This is a fun time of year because it’s not only easier for people to make healthier food choices, it’s easy to find fun, healthy foods. Have you checked out your local farmers markets and food co-ops? If not, this is a great time to locate those nearest in preparation for your summer food shopping. A fun, easy and very healthy food to begin with is “fruit” it’s sweet, delicious and easy on the digestive system. Which is good for those who battle digestive issues such as IBS and IBDs. We’re less likely to crave comfort foods this time of year, so consuming more fruit is a great way to begin our day and a great way to wrap it up, by eating nice healthy fruit filled desserts. Fruit has incredible healing benefits, offering enzymes, healthy carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and cancer fighting tannins & flavonoids. For us Ankylosing Spondylitis & Autoimmune Arthritis Sufferers, fruit also offers amazing anti-inflammatory properties, while reducing pain and swelling. According to the Article: Inflammation and Foods That Fight via Arthritis Today, it is very important to consume a variety of colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables routinely for best results. This is one of many steps toward achieving and maintaining a healthy “holistic” lifestyle. By eating fruit we reduce inflammation, pain and swelling, while increasing energy levels and wellness. We also reduce the likelihood of developing age-related and degenerative diseases such as certain types of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. We also enjoy the added benefit of improving skin appearance, our moods and mental sharpness. Some of my favorite anti-inflammatory & low-glycemic fruits are: berries, cherries, apples, pineapple, grapefruit, kiwi, plums & of course pears. What is your favorite fruit? Enjoy your summer even more by adding healthy, delicious fruit to your diet!
Health Activist Roundtable on Ankylosing Spondylitis:
On April 27th, I had the pleasure of participating in a Rountable discussion with two fellow advocates from the Ankylosing Spondylitis community. It was a great having the opportunity to discuss the myths that are associated with this disease, while providing accurate information, in an effort to dispel some of these myths. We also discussed the needs of the community and what we offer individually through our blogs & other social media platforms that we each use. Some of the tidbits from the discussion are posted on the WEGO Health Blog and I’ve re-blogged their post here:
“May 5th marks World Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) Day, and in order to spread awareness, WEGO Health recently held a Health Activist Roundtable with several leaders of the online AS community. In line with WEGO Health’s mission to set the record straight this month, AS Health Activists debunked myths and misconceptions and shared their hopes for increased awareness both amongst AS’ers and in the medical community at large”
What AS Health Activists want YOU to know
- Awareness is the number one priority of the AS community. Many people suffer from this disease and yet no one knows about it. Patients often know more than their doctors, who often lump AS in with RA.
“I think people need to be clear about the precise symptoms that go along with AS and how it’s different from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Mental health and living with chronic illness is also an important topic that should be covered.”
- For those living with AS, your rheumatologist might not have all the answers. Because AS shares symptoms with CFS and fibromyalgia, an internal medicine doctor may have better tools to deal with those symptoms.
- Complementary therapies, including regular exercise and dietary changes, can HELP to naturally manage AS, but everyone responds to these interventions differently.
“The difference that I have run into is people not understanding the difference between autoimmune arthritis and degenerative arthritis. AS doesn’t just affect the joints, but also the internal organs. The eyes, heart, lungs, liver, stomach can also be affected by the disease. We need to talk about this outside the pain that we’re experiencing on a daily basis.”
Myths and Misconceptions about Ankylosing Spondylitis
Myth: Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is the same as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Fact: AS shares many symptoms with RA, as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. AS differs in several ways, primarily in that it can result in “fusion” of the spine.
Myth: AS is a rare disease.
Fact: “This disease isn’t rare but the disease isn’t well known. 33 million people around the world have spondylitis but it’s very isolating, I’ve never met anyone with it. The majority of the time we know even more about the disease than the doctor does.” – Kelly (@Hope4AS)
Myth: AS is a man’s disease.
Fact: AS does not discriminate by age or gender. Women are often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed.
Thanks so much to all the Health Activists that participated, we hope that this Roundtable will help you to spread AS awareness and can’t wait to hear about all of your efforts today for World AS Day! We hope you’re wearing blue today!
Got a chocolate addiction? Well that’s a good thing. According to a recent study led by Associate Professor of Medicine Beatrice Golomb at the University of California San Diego, chocolate has proven to have favorable metabolic effects on healthy adults who combined reasonable consumption with exercise. In this study those ranging in ages from 20 to 85, reported eating chocolate twice per week while also exercising an average of 3.6 times per week, had lower Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of body fat and is a calculated by using a person’s weight and height. A normal BMI is typically 18.5 – 24.9, while anyone considered overweight would have a BMI of 25.0 – 29.9 and 30+ for those falling into the obese category. Adults who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed chocolate less often. Galomb further stated “Our findings– that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI — are intriguing,” while calling for more detailed research and perhaps a randomized clinical trial of chocolate’s metabolic benefits. In conclusion she added “We have seen in multiple studies the benefits of chocolate, and yet again, we see as part of an overall healthy lifestyle, chocolate does not add to weight gain, but in fact, might help control it,”
Chocolate a treat ordinarily associated with a guilty pleasure, is high in antioxidant polyphenols and flavonols, which can improve mood by releasing the neurotransmitter serotonin and in the process can also enhance sleep and reduce stress and the sensation of pain. This amazing superfood can also lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar and the plasma concentrations of proinflammatory cysteinyl leukotrienes. Thus lowering risks of heart disease, by reducing inflammation. Also beneficial to those with live with chronic inflammatory conditions. According to a study led by Elizabeth Triche of Yale University, pregnant women who consume dark chocolate during pregnancy are less likely to develop pre-eclampsia and according to a study led by Katri Raikkonen at the University of Helsinki in Finland, using 300 pregnant participants, it was further established that pregnant women who consume one small square of chocolate each day have happier, livelier babies thanks to phenylethylamine an ingredient in chocolate. Having a chocolate bar a day does not necessarily keep the doctor away, so before you begin stocking up on chocolate bars remember that moderation is key. In addition, the types of chocolate and how it’s processed is incredibly important, because those less processed will have a higher flavonoid content and those with less sugar are healthier options. Consider a few Positive Pear recommendations: RAW unprocessed chocolate in the form of cacao nibs and Navitas Naturals is a great brand. ZICO chocolate flavored coconut water and your favorite whole food, high quality, chocolate flavored protein powder, such as Monitoba, Alive, Vega or Amazing Grass. If you’re dying for a chocolate bar make sure it consists of at least 70% cocoa, that it’s also Organic and/or “Fair Trade” chocolate. Your local health food store, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Amazon.com are all great sources.
Keep Calm, Eat Chocolate & Exercise More!
Association Between More Frequent Chocolate Consumption and Lower Body Mass Index, Cocoa polyphenols and inflammatory mediators, Chocolate Consumption in Pregnancy and Reduced Likelihood of Preeclampsia, New Scientist magazine Journal reference: Early Human Development (vol 76, p 139)
I’ve considered writing about this topic in many different ways over the past few months. I’ve started a few drafts, yet I struggled a bit with the most appropriate way to approach this subject. I desire to help others understand the importance of having a positive mental attitude while fighting chronic health conditions, without inadvertently trivializing anyone’s emotional or physical pain. I’ve also sat back and observed and I can’t help but notice the amount of negativity that comes from people who are physically suffering. When I’ve chimed in with my messages of hope and sunshine, I’ve been asked if I even know what its like to live with chronic pain or chronic illness. I initially found this surprising, then realized by the many negative comments and private conversations, that many feel they must appear downtrodden to be taken seriously. After all, living with chronic illness can often mean their conditions are also invisible to the naked eye and because these conditions are also difficult to diagnose, they’ve had much to endure. This showed me the great need for positivity within this group who are living with Invisible Chronic Illness and I set out to share my positive message.
By the way, the answer to that question is yes, I do know what its like to live with invisible chronic illness, as I’ve lived with two chronic conditions since childhood and another that I developed after a horrible car accident a few years back. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). Like most of my fellow sufferers I look fine, and because of my positive and very hopeful outlook on life, on the surface I might also act fine. I’m an eternal optimist and in spite of my difficulties and physical challenges, I’m the type of person who is most likely to see the glass half full, rather than half empty.
Why is this? When like most of you I’ve lived with symptoms of chronic invisible illness for many years, going undiagnosed or being misdiagnosed. I’ve also had my symptoms trivialized or blatantly disregarded by numerous doctors. I’ve had “friends” incapable of understanding why I would have bouts of spontaneous swelling or why I was physically debilitated for 8 months, using a cane & crutches without a single diagnosis. As a teen my mother would tell me that I was being lazy and would force me out of bed at 2am to wash dishes that I couldn’t get to because of fatigue, during what I know now to be AS & CFIDS flares. My mom would also suggest that I was far too young to be tired all of the time and that I needed to “snap” myself out of it. As my conditions progressed, I can recall my husband asking how long I’d plan to be sick, when it came to cooking and cleaning the house, as he sat and watched football. I’m sure that if I asked each of you to list below your many encounters with insensitive people, doctors, friends, strangers, or family members, that the comment section would be full. However, I know the effects of dwelling on the negative and as I recall these situations, I can still tap into the awful feelings that I’d experienced at those precise moments. I also know that as easily as I can focus on the negative, I can also think of many positive situations in my life to draw upon. I can name 20 very supportive friends, at least one doctor who finally listened to me, leading to a correct diagnosis. I can think of a phone conversation with my mom, as I explained the spontaneous swelling that I’d experienced as a child, was the result of AS and the debilitating fatigue I’d also lived with since childhood, was due to Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS/CFS. My husband has since taken over the cooking and cleaning, as I now sit and watch the occasional football game. My friends and family are now my biggest supporters, and I do not harbor resentment toward them because they did not understand invisible chronic Illness. I didn’t even understand it myself and I’d lived with (3) of these conditions for most of my life. I’ve also found great healing in forgiveness and not so much of others, but of myself. Letting go of much of the guilt that comes from being chronically ill. Allowing myself to mourn the loss of the former me and embracing all of who I am today.
Through knowledge I empower myself. I also posses an inner strength and a sense of joy that absolutely no one can steal from me. As my own health advocate I walk into a doctor’s office and I can say with great confidence that I’m looking for someone to partner with me in my health care. I want a doctor who is more knowledgeable about my conditions than I am and sensitive to my needs as a patient and when they are neither, I fire them. That’s right fire them! I recently “fired” my primary care physician after 8 years and I used the term “fired” because Its empowering. She had not been at all helpful in identifying any of the (3) chronic conditions that I have, because she continually trivialized or ignored my symptoms. I even had to demand appointments with specialist, because she would never refer me on her own. On one occasion dragging myself to an Infectious Disease Specialist, simply to prove that I did not have Lyme Disease. However, I had to sever ties, when she blatantly lied about finding a lump in my breast preventing me from receiving the type of mammogram that I needed. I felt this was an attempt on her part to hide her lack of cooperation with me on my many mammogram requests in the past. Now faced with a rather large lump she could have been exposed or worse liable. It was obvious to me that her reputation was of far more importance to her than my health, so, I “fired” her! I asked for a meeting with her boss, which I received, where he apologized on behalf of his department and proceeded to order the mammogram and ultrasound that I needed.
Even from this situation I can find a positive. I’ve gained even more confidence to stand up for myself as a patient. I can share my experiences with others, so that they too can the find their inner strength. I am not a victim of chronic illness and neither are you. As a result, I do not allow the autoimmune disease that I have or the two other invisible illnesses take control of my thinking or to define who I am. I choose to navigate through life with a positive mental attitude and so can you. because it is a choice. I also find great strength in controlling things that are within my ability to control. I exercise daily, I eat healthy, healing foods, I take natural herbs and supplements to give me energy and to help with managing the multitude of symptoms that I encounter. Knowing that stress is a symptom trigger, I keep my stress levels low by resting when needed, meditating, practicing yoga, making sure that I have some “me” time and by being grateful and truly appreciative for all that is right in my life. Being positive does not come at the risk of ignoring the emotional, mental or physical pain, the bad moments in life or the negative situations that we encounter. Life is full of those. Feel free to face those head on, cope with them, feel the anger and the frustration and be ready to stand up for yourself when needed. What’s most important about the negative things that we encounter in our lives, is not the fact that we encounter them, it is how we recover from them and its easiest when we do not allow these moments to consume us, instead allowing ourselves to learn, grow and move on.
Without question each day brings its own challenges, especially when living with chronic pain & invisible chronic illness, but we do have a choice when it comes to being negative ~vs~ being positive. Deciding to have a positive mental attitude not only empowers us, but it gives us the opportunity to see the wonderful things that each day brings.
Another TPP article giving us the why’s and how to’s: “Being Positive when Living with a Chronic Illness”