By Carie Sherman
When your adventures include autoimmune disease, fatigue is your constant companion. And by “fatigue,” I’m not just talking sleepy.
You know the commercial for COPD where the elephant sits on the woman’s chest? That’s what fatigue feels like for the lupus patient. Only the weight of the elephant isn’t just restricting movement and breathing–it’s also restricting your ability to think. Every step you take become scripted events: You literally must think through each action you take once your eyes open.
I must have sounded like Rain Man to my many docs, chirping “fatigue, fatigue!” at each appointment. My persistence paid off: Eventually, they helped me discover other issues impacting my health. And I’m thrilled to report it’s been months since I found milk in the pantry or woke up to honking at a stoplight. (I promise, I rarely drove after that incident!)
Here are common conditions that impact my fatigue and could warrant a conversation with your physician.
A few weeks ago I introduced you to Michelle, a fellow lupie turned fitness and nutrition pro. She’s graciously volunteered to help me be as healthy as can be.
Now, despite my romantic entanglement with high-fructose corn syrup and Red Dye Number 40, I’m a farm kid. I know how to eat well and how to be active. But eating well is hard when your food source isn’t growing just out your front door and no one is there to cook for you. And moving is hard when illness keeps you in bed for days at a time.
But dear Michelle has “been there/done that.” And while sympathetic to my excuses, she knows I can improve my foggy brain, achy body, and soul-crushing fatigue because she’s already done it. Here are three ways she suggested I get started.
- Drink plenty-o-water. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard that before. But Michelle suggests making it fun by adding fresh lemon, limes, berries or even herbs. She reminded me that all of the meds, while life-saving/enhancing and all that, do mess with you, making water key to keeping your energy up, delivering nutrients throughout your body, and flushing out waste and toxins. Teas can also be useful, but be sure you talk to your doc or pharmacist as some teas can interfere with common lupus issues like blood thinning. Here are some divine-looking ideas for infused water. Let me know if you try them out! http://blog.freepeople.com/2013/05/infused-water-recipes-summer/
- Eat real food. At 16, the new-found freedom of an ‘89 Chevy Corsica had me frequenting Casey’s General Store where I’d grab a Mountain Dew, a glazed donut, and three Tootsie Pops. But being young, active, and thin, I thought nothing of it. Years later my weight crept up, so I switched to “diet” mode. Michelle helped me realize that my love of empty calories has to some degree left me malnourished. I might maintain a healthy weight, but it doesn’t mean I’m healthy. And not eating isn’t doing me any favors either, even when I’m nauseated. She was prepared for my excuses, telling me that once my body has quality whole foods coming in regularly every day, I’ll again feel hungry and may feel less nauseated. Empty stomachs don’t handle some meds well. And my body is likely preserving what little food energy I have–as fat!–just to survive. Better, frequent eating will increase my energy by nourishing my body’s cells and repairing…everything.
- Move. It’s so hard to exercise when you’re flaring. So on those days/weeks, Michelle says to move when I can and try getting my heart rate up. Also, because metabolism is directly impacted by how much lean muscle mass you have, a resistance/strength routine could help my body feel hungry again. I hate the gym, so she told me to add “power” exercises like planks and push-ups to my normal yoga routine.
After making my excuses look as weak as network TV’s Friday night lineup, Michelle did what Michelle does best: She gave me a big old (virtual) hug, and told me I could do it. And while I may not feel like doing any of it, the thought of feeling even 10 percent better has been helping me power through.
I’ll keep you posted. Thanks, Michelle.
What changes have you made to positively impact your health?
By Carie Sherman
I spend a lot of time with doctors.
For more than a decade, I have written for physicians and count many as clients. In fact, earning the respect of my physician clients has been one of my greatest achievements as a writer.
And like any good lupus patient, I spend my free time in waiting rooms—a primo place for people watching that delights the writer in me.
It’s easy to recognize the regulars. They smile. They look relaxed. They knit, read, play video games, stare unapologetically and take notes (okay, maybe that’s just me). But newbies are far more fun to watch.
While I’m usually entertained by a freaking out newbie, a lady yesterday infuriated me. What began as some serious huffing and puffing ended with a fist pounding on the reception desk and followed by a…
“If I treated my clients this way, I’d blah, blah <explicative> blah…!”
She went on…
“Overpaid < explicative >, lazy, they’re the reason health care in America sucks…”
Her tirade ended with a resounding…
And to my relief, and that of my waiting room peeps, she exited the building.