As most of you know, I am currently in RA remission, which is no small feat, given how crippled I was last year! While I am not discounting how much the drugs I am on have contributed to this, I have also made some big changes to my life in terms of healthy living. I feel that this hasn’t only helped me achieve remission, but it is also giving me the best chance to lead a long, happy life – as well as bolstering up my immune system (which needs a constant boost after the MTX has a go at it!)
The following are four things that I see as very important in my own quest for a healthy body:
1) Eating more fruit and vegies.
In particular, upping my intake of green vegetables. Green smoothies in particular are an awesome way to get lots of greens. The green smoothie I have most days is banana (I often buy a bunch and peel and freeze them), chopped kale/spinach/silverbeet, ½ chopped cucumber, a handful of frozen organic berries, coconut water or almond milk, a couple of spoons of LSA, and a big tablespoon of Vital Greens (amazing stuff!) or Spirulina. Throw it all in a blender, mix it all up until smooth, and drink! I find that it instantly gives me an energy boost, even as I drink it. There are also heaps of different supplements you can add to it, should you wish. I play around with what I add; there is no end to the possibilities.
2) Looking after my gut health.
Did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut!? I know – crazy! Prior to my diagnosis I was constantly having health issues, especially ongoing infections, which meant I was continuously on antibiotics. This led to my gut been stripped of all the good bacteria – and good bacteria is essential for good gut – and therefore good immune – health. I have managed to slowly but surely claw my way back to decent gut health, by taking high strength probiotics (stuff like Inner Health Plus, and other probiotics you can buy over the counter at the pharmacy, are crap by the way – there are much more effective products available – get a good naturopath and they will sort you out with the good stuff! ). I also managed to get some milk kefir grains, and now I make my own kefir every second day, which has been a big turning point in my quest for a happy gut. Recently I have been getting into bone broths, which have an incredible range of health benefits, as well as being one of the best things you can have to repair your gut.
If you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, or other chronic diseases that cause pain and other shitty symptoms, chances are you have taken and/or are taking a fair whack of medicine, be it antibiotics, anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressants. This makes it even more important that you nurture your gut and give it what it needs to thrive.
3) Focusing on relaxation.
I’m naturally highly-strung. Yes… I’m loud, and excitable, and by all accounts extraverted… but this excitement can very easily swing into anxiety – and shocking anxiety at that. Stress, especially over long periods of time, is extremely detrimental to one’s health. An overactivated autonomic nervous system and the ongoing excess of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline have been linked to depression, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, anxiety disorder, diabetes, tooth and gum disease, ulcers, cancer, and sexual dysfunction. Wowzers. Being a person that is prone to anxiety, when I learnt how dire stress was, I got anxious that my anxiety was causing physical damage to my body. And yes, I realise the irrationality! Being rational doesn’t always come easy to me!
So I made a pledge to not let stuff get to me. To take at least ten minutes a day to sit quietly somewhere, and just focus on my breath. To be careful about whom I spend my time with, and to avoid people and situations that unnecessarily stress me out. This may be hard if you’re a born people-pleaser (it is hard for me sometimes, I hate saying no)! But seriously, you get one body. If you’re a subscriber to my blog, there is a good chance you have already had, or are having, a bit of a hard time with your health lately. So why not do everything you can to look after yourself, and conserve your energy for the stuff that makes you happy, as much as you can? As soon as I started looking at it like this, it suddenly became a lot easier to say no to those people and situations that are no good for my mental health.
4) Embracing sobriety.
Alcohol can be fun. At the time. And I won’t lie – I have given it a fair crack during my late teens and well into my 20’s. At times I still wish I had the energy and the desire to head out to the pub like the good ol’ days and get silly after too much champagne. The thing is, alcohol makes me feel absolutely crap. If you’re on MTX or similar, drinking booze means putting your poor liver under strain – when it’s already trying to deal with the immunosuppressants you are on.
Up until recently, I still drank alcohol regularly. Not like I did before I got diagnosed, but I still had a few cocktails on occasion. And despite being nowhere near drunk, I would wake up the next day feeling super fatigued, achy, flat, and anxious. This would last up to a week. So I got to thinking: why am I doing this to myself? I have decided it is not worth it. So I have stopped. Actually, I’ve made a pledge to not drink booze for a whole year! I’m 2 weeks in. And I already feel a million times better… it’s amazing what a difference it makes. Therefore, I wholeheartedly recommend giving alcohol the flick – or at least minimising your consumption. I’m using my one year sans booze as an opportunity to raise money for Arthritis Victoria – this will not only keep me accountable, but it means that going alcohol-free benefits other people besides me.
That is just 4 things I am focusing on for now, to try and be well! Give something a try … I’d love to hear how you go! :)