will come in 9 different colors so you should be able to find ones to fit your bedroom decor!

8. A good BODY PILLOW is a must! When you deal with chronic pain of any kind or insomnia good pillows are important. Especially a body pillow because it helps you to find THAT spot that is often very hard to find! When you look them up you will find that they are called maternity pillow because of the shape. My body pillow is a maternity pillow, but has really helped me sleep and I have less nights of insomnia since I got this pillow.

9. Anyone who struggles with migraines, light sensitivity or even insomnia needs a good Sleep Mask. Like many other items on this list I have tried MANY different sleep masks over the course of several years. Things you should look for in a sleep Mask is that it truly blocks all light and is the correct size and will fit your face. Like many other products, you get what you pay for, and that's the same with sleep masks. The cheapest is usually not the best. But you also don't need the most expensive. Just try a few and find what you like. The product linked above and shown below is one of my favorites

Miscellaneous Items

10. I think all ladies (and men I suppose) should have a good foot spa! This spa is the one I have and I really enjoy using when my feet hurt! It's also fun to use for a girls night in! I used it a lot more when I was working and had been on my feet a lot. But you can really use it anytime. It comes with interchangeable pieces that can be used for massage or scraping the dead skin off your foot. Any spa would be good. The one I linked is simply the one I have.

These are just a few of my favorite MUST HAVES that I discovered over the last few years. The items I mentioned and linked are good for all people and can be used by anyone. But they are all very beneficial to those dealing with a chronic illness or chronic pain. These days any product I find that will make my life easier is going to be high on my list of necessity and to share with other. I feel like we all need to support and help each other, one way to do that is to share the things we have found in life that make things easier. I hope my list will help one of you and possibly make part of your life a little better or a little easier. If you have any questions about any of the products please just leave them in the comments for me.

With Love,

Amber

How Many Times Have you Heard, “Just Lose Some Weight”?

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard over the course of my life that losing weight would help, I would be a rich rich women by this point in life. Yes, I know that getting to and staying at a healthy weight is important! So is eating the right foods and exercise. But in the long run will losing weight really fix or cure your health issues? Yes, I'm sure it probably will help some. But it's not going to fix everything!! People like to throw that comment out for every issue. Oh you have headaches, lose some weight! Oh you have IBS, lose some weight! Oh you aren't having any luck dating, lose some weight. Oh you're having problems getting pregnant, lose some weight. I assume in the majority of cases people truly do not mean to be a Debby downer by telling others this. But they also probably have no idea how it feels to hear that from people you loved and respect, and expect some sensitivity from. If you've never struggled with your weight you have no idea how it feels for a friend or family member to direct those three words at you. "LOSE SOME WEIGHT!" As a person who has struggled with my weight since High School I understand what a touchy topic this can be. I look back at my teen years and would give anything to be back at that weight now. But sadly that Amber was about 40lbs ago. But I didn't just get fat due to poor choices and lack of proper food, just like many other chronically ill. Most of us probably took the DEVIL drug, aka Prednisone. Yes, prednisone fixes many many things. But it is also known to cause weight gain due to the cravings many deal with while taking the medication! And not like 3lbs weight gain. We are talking like 25, 50, 75 lbs. And it came on FAST. Your symptoms are mostly gone but now you got all the bonus weight. Sigh. The weight no one wants.

But it's not just Prednisone that causes weight gain. Hormones often used for birth control can also cause weight gain, as well as Lyrica which is used to treat fibromyalgia! There are many many more that can cause weight gain. The point I'm trying to make here is that every over weight person you see did not just sit on the couch eating chips and watching Netflix all day! Even though that is what people automatically assumes, it is not always the case.

Did anyone think that maybe those of us who gained weight while on Prednisone might deal with a LOT of daily pain or extreme exhaustion!?!? Have you ever lived with so much widespread pain that literally every joint, bone and muscles hurt so bad that it's torture even getting out of bed. Much less taking a walk or going to the gym. Does anyone consider the fact that many of us who are over weight can't stand the way we look and can't look at ourselves in the mirror. Many of us who have gained weight due to medical conditions or medications never asked for this. We didn't just give up on ourselves and sit and eat chocolate all day. We got sick!!! And because of that many have taken medications that can cause rapid weight gain that doesn't come off easily.

There are also those in the chronically ill community that gained weight because of the pain. They may have not felt like being the most active person. Every step, every tiny movement make your whole bodg ache. Then when someone throws out the "just lose some weight," comment and you just wish they could live in your shoes for 24 hours so they know what's it's like. It's honestly really hard to do anything at times, even low impact exercise can hurt! So what I am saying is when you already hurt in places you didn't know could hurt the last thing you want to do is "hit the gym!"

If you really think you are giving offering up some groundbreaking piece of advice to work out and eat healthy. YOU ARE NOT! We've heard it from family and friends and even the doctors. I will admit the best I've ever felt was when I wasn't walking in the morning before it got hot and ate a diet low on gluten. (gluten has been found to mess with inflammation in everyone.) It just wreaks havoc with the chronically ill. But let's be honest eating healthy can be really expensive! And no that's not a cop-out, but if you have ever tried to eat a gluten free diet, it's hard at first and it's expensive. And let's be honest until you are ready to make a big change it isn't going to happen. We are the only ones who can decide that we need to change the way we eat &/or our activity level. No one else can do it for us.

I guess the takeaway from my rant and rambling is that I wish people would work on their delivery. If you are kind and truly concerned about my wellbeing, I'm going to be more apt to listen to you. More than I will listen to the person who just tells me I'm fat and I need to lose weight. It's not a surprise I know what I look like. I understand that research shows "When patients lose 5-29 percent of their body weight, the symptoms of chronic Conditions will improve!"Per the Cleveland Clinic. I know this but sometimes just getting your body moving and making that first move is the hardest part.

What You Need to Know About IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome....... not a topic that most like to openly discuss. However, for those of us who deal with IBS all the time, it's something that needs to be better understood! And today is the perfect time to be writing on the topic due to the fact that April is IBS Awareness Month. Spreading awareness is one of the only ways we can help the world to better understand this life altering conditions. People in general don't understand that it's not just having periodic abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea. It really is a condition that impacts many parts of your life, not just your health. Awareness may help to explain to others why we only eat certain food or that you absolutely can't eat others. And help people around us to understand why you can't eat out of the house without issues or why you never eat out. Awareness also helps everyone understand and learn a person's triggers and needs for treatment. Everyone is going to have a different experience with the condition, and the triggers for one person won't necessarily be the trigger for another. Examples of IBS triggers could be change in routine, or anxiety/nerves or even certain kinds of food. That being said like many other conditions everyone who has IBS will have a different journey and story to tell.

Let's look at some statistics! Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is said to be the most common of the functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder NOT only in the US but also worldwide! And an estimated $1.6 Billion is spent yearly on healthcare for those with the condition. IBS is said to have an estimated prevalence rate of 10-25%. There is such a large range because a lot of people will not seek care for IBS symptoms until it is really impacting their life. According to the Statistics only about 30% of people who have symptoms will actually consult a doctor. One bit of information i found to be interesting is that IBS has a higher prevalence rate in women and people who work in professional or managerial roles. IBS can really be found in any person at any age but research shows that most people will experience their first symptoms before the age of 35. That being said IBS can really happen at any age, but the peak ages for dealing with IBS is between 25 and 54 years. IBS is also found to have a genetic link. Anyone who has a biological relative with IBS is TWICE as high than those who have no family with the condition.

So what really causes this extremely prevalent disorder? Sadly even though we live in a time of research, the exact cause of IBS isn't known. Researchers believe that a faulty communication between the brain and GI system could be a cause. In some cases the miscommunication can cause abnormal spasms or cramping of the intestines. Those spasms may increase or decrease the passage of stool causing constipation or diarrhea! People with IBS may have symptoms caused by:

  • Eating (even though no particular foods have been directly linked with IBS)
  • Stress &/or issues like anxiety or depression
  • Hormonal changes such as the menstrual cycle in women.
  • Medications (especially antibiotics)
  • Infection of the intestines like Salmonella or E. Coli
  • Genetics, (as noted above in the discussion of statistics) IBS is more likely to occur in people who have a family history of the condition.

Now that we know we aren't alone in our struggle with IBS, and we know the potential causes, what are the symptoms to watch for?!?! Everyone will have different symptoms, that's why knowing the symptoms of IBS is an important way to help determine which of the three types of the condition you may have. Everyone has stomachaches and trouble going to the bathroom from time to time. But for people who have IBS these symptoms can be disabling.

The following are general symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation (may alternate with diarrhea)
  • Diarrhea (may alternate with constipation)
  • Bowel movements that feel uncontrollably urgent, difficult to pass or incomplete!
  • Passing clear or white mucous with the stool.

I mentioned above that there are three types of IBS, while looking at the symptoms let's also look at the types of IBS before diving into how to diagnose.

  1. IBS with constipation- People suffering with this kind of IBS will present with stomach pain & discomfort, bloating, bowel movements that are abnormally infrequent or delayed and may be lumpy or hard!
  2. IBS with diarrhea- People who have this type of IBS will likely complain of stomach pain & discomfort (just like the above type), an urgent need to move your bowels, very frequent bowel movements, loose &/or watery stools
  3. IBS with alternating constipation & diarrhea. This kind requires no real description. A person with this type of IBS will experience a combination of the symptoms noted above with the other two types of IBS.

Lets take a moment to look at how a person is diagnosed with this condition. In order for a doctor to properly diagnose IBS, there are certain criteria that a person must meet. A person must meet TWO of the THREE following criteria in order to be diagnosed.

  1. A bowel movement that relieves the stomachs and suffering.
  2. There is a change in how often you have bowel movements.
  3. The stool looks different.

The above standard diagnostic guidelines for IBS is called the Rome IV criteria. This criteria states that in order to be diagnosed with IBS a person must have the above stated symptoms for at least 1 day a week over the last three months, and that the symptoms must have started at least 6 months prior. If you start having symptoms and believe it could be IBS doctors encourage people to start keeping a symptom journal/diary. This is important because keeping a journal can not only help diagnose the condition, it can also be show patterns in symptoms. The journal may also show if there is a dietary link to the symptoms. The following are recommended topics to be included in a symptom journal!

  • Date and time symptom started and ended.
  • Description of symptoms (what symptoms are experienced during the current flare).
  • Where were you and what were you doing when the symptoms started.
  • Food eaten the hours leading up to the attack.
  • Amount of food eaten (using a 1-10 scale, with 1 being a very small amount and 10 being an excessive amount)
  • Any meds taken to help relieve symptoms.
  • Any and all suspected triggers.

There are also more definitive testing that can be done to diagnose the condition. Doctors can order stool studies, lab work and even X-rays and other imaging to help rule out other conditions, and decide if IBS is the issue.

  • Stool studies- ordered to check for and rule out infection or problems with the intestines ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy- This imaging study is done to examine the lower part of the colon (the sigmoid colon) with a flexible, lighted tube.
  • Colonoscopy- The doctor uses a small, flexible lighted tube to examine the entire length of the colon.
  • X-ray or CT Scan- These tests are ordered so the dr can see images of the abdomen and pelvis to rule out potential causes of abdominal pain. The doctor can also order a Lower GI Series, which consists of filling the large intestine with an opaque liquid (known as barium) so they are able to see any potential problems on an X-ray

Once the diagnosis has been decided treatment is started. But what exactly is the treatment for IBS?? Well, treatment really focuses on relieving symptoms so that you can live as normal a life as possible. Symptoms for many can often be controlled by learning to manage stress, and making changes in diet and lifestyle. Common ideas for doing so:

  • Avoid foods that you have noted to trigger your symptoms.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber.
  • Drink lots of water
  • Try to exercise regularly
  • Get recommended hours of sleep.

Your doctors may also suggest eliminating certain types of food as well. The foods that you might be asked to eliminate:

  • High-gas producing foods- If you experience gas or bloating you might try avoiding carbonated and alcoholic beverage, caffeine, raw fruit, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, to see if doing so will reduce symptoms.
  • Gluten- research has shown that some with IBS have reported improvements in diarrhea if they stop eating gluten (wheat, barley and rye) even if they don't have celiacs disease.
  • FODMAPs- some people have found they are sensitive to certain carbs such as fructose, fructans, lactose, and some others known as FODMAPs. That stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs can be found in some grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy. IBS symptoms may ease up if a strict low-FODMAP diet and slowly introduce food one at a time, in order to determine which foods cause more issues.

Some people find it easier to see a dietician to help to make these dietary changes. Also, depending on symptoms a doctor may suggest some of the following medications.

  • Fiber supplements - these may help to control constipation.
  • Laxatives- these may be encouraged to help manage constipation if fiber supplements don't help. Milk of Magnesia or Miralax might be prescribed.
  • Anti-diarrheal meds- A Doctor May suggest over-the-counter medications to help with diarrhea, such as Imodium. The doctor might also recommend meds like bile acid binders, like Prevalite, Colestid or Welchol.
  • Anticholinergic meds- These medications can help to relieve spasms of the bowels, and diarrhea.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants- These medications can benefit those with IBS in two ways. They can help relieve depression, as well as working to inhibit the activity of neurons that control the intestine to help reduce pain.
  • SSRI antidepressants- These medications work to treat anxiety and depression, as well as pain and constipation.
  • Pain Medications - can be used to ease severe pain or bloating

When people heard about IBS in the past most thought that is was just a coverall diagnosis for anyone with abdominal pain and bowel issues. That it was a diagnosis when the doctors don't know what the real problem was. However, now we know that IBS is a real condition that causes real issues for many many people. And that it can truly be impacted by stress and anxiety! Over the last decade diagnosis and treatment options for those with IBS has greatly improved. Now people with the condition no longer have to suffer quietly. In years past it was almost considered taboo to speak openly about issues you might be having with your bowels simply because many felt like it was a topic that shouldn't be discussed. Now there are all kinds of support groups and Facebook groups where people can go an openly discuss these issues. People no longer have to suffer quietly and feel alone. As discussed above we now know there are many potential causes for IBS, since that discovery has been made treatment options are much better. I know when I was diagnosed 15 plus years ago I was told that it was was NOT a condition that is impacted by diet or stress level. Now that we know that this is not the case, those of us who suffer know how to better treat the symptoms and make life changes. Like any condition we are only going to continue to learn more about the causes, the diagnosis and treatment through research. We can hope that one day we will be talking prevention and not just treatment.

With Love,

Amber ❤️

Resources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360064

https://www.webmd.com/ibs/default.htm

The Power of Perpetual Thanksgiving

It is always an interesting thing to me when November rolls around and I start seeing the inevitable "no-shave November", National Adoption month,  and Lung Cancer Awareness month memes all over my social media. Did you also happen to know that November holds the illustrious marker as Adopt a Senior Pet Awareness Month, National Pepper Month, and (definitely not in order of importance...) Sweet Potato Awareness month? Who knew? Among all these awareness titles, most often I come across the proverbial "30 days of thanks" in honor of Thanksgiving; and while I am thankful (pun intended) that this is a 'thing', I am also sad that it's a thing seemingly only when we have a holiday to celebrate it. Because the truth of the matter is, thanksgiving is much more potent when we celebrate it every month, every day, even yes... hourly. In fact, I would argue that thanksgiving is perhaps one of the most important things we can do to keep ourselves happy and healthy- emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically!

Thanksgiving (not the holiday) is not something to celebrate just once a year- it is a mindset... no, better yet... a HEARTset that we should celebrate and exercise all the time.

Study after study, from the medical world down to spiritual gurus, holy books, and psychiatrists alike show that an attitude of thanks is hugely beneficial to one's health. As a Jesus-lovin' Christian I wholeheartedly agree!

It is easy to give thanks when life is good and pleasant. Things are going well. The proverbial "Attitude of Gratitude" is easy when the going is smooth. But what about when the goin' gets tough?

The truly tough get to celebrating thanksgiving.

There is NEVER nothing to be thankful for... never. Often some of the most harrowing stories of martyrs or trials and tribulations have the brightest examples of people choosing thanksgiving over desperation or worry.

Yes, we have a choice. We can choose fear, anxiety, worry, frustration, sadness, etc over so very many things. Bills are coming due, a child is having trouble in school, our personal life is fraught with turmoil, our bodies are not cooperating or working the way we'd like. Yes... all these things are real. They are here, they affect us greatly. And yet, there is always something to be grateful for. Always.

One of my favorite Bible verses right now is in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I love that God's WILL for me is to simply rejoice and give thanks in ALL circumstances. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Today I want to challenge you to take a minute and take a look around. Are you in a low place or a high point? Make note of it.

Now take this verse to heart. In ALL circumstances choose an attitude of thanksgiving... seek out and find reasons to be thankful. Look for opportunities, however small, to show and tell and express thanks. It may be as simple as being able to take a breath without pain, or being alive for the day, listening to birds outside, or watching the snow fall- after all, not many of us are winning the lottery everyday! But I promise you'll be surprised at how much your heart is lightened by the change in perspective with the attitude alteration. There is power in the habit of perpetual thanksgiving! I encourage you to get into the habit today and everyday!

Living Intentionally Fearlessly Truthfully

I pray blessing over you and encourage you to LIFT today!

~Bethany

Bethany L. Douglas

Christian, Wife, Mom, Nurse, Author, Speaker

Find me at www.bethanyldouglas.com

I pray you are blessed and able to LIFT today!

5 Quick Tips to Avoid Illness During Cold and Flu Season

Yes, it may be fall and almost the holiday season. But with those wonderful things also come the bad! Bad for immunocompromised individuals that is. What am I talking about you might ask?!? Cold and Flu season!! For those of us with little to no immune system this can be the worst time of year. As all the germs running rampant make it hard for us to leave the house!! But there are steps we can take to try to prevent getting sick. They may not all be pleasant but if it keeps me out of the hospital I'll do just about anything. 1. GET A FLU SHOT - The first thing we need to do to prevent the Flu is to get the Flu shot. Now I know not all of us can take the flu shot due to allergies or sensitivities, but those who can should. Some say that the flu shot makes them sick and while that may be true in a few cases, it will not give you the flu. We should also encourage those who we are in close contact with to also get the flu shot. If those we live with and work with don't get the shot we can still be at risk for getting the Flu.

2. WASH YOUR HANDS- The next best thing we can do to prevent the nasty cold and flu bugs from getting us down is to wash your hands. Wash, wash, wash!!! When should we wash you ask? Well, we should wash our hands after using the bathroom, especially public bathrooms! (Also while I'm on the topic of public bathrooms, you should do your best not to touch the sink knobs or door handle after washing and should use a paper towel to do so!) We should also wash after sneezing or coughing on our hands. As well as after contact with surfaces that others may touch like door knobs, shopping carts etc. If you are unable to use good ole soap and water, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer until you can get to a sink.

3. AVOID CROWDED PUBLIC PLACES- We can also try to avoid going out into public at the peak times. The more people confined into a small space the more likely you will be to get sick. So try to go out first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening!

4. AVOID SICK CONTACTS- We should ask that our friends and family stay away when they are ill. If they know they are sick they should limit contact with those who are immunocompromised! And if they have to be near it is okay to ask them to wear a mask.

5. WEAR A MASK - We can also wear a mask when we go in public. It may not be pleasant or comfortable but it's another way that we can prevent illness and hospitalization!

Prevention is important for those with low immune systems as well as those who don't! When it comes down to it sometimes there is no way to prevent illness this time of year. But these five basic tips are quick and easy ways that we can implement to try to prevent contracting an illness. We have to do all that we can to prevent illness because no one else is going to do it for us!! We have to take prevention into our own hands and do all we can to keep ourselves healthy. We all need to do our part to stay healthy!

Tips to Help You Get Moving in Morning. 

Those first movements of the morning. You know what I'm talking about. When you wake up and try to move for the first time of the day....... Painful? Stiff? Frustrating? Are these words you would use to describe the morning in your world? They are for me. There are mornings when I wake up and am almost in tears bc I literally can't straightened or bend (depending on the joint) and extremity! What can we do to help this? What can we do to make our mornings a little less stressful and painful?  Tips for getting moving 

1. Take a hot bath or shower. 

2. Avoid nicotine, alcohol or caffeine before bed. These stimulate your brain and can make it hard to get a good restful nights sleep. 

3. Try a morning self massage of the areas that are the most sore. 

4. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach as it causes unnecessary stress on your low back. 

5. Try to avoid sleeping in cold damp areas as both these conditions can cause increased stiffness in the mornings. 

6. Do light and easy stretches while laying in bed!

7. Drink lots of water! It's just good for you, period. But it will also help you be less stiff. 

8. Make sure to dress for the season as the extremes can make it harder on your body. 

9. Try to get regular exercise. Even 10min a day will help! 

10. Plan ahead! This one can be very helpful. This can be something as simple as making sure you have plenty of time to get up and around in the morning. 

11. Take your pain medication before getting out of bed. This one will take some planning, especially if you have to be somewhere. Because you will need to give the meds 30min to an hour minimum to kick in. 

12. Use your clothes dryer to your advantage. Before you need to get dressed put your clothing in the dryer on high for just a few short minutes. This will help soothe those achy joints! 

In the list of things that will improve your morning-time stiffness there are a couple catch 22s. The shower, yes it will loosen everything up and make you feel better. But it may also deplete you mr energy tank for the rest of the day. Also, regular exercise. We all know it will help. But it's another that sometimes you just think "I hurt so bad, the last thing I want to do is exercise." Or at least I know I do. However, exercise doesn't have to be aerobics or heavy weight lighting. It could be riding a stationary bike or walking for 10 min. I know that my Rheumatolgist suggest some kind of exercise for at least 10 min a day. Doesn't matter what it is, just get that badly moving!!   Personally, my biggest suggestion is to make sure you have plenty of time in the morning. That way if you are more sore than the average day or if you need to jump in the shower to soothe those joints you have time. There is nothing worse than waking up late and having to push through the stiffness simply because you don't have time to adequately deal with it. 

If you feel like your stiffness in the morning is getting worse or if you notice it primarily in one joint (like a knee), please make sure to contact your doctor and let them know. 

I included this little diagram of a few exercises you can do first thing in the morning to get moving.   

Hope some of these tips help!

-Amber  Resources: http://www.everydayhealth.com/fibromyalgia-pictures/7-ways-to-cope-with-fibromyalgia-morning-pain.aspx http://www.fmcpaware.org/fundraising/176-movement-therapies/907-10-tips-to-overcome-morning-stiffness.html http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/rheumatoid-arthritis-morning-stiffness

Support System...Why They Are Important. 

Support system...... what is it? Where do we find them? Why do we need them? Who needs it?  A Support System is defined as a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support. Anyone and everyone needs support this doesn't have to be something just for people with chronic illness. People who have gone through a bad marriage, or abusive relationship or drug addiction all need a support system as well.

Research has shown that those with large social support systems often will have better health, live longer, and overall better well being. Friends and family have the ability to make you more resilient in times of loss, stress, or setback and they can even make those periods of good times better. There are lots benefits to having supportive relationships, such as knowing that you have people who can provide you with information, advice and guidance. As well as assistance in times when you are uncertain. This aspect of support systems can be comforting and make you feel more secure. When someone has a chronic illness or is in a bad relationship, they often feel isolated. And feel that no one ever understands them. So a support system is a must. No matter where you find that support. Some find support in the church, or their family, or friend. Or maybe you have found support groups for their illness that you feel like you can open up to and lean on. No matter where you find this support it is essential that you find something.  Once you find a support system, how can you use it to your advantage? Well, that kind of will depend on what kind of support system you have found.  Family members for instance when it comes to things like lupus will naturally step into the supportive role at times because lupus runs in families. So you may have someone in your family who has been in your shoes. Or it may go the other way and your family will be little support, simply because they don't understand. A little education can oftentimes change that. Family also has known you through everything unlike anyone else and can oftentimes provide that unconditional love that is necessary!  Friends and neighbors can often provide food in stressful times since they are close by. If you are close to your neighbors they may also provide a sense of comfort during times of stress. Friends can provide the laughter and love you need. And sometimes those days away for fun so you can forget about your current situation.  Co-workers can provide support many times because you spend more time with them than you do your family. You have time to talk to them about things that you don't have time to discuss with your family or friends.  Health Support Groups (or any support groups) can be a really great source of support because you are with a group of people who are in similar situations as you. If you can find local groups this is the best because they are people you can hang out and talk to in person. But online support groups can't be just as effective. I myself have made some of my best friends in online support groups with people I haven't and may never meet. They get me and my situation and I can talk to them about anything with any repercussions. (Here is a shameless plug if you are looking for a support group for autoimmune issues on Facebook. I along with a few other admins run Lupie Groupies. If you want to join we are a closed group and you will to request membership. If yuh can't find it comment below and I will help you)  Once you have that support system in place it's important that you make sure the people on the other end understand how much you appreciate their love and understanding! Make sure that you do your best to stay in touch with them even when that's the last thing you want to do. If you don't do your part to keep the friendship or relationship open you can't expect the other people to do the same.  Support is essential really for all people. But especially for those with chronic illness.  -Amber 

Resources 

-https://socialwork.buffalo.edu/resources/self-care-starter-kit/additional-self-care-resources/developing-your-support-system.html

Love Yourself!

Love yourself first and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in the world - Lucille Ball.  With everything we do, and that is going on it today's world we have to learn to take some time for ourselves. It's not selfish. It's a MUST. Finding 15 min a day of uninterrupted "me" time can be challenging at best. We all know that when we do find time to do things we enjoy, things just for us, things that makes us happy that we end up being happier in the the long run.  When people are asked why they generally don't take time for themselves the top three responses are: not enough time, feeling guilty, or it makes them feel selfish. The more caring or giving a person is the more you will hear these responses. But the question is how do we do it, how do we find "me" time? What activities we should be doing to pamper ourselves? Why we should find some "me" time? There a numerous reasons why we should all take time to pamper ourselves. Let's look at just a few  - It's a great way for you to recharge!!! Women are often good at making time to help others in their lives feel good and work through their own feelings. Time spent alone gives us a time to focus on our own feelings. 

- It's a great time to think and reflect. Life these days moves at such a crazy speed that we don't have time to think about our lives. Taking some "me" time give you the opportunity to think about what's going on in your life. 

- It can make you more productive. Spending time with friends and family can be great fun and so exciting. But it can distract you from things that are important for you, like your hobbies and exercise and reading. Spending time by yourself can give you time to help you progress toward your own personal goals. 

Here are some ways you could make your "me" time a reality.  - Stop feeling guilty for taking "me" time bed realize in the long run it's going to be a win-win. 

- Decide what you feel would be the best way to spend your "me" time. 

- Evaluate your day and see what things are a waste of your time everyday. 

- Learn to say no. 

- Learn to ask for help. 

- At the beginning of the week designate slots for "me" time throughout the week. 

- Commit to a minimum of 15-20 min of "me" time EVERYDAY

There are TONS of options for "me" time. Let's look at a few that you could easily do during the day!   - Go for a walk. 

- Read a book 

- Fall in love with a new musician or group 

- BREATHE

- Shop for fun

- Meet a friend for breakfast 

- Watch a movie

- Enjoy a hobby 

- Join a bookclub

- Soak in a bath 

- Do yoga

- Get a massage 

I hope that you see how important finding time for yourself everyday is. And how easy it is to go about finding time for yourself. I hope that you can enjoy some of the listed activities and find some you time this week. Go out and find 15 min for yourself today and enjoy it!!!  -Amber  Resources  http://amomwithalessonplan.com/me-time/ http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1657 http://tinybuddha.com/blog/6-compelling-reasons-spend-time-alone/

The Ins and Outs of Fatigue

Fatigue...... something everyone deals with at one point or another. The definition of fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. This means anyone can be effected by fatigue. However, fatigue brought on by a chronic illness is like nothing a person has ever experienced. And most people don't understand this kind of fatigue. It's the kind of fatigue that makes daily life hard and sometimes impossible. It makes special outings a thing that is paid for for days, not just a fun care-free time out of the house. How do you explain this fatigue to others who think you are just being lazy? The best definition I've heard is: If you've ever had the flu and been so tired you can't move, well multiply that at least 20 fold and you will know the feeling of chronic fatigue. Are there more than one type of fatigue? How can you combat it? What can you do to ease the fatigue? Let's learn a little about fatigue find out what we can all do to ease its effects. Clinically fatigue is divided into three different categories: 1. Fatigue caused by a systemic disease like cancer and immune conditions. With cancer patients the fatigue is usually defined as acute and related to the disease or its treatments. Or a more chronic fatigue in those undiagnosed that often resembles chronic fatigue syndrome. Or it can be classified based on timing. Like with sarcoidosis, which is further divided into morning, intermittent and afternoon fatigue.  2. Fatigue that one might experience when they have neuromuscular disorders, during normal exercise. Patients who have MS may complain of fatigue. This fatigue is separated into two categories. Nerve fiber fatigue which is based on pathology. And fatigue of disability based on the face they need more energy when dealing with such a chronic illness! And also sleep deprivation caused by the disease or its treatments. 

3. Fatigue that defined as "painful weariness" that generally has no defined cause. So now let look at how Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is different from other types of fatigue. CFS is diagnosed when there is no clear or possible medical conditions present. A person has to meet certain requirements to be diagnosed with CFS. Those requirements are: One must have unexplained, persistent fatigue for six months, or longer along with four of the following issues. Loss of memory or concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in your armpits or neck, unexplained muscle pain, pain that moves from one joint to another with no swelling or redness, headache that is new and has increased severity and pattern, sleep that is not refreshing, extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise. Once the diagnosis is made the most common treatments are sleeping pills, antidepressants and therapy.  Now that we have looked at the kinds of fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Let's look at what we can do to decrease fatigue in all cases. 

- Pace yourself throughout the day and set your own pace. Try to avoid over doing even if you are having a "good day." If you pace yourself throughout the day you will hopefully be able to get everything done you want without being totally exhausted. 

- Get moving and exercise. Lack of exercise can cause the muscles more stiff and painful, and make exercise more difficult and tiring. You will need to build up your exercise. You can't ever go too slow. If you do too much you are likely to cause you other conditions to flare. Schedule your workouts so they become a regular part of your schedule, when you keep your schedule it's easier to keep doing the exercise. Also, pick a time of day that is best for you. If you choose a time when you are less stiff and tired it will be easier to continue your regimen. 

- Just say NO. Saying no is okay and should be something you do when needed. Try to plan your activities when you are least tired. And if it happens that something falls on a day that you are extremely fatigued don't be afraid to reschedule. It's better to reschedule then overdo and pay for it later. 

- Have a bedtime routine. Lack of sleep can cause a person to be fatigued. At bedtime, do whatever helps you wind down. Take a hot bath, listen to soothing music, gentle stretching, or maybe some light reading. And don't get into bed until you are ready to go to sleep. Make sure the area where you sleep is dark and quiet and at a comfortable temperature for sleeping. Try to end all screen time (phones, iPads, and TV) at least an hour before you are planning to go to sleep.  Hopefully, after reading this post you can define your fatigue and find ways to decrease fatigue. Always, talk to your doctor if your fatigue is worsening or your current sleep regimen is no longer working. Also, make sure you are doing what you can on your end to fight fatigue and get better sleep.  -Amber References: 

http://www.everydayhealth.com/fibromyalgia-pictures/fight-back-against-fibromyalgia-fatigue.aspx#10

http://www.autoimmunemom.com/chronic-fatigue/fatigue-types-autoimmune-disease.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/basics/treatment/con-20022009

Product Review

Over the last few months I've been trying to find products that make my daily life easier or better. When you have so much pain daily anything you can find that makes your day a little better is a bonus. So I'm going to talk about a few products I've been using lately in hopes that they help you in some way.  The first one is MAGNESIUM LOTION by Life-Flo. This lotion contains magnesium and coconut oil so it's helpful and super soft. One thing I love about it is the smell, it smells so clean and fresh. And due to the content of coconut oil it doesn't leave your skin feeling greasy.  I have a lot of pain in my hands, so for the last few days I've been using the lotion on my hands. And I can tell a big difference. My hands aren't as stiff or painful when I use the lotion.  The direction says to use it in the morning and night. And reapply as needed. I purchased this off Amazon, you might be able to find it other places. But Amazon is just so easy. I  would  definitely give this product 5 stars!!!! Below is a picture of the bottle. 

The next product(s) I have fallen in love with are part of the Bath and Body Works Sleep line.  I have been using the Night Time Tea Lotion and body wash. This product contains Cedarwood and Orange essential oils.  The body wash is fabulous because you can use it as bubble bath. And it feels super luxurious. And the smell helps me to relax when I'm tense or anxious.  The lotion is just as good!!  I often times will put it on at night to enjoy the relaxing scents of the essential oils. The lotion is thick but not greasy, so you don't feel all greasy before you get into bed.  I would give both of these products 5 stars!!  See pictures below. 

 

I hope you find this to be helpful. And if you chose to purchase the products that you enjoy them as much as I do.  If you ever used these or start using them comment and let me know what you think!! -Amber

Stress??? I'm Not Stressed......

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension, resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances...... So now we know the official definition of stress, what is stress for you? What causes you stress?  Is it work, family, your health, financial issues?  How does stress impact you physically? Do you stress-eat? Does it cause you to flare? Does it cause migraines, nausea, vomiting? How does it impact you emotionally? Do you cry, or scream? Do you become withdrawn and deal with everything internal?? Each and every person is impacted by stress in a different way. Some internalize the stress and cause them to get sick or flare. Others make it know outwardly by crying, or yelling. But what can we do to change the way impact stress has on us? How can we change the way we react to stress?  Let's find out.

Everyone is susceptible to stress. That being said people with chronic illness are probably at a higher risk of living with stress. Simply due to your illness and the things you deal with due to your illness. The everyday stressors that any person faces may be multiplied ten-fold for those dealing with a chronic illness.  On top of the everyday stress living with a chronic illness you may have to deal with:

  • cope with the pain or discomfort from your symptoms
  • take steps to manage your condition and to do self-care
  • adjust to the new limitations that are caused by your (possibly) new illness
  • deal with increased financial pressure
  • cope with feelings of isolation or frustration

A person living with a chronic illness can take steps to minimize the stress and challenges they are living under by taking steps to maximize your quality of life. A person can do this by following some of the following recommendations.

-Understand your condition- When you are diagnosed with a new illness one of the best things you can do for yourself to help reduce stress is to learn about your condition. Do all the research you can, (from medical websites not just Dr. Google) to learn about what you are looking at and what may be happening to your body. Knowledge is power. The more you know the better position you are in. Learn to observe your body as well. Pay close attention to what makes your symptoms better or worse. And its not a bad idea to journal about what makes your symptoms better or worse, so you have a record and you can use the information to help yourself and have them to share with your care team.

-Become a Self-Manager- When you start acting as a day-to-day manager of your own health it may help you gain a sense of control thus improving your quality of life. Also making sure that you follow the recommended treatment plan may help keep your symptoms in check. It might be helpful to you to set up a daily reminder, an alarm, or an alert on your smartphone to help you remember to take your daily medicines. There are also several Apps for smart phones that can help you remember your meds on time.  Other daily decisions that can affect your lifestyle can shape how you effectively deal with stress. Examples of these things can be: eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise could help to boost your move, improve your mobility, and possibly ease symptoms. Its also important that you take steps to manage your relationships and emotions.

-Managing Emotions- The fact that a chronic illness can affect your entire self and can possibly disrupt your life and plans. The following are normal responses:

  • stress
  • grief
  • rage
  • fear
  • depression
  • anxiety

In order to manage these emotions try to experiment with different ways to manage stress and emotions. When you find a technique that works make sure that you take steps to incorporate into your normal routine. Some ideas to do this are below.

  • exercising
  • stretching
  • listen to music
  • practice deep breathing and meditation
  • try journaling
  • cooking
  • reading
  • spending quality time with supportive family and friends
  • Schedule a time in your day to practice these techniques so you don't get overwhelmed by the day.

Another way to deal with stress is to look at your habits and identify habits and behaviors that adds to stress.  It is very easy to identify sources of stress after a major life event. But identifying your everyday stress is a lot harder. It is very easy to overlook thoughts you are having, your feelings and your behaviors. To help identify sources of stress you need to look closely at your life, attitude and excuses:

  • Do you always explain away stress as temporary, even though you can not remember the last time you took a breather?
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life or even as a part of your personality?
  • Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?

Until you are able to accept responsibility for your role in the stress you are feeling, you will not be able to maintain a stress-less life.

You also need to replace unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones, and examine the ways you cope with stress in your life. A stress journal can help identify the ways you cope. And help you determine if your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive?

Here is a list of unhealthy ways of coping with stress:

  • Smoking
  • Using pills or drugs to relax
  • Drinking too much
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and activities
  • Bingeing on junk or comfort food
  • Procrastinating
  • Zoning out for hours looking at your phone
  • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing your problems
  • Sleeping too much
  • Taking out your stress on others.

If you identify that you use mostly the above ways to cope with stress it is time to find some healthier ways  coping.  One way to do this is to get moving.  Moving can be just about anything. Dancing around the house,  taking the dog for a walk, use the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the shopping center than usual or link up with a friend and engage in a regular workout.

Another great way to help cope with stress is to connect with others. Reaching out and building relationships. That being said meeting up with other people is probably the quickest and most efficient way to rein in stress and avoid overreacting to internal or external stress. Telling others what you are going through can be very cathartic, even if there is really nothing you can do to alter the situation. In the brain the inner ear, heart, face and stomach are all wired together. So when you interact with another person face-to-face, making eye contact and really listening can help to calm you down. And slow down the fight-or-flight response. It can also release hormones to reduce stress. Even if the interaction can change the stressful situation itself.

Lastly you should practice the FOUR A's. Even though stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors will always come up at predictable time. For instance- your commute to work, family gatherings, doctors appointments etc. When these pop up you can either change the situation or change your reaction. It will be helpful to think of the FOUR A's in these situations.

AVOIDIt is not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed.

  • Learn to SAY NO- know your limits and stick to them. Whether it is in your profession or your personal life, taking on more than you think you can handle is a definite way to bring on undue dress. Find a way to distinguish between the "shoulds," "musts" and things you can say NO to.
  • Avoid people who stress you out.
  • Take control of your environment. If there are certain things in your environment that make you stressed eliminate them. Example, the drive to work stresses you our. find a new less traveled way to work.

ALTER THE SITUATION- If you can not avoid a stressful situation, find a way to alter it. Many times, this will involve you changing the way you communicate and operate in your day to day life.

  • Express your feelings instead of holding them in. If something or someone is bothering you find a way to be more assertive and communicate your concerns.
  • Be willing to compromise- if you are going to ask someone to change some of their behavior you need to be willing to do the same.
  • Manage your time better- Poor time management can be very stressful for some
  • Be more assertive- Stand up for yourself and don't take the backseat in your life.

ADAPT TO THE STRESSOR

  • Reframe problems- Try to look at a stressful situation from a more positive viewpoint. For example: If you are fuming about traffic, look at is a time to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or use it as a time of prayer.
  • Look at the big picture- Look at the situation and determine how important it is in the long run. Will it matter in a month or year? It is really something that is getting upset about?
  • Adjust your standards- Being perfect is a major source of avoidable stress. So stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding that you be perfect.

ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CAN NOT CHANGE

  • Some stress will always be unavoidable. You can't change the situation or prevent certain stressors. Acceptance may be difficult, but will be beneficial in the long run.
  • Don't try to control the uncontrollable
  • Look for the upside- When you are facing major challenges try to look at that situation as an opportunity for personal growth.
  • Learn to forgive
  • Practice gratitude.

I hope that by reading this blog on stress you can use some of the recommended ways to help you deal with stress. I encourage you to try at least one of the above recommendations to deal with your stress.

-Amber

Resources:

  • https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm
  • http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/chronic-illness

 

Ways to Stay Healthy During the Cold and Flu Season

The cold and flu season can wreak havoc on those of us who are immunocompromised and are taking immunosuppressants. It seems like everywhere you go there are people hacking and coughing, sneezing and blowing their nose. And of course they are NEVER doing so in a way that could protect others from getting their germs. So here are a few questions to think about. Why do immunocompromised patients get more infections than others?  Why are infections often times more serious in an immunocompromised patient? And what can we do to avoid picking up every cold, flu and infection? Lets do some investigation and find out. A body's immune system uses a variety of defenses to prevent or get rid of infection. An infection can be caused by numerous organisms such as bacteria, viruses or fungi. That being said the immune system can be weakened by a number of disease and/or treatment. Thus making it easier for those with a weakened immune system to become ill.                       Below are some examples of what can weaken a person immune defense:

  • A breakdown of skin, lining of the mouth or any part of the GI tract. This could be cause by side effects of medications, radiation, or other reasons.
  • A person having lower numbers of the infection-fighting cells,  most commonly know as the white blood cells. This can happen as a result of certain cancers, or side effects of medications used to treat cancer.
  • The presence any foreign object. This can be an IV or an urinary catheter. Patients who have these devices have to be vigilant so infections can be avoided.

So now we know why immunocompromised patients get more infections. Now lets look into how these infections often end up being much more serious and even dangerous. 

  • For indivuals with poor immune systems many times the usual symptoms may not be present. They may not show the classic symptoms of an illness, like swelling or redness at an infection site. The only symptom they might have might be a fever. 
  • The infection can move in quickly. As we learned above that the immunosuppresed patient may be low on the infection fight blood cells, the infection can go from zero to 100 in no time flat.  For this reason alone most Doctor require their patients to report any fever as it may be the only symptom. 
  • Lastly, Their systems may not respond quickly to infection. Those with weak immune systems may have trouble getting the infection to clear their bodies. Like the "flu" it may take longer to from someone with a weak immune system compared to a person with a healthy immune system. 

So now we know how and why.... Lets see what we can do to prevent infection.

The KEY to prevention this time of year:

  • Make sure you get a yearly flu shot!! As well as the pneumococcal vaccine when you are eligible. Please make sure you get the proper pneumococcal vaccine that provides long term immunity to one type of pneumonia. 
  • In contrast to the flu shot that is given yearly. The pneumococcal vaccine is only to be given every 5 years.
  • Make sure to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep will actually lead to a weaker immune system.
  • If you are traveling on public transportation you might want to consider purchasing an N95 face mask in case you are seated next to the cougher. 
  •  WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS!!! This is essential, especially if you are wiping your nose as many infections will gain entry to the body through this route.
  • Try to avoid contact with anyone who might be sick. Even the common cold has the potential to make a patient with a weakened immune system very sick. 
  • Many suggest immune stimulants, this time of year, such as echinacea. However, before starting these stimulants you really should consult your doctor. This is said because conditions such as RA, and Lupus are associated with an overactive immune system. Taking an immune stimulant could potentially aggravate these conditions.

Hope this information helps you during this cold and flu season

~Amber

Resources:

  • Https://www.verywell.com/immunosuppressive-meds-prevent-illness-189184
  • Https://www.stjude.org/treatment/patient-resources/caregiver-resources/infection-tips/infections-immunocompromsed-patients.html