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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The Crunchy Checklist

As I mentioned in my introduction post, I have definitely got some latent crunchy/granola/hippie genes. I value real food, even if I don’t always make food choices in line with those values. I value self-sufficiency, even if I can also be a pretty darn good consumer of things I could just as easily make myself. I value the great outdoors and conservation, but I do not always recycle or use the greenest products available to me. I value health, but I definitely have some chronic health issues common among populations in the developed world.

So how can I start living out these values I hold more consistently? How can I embrace my inner “crunchy earth goddess”? That is why I started this blog in the first place! To find out. To experiment. To try new things and see how living more in line with my values might help my overall health and well-being, but also my family, community and world too.

To that end, I have compiled a “Crunchy To Do List” of sorts. Based on information from other natural and holistic health blogs, books I’ve read, etc. I have created a list of things to do to fully embrace my inner crunchiness. They fall into a few main categories: Food, Hygiene and Health, Household, and Lifestyle; though some could easily fit in more than one, and others don’t quite fit where I’ve put them – that’s where they are listed all the same. So here goes …..

Food – Just Eat Real Food

  • Eat fermented foods
  • Eat real fats
  • Try offal (organ meats)
  • Make and eat bone broth and stock
  • Try raw milk
  • Try supplemental foods like cod liver oil and gelatin
  • Drink water without fluoride in it
  • Try a cleanse
  • Do a Whole 30
  • Cut out white sugar
  • Cut out all added sugars

Hygiene & Health

  • Try oil cleansing
  • Try oil pulling
  • Try dry brushing
  • Make and use my own deodorant
  • Visit a naturopath
  • Visit a holistic dentist
  • Visit a chiropractor
  • Try the “no-poo” method
  • Get rid of synthetic lotions and potions
  • Try essential oils
  • Try herbs and tinctures
  • Try a cleanse
  • Try CBD oil for pain and anxiety
  • Try cranio-sacral massage
  • Try accupunture

Household

  • Get rid of harsh chemical based cleaners
  • Make my own cleaners using natural ingredients
  • Try soap nuts
  • Try organic cotton bed sheets
  • Get a Berkey filter for tap water
  • Try a salt lamp
  • Acquire air purifying house plants
  • Acquire better quality pots and pans

Lifestyle

  • Read “crunchy” books
  • Try grounding
  • Try yoga
  • Try pilates
  • Go for hikes
  • Go camping
  • Try amber glasses to block blue light at night

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list but should definitely keep me busy for a while. There are some other crunchy things I would love to try but cannot yet. More may be added to the list over time.

Is there anything crunchy that you think is missing from my list? What would you add? What is the “crunchiest” thing you do?

Health Affirmations

On my crunchy journey I have discovered that a big issue I have is mindset. While I was anxiously going to doctors seeking a diagnosis I was convinced every pain was cancer and that I was going to die before 35. Once I got a diagnosis a lot of that anxiety went away, but there are still scary moments and anxieties, like when a new pain crops up, or lingers longer than it has before. Yet, while I want to track my symptoms, when I focus too much on my pain it feels much worse. On the other hand, when I decide that I am going to be healthy and happy I feel better, even if the baseline pain is essentially the same. Changing your frame of mind can make such a difference in your health! I am now working on making a habit of positive visualization.

Sometimes I repeat one image or mantra over and over again using mala beads or a rosary to help me keep track. Other times I read through a list or affirmations written out on index cards. Still other times I will listen to a guided imagery or meditation. Whatever method(s) you choose, I hope you will make time to for focused healing thoughts. Here are some general healthy affirmations to get you started.

  • My body is able to heal itself
  • My body knows how to work properly
  • I eat foods that nourish my body
  • I am able to move my body in ways that strengthen it
  • My body can do whatever I ask of it given the right tools
  • My body knows when to rest and digest
  • My immune system knows how to attack infections
  • My immune system knows not to attack myself
  • My body is whole and nourished
  • I sleep well and my body is restored each night
  • My muscles are strong and supple
  • My joints are able to move freely but safely
  • My liver and kidneys are able to cleanse my body
  • My digestive system can absorb all the nutrients my body needs
  • My lungs are clear and I can breathe easily
  • My heart is strong and efficient
  • My nervous system is clear and functions smoothly
  • I know my body is able to heal whatever illness I struggle with
  • My biome is healthy and in balance with friendly microbes who support my well-being
  • My emotions are balanced and healthy
  • I am not afraid of my emotions, nor am I controlled by them
  • My whole body, mind, emotions, environment and soul are healthy and work together for my well-being

For more information on how mindset can help heal and maintain wellness, check out these books.

Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin

Self-Healing with Guided Imagery by Dr. Andrew Weil