A few days ago I woke up with an ominous ache in my foot, and my brain immediately went to dark places. Inexplicable pain in my feet and ankles, to the point of barely being able to walk, was a major feature of my most severe flare back in 2012. At the time I had no idea why my feet ached and I had diarrhoea, and my GP was unable to make the connection between the two (and no, my feet weren’t sore from constantly running to the toilet – after all, I spent enough time sitting!).
Anyway, I soon learnt that joint pain is part and parcel of autoimmune disease, and now that my UC is under control, I experience it infrequently, with just the occasional twinge in my knees.
The foot pain put me into a bit of a spin, but not in a bad way. Although I am listening even more closely to my body right now, I’m not freaking out about a possible flare. Instead, I’m actively putting measures in place to try to keep it at bay.
Aside from my regular medication, I’m placing an even greater emphasis on my diet and lifestyle, and here’s what I’m doing:
Ensuring that everything I eat is aimed at healing. That means no ‘empty’ treats that simply satisfy my taste buds but do nothing to enhance my health. I don’t need Bliss Balls or Nakd bars or 17 bananas a day. It means using food purely as a healing tool. I love to eat and I especially love sweet things so this is extremely hard, but necessary.
Eating foods that reduce inflammation. Every day, I consume avocado and coconut oil/milk/yoghurt – healthy fats that are known to help reduce inflammation. I also eat a small quantity of almonds (literally about 10 a day), plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least 5 to 8 servings per day) and lean meat and fish. I’m big into baby spinach right now – I eat it raw or pour boiling water over it to cook it instantly – and try to include turmeric in my diet. Here’s my easy recipe for homemade SCD/paleo coconut yoghurt.
Cutting out alcohol. Alcohol is extremely inflammatory and the fact that I ever drink it at all is a gamble. Right now, I don’t feel like betting on my health, so the booze is gone. I’m not even sad about this; I’m too focused on healing.
Reducing coffee intake. Okay, this is very hard. When the only things you drink are coffee and water, removing 50% of your beverage options is a bitter pill. At the moment, I’m still consuming one to two cups a day, but I’m trying to reduce this to just one cup, and hopefully I’ll be able to cut it out altogether within the next few days. I really hate tea.
Choosing healthy snacks. If I do get hungry between meals, I ensure that the snacks I eat are serving me, not simply filling a gap. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t go hungry. It’s just that I won’t chuck something into my stomach for the sake of taste or plugging a hole. If I’m going to eat it, it’s going to need to fill me and fulfil a healing function. I also drink UltraInflamX once a day to load up extra vitamins and tumeric.
Avoiding problem foods. For me, this means no nightshades (which I’ve been doing anyway), and strictly limiting my consumption of nuts and raw vegetables, as both can be hard to digest.
Not overloading my gut. I’m a big eater so this has always been my greatest challenge. But overloading my GI system, whether I’m eating healthily or not, is putting it under unnecessary strain that can only lead to damage or at the very least, discomfort. I’m not a believer in eating 6 or 9 or 73 small meals a day. Honestly, that is just not satisfying to me. I love a hearty, filling dinner, and I can go smaller on the other meals. But even that hearty, filling dinner needs to be a reasonably sized portion or my gut simply won’t cope.
Drinking lots and lots of water. I already drink 2 litres a day so I can’t fit much more in without spending every free moment in the loo (one way and another, I can’t seem to get away from that place).
Getting enough sleep. I generally get between 7 and 8 hours a night and I don’t usually have any trouble sleeping, so this is one of the few things that isn’t a problem for me!
Reducing stress. I’m a highly-strung person by nature. I’m impatient, easily frustrated and quickly angered. I frequently become stressed out and annoyed, and all of this probably contributed to my diagnosis in the first place. Trying to be calmer is very difficult for me, but it’s worth the effort because stress and anger only harms the gut and inhibits the healing process. I have redoubled my efforts after reading this insightful article from Adam Scheuer at IHaveUC.com.
What are your tips for nipping a potential flare in the butt? 🙂