If you are managing autoimmune disease like I am, you can almost put your finger on what will bring on a flare and when it might hit. No, it’s not an exact science but once you get to know your body and its triggers, you can basically forecast what lies ahead.
So why can’t we prevent these flares? Well, we do in the sense that if we are managing our autoimmune disease with diet, lifestyle, supplements, and/or medications, we ARE able to prevent them to a degree.
But we do not live in a bubble. We are exposed to toxins, stress, unsavory food additives when we eat out, along with other factors that throw off our wellness game. It could be a single event like getting into a fender bender which sends cortisol levels through the roof and can trigger inflammation. There is nothing you necessarily could have done to prevent this yet this brief accident can be the sole reason that a flare takes hold.
So let’s say you are doing all the right things. You are avoiding inflammatory foods, you meditate and do yoga or lift weights, you minimize stress to the best of your ability, you take immune supportive supplements or medications which help manage your condition. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A FLARE STRIKES?!
My neurological flares can sometimes last upwards of a month! They can be very discouraging and I used to react with fear, despair, hopelessness, and sometimes threw caution to the wind and did not eat properly during this time. Instead of practicing self-care I was harming myself with these emotions and my lack of proactive practices. I have learned to change my approach and I find that these tips and techniques are very helpful to me. Here are a few things that help me manage a flare and either help shorten the duration from a typical flare OR help calm the effects of that flare:
1. AVOID SELF-BLAME
It’s easy to beat yourself up over getting sick; “I should have done more”, “I shouldn’t have eaten that”, “I need to manage stress better”, but the fact is that once the wheels are set in motion, self-blame will not at all help hinder a flare and can emotionally bring you down. If emotions are low, endorphins are low. Endorphins help modulate the immune system, so you want these boosted, not suppressed.
2. FIND JOY
Just like with #1 above, you want endorphins released. Find things that uplift you, despite your pain or other debilitating symptoms. Listen to music that inspires you, visit with a friend who always makes you laugh, or even watch a funny movie if you are stuck in bed. Increasing those endorphins helps that immune system work more efficiently instead of over- or underworking. (See link above)
Regardless of the source of inflammation, increasing detox can help lessen the burden on your body. My favorite detox method is a super hot epsom salt bath. I lock the door and escape everything from the day, work up a good sweat, and avoid responsibility for anything in those minutes. It is a great time to meditate too, ya know, if you can quiet your brain and all. You can also use a sauna, of course being careful not to get too overheated if heat exacerbates symptoms.
4. DETOX MORE!
Aside from sweating it out, there are other methods of detox I like to help my liver move along and purge the bad stuff. These include, LOTS of fresh lemon water, liposomal glutathione, liposomal vitamin c, binders like this and this, castor oil packs.
Channel your inner hippie and sit that tush on the ground outside. Walk barefoot, lay on the ground, reconnect to the Earth. One of the major benefits of Earthing is that it appears to assuage inflammation through the transfer of negatively-charged electrons from the surface of the Earth into the body (where the electrons neutralize positively-charged destructive free radicals involved in chronic inflammation). P.S. this is scientific, not snake oil, and it’s free, so DO IT!
I do this in two ways: I disconnect from electronics (when at all possible, even if for a few hours). And I disconnect from extra things that create more stress. That means if I have plans to go to a cookout over the weekend, I cancel them. If I have extra appointments that can wait, I cancel them. I SIMPLIFY as much of my daily life as I can to create more time for rest and peace. Now, if being around people is healing to you, listen to that. But for me when I am really flaring, even scheduling extracurricular FUN activities is too much and I’d rather spend that time laying low, resting, creating a calm healing environment, which socializing is not (for me).
7. VEG OUT
Yes, this means relax BUT I am actually referring to VEGETABLE consumption here. My personal goal is 9 cups a day per Dr. Wahls Protocol, but I do not always hit this goal, for obvious reasons. But during a flare I take EXTRA care to pack in those veggies. Usually smoothies are a great way for me to do that by adding in LOTS of greens, broccoli slaw, etc. I keep fruits to a minimum, usually just incorporating 1 cup of frozen mixed organic berries and using sparkling mineral water instead of juice. Then I try to eat lots of salads and sauteed/steamed veggies as well. I do juice as well but aim for low sugar juices. There are mixed feelings about juice vs smoothies but I can honestly say both benefit me so I am sticking with that!
8. BONE BROTH
In the event that the trigger included off limit foods, I try to make sure I am really upping my bone broth during this time of flaring. I make my own when I can and keep it on hand. I typically drink a mug a day to help repair anything that might be happening in the gastro tract, even if I do not have digestive symptoms.
9. ENGAGE IN STORIES OF HEALING
As I have discussed in a recent podcast and interview, defining yourself by your illness can be a slippery slope and can often keep you in a healing rut. When you are in a flare it is easy to go to support groups with lots of other sick people who understand what it means to suffer. However, at this point in my healing, I have come to find out that I end up feeling even lower from these groups, even when people are generally sympathetic and supportive. There tends to be a lot of negativity and victimization in support groups (IN MY EXPERIENCE) and so when I am feeling especially low, I seek out stories of healing where people have pulled out of their crises, instead of engaging in stories of illness. You’d be surprised how much more uplifting reading a story of hope is than reading a story of despair. Positive brings more positive. So seek out what you wish you create more of!!
I hope you have found these tips helpful. As always, please reach out with any questions you might have!