Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are no stranger to pain. There tends to be a general level of pain for sufferers that is magnified substantially when individuals suffer from flare-ups. Flare-ups can be debilitating and can cause joint swelling, pain, and fatigue that make it nearly impossible to function normally.
Although these flare-ups tend to be unpredictable, some people have been able to pinpoint certain things that cause their rheumatoid arthritis to flare up. There is a general set of things to avoid that can cause flare-ups in anyone with RA, and these are listed below.
People who don’t suffer from chronic illness or an autoimmune disease experience the negative effects of stress on their body. Healthy immune systems can be beaten down by heightened cortisol levels in the body and the tension throughout your muscles. For anyone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, stress can play a huge part in igniting a flare-up. Although it is nearly impossible to avoid all forms of stress in our lives, there are certain ways to deal with stress that result in a lessened negative impact on the body.
Some general rules of thumb to deal with stress in a healthy way are getting outside in nature, going for a walk, or even sitting in the sun. Deep breathing, mindfulness, and light meditation can help keep your head clear and your mood stable as well. When we stress, our body releases cortisol which makes inflammation worse and hinders the effectiveness of our immune system. Filtering out this cortisol as it’s released will help to prevent the negative effects of stress on your body including, but not limited to, RA flare-ups.
Many of us can have infections and not realize it for an extended period of time. Many of us suffer from low grade infections like yeast, viral, ear, and other easily ignorable infections. For RA sufferers, an infection within the body causes RA flare ups because your immune system is creating more inflammation within the body to fight the infection - on top of your already inflamed joints. This excess inflammation results in flare ups that are damaging to your health.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many RA sufferers are on medication that reduce the effectiveness of the bodies immune system. Due to this, RA patients are much more susceptible to infections than your everyday individual. Avoiding this scenario all together is easy if you pay attention to your body. With any type of infection, there are symptoms like low grade fever, fatigue, dizziness, sore muscles, etc. Pay attention to what your body is telling you; it could save you a lot of pain in the future.
That’s right, food. Not ALL foods will give RA sufferers flare ups, but some people are more sensitive to certain foods than others. As time goes on, many sufferers know which foods to avoid to prevent flare ups. If there are foods that an individual is allergic to or is unable to ingest without discomfort of some kind, this can lead to flare ups. Take this example for instance: a woman who loves to have whole milk in her coffee every morning, but she is mildly lactose intolerant. She doesn’t have a severe allergic reaction when she ingests dairy; it’s only mild stomach cramping and a bit of bloating later on in the day. This woman also happens to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and experiences frequent flare ups that she can’t seem to find the cause of. She switches her morning whole milk for something without lactose, and sees a noticeable reduction in RA flare-ups.
This example is exactly the type of thing this section pertains to. Your everyday meal isn’t going to send you into an RA flare-up, unless it contains something that will trigger a reaction.
We all feel tired at one point or another, but some of us overdo it. There are those of us who wake up, go to work, exercise, and go to bed within a 12 hour period, and there are those of us who hardly ever sleep. People tend to push themselves to the limit when they feel good and the same can be said for some RA sufferers. Sometimes, dealing with pain every day only to wake up feeling great is cause for celebration. Getting up earlier than necessary and staying up late and over exerting yourself mentally and physically are recipes for an RA flare-up disaster.
There are a lot of ways to combat fatigue that don’t involve the ingestion of caffeine. Getting plenty of sleep and taking care of your muscles and joints after strenuous activity is crucial. Keeping hydrated and eating healthy are other ways to combat fatigue. When you give your body the nutrients it needs to function at an optimal level, you will have a lot more energy than you realize.
Pregnancy has an interesting effect on RA symptoms. A majority of women will actually go into remission when they become pregnant because the immune system is altered to protect the baby and the mother during fetal development. More often than not, after childbirth, not only will rheumatoid arthritis come back, but it will flare up. These flare ups can feel worse than previous because of the extended period of time that the RA was in remission.
The statistics show that 70% of women who become pregnant and have rheumatoid arthritis will go into remission during pregnancy. Of those women, 90% will experience a severe flare up after childbirth. To decrease the severity of the flareup, you can take proper precautions before hand.
As frustrating as flare-ups are, there are ways to manage them and quicken recovery. Knowing what to do for future flare-ups can help prevent the debilitating nature. Another way to battle flare-ups, as stated before, is to know the early signs of a flare-up. If you are able to identify when a flare-up is coming on, you can take the necessary steps to recover quickly.
Reducing stress, as also stated before, can quicken the recovery of flare-ups. It’s easy to get stressed out when you are suffering from a flare up, but with proper techniques you can lessen stress and get back to a normal level of feeling.
Flare Ups are often unpredictable, but certain times of year can cause a higher risk of flare-ups than others due to the pressure in the air, the moisture in the air, etc. Keeping a calendar and marking every flare-up can help you keep track of the times of the year that you are more likely to suffer from them.
According to Everyday Health, one of the best things you can do for rheumatoid arthritis is to have a great relationship with your doctor and other specialists. Also, understanding your body and how arthritis affects it will help you identify the difference between a flare-up and something more serious. A good knowledge base and support system will not only give patients peace of mind when it comes to their health, but it will also help them maintain a higher quality of life.
They say that there is nothing more valuable in this life than knowledge, and there is so much truth to that statement. Knowing what you are feeling and why can sometimes be all it takes to feel better.