10 Important Tips for Managing a Flare-Up

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Even though I consider myself Autoimmune Strong, there are still a few days where I struggle. My flare-ups are usually kicked off by lack of sleep- which is hard to control while living with small children. This week, my kids have been sick and needing me often throughout the night. So instead of my typical 8 hours of sleep, I am getting about 5, broken up throughout the night. Every time I go back to sleep, I am called upon to soothe a nightmare, stop a bloody nose, or change a sweaty t-shirt. When Matt travels for work, this becomes especially tough on my body, as there is nobody else to give me some respite.  

I love being a mom, and taking care of my kiddos is something I relish. However, I recognize that this extra level of responsibility makes it extra tough to take care of myself.  And since there is a direct correlation between my self-care and my ability to care for my kids, I know that it is imperative to take extra good care of myself when they are sick.

But, it’s not easy. While they are sick and can stay home from school and take lots of naps, I can’t do the same. My responsibilities don’t end. I still have to wake up, make breakfast, go to work, do the laundry, and still take care of the sick kids. So… this lack of sleep without time to recover typically results in a flare-up. 

And my flare-ups are no joke. My body feels like it's on fire. I have aches and pains everywhere, especially in my neck and back. I feel swollen and bloated, and even my teeth hurt. I am more anxious and crabby than usual, and I have lots of headaches in my temples. I don't like to be touched- even a hug can be aggravating to my pain. I am lethargic, having lost my typical energy, and all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch TV and wallow. But, I have learned that wallowing only makes things worse.  

So what do I do instead? Well, I have a typical routine that helps me manage my flare-up, and keep it from being too intense or painful. Today, as I am working through my self-care routine, I am inspired to share these tips with you.

1.       Drink a lot of water. Like, a LOT of water, more than you think you might need. I like to add a little sea salt or a splash of coconut water to my water to help balance my electrolytes during this time.

2.       Eat extra good fat. Fat is important for coating the myelin sheath, which is the outer wrapping of our nerve endings. When we have a flare-up, our nerve endings are extra sensitive, so we need extra fat to protect them. I like to chow on avocado and chicken skin (my husband makes the best roast chicken!). I also like to cook with extra olive oil and grass-fed butter during this time.

3.       Load up on veggies for detox. During a flare-up, our bodies need extra help pushing toxins out of the body. Veggies that are full of water are my favorite during this time, like cucumbers, romaine lettuce, and celery.

4.       This is not the time for sugar. For me, this is the hardest rule- when I am having a flare-up, my body actually craves sugar in a super intense way. However, the sugar only increases the body’s inflammation, making the flare-up worse. So, when I am fighting a sugar craving, I try to keep extra fatty items around (like that chicken skin) and eat that instead. And when I really can’t help it, I will eat a bit of 80% dark chocolate, a teaspoon of raw honey, or drink a Kombucha. All of these items curb the sweet craving while giving you nutrients.  

5.       Get sweaty. When I am in the middle of a flare-up, I like to go to a hot yoga class, but that might be too intense for your stage of healing. So see if you can find a sauna- perhaps at the local gym or yoga studio? Getting sweaty helps with that detoxification process.

6.       Roll it out. Spend some extra time with your foam roller. It will hurt more during a flare-up, but I promise it’s worth it. It will decrease the pain and inflammation, while helping move all those important fluids through your body.

7.       Meditate. Meditation has been proven to decrease inflammation and decrease pain. Do it even for a short time, even sitting still and quiet for 3 minutes is better than nothing.  

8.       Sleep! Whenever you can. Your body needs rest and recovery. Even if you have 10 minutes to rest- lie down and take a snooze. It will help.

9.       Daily movement. When we are in the middle of a flare-up, the last thing we want to do is to exercise. Our mind tells us to be careful, and to just lay on the couch. But I have realized that the more movement you give your body, the more quickly the flare-up will pass. Just be cautious- do gentle exercise during this time- don’t push your body too hard. Autoimmune Strong is perfectly designed for this scenario- it's the right mix between stretching & strengthening, without overstimulating the immune system.   

10.   Trust that this will pass! Flare-ups do not last forever. Take care of yourself, and think positive thoughts. The flare-up will pass and you will feel better.

So, this week, I will be focusing on these 10 steps to pull myself out of this flare-up. Hopefully, these tips will help you too!!!