The Honest Truth About Our Periods

Lets just really honest today! Periods…… they are not the favorite time of ANY ladies month. But even less so for those who have endometriosis. Men will never be able to truly understand what its like to deal with a periods every 28 days or how often you might be “lucky” enough to get to deal with these awesome body function.

We don’t have to talk about the obvious, the bleeding. But its a major part of why we all love them, oh so much. Then we are lucky enough to also get to deal with irrational mood swings, cramps that are not easily explained to men or others who don’t have to deal with those, and the bloating. Then there is the insatiable hunger. And of course we couldn’t want veggies, and fruits and lots of protiens. NO most women want anything sweet, salty or fried!!!!! Which does NOTHING for the ache that comes along with eating crap food.  Okay, you may be thinking that I am going overboard. But no…… I think most women would agree that, that one week of the month we would rather not deal with is far from pleasant and is oftentimes just awful.

NO, I am not here to write an ENTIRE blog post on how bad a menstrual period is. Because chances are those of you, that read past that first paragraph are women. Or men in committed relationships with a women so they know the ins and outs as well. What I really want to talk about is what we can do to make that week of every month a little easier.  So I went to my friend Mr. Google to help me with information for this post. Below you will find my (and others) recommendations for how to make that wonderful week a little easier for everyone involved.

1. Exercise With Lighter Activities –

If you are anything like me when you read this the first thing you said was “ARE YOU CRAZY, HOW WILL EXERCISE HELP?” But that may be my common response to several things LOL. In all seriousness a lady can increase blood flow which will help cut down on the cramps. So if you decide to do this you need to go light. Do easy exercises like yoga, or stretching or walking, some encourage swimming but that sounds like a disaster to me!!!!

2. Hug A Heating Pad

This is and always has been my go to. For any abdominal or back pain I have during my period. I find a good heating pad and don’t let it out of my site for the whole week. The heat can actually sooth your muscles which in turn eases your cramping and overall discomfort

3. Its Important to Drink Plenty of Water and Stay Hydrated

I know some of you are thinking “No way, I am already holding on to three pounds of water weight, why would I choose to drink more water?”  I know, it sounds crazy but the more water you intake, the easier it will be to eliminate the extra water building up in your body. We should always try to drink more water, because it really is good for out bodies even when we think it sounds crazy. No matter if we are on our cycle or not we should all really try to drink 10-8ounce glasses of water a day.

4. Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine has truly become an issue for many people around the world. But for women its important to remember that caffeine actually makes you hold on to water weight, and definetley contributes to that achjy, crampy, bloated feeling we often feel during out period.

5. Eat The Good-For-You Food

Even though the only things you want are chocolate, ice cream and french fries (okay, maybe that is just me), we should all really try to eat more fresh fruit and green veggies. By eating enough of the good stuff it could potentially help to steer you away from the bad choices. You could try snacking on carrots with hummus, apples with peanut butter (which will give you the sweet and the crunch you make be looking for,) or blend up a smoothing with good fruits.

6. Try To Stay On Top Of Your Sleep

We all need 7-8 hours of good sleep all the time. That is especially important for teens who are on their periods, They really need eight to nine hours of sleep per night. Getting enough sleep will help you wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

7. Take Notes

Being prepared is your best defense when it comes to that time of the month.You should start keeping a record of your period each month. You can do this on paper or now with just about everyone having smart phones there are great apps that you can get that help you keep track of not only the dates of your cycle but also the symptoms, and how heavy they flow is. After a few months of doing this you will be able to see a pattern and can talk to your doctor if needed.

8. Use Period Protection That Lets You Stay Active

These days there are pads and tampons for every shape and size. Even special items made who are more active. And completely natural options. But what it comes down to is efficiency and comfort. It doesn’t matter what the women in your family has used for 3 generations, or even what your best friend uses. Don’t be afraid to jump out of the comfort box and do some research on products that are out there. You honestly just need something that makes you feel less self conscious and takes care of what it is supposed to.  And be prepared to be able to change said pad or tampon every 4-8 hours. This is especially important for the younger girls in our life who may not have been told the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Since we are really being open and honest lets talk about a couple of other things. One being at what point should you contact your doctor about your cycle.

The symptoms that you need to be talking to your doctor about quickly:

  • heavy bleeding
  • extended bleeding (more than 7 days)
  • bleeding after sex
  • spotting
  • excessive clotting during periods
  • abdominal pain
  • any odorous discharge
  • excess hair growth on face
  • unexplained weight gain

Likely Causes of an Irregular Period

Many issues can cause irregular periods, things like changes in the bodies production of estrogen and progesterone can alter the normal pattern of a ladies cycle.  This is why young girls going into puberty and women approaching menopause often experience irregular periods.

Other common causes of irregular periods include:

  • Having an IUD
  • Changing birth control pills or using certain medications
  • Too much exercise
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Being Pregnant or Breastfeeding
  • Stress
  • Overactive Thyroid (Hyperthyroid) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroid)
  • Thickening of or polyps on the uterine lining
  • Uterine Fibroids
  • Endometriosis

The hormone estrogen thickens the uterine lining before ovulation, so when estrogen levels become unbalanced the uterine lining sheds irregularly. This may result in heavy bleeding.

The conditions Endometriosis can also cause extreme cramps, very heavy bleeding, pain with intercourse and pain in the rectal area.

If you have any of the above issues or just want to talk to your doctor make an appt to do so. Most of the issues that cause irregular periods can be treated in one way or another.

With Love,

Amber

The Truth Behind the Gluten Free Diet Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1 we will now take a look at what researchers have found more recently in regards to The gluten diet. We will also be looking at the potential benefits and potential risks of eating a diet low in gluten. I will also give you some examples of good gluten-free foods and the kinds of foods you should avoid.

In the early 2000’s Dr. Fasano continued the study of celiac disease, and the gluten-free diet. He also completed a large study that found the prevalence of celiac disease in the US to be about 1%. Which was actually 10 times higher that what researchers in the US before this study! Fasano’s research was published in the Journal JAMA International Medicine 2003.

After the spotlight was placed on Celiacs Disease in the US, many more studies were done and published, regarding the gluten sensitivity in Americans. Some research began to suggest that a gluten free diet might actually be beneficial to people with other health conditions, not just Celiacs. There have also been research done that showed that there could potentially be a link between gluten and schizophrenia, or gluten and autism.

“There is a possibility that some groups of individuals with other chronic inflammatory conditions, including autoimmune diseases like diabetes or multiple sclerosis, of course autism … and schizophrenia … there could be a subgroup of these individuals that could benefit from embracing a gluten-free diet,” Fasano said.

As research on this issue has continued, links between gluten-free diets and improvements of various other symptoms and disorders, has been found.

Around 2010 celebrities started to speak out about gluten-free diets. A popular singer and actress put out information on social media that she had lost a significant amount of weight by removing gluten and lactose from her diet, she did also say that she has allergies to gluten and lactose. But not everyone heard it chose to listen that she cut it out due to allergies and only saw that when she did this she lost weight. Around this same time, multiple food manufacturing companies began working to expand products that were gluten-free to keep interest in the products among the groups that were eating gluten-free diets. At this time rules for defining gluten-free products changed and would now require that food labeled as gluten-free must have an undetectable level of gluten. The early 2010’s is when the shift in gluten-free diets started. At this point removing gluten was not longer a medical treatment Celiac’s Disease, but a diet method.

Although in the past, gluten sensitivities were very obscure, it is now estimated that gluten-related disorders could affect 10% of Americans. While gluten sensitivity is being seen more often all over the world. It has been found that more consumers who don’t have any Celiacs Disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, decided to change to a gluten-free diets by choice. According to a study that was published in The Journal of Internal Medicine in November 2016, in 2009 and 2010, 0.52% of Americans without celiac disease eliminated gluten from their diets, and by 2014 that percentage rose to about 1.69%.

The increase in people on a gluten-free diet could be due to the benefits that can be found from eating that way. Dr. Axe wrote an article talking about Gluten. He states that a diet low in gluten could potentially increase fat burning, provide a burst of extra energy, reduces inflammation, and easing of digestive symptoms like gas, bloating it diarrhea.

In the article by Dr. Axe he lists 6 ways a person can benefit from a gluten free diet. They are:

  1. May ease digestive symptoms
  2. Could provide extra energy and resulting in less brain fog
  3. Could be beneficial for children with autism
  4. Can decrease inflammation
  5. Promotes fat loss
  6. Improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Some research in the last few years has found that gluten & gluten containing foods can potentially be a trigger for joint pain. It has been proven that certain foods are pro-inflammatory, meaning they increase inflammation. Pro-inflammatory foods could include gluten-containing grains, and any of the thousands of foods that are made from those grains. Many people with celiac or gluten sensitivity have found that when they remove gluten and gluten containing products they have less arthritis pain. However, most providers don’t feel like there has been enough research done on humans to determine if gluten can really help reduce inflammation.

That being said, medical experts caution that no one should begin a gluten-free diet for arthritis before having testing for celiac disease. Due to the fact that it might not be gluten causing the problems it could be a wheat protein allergy or lactose allergy or an issue with FODMAPs(which is small sugar molecules in some fruits and veggies.) They can all be pro-inflammatory and irritate the gut as well.

Since gluten-free diets have become one of the current “fad diets,” experts have began to warn people that gluten-free eating might not offer benefits. If you don’t have gluten sensitivity changing to a gluten-free diet could actually do more harm than good in the long run.

“We definitely don’t recommend a gluten-free diet for weight loss. My dietician will tell you that. The reason why is, when they remove gluten from a lot of these foods to make them taste more appealing, they add more calories or carbohydrates,” said Dr. Runa Watkins, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who specializes in celiac disease.

“The second thing is, being on a gluten-free diet also puts you at risk for other nutritional deficiencies in the long run, such as like B-12 and zinc and folate,” she added, “And cost-wise, it can be expensive. So we definitely don’t recommend it just because.”

What you don’t hear much about is other foods, chemicals and medications that cause inflammatory issues, which is great for those without a diagnosis. People who have celiac symptoms or inflammatory issues who test negative for celiac disease are left without a diagnosis. But we are starting to learn about other foods and meds that could potentially produce the symptoms they are having. Recently there have been studies that have shown that the following foods and additives can trigger symptoms identical to celiac, gluten sensitivity and increased inflammation

The following list contains foods and additives that can potentially cause the aforementioned symptoms.

  1. Sugar
  2. Vegetable Oil
  3. Fried Foods
  4. Refined flour
  5. Dairy
  6. Artificial Sweeteners
  7. Artificial additives
  8. Saturated Fats
  9. Grain Fed Meats
  10. Processed Meats
  11. Gluten in store bought bread
  12. A second round of alcohol
  13. Trans fats
  14. Fast food

There is new research that has been done and published in the Journal of Proteome Research that has identified 5 new groups of non-gluten proteins that are responsible for inflammatory issues in patients with celiac. These proteins are very different to the gluten proteins that are known to cause celiac disease. This research gives those who test negative for gluten antibodies but respond well to a gluten-free diet hope. Hope that one day we will really understand what foods cause inflammation issues, GI symptoms, and what foods don’t.

In order for you to totally remove gluten from your diet, reading food labels is essential. Sadly, most of the time you won’t find “gluten” listed in a food label. So instead you should avoid foods that contain the following

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Oats (unless you see on the label that they are gluten free)

So now you may be thinking, “What’s left?” So below you will find a list of good gluten-free foods, that are very nutrient dense.

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Brown Rice
  • Corn Grits
  • Gluten-Free Oats
  • Nut Flowers
  • Veggies and Fruits
  • Meat, Poultry and Fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Dairy Products

Fad diets will come and go, just look at how Jenny Craig, South Beach Diet, or Weight Watchers are in and out of popularity. Everyone is always going to be looking for the easy out and the quick way to lose weight. The gluten-free diet is not one you should look into for weight loss though. Gluten-free diets really should be reserved for those who truly have a gluten sensitivity or have tested positive for celiac disease.

It is essential that you talk with your doctor before you make ANY DIETARY CHANGE. If you want to eat a low gluten or gluten-free diet, your Doctor needs to check to make sure you don’t have a gluten sensitivity. Simply because changing to a gluten-free diet can actually be detrimental to your health if you don’t have a reason to be eating that way. If your doctor okays the diet change, and you have a good experience with the change, stay the course. But remember when shopping to read the labels. In many cases when gluten is taken out of products, a lot of preservatives are put in its place. Many times there will be more calories and carbs in “gluten-free” food. If you are changing your diet and removing gluten and gluten containing products to see if inflammation levels will drop, please check with your dr before making dietary change. What may work for one person may not work for another. That being said, I expect that in the coming years more research will come out about how gluten impacts inflammation. I also expect more guidelines to come out from the FDA regarding the nutritional content of gluten free foods.

I hope that you were able to learn something from the information provided. And that you might be able to make a more educated decision on what you want to do regarding gluten in your diet!

** If you like this type of research based post please let me know in the comments. I want to produce the kinds of things you guys like to read!!

With Love,

Amber

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

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

Exercising with Chronic Illness

Exercise is not something I have talked a lot about in previous posts. Because it’s not something I have been doing. And it’s not something I enjoy, or to be honest know that much about. But honestly it’s time! The cardiologist cleared my heart and we are looking at my lungs. But recently a doctor that I love and respect very much reminded me that the shortness of breath and high heart rate I have been experiencing could be something as simple as deconditioning. So it’s time for me to get back to exercising. And to make getting fit a priority. As I started researching how I should get back into the fitness world I thought others could use the information as well. So today I wanted to share a bit of information on what kind of exercise is good for those with chronic illness/pain and joint issues.

Before we get into any suggestions about exercise I wanted to remind you about a few things.

  • Before beginning any exercise program you should ALWAYS contact your physician to get the okay.
  • You should always start with low impact and go slow! You can increase your impact and intensity slowly.
  • Always move at your own pace and never try to keep up with someone you are with or with a class.
  • Lastly if your pain level increases by more than 2 points from where it was at the start of the exercise you should stop &/or modify that specific exercise to try to ensure that you don’t cause a flare.

It is recommend that everyone do a combination of stretching exercises, strengthening exercises and cardiovascular exercises! Stretching will help to increase flexibility, loosen any tight or stiff muscles, as well as improve range of motion. Everyone should be doing some stretching EVERYDAY!! Strengthening will help to build up muscle strength. And cardiovascular exercise has a plethora of healing benefits. Now let’s look at what specific cardiovascular or aerobic exercises you could be doing.

1. Walking – is an excellent form of light aerobic exercise. It helps to bring oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, helps rebuild stamina, boosts energy, and will reduce stiffness and pain. Other options of low impact aerobic exercises would be riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical.

2. Yoga – Practice the most gentle kind of yoga you can, preferably the Hatha form of yoga. This kind of yoga is a combination of postures, breathing, and meditation that will reduce the physical and physiological symptoms of pain. A study that was published in the Journal of Pain states that participants reported significantly less pain when doing yoga. Yoga will also help to build endurance and energy while improving sleep and concentration.

3. Tai Chi – The benefits seen with tai chi are very similar to those seen in those who do yoga. Tai Chi is a very low impact kind of exercise where the participants slowly, gradually and gracefully preform a series of movements. Studies show that this form of exercise may even be better to relieve fibromyalgia pain than yoga!

4. Swimming & Water Aerobics – Any exercise in the water is good for people with chronic pain or joint issues. It is also an excellent alternative to walking for those with mobility issues. Being in the water provides a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that helps to keep you moving without putting added stress on joints and muscles.

The last point I want to make applies to all people. Not just those who are chronically ill. It is something I have struggled with love you whole life not just the last six years since I’ve been diagnosed. I don’t know about all of you but if I don’t have an accountability partner I am less likely to stay accountable and stay on track. If I have someone who is checking in on me a few times a week saying hey how is your diet, and how is your exercise routine going? I am more likely to actually stay on top of those things. So I strongly recommend finding someone in your life to be that person for you. So make sure you find someone to help you stay on track.

We took a brief look at some exercises that are good for those who have chronic pain or have joint issues. So maybe this will give you an idea of where you could start. I did not cover stretching directly because most people have a basic idea of how to stretch. I also didn’t cover strength training, because it can be very complicated and vary dramatically from one person to the next. However, there are articles for reference on both below. If you do plan on starting a new exercise plan please let me know what you plan on doing. I know for me having an accountability partner works best for me. If I don’t have someone to keep me accountable then I won’t stick to my plan as well as I do with that partner. So that is also something for you to keep in mind. If I can help you in any way please let me know. I would be very happy to help!!! I hope this helps some of you. Below are some articles for references on exercise with chronic illness for you.

With Love,

Amber

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-and-chronic-disease/art-20046049

Expert Advice: How to Overcome Obstacles to Exercising with Chronic Illness

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971

https://www.fmcpaware.org/exercise/strength-training-for-the-person-with-fibromyalgia.html

Finding Self Acceptance

In general a person’s feeling of belonging starts with self acceptance! In fact a person’s level of belonging, can never be greater than your level of acceptance. This helps you to believe that you’re enough and also gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect!

Finding a feeling of belonging is hard and sometimes almost impossible until you can find a way to accept yourself. But how does one go about finding self-acceptance!?!? Since this is an issues I also struggle with, I wanted to do some research and find some tips that might help one find self-acceptance. The list below is what I found helpful and hope that this might be helpful in finding your self-acceptance.

1. Celebrate your strengths by writing them down.

2. Consider the people around you and if they are beneficial to you.

3. Find a support system.

4. Forgive yourself.

5. Find a way to quiet your inner critic.

6. Realize that acceptance is not resignation.

7. Speak to your highest self.

8. Be kind to yourself.

9. When all else fails, fake it till you make it!

I know that personally over the last several years I have really struggled with where I fit and where I belong. It’s hard to find a friend group where you fit in because most people who aren’t sick either don’t care to figure out what’s going on in your life. Or don’t care to figure out where you are In their life. And you can’t help but to assume that they are walking away or turning their back because of something you did. When in all honesty it has nothing to do with you. I also have struggled to find my place in the career realm of my life. When I was in nursing school and if someone had told me I would work for ten years as an RN, and then become too Ill to work, I would have laughed at them. But that’s where I am, I am no longer working in the medical field. Instead I’m selling makeup to pay my bills, which I could never have imagined.

I have been using the tools I listed above over the last year. During that time I have found a way to accept myself for what I am and where I am in this show called life. And by doing those things I am slowly starting to figure out where I belong in this world. I have found a great group of ladies who support me in the least likely of places, in online support groups. I have also found way to bring in money and pay my bills without asking for any help from anyone. This hasn’t been a quick process. It’s taken a long time to figure out for myself. Another big tip I have for anyone who is struggling with finding self acceptance or finding where you belong is to use that time to try out new things you think would be a good hobby. If you always wanted to crochet learn to crochet. And once you are confident in your skills you could start making hats for newborns and donate them to the hospital. Or if you like to read you join a book club. In doing things like that you will not only be finding a place to belong but also self-acceptance!

I hope and pray that you can use some of the tactic I’ve discussed and find the areas where you belong and can find self-acceptance.

With Love,

Amber

How Having a Routine Can Be Beneficial

Are you one of those people who need a routine in your life?!? Do you plan out your day, every day? Do you obsess about making sure you accomplish everything on your list?!? I used to be one of those people. Especially when I was working, I would plan out my day at work and then plan my week around the things I needed to get done. But since I’ve gotten sick my routines have gone out the window!! I know I can’t be the only one who has experienced this! Even though it is hard, it is important to find a way to keep some routine even when you are chronically ill.

When you are living with a chronic illness, nothing about your life is certain. Symptoms come and go daily, weekly or even hourly on bad days. Changes in your schedule are common due to having to cancel things or rearrange your day because of your symptoms. Due to the fact that nothing in the life of a person who has a chronic illness is promised or set in stone. However, it is essential to find a way to keep a routine.

Is having a routines the same as having a schedule? No!! A schedule is defined by dictionary.com as a series of things that need to be done or events to occur at or during time or period; a time table. While a routine is defined as common tasks, chores, or duties that need to be done regularly or at specific intervals; typical or everyday activities. The big difference between having a schedule that you stick to, versus having a routine is the time factor! A schedule requires you to do specific activities at specific times. Where a routine is a set of activities that are generally done regularly, but not at a specific time. You can think of it this way. A schedule tasks that need to be done at a specific times. Like going to a drs appointment! While a routine are things that you do habitually, things you do pretty much every day. An example of a routine would be brushing your teeth every night before you go to bed!

A schedule is important for kids bc they need the structure. But do adults benefit from having a schedule like kiddos? Yes, the average adults does. But, adults with chronic illness DO NOT get the same benefits from living by a schedule. Living with a chronic illness means that we have to learn to deal with the unexpected changes in plans. These changes are common for the chronically ill, not because we don’t want to do things, but because our bodies won’t allow us to do those things. You may be hit with anxiety or depression, or even a flare which may occur without any warning. These are the things that make living by a Schedule almost impossible at times.

Routines are very beneficial to those living with a chronic illness. A routine is like having a schedule but without time constraints. Having a routine can help you get more quality sleep which is an essential for those with chronic illness. It is also beneficial because it will help you remember to take your medications and supplements when they are due.

What are other benefits of living by a routine? A routine provides you with the ability to come more EFFICIENT. By keeping a routine it creates a structure of our day to day tasks. A routine also reduces the need to make certain decisions. Thus you can save time planning and you have extra room for things that might come up Unexpectedly. A routine can also BUILD CONFIDENCE. Sticking to a routine gives a person a huge sense of satisfaction, and helps to build ones self-Confidence. Having a routine can also REDUCE STRESS. Which is important for those with chronic illness as stress can cause a flare of any condition. By having the routine is gives you more flexibility to be able to deal with issues that may pop up. Thus knowing you have tings under control will significantly lower a person’s stress and enabling them to focus on other things that need to be done.

We all have a routine that we keep. Mine for instance in the morning is to get up, stop off in the bathroom and then get some breakfast and take my morning meds. After that I spend time catching up on social media and looking at emails. This is just an example of my morning routine. This routine ensures that I take my medications that I need. If I falter from that routine I will forget something.

If you are able to establish a routine and try to stick to it everyday no matter how you feel then in the long run you may actually feel better. If your body knows that you are going to get up and eat and then stretch and take a walk, your body won’t revolt as much when you try and do those things. Your routine also helps you conserve energy because you can adjust your activities so you may be able to get out and do the things you have scheduled and not have to cancel them so often. Having a routine may make you seem more credible to your friends and family. Which may ease any conflict you may have with those people over your canceling plans. So living by a routine is the best way for the chronically ill to live their lives.

If you feel like you need some extra help figuring out your routine and getting it set up there are a ton of apps that can help you. You can simply download them in your smart phone or tablet. They can help you scheduling, prioritizing and even relaxing. Below is a picture from the Apple store that I found doing a search of “Routine.” The ones I chose to show you had the best reviews of al the ones I found. I hope this is helpful.

With Love,

Amber

Setting Goals For The New Year!!

Happy NEW YEAR Friends!!! I can’t help but sit here and reflect on all the things that happened in 2017. There were ups and there were downs, sadly this year was full of downs and not so many ups. But that’s just life. The world throws all sorts of things at us all the time and it’s how we deal it that really matters!!! I also can’t help but think about what I want out of 2018. I won’t be setting resolutions because I seem to never follow through. So this year I will be setting goals. Both short term and long term goals so I have something to always be working on. And I want to share with you how I set my goals.

When I set goals I use the acronym SMART to set them.

S- Specific – what exactly you want to accomplish. What is you want to do. For me a specific goal would be that I want to do some sort of exercise for 10min 1-3 Times a week.

M- Measurable – This means how you are going to measure your accomplishments and how you will know when this goal has been achieved. For example, if your goal is to make $10,000, make sure you have a time frame. I want to make $10,000 by December 31 so it is measurable.

A- Achievable – Make sure you set goal that are achievable and not so far in left field that it will never happen. (For example, don’t set the goal to run a full marathon in three months when you can’t run 100ft currently. A more achievable goal would be to say you will walk/run a 5K by the end of summer.)

R- Realistic – Make sure your goal is something you can actually do. For example, setting a goal to become president of the United States for most people would not be realistic. A goal of become a local representative or sitting on city council. That would be more realistic.

T-Timely- This one is the easiest. Simply when do you want to accomplish your goal? One month? Three months? A year?

I’ll give you an example of a smart goal. I want to start exercising 1-3 times a week for at least ten minutes, by doing yoga or walking in the house (too cold right now to be outside). I want to be doing this in full by March 1st!

That is just an example. But I have several long term and short term goals that I will be working on. Another bit of advice I have for you is to write your goals in a place you will see them. For me, my goals often are out of sight out of mind. So I will write them on a dry erase board that I see every day. You could even write them on a mirror you use everyday. Just put them somewhere so you can be reminded of them daily.

I can’t say that I’m sad to see 2017 go. It was one of the harder years I’ve had with all the health issues I have had. And losing the ability to drive due to my health has really been hard. I feel like I’m 15 again and have to ask someone to take me everywhere. I know many of you have had a rough year as well so we are going to take 2018 and make it ours. I am going to do everything in my power to make this a positive year both with my business, and in my personal life. And I encourage you to do the same!!! Set goals, and use them as a point to work toward. I feel like if we don’t have something to work toward we become stagnant. For us spoonies it is so easy to focus on the negative. We have so many bad days and get bad news often. But if we can focus on something positive, Life might be a little more positive. I know you are thinking that it is easier said than done, but it will really make a difference. I will be honest I get stuck one the bad things all the time. But this year I am going to work on being positive!!! And I am here to help you with your goals if you need me to and help encourage you along the way!!

Feel free to share some of your goals in the comments. If you share your goals with others I feel that you are more likely to work to accomplish them! So share with us!! I hope and pray that all of you can make 2018 a positive year!

With Love,

Amber

Tips on Treatments for Migraines.

I by no means am an Expert on Migraines. But I do feel that I know quite a bit about treatment options for migraines as I have tried just about EVERY treatment known to man to get rid of mine. So today I will talk about possible treatment modalities for migraines, oddly enough while suffering from one of the worst migraines I have had in the last few weeks. But our world goes on right? From having so many I have learned that our world just can simply stop just due to a migraine. Do I do all I can to slow my world down during one? YES!!! We all have to do what works best for us to keep our world going. The things I am going to talk about are things that have been recommended to me by Medical PROFESSIONALS, and any thing I discuss should not be started into your regimen without the approval of your medical provider. This may be a little long but I get asked several times a week about what I do to treat my headaches and all of this has been or is currently part of my headache journey.

  1. Pain relievers like Aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) could potentially help relieve mild migraines. Tylenol can also work to help the mild migraines in some people, especially in the population of people who are on Blood Thinners and can not take medications like Aspirin or Advil.
    There are medications on the marketed that are specifically for migraines, such as the combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine which is known as Excedrin Migraine, these could potentially ease moderate migraine pain. However, none of the over the counter meds will be effective on their own for a severe migraine. And with many of the over the counter meds like Aspirin, Advil, Ibuprofen if they are taken too often or for too long at one time it is possible for them to lead to bigger problems such as stomach ulcers, GI bleeds and even Medication overuse headaches.
    There is a prescription pain reliever called indomethacin that may help diminished the effects of a migraine and is available in suppository form (not fun I know!!!), which may be helpful if you’re nauseated. Narcotic pain medications are rarely ever used in migraine treatment simply because many Providers feel like narcotics will cause rebound headaches in the long run and cause more problems than good, which is controversial to many, So I won’t go into it any further at this point
  2. If over the counter meds don’t work for you migraine than the next step is usually a medication group call The Triptans, which often used in treating migraines. Triptans make blood vessels constrict and block pain pathways in the brain. You have probably heard of them, they are medications like Imitrex, Zomig, Relpax. Triptans effectively relieve the pain and other symptoms that are associated with migraines. They are available in pill, nasal spray and injection form. The fact that they offer different forms is helpful due to the fact that if you are vomiting it is hard to keep down a pill for said migraine.
  3. If the Triptan class of drugs do not work to control your headaches and you are having to take them more than a couple times a week it is time to call your Provider again. At this point they may talk to you about how often your headaches are happening and if you have been able to pinpoint a cause. If no cause has been noted they mas discuss with you about doing some imaging like CT SCAN or MRI just as a precaution to rule out anything further that could be causing your migraines.
  4. If you have vomiting with your migraines, first let me say how very very sorry I am! I have terrible nausea and vomiting with mine. And thankfully my Providers have been nice enough to prescribe me anti-nausea meds to help when or should I need it, so don’t be afraid to ask!!
  5. Another kind of medication that your Provider may discuss putting you on if the Triptans and Over the counter meds like Aleve are not helping with the migraine is what they call Preventatives. These are medications that you take daily to help prevent your headaches from getting to the point of a migraine. However, there are requirements one must meet in order to be considered for a preventative med, which I will list below. Taking preventative medications can help to reduce the frequency, severity and length of a migraine and couple potentially increase the effectiveness of other meds used to relieve symptoms during attacks.  These medications will not take effect overnight it can take several weeks to see results. It could be recommended that you take preventative meds daily or just around your triggers. For instance if you get migraines around menstruation you might take the medication just around that time of the month for you,. Eventually if you have good results on the preventative meds your doctor may discuss tapering you off the medications to see how your headaches do without the medications.  The most common classifications of medications used as Preventative meds are Cardiovascular (heart) Medications, Antidepressants and Seizure medications. The qualifications I mentioned above are:
    1. You have four or more debilitating attacks a month.
    2. If attacks last more that 12 hours.
    3. If pain-relieving medications are not helping.
    4. If your migraine signs and symptoms include a prolonged aura or numbness and Weakness
  6. The last prescription medication I will discuss is Botox. I know you are thinking, “Wait, isn’t that the stuff that people put in their faces so they can’t move them and get no more wrinkles? Yup, same stuff! Just works a little different. I have yet to find an exact explanataion as to why it works but it does. There are some terms that have to be met before you can sign up for Botox. Here is what the Botox website says “BOTOX® is a prescription medicine that is injected to prevent headaches in adults with Chronic Migraine who have 15 or more days each month with headache lasting 4 or more hours each day in people 18 years or older.
    It is not known whether BOTOX® is safe or effective to prevent headaches in patients with migraine who have 14 or fewer headache days each month (episodic migraine).
    BOTOX® prevents on average 8 to 9 headache days and migraine/probable migraine days a month (vs 6 to 7 with placebo) after 2 treatments (at 24 weeks).”Botox website
  7. Some over the counter supplements that are often encouraged for migraine sufferers are Fever Few, Magnesium and B12, B6 and Folic Acid. Fever Few which is known as a herb used to control the pain of migrain. While Magnesium is used in hopes of preventing migraines. Some research has shown magnesium levels in the brain if often low during migraine attacks. And because magnesium is needed for a persons nerves to function properly, some think that low magnesium and migraines are somehow related. Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid have been found that they  may reduce the frequency, severity and disability of migraines, according to new research. Daily vitamin supplements were found to produce a two-fold reduction in migraine disability.
  8. Invest in GOOD DARK SUNGLASSES- This may sound silly but you can never had dark enough sun glasses when you have migraines so invest in a good pair that is super dark and will really shield your eyes. There are multiple places to buy these but there are four good pairs on Amazon ranging in price from $49.99- $99.99, and are available as indoor and outdoor lenses!!!
  9. Another item that you can’t go wrong with and would be a great Christmas gift would be a good EYE MASK!!  These like anything vary in thickness and size and in bandwidth. You can find them at many different locations from the pharmacy to Amazon to Bed, Bath and Beyond,. The one below Is one that I recently purchased from Amazed that is desidned for those of us with migraines and has the ability to be frozen. And was only $10.
  10. If I had to pick one non-pharmacological item that has helped me the most it would be my ICEKAP!!! It is exactly what it sounds like. I hat with ice. But the ice packs are spaced properly so you don’t have to try and keep one on the front of your head and the back and keep them from sliding, It has really been a game changer. The Icekap website And last but not least Peppermint Oil. I am not big into oils but this is one things that I can carry in my purse and use anywhere when I feel a migraine coming on. And it also works for nausea. So killing two birds with one stone so to speaks with one oil. Unlike many of the other things that I have talked about. The more well known companies are the best to buy for like Young Loving because you know that their oils are 100% pure.

I hope that you find this list helpful and maybe I was able to give you a tip or two that you had not tried before. If you have any questions or comments or suggestions please don’t hesitate to leave them below!!

With Love,

Amber

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!