Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your body’s immune system attacks itself. Severe pain and fatigue as well as crippling deformities are just some of the characteristics. I have been in remission for over a year and used to be very vocal about awareness and tips but didn’t realize until last week that I had stopped as a way to try to put it behind me. You see, last week I had a flare. One that woke me up at 3am in excruciating pain and had me unable to move or sleep. It just so happens that RD awareness day is February 2nd. Coincidence that this happened? No, I don’t think so. Aside from it being awareness day and shaking me out of my denial, this happened because I was allowing stress to bother me and not taking care of myself as great as I had been. In other words, I wasn’t listening to my body so it went on strike.
I’m not an expert of offering any sort of medical advice, I am simply sharing my experience and some awareness information in hopes that you can be empowered to listen to your body and be open to new experiences that may lead you down a path of healing and maybe even trying something unexpected and new.
High stress, environmental factors, the specific needs of my body and an unhealthy lifestyle is what I strongly believe was the trigger for my onset. I was always on the go and taking care of others. Past events that I didn’t want to deal with emotionally were instead handled with food, sugar and booze. Prior to my diagnosis I had been very active with running, cycling, kickboxing, zumba, and I even did a Duathlon. (I chickened out of the swim portion because I didn’t want water in my eyes or up my nose – true story) However, I wasn’t paying attention to what I was putting into my body and running it into the ground before I realized something was up.
Some of the initial signs my body was giving me were:
-Fatigue and trouble sleeping forcing me to call out of work and become part of my couch
-Red, swollen and stiff joints that eventually turned into severe discomfort
-Mood swings that left people scared to talk to me
-Addictive cravings for sugar, carbs and alcohol leading to weight gain
-Poor skin and overall looking like I had been hit by a bus
Additional (but not all) signs and symptoms of RA (RD) to look out for:
-Rheumatoid nodules under the skin
-Flue-like symptoms and fever
At the time of my diagnosis I was doing a lot of travel and in between trips to Australia. I had done a ton of research and even tried some natural options on my own but feeling pretty clueless, I did as the doctor advised and took biologic injections, chemotherapy pills, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as folic acid. It was a fun time. (Oops, I had a sarcasm slip relapse.) Seriously though, they seemed to help for a bit but deep down I knew there was a missing piece to the puzzle somewhere. I still didn’t feel like this was how I was supposed to feel every day, there had to be something deeper going on.
I started doing my own research and bringing whatever I found that seemed relevant for my specific scenario to my doctor and also saw a nutritionist. I tried some pretty ‘out there’ tests at wellness fairs which we can get into at another time. The one test that I did for myself that was huge towards assisting me to lead me on my healing path was a genetic test through 23andme.com that I then sent through something called genetic genie where it analyzes DNA to tell if there are any detox issues, since this is something that I became concerned with after everything I was taking and how I was still feeling.
Now you may be reading this and thinking ok this is getting way over my head already, but hang with me, especially if you or someone you know are suffering from any of the above mentioned symptoms.
The results of my test showed that I had genetic mutations that affect how certain things get processed in my body. For most people having these results may not necessarily mean that they will ever have any symptoms or health issues as a result. For me specifically though, with everything I had going on it actually was a piece to my puzzle. One example was where one of my mutations is directly related to how my body can process folic acid. It does not like the synthetic stuff, you know, the stuff I had been taking every day for over a year. I have since switched to folate (the form my body can handle better) and do nutritional cleansing to help keep my body in check. I’m working on putting together everything I’ve tried as a suggested guide for those starting on their journey and not sure where to look. For now, I want to provide you with a few small suggestions that may go a long way for anyone with an autoimmune disease looking for ideas.
Suggestions for areas to start with:
-Keep working with your doctor do not just stop taking your meds many people still need them (be smart)
-Increase your water
-Cut out processed foods and chemical filled drinks
-Stay away from inflammatory foods and those that are tough to digest to give your body a break (some that I cut out that worked for me initially were dairy, gluten, beef, soy, corn, caffeine, sugar)
-Subscribe to my email list to be notified when my simple yet comprehensive ebook is available detailing what I tried and the support and resources I’ve used along my journey
If you are thinking that list sounds too difficult, or wondering how you can live without your bagel and cream cheese or giving up sugar for a bit let me ask you this. Would you rather give up a few things now to help your body figure out what it needs or give up a LOT more later when you’ve run your body into the ground? Just keeping it real with you. By spending the time on these things now it can save you months, maybe years worth of struggle in the future.
Start where you feel most affected without getting overwhelmed. For example, if you are in pain, unable to get out of bed and want to lose weight – focus on feeling better first and the weight will come after. I’ve spoken with many people, women especially, who have said, “If I can just lose weight I’ll feel better about myself.” That is not the correct mindset. For me it took over a year to find my groove. If I can save anyone the grief that I had, even if it only saves them from an extra day or even minute of grief, then I’ve done my job. I have been free of meds since July of 2014 and continue to be monitored by my doctors. If I ever need the meds again I of course will go that route, but for now I am doing fine as long as I listen to my body and treat it nicely. And when I don’t, it reminds me.
So… when do we get to the chair dancing? I thought you’d never ask. Once I figured out my food and environmental triggers (more detail will be in my ebook) I slowly reintroduced exercise. I started with walking, then restorative yoga. When you aren’t able to exercise for a long time you start to feel pretty blah about yourself and yoga allowed me to move more and really get in tune with how my body was feeling. Then, I started running again, but did too much too soon and aggravated my hip. So I run with caution now as not to cause any additional wear and tear on my body. I like to say I love running still when I’m not busy hating it. I was finally able to start taking spin class again but the classes I like are at 5:30am and with my travel and schedule it wasn’t really feasible. I did Hot Yoga once and loved it, but for some reason every time I tried to go to a class something would come up. So, am I exhausting you yet?
I was looking for something to make me feel alive again and something I can modify depending on how I was feeling and that I can do anywhere without having to necessarily go to a gym at a specific time. That was when I heard about a new class called Tone and Tease®. It was described as “Giving every single woman who participates, regardless of their fitness level, the confidence to feel empowered and sexy in one single class.” Now that is something that I not only want for myself, but for other women to benefit from. When I saw there was an instructor certification workshop in NJ I signed up, took the workshop and fell in love. I am currently in the process of being certified as an instructor and the coolest part? Depending on how I am feeling I can go all out and get a major workout, or I can take it easy and still get a workout in without causing any issues for my body. I’m looking forward to becoming certified and getting other women involved in unleashing and letting go, no matter their age, shape, size or physical limitations. Right now I’m working on my diva name, any suggestions?
To say I’m glad I got Rheumatoid Disease may sound pretty insane. I think about where my life would be if I hadn’t and I’d probably still be doing way too much for other people, completely stressed out, not taking care of myself and it never would have led me down the path of personal development and health that I enjoy now. The people I’ve met from all different avenues of health and empowerment is priceless. It forced me to really listen to my body and while I may have some challenges, I know I can still be anything and everything I want. So can you.
Danielle Woolley, also known as Danielle Barbara, is an entrepreneur, health and prosperity coach and a software trainer who lives in New Jersey with her husband and cat. She shows people that they can be everything by listening to their bodies and collecting experiences not things.
She has Rheumatoid Arthritis disease that is managed through nutrition, stress elimination and exercise and is so passionate about assisting people, especially women, to feel their best that she is currently getting certified to be a Tone and Tease® instructor.
Danielle also enjoys travel, personal development, proofreading and writing, yoga, stand up paddle boarding and being involved in her neighborhood community association.
You can reach her on http://daniellebarbara.com, through Facebook and LinkedIn or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.