Seasons greetings to all our readers!
Throughout the year, it can be tough living with a chronic illness like arthritis and this is no different during the festive season. In fact, conditions can worsen from the added stress, unhealthy eating and drinking, and pressure to be a social butterfly. Nothing is worse than a flare-up on Christmas Day.
There is no avoiding every set-back. Yet, by following a few simple tips, the impact on mind and body can be minimised. Different people react in completely different ways to health advice, but below are some ideas to consider.
1. Choose treats not sweets
Of course people want to treat themselves during the winter break, as a reward for a busy year and for comfort as temperatures drop. Unfortunately, lots of treats are loaded with processed sugars and artificial fats. Often both. These nasties are inflammatory (not a good thing if you’re fighting an inflammatory illness, such as arthritis) and weight gaining (again, not great if movement is already a challenge).
This means, it’s wise to minimise the fizzy drinks, sugary cakes, milky chocolates and confectionary. Ideally, keep only minimal supplies in the house of the worst offenders. Instead, treat yourself with a few pieces of dark chocolate (with a high cocoa percentage), dark berries, such as raspberries, blueberries or blackberries, with unsweetened yoghurt, or mixed nuts. For savoury snacks, olives, salted nuts or slices of cheese are far healthier than a bag of crisps or fried chips.
If you are baking cookies, use erythritol or xylitol as sweetener instead of sugar, and almond flour instead of wheat flour - this will help keep your blood sugar stable and avoid those cravings.
2. Pick your tipple wisely
If you do like a tipple at Christmas – I certainly do – there are no healthy choices as such. But there are healthier options, especially if you avoid the heavily sugared, carb-loaded, artificially flavoured drinks. In place of regular beer, try a whisky and soda in a long glass, with ice and a wedge of lemon. Switch from sweet wines to drier varieties; prosecco (or brut champagne if you like it fancy) is pretty low in sugar. Try some of the new low or no-alcohol beers, wines and spirits that are now popular. You might find there is little difference in taste and a lot of difference in how you feel the following day.
Beyond alcohol, instead refresh yourself with an iced soda water, flavoured with a slice of lime, orange or grapefruit.
3. Aim for up time, plan for downtime
It’s natural during a holiday period - especially after a huge Christmas dinner - to slump back, relax and simply do nothing. And when you live with a chronic illness, rest is hugely important, to recharge and give muscles, joints and bones a break. One little tip, recommended as a way of coping at Xmas by Versus Arthritis, is to make sure people come to visit you - not only vice versa - so you don't have to travel around so much. Check your diary and schedule plenty of downtime around events and visits.
If possible, it’s also important to maintain a light level of movement. Ideally this is something you plan for, outside of the busy routine. A gentle walk, short cycle, even a few simple stretches, are best when you can do them at your own pace. Not when you are dashing to the shops to grab that last minute missing ingredient.
4. Speak out, share the load
It can be hard to talk about your condition if you live with a chronic illness. Often people take the approach of ‘just struggling on through’, as they don’t want to cause a fuss at a special time. But suffering in silence does not help anyone. It’s much better for your friends and family to know a little about the challenges you face. Share just enough so they can accommodate, provide assistance and understand the situation more fully. Christmas is a time for good will to all. So, with the right awareness, it’s likely there are people who can help you cope. A problem shared, is a problem halved.
Positive Science People produce a high quality, convenient supplement called ActiFlex, designed by a long term sufferer of arthritis. Especially for times when good health is tricky, it provides a little help against the common symptoms of arthritis, including joint stiffness, low energy or inflammation. ActiFlex has 15 potent, active ingredients and is made in the UK, in an ISO 2001 certified facility.
Find out more here.