What It’s Like to Live with RA

I should say up front, that my RA is mild to moderate. I am seropositive, which means my disease course is likely to be more severe, but I feel pretty good most days right now. And I have every reason to hope that diet changes (like trying AIP) and lifestyle changes (like hitting the gym and practicing relaxing self-care) along with medications will slow my progression and possibly even put me into remission completely!

Most days I wake up a little stiff, morning stiffness is one of the hallmarks of RA. For me it’s usually in my back and hips, which makes it hard to stand up straight when I first get out of bed. My joints also tend to pop and crack like crazy those first few steps in the morning. I’m like a bowl of rice crispies walking to the bathroom to start my morning routine.

Some mornings I skip breakfast and choose to fast, but when I eat breakfast I usually grab something quick like yogurt with berries or leftovers I can quickly reheat. I like to sleep in as much as possible. Sleep is super important and I am a person who needs a lot of it, even before my diagnosis. So if that means I don’t have time to cook my own breakfast every morning, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

I head to work around 8:45 am, and when the weather is nice, I’m fortunate to live close enough that I can walk to work! It’s just under a mile, so it’s a great way to get in some good movement and vitamin D sunshine at the beginning and end of the day. (I was so tired this past summer that I rarely did this, I have been feeling well enough to do this 2-3 times a week so far this year!)

I’m a librarian and I’m fortunate that my position keeps me moving throughout the day. I’m not on my feet all day, nor do a sit all day, I’ve got a good mix of resting and moving which is good, it keeps my joints from gelling up from being in one position for too long. One of my early symptoms was hip pain after sitting for an extended time. A couple times I even got up after sitting for a long time and thought I had sprained my ankle! But the pain went away by walking around for a little while.

Sometimes at lunch I walk home to let my dog out for a little midday break. (Just because she can be in her kennel all day doesn’t mean she likes to, so I try to give her breaks as often as possible). When I plan to stay at work for lunch I try to pack something healthy. Often leftovers or a salad with some protein (chicken, shrimp, hard boiled egg, etc.). Sometimes I also continue a fast through lunch. I actually try to fast a full 24 hours once per week, from dinner one night, to dinner the following night.

Afternoon is when my fatigue tends to set in, so I really try to “Eat the Frog” and try to get the highest priority or most difficult stuff done early in the day when I have the most energy.

After work I usually head straight home. Often my energy stores are zapped for the day, which is why meal kits have come in so handy for me. Not having to think about what to make for dinner, or spend much time prepping ingredients is so helpful when I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Still, I also try to use evenings as time to build community and challenge myself intellectually by going to Bible study, book club or taking classes at the local community college.

Before bed I’ve started an oil pulling routine (more on this in a later blog post), which is also a great time to pop in some ear buds and do a guided meditation. I wash my face and use organic witch hazel toner and then aloe as my moisturizer. If I am having any joint pain I use topical CBD ointment and/or Max Freeze to help alleviate symptoms without needing to take an NSAID. (Though I do take aspirin or ibuprofen when needed, and per my doctor’s instructions, I always try to take the minimum effective dose – so if I can spare my kidneys and gut lining by not taking an NSAID for pain, then I will. NSAIDs help with symptoms of RA, but they don’t halt disease progression).

Then it’s off to bed by 10:00 pm so I can hopefully have a full 8-10 hours of sleep to be ready for the next day!

If you have RA, or another autoimmune disease, what is your day like?

Now that was my usual weekday, but Saturdays are my me days – check out the new vlog to see what a Saturday is like for me!

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First Attempt at Fasting

If you read my last post you know that I am trying to incorporate fasting into my lifestyle. Since I tend to have a lower appetite during my period, just naturally, I thought that would be a good time to try fasting. It also is a time of hormone reset, both estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest levels at the start of menses.

I discovered intuitively what others have also researched and found true, that appetite drops during menses and peaks during the luteal phase (between ovulation and menses). So it makes sense to me to harness the power of your bodies natural hormone signalling to guide intuitive eating.

To that end I decided to try a fast a couple weeks ago when I was on my period. Unfortunately it happened to fall at a time when I was visiting family so I was not able to do the full 24+ hour fast I had planned. My plan had been to just water fast for at least 24 hours, or until I felt well and truly hungry, whichever was longer. But with visiting family I had to break my fast after only 18 hours of fasting. Still, it was amazingly easy to just not eat during that time. Normally I would have tried to eat something, overriding my body’s natural cues, because I’ve been told for so long that you have to eat or it’ll tank your metabolism, etc.

Though my fast was not as long as I might have liked, it was a proof of concept for me as to the ease of fasting during menses as a woman. So in a couple weeks when it rolls around again I will again attempt a 24+ hour fast while on my period.

Have any of you, male or female, incorporated fasting into your healthy lifestyle? If so, how? Have you found that timing your fasts in any particular way makes them easier?

Share your fasting stories and questions in the comments!

Fasting Experiment

I have been reading a lot lately on the benefits of fasting (like this and this), especially for helping with gut healing, insulin resistance and cancer. Since I have IBS-D, and a strong family history of both diabetes and cancer, it seems to me to be very worthwhile to try a 3-5 day fast.

But then the question occurred to me, when? So many health and medical studies do not include women. The famous studies on fasting, such as the Minnesota Starvation Study which used conscientious objectors during WWII as study participants, have been performed using almost exclusively men. Even current proponents of fasting are largely men. What about we double X-ers? What effects does fasting have that are unique to the female body? With our hormone cycles is there a particular time of month/cycle that fasting is most effective and/or least detrimental?

My hypothesis is that, of course, there is. And I am setting out to find out what that time is as an n=1 experiment. Now because I am on a health journey and hopefully having ongoing improvements in my health, there is just no way to have a true control group. One month I may the stronger than the month before, have better hormone levels going into fasting than the month before, or just have overall better health going into the study than previous fasting tests.

With those caveats in mind though my hypothesis is that the optimum time for women to fast is during menses. For one, personal experience has revealed that I already have a decreased appetite during that time of month. Unlike other phases of the uterine/ovarian cycle, you are neither nurturing a developing oocyte, nor building your endometrium for the possibility of implantation. Your body is already in reset mode.

To that end, I will be attempting a 3-5 day fast during my next menses. My fast will start when I first notice signs of my period starting and will continue until my flow stops. (Sorry if this is TMI for more squeemish readers, but it’s a biological fact of life and I will try to use the appropriate anatomical and physiological terms as much as possible).

Have any of you fasted before? If you are a woman, have you timed fasting to your cycle? What have your experiences been?plate