In February 2019, I was suddenly bed-bound from neck pain. At just 27, and mother to a 2 year old, it was difficult to say the least. it turned out the pain was caused by inflammation on my spine, that also quickly spread to my fingers, elbows and knees, and I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. Psoriatic Arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis, it is very similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis and the treatments and complementary therapies I discuss are used for both. Inflammatory arthritis is an autoimmune condition caused by your body attacking itself. The pain can come on suddenly and is excruciating. It causes inflammation within the body that not only affects the bones and joints but can also affects organs like the heart and lungs, so close monitoring is essential. Both are treated with painkillers, but inflammatory arthritis is also treated with chemotherapy drugs and immuno-suppressants.
Terrified, I took to the internet and researched possible ways to help manage my condition. It’s a mine-field out there and there are so many ways to help manage it. Some claim a miraculous cure, but I highly disagree with this – and I say this to avoid any false hope. I collated my research, and the following are things I do regularly. I want to make it clear that these are my personal opinions from hat I have found, and you should discuss with your doctor trying them to check they are suitable for you. I also want to state that I am also on medication for my condition; currently sulfasalazine but due to inflammation on my spine I may be moving on to a biologic soon; most likely Cimzia, a biologic that I will inject. To read more about my journey to diagnosis, click here.
Check back in a few months for an update on how I am finding the below, and any changes I have made!
Since my diagnosis I have changed my eating habits drastically. There are lots of foods that can potentially enhance inflammation or flares, and it is about trial and error in seeing what works for you. Gluten, dairy and sugar all seem very common flares so I’ve been trialing cutting these out. Take a look at my article here for some useful Instagram accounts to help with diet ideas.
2. Intermittent Fasting
I first read about intermittent fasting on Amy Myers page. Intermittent fasting refers to have extended periods of not eating, usually being a minimum of 12 hours. I aim for 16 hours every day; I eat dinner around 6pm and then do not eat anything else until after 10am. Dr Eric Berg detailed the liquids that are okay within a fasting period, and these include water, tea, and a small amount of coffee. Fasting seems to have its benefits for autoimmune conditions because it allows your body has the chance to rest and recover since it is not busy digesting food or defending against inflammatory agents in food.
There are so many supplements that claim to be beneficial for arthritis that I didn’t know where to start! A good probiotic seemed to be recommended time and time again, and as inflammatory arthritis seems to potentially have links to gut health this seemed like a good place to start.
I also now take Turmeric Capsules. Current research says that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and as we all know – inflammatory arthritis. A component of turmeric, Curcumin, is proven to fight inflammation at a molecular level and therefore shows the potential benefits of taking turmeric regularly.
The final supplement I’m currently taking is Omega 3. There is lots of research that omega 3 is helpful for arthritis and reducing morning stiffness.
Drinking plenty of water helps your body to flush our toxins, and this can help fight inflammation. I aim for 2.5 litres of water daily at minimum. This also helps me flush out the toxins from the medication I am on.
5. Reduce Stress Levels
Many people with inflammatory arthritis state that stress can cause flares. In fact, many people can name a stressful event that they believe triggered their initial symptoms. Some life stresses are inevitable and unavoidable. However, we can also take steps to eliminate some. I did this wherever possible. I have also started practicing meditation daily, I use an app called Insight Timer. This just really helps me to check in with my body, where I’m carrying stress, and where I need to try and let go of tension. I take life a lot slower wherever possible, if we’ve got a busy day planned I’ll try and make sure I can take a breather the following day. I used to be a real “yes girl”, and I’m getting much better at saying no where I can.
Sleep pays an essential part in our immune system’s function, and making an effort to get your sleep under control can be an essential part in getting your condition under control. Sleep allows your body to work to repair and fight inflammation, so good sleeping habits are vital for those of us with autoimmune conditions.
7. Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom bath salts were recommended to me time and time again. Soaking in warm water definitely helps my pain, and the epsom salts are a nice added extra. I am not really definite why these seem to be recommended for arthritis, but they are pretty cheap so it can’t hurt to use them!
I hope you find this article helpful. What do you swear by to help manage your condition? I have also been having acupuncture, which I think is helping – but I want to dedicate a whole post to this. So watch this space!