If you would’ve told me four years ago, or even a year ago, that pain would be a gift, I would’ve said you were crazy. Pain is painful, right? So how on Earth could it ever be a gift?
Pain is a signal, a cry for help from a body that’s suffering. It’s a way to tell you that it needs something. The confusing part, usually, is what. What does it want?
Does it want more kale, more sleep, more fresh air, more exercise, or more rest?
Does it need more of a certain vitamin or supplement? Maybe it needs a certain nutrient from food?
Maybe it’s less stress or more contemplation. Maybe it needs medicine and less winging it naturally.
Chronic pain and its signals can be equally frustrating and helpful, but it’s often painful.
You can’t go to sleep because you can’t get comfortable, or you wake up early in pain.
You make plans only to have to cancel because you’re too tired or in too much pain. Or you never make plans because you’re never sure how you’re going to feel, and you’re tired of disappointing people.
You take time off work or decide that you’re not well enough to work altogether.
It’s all these things and so much more. But is there anything to learn from pain? I believe it can be our greatest teacher if we let it. Here’s what it’s taught me:
- That I need to rest or that I did too much the previous day
- I need to drink more water or pay attention to what I’m eating
- I can be equally reliant on lifestyle modification as I can on medication
- To be more empathetic towards others who are suffering
- To control what I can and let the Lord do the rest
- Asking for help isn’t weakness; it’s the greatest strength
- Not to stress over minutiae, but allow room for growth
- To change my perspective of success
- To advocate for myself when I need something that my care team isn’t willing to provide
- The best time to help others with their struggles is when I’m in the midst of mine
These are a few of the deeply meaningful lessons that my pain gives me. What has it taught you?
There are so many definitions of an elimination diet, so let me tell you how I define it. An elimination diet is a list of foods that are taken out for a short period of time, usually about 2-3 months, and slowly reintroduced to see how your body acts or reacts towards a particular food.
As someone with rheumatoid arthritis, I've experienced firsthand the effects that certain food has on my joint pain and swelling, as well as brain fog, quality of sleep and moods, and energy levels. Food is fuel and eating foods that work with your body instead of against it is especially important if you're looking to live a thriving life.
One of the best elimination diets I've seen recently is from Dr. Will Cole, and are customized to your unique style - Core4 and Elimin8. As their names suggest, the first is a shorter and less restrictive plan that is perfect for those new to elimination diets while the latter is for those who are looking for deeper healing.
How can an elimination diet help your RA symptoms? By giving your body a rest from certain foods, and then very carefully adding them back in one at a time, you can discover what (if any) foods aggravate your symptoms.
***Please tread very carefully if you have an eating disorder or a history of restrictive eating. Elimination diets are only meant to be short term and done for the sole purpose of determining what role (if any) certain foods have on your RA symptoms. ***
What benefits will you see on an elimination diet? Here's what people with RA have reported:
- Better and longer sleep. No more waking up due to pain or having less pain
- Longer lasting energy. Instead of spikes and crashes, you'll feel more balanced and energetic
- More focus and less brain fog. Hallelujah to not wondering why I walked into a room or where my keys are
- Decrease inflammation and joint pain. I mean isn't this why we're doing this?
- Less anxiety and depressed moods. This is another huge benefit - who doesn't want to feel better?
- Reduces digestive symptoms such as indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, and constipation/diarrhea.
- Lessen skin rashes and chicken (aka keratosis pilaris). Just remember never to pick at these or you'll get scars.
I'm sure there are more, but those are ones I remember off the top of my head. By now, you might be ready to start an elimination diet and I'm excited for you to find out if this helps you. However, if this is your first go at an elimination diet, please don't do it alone. It can quickly become overwhelming, and you'll give up before you really get started.
Please reach out to me if this is your first time so I can provide you with resources that will help you be successful. No one wants to put a ton of effort into a thing only to fall short of your goal! If this isn't your first time, don't be discouraged if you're doing this again. Our bodies change often as we get older, and you're not alone I promise!
If you decide an elimination diet is right for you, head to this post on my Instagram feed and check in with me so I can cheer you on.
Let me start this by backing up a little bit. To know what questions you want to ask a potential member of your Healthcare Dream Team, you have to know what qualities you want.
So before you read this, take a few moments and list out what you want. Don't hold back here. Instead, fully express what you want (and need). Doing so will help direct you to the questions that you need to ask.
That's it - blog post done, right? No, not at all! This is just our starting point. Once you have your list, now we can start figuring out what questions to ask.
If you're not sure what to ask, here are 3 of mine to get you started.
1. What role do you think lifestyle changes play in lowering inflammation and pain?
2. How often do you research treatments for RA, both natural and pharmaceutical?
3. Are you willing to order tests that insurance doesn't cover?
Your healthcare team is going to look different from mine and so will your list of questions. The only other piece of advice I have is don't shy away from what you really want. Be willing to travel or spend a little more for your team if possible.
The biggest thing I want you to remember is they work for you. Not the insurance companies, their practice, or themselves - YOU. Keeping that in mind, with some grace mixed in of course, will help you find your Dream Team.
I remember that day so well. I sat on the couch and I was so tired of being sick, tired, and in pain.
Sick of watching everyone do what they wanted to when they wanted to.
Tired of telling my husband or friends that I didn't feel well enough to go out.
Pain wracked what seemed like every muscle and joint in my body.
Then it happened, I found something that helped me do more of what I wanted, say yes to more, and live with less pain. What was this magical, miracle cure?
Does playing seem like a waste of time to you?
Do you feel like there are better things you can do with your time?
Let me tell you, whether you're an entrepreneur, empty nester, or someone with rheumatoid arthritis, unstructured, spontaneous play can be a game changer for you. How? Let's take a look.
One of the first benefits of play, according to this article at HelpGuide.org, is reducing stress. As we know, stress can be a major factor in triggering flare activity for any autoimmune condition. If you don't have an autoimmune condition, reducing stress in your life allows you to think more creatively and helps you take your body out of "fight, flight, or flee".
If you're not familiar with the term "fight, flight, or flee", it essentially means a heightened sense of alarm your entire body goes through when it senses danger. Its role is to protect and prepare your body to defend itself if necessary. This is fine in small doses, but increasingly it is becoming a long term issue for many.
Another reason it's important is that it helps you think more creatively and problem solve. This is the same clarity you get when you're in the shower. This can help you think through your problems in a rational, logical manner and take action when needed.
It helps your connections in relationships when you practice play with friends or family. The more good things you can combine, the more endorphins, or even oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is produced. This can also help you feel better and reduce flare activity.
The last thing it can help, if it's active play, is getting your lymphatic system moving. This is vital if you spend a lot of time at a desk, computer, on your couch or bed. Moving lymphatic fluid through your body helps reduce limb swelling, inflammation, and fluid retention (aka cankles).
There are many more benefits - these are just a few. Can you see how important play can be and how its benefits help reduce the things that produce a flare? This world could use a few more people willing to play, don't you think?