These last few weeks have been a bit tough on me. I had been feeling fantastic after finally identifying one of the culprits behind my ongoing digestive issues and taking it out of my diet. I was supposed to start working with my nutritionist to start reintroducing foods to help expand my options and I was so excited at the possibility!
Then, one morning my stomach suddenly swelled up and I was in awful pain. I wasn’t really sure how but something had glutened me (yep, glutened is a real word, at least it is if you have Celiac). Then I went for the rare dinner out for date night and gave the waiter my typical gluten free spiel and ordered what I thought would be the safest dish- grilled fish and vegetables. It came with a romesco sauce which I should have asked about, but didnt, and found out after the fact that it contained bread and a whole bunch of other things I don’t do well with, like tomatoes. Needless to say I got really sick and date night was cut short, romantic yes?
So, I’ve feeling pretty bad and this last week I’ve gone into a flare and my quarterly blood work came back less than stellar. It can be really tough to deal with these setbacks, especially when you are working so hard and doing everything right to get healthy. This article is my guide to how I personally handle flares!
Identify the Problem
In this case I knew that gluten seemed to kick off the cascade of problems, but it isn’t always that simple. Sometimes when I go from feeling great to feeling bad I have no idea what happened and I have to dig a little deeper, here are some things I look at:
- Have I changed anything in my diet? Am I eating something new? Have I been eating out more so I don’t have as much control over the ingredients in eating?
- Is there anything I’ve been eating a lot of that might be causing problems? What do I eat every day that I wouldn’t want to give up? Food journals are particularly helpful for figuring this out, and oftentimes the food you most don’t want to give up could be the one causing you problems. Ex. Me and chocolate.
- Have I added any new medications or supplements? I try to add in new supplements one by one so o can monitor their effects.
- What is my stress level like? Have I been taking on too much? Have I been sleeping well? Stress and sleep are HUGE keys to health.
I usually find the answer to my problem is some mixture of the above. It is really important to be a sort of “health detective” and dive into all possible reasons you’ve suddenly started feeling bad so you have a better chance at solving it!
Self care is also very important when you aren’t feeling well. For me this means doing everything I can to support my health and giving myself permission to take a bit of a break.
When I’m recovering from being glutened I tend to cut down to a really simple diet of soups, smoothies, and other easy to digest safe foods like scrambled eggs, chicken, and well-cooked veggies until I’m back to normal.
I also like to take detox baths with Epsom salt and baking soda, use castor oil packs, and make sure I’m getting plenty of rest. Sometimes taking the time to do these things means I may not accomplish everything I planned for the week, but that’s ok because if I don’t take the time things will only get worse in the long run!
The Emotional Component
For me at least, setbacks always come with a heavy emotional component whether it is because I’ve been glutened or because I’m going through a flare. I get frustrated, feel like I’m never going to get better, and think about all the things I could have done better to prevent this from happening. None of that is productive and the more emotional I am the worse I get.
I used to follow the advice of staying positive to get through flares, after all, it could be worse right? I didn’t find that this was very effective for me, and I wound up feeling guilty for being upset- which is way worse!
Now, I have a different strategy. When I’m in a particularly bad flare I will actually dig in to how I’m feeling and try to figure out why instead of instantly judging myself. Usually by just giving myself permission to feel whatever it is I’m feeling, and maybe cry for a few minutes instead of pushing down the feelings and convincing myself and everyone else that I’m fine, I actually feel better, and I don’t actually spend days feeling bad.
The second part of the emotional component is knowing that it WILL get better and focusing on how you felt before and doing the things listed above to promote healing. When I flare I tend to go into this really extreme research mode because I need to find something that is going to “fix” me right now and then I’m stressed out and really far down the rabbit hole and I’ve spent $100 on supplements. I also used to panic at every new symptom and immediately email my doctor. I know now though that it is the long term that matters, not the short term. So with any flare or new symptom I give myself a timeline. I know I’ll need to spend at least a few days resting and healing, if that isn’t helping and I’m at, say, a full week of feeling bad with no improvements, it is time to dig deeper and potentially get my doctors involved to figure out the problem. But I try very hard to avoid the panic as much as possible!
These are all my tips so far, I look forward to hearing more about what you do!