Autoimmune Warriors, How Are Your 2023 Resolutions Going?

We’re 10 days into the New Year, and I wanted to check in with my fellow Autoimmune Warriors to see how your 2023 resolutions were going.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get back into doing yoga. I started doing yoga as a teenager, and then moved into doing more team sports like field hockey or doing other fitness classes like pilates and spinning. But I realized these past few months how much I missed doing yoga. I think it’s great not only as a form of exercise, but to help with stress relief as well. The problem is, I moved to a new neighborhood and wasn’t familiar with the local studios in my new hood.

The great thing about the New Year, is that if you have fitness and health related goals, that there are plenty of gyms, fitness centers, and health products doing promotions around this time to get your business. I ended up finding a local yoga studio on the MindBody app that was doing a promotion for only $10 for your first class.

It’s been ages since I went to a yoga class, and although there are similarities between yoga and pilates, which I had more experience with, it’s still not the same! Doing the class made me realize how important flexibility is in yoga; at one point, we were doing a stretch where everyone ended up in the splits…except me. But I was surprised by how flexible I was given that I hadn’t been to a yoga class in ages.

Other than getting back into yoga, another resolution of mine is to be more proactive about my health. In the busyness of life, it can be easy to slip with your healthcare routine. As an Autoimmune Warrior, you probably spend a lot more time than the average person when it comes to going to doctor’s appointments, ordering and picking up prescriptions, sorting and taking your medications, getting lab work done, preparing healthy meals, and more. It’s basically like having a part-time job, on top of all of the other work that you have to do!

In my case, this means making sure I make those appointments with my various specialists, ensure that I’m getting my lab work done on a quarterly basis, making any follow-up appointments if any abnormalities arise in my labwork, and ensuring that I’m always fully stocked on my meds. It also means ensuring that I get a good night’s sleep (at least 7 hours) and do daily exercise. I’m also putting more effort into making healthier meals, and using more fresh produce from our home garden.

The interesting thing about having an autoimmune disorder is that it’s chronic in nature, meaning that autoimmune symptoms are continuous and never-ending. So it’s not like a weight loss goal, where I can say, “I want to lose 20 pounds” and then I’ve achieved the goal once I’ve lost that amount of weight. In other words, there isn’t an exact ‘outcome’ that we can really strive towards or predict. This makes measuring your goal progress a little trickier.

However, I remind myself that it’s not always about achieving a specific outcome (i.e. lose 20 lbs) but more so about adopting an overall healthier lifestyle. Do you notice that the people with the greatest longevity in the world, who live in the so-called Blue Zones, don’t ever count calories or even own a scale? It’s their daily habits that contribute to their overall healthy lifestyle.

So cheers to 2023, and I hope that your New Year’s resolutions are going well so far and continue to progress as the year goes by. Let me know your goals (health-related or otherwise) in the comments below!

Podcasts Every Chronic Illness Patient Should Listen to

Back in 2019, I wrote a blog post about my favorite autoimmune disease YouTubers. These are YouTube channels that I personally follow as they document life with a chronic illness.

As a follow-up to that blog post, I wanted to share my favorite podcasts on the topic of managing life with a chronic illness. Although I still do watch YouTube videos fairly frequently, I also enjoy listening to podcasts since it’s so convenient to tune into a podcast while I’m working, doing chores, driving etc. without having to watch something visual.

So, without further ado, here’s my list of chronic illness podcasts that I enjoy listening to!

1. The Chronic Illness Therapist

The Chronic Illness Therapist is a podcast run by Destiny Winters, a licensed therapist in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Destiny has several chronic illnesses herself, including Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and Mass Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). Since she’s both a therapist and a chronic illness patient herself, Destiny understands the impact that managing an illness can have on a patient’s mental health.

As part of her podcast, she delves into a number of challenges that chronic illness patients face, including:

  • Medical gaslighting and questioning one’s own sanity
  • Lack of support or understanding from family and friends
  • Coping with pain and other difficult symptoms
  • How to live a meaningful and full life while battling illness
  • Adverse childhood experiences and the mind-body connection
  • Grief and acceptance

I have found all of these topics to be relevant to my own life, and I think that many readers would find the same. Plus, I highly appreciate her perspective as a therapist and as a patient, because not many people have both the academic and real-life expertise of both of these roles!

2. Sjogren’s Strong

Sjogren’s Strong is a podcast co-hosted by Lupe, a patient living with the autoimmune condition Sjogren’s Syndrome, and her partner Brian. I first learned about this podcast via their blog, after I was first diagnosed with Sjogren’s myself and was looking for information from other patients. The podcast delves into many subjects specific to living with Sjogren’s Syndrome, such as:

  • Managing common symptoms, like dry eyes, dry mouth, joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog
  • Sjogren’s medications, treatments, and medical insurance
  • Living an active lifestyle with a chronic illness

Although the podcast is clearly specific to Sjogren’s, I think it’s valuable for many chronic illness patients, such as those with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.

3. The Chronic Ills

The Chronic Ills podcast is co-hosted by Alina and Angelica, two Australian women who talk about living with a chronic illness as young adults in their twenties. Some of the topics they discuss in their podcast episodes include:

  • Body image with chronic illness
  • Medication and alternative therapies
  • The cost of being ill
  • Living with a chronic illness and anxiety about the global pandemic
  • Navigating relationships and friendships with a chronic illness
  • The portrayal of disability in the media

Alina and Angelica have had very different experiences as a chronic illness patients; one of them experienced becoming ill gradually, while the other had a sudden onset of their symptoms. What I like is that they show that not all cases are alike, and that every patient’s story is unique.

Those are the top three chronic illness podcasts that I’m listening to at the moment! Do you have any Spotify podcasts that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

Getting COVID-19 with an Autoimmune Disease: My Experience

Hey all! It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post. And the reason for that is…after 2.5 years of this pandemic and being fully vaccinated, I finally got COVID-19.

Getting COVID was one of my worst fears during this pandemic. As someone with an autoimmune condition, I wasn’t sure how my body would react to getting the virus. I had read stories, such as this young woman with an autoimmune condition, who had caught COVID and ended up having to get a lung transplant. It’s really scary since some people report that their symptoms are more of a bad flu, while others end up with crippling long COVID symptoms or worse, end up passing away.

It’s been a few weeks since I first tested positive, and I’m on the mend. My main symptoms were a fever, chills, sore throat, dry cough, loss of taste and smell, fatigue, joint pain, muscle soreness and weakness. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a fun recovery!

My only symptom now, a few weeks post-COVID diagnosis, is a lingering dry cough. I have asthma, and although it’s a very mild form of asthma, it definitely flared up when I got COVID.

I wanted to share some of the things that helped me recover from COVID-19 quickly when you have a compromised immune system. Of course, always talk with your doctor before beginning any kind of treatment plan or modifying your health regiment.

1. Anti-viral medication

The first thing that helped me recover from COVID more quickly was getting on anti-viral medication. The medication, called paxlovid, was developed by Pfizer and is composed of two separate medications: nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. The medication is taken orally as six pills swallowed daily – three in the morning, and three at night.

Paxlovid isn’t available to just anyone, however. You have to be at high risk for severe disease if you get COVID-19. As someone with an autoimmune condition and asthma, I definitely fit that category. I was able to get a last-minute telehealth appointment with a family doctor, and he prescribed me paxlovid, as well as some prescription cough medication.

A clinical trial showed that taking paxlovid resulted in an 89% reduction in the risk of hospitalization and death. So, if you get COVID and you’re immunocompromised in some way, I would definitely talk to your doctor to see if you can get a prescription for paxlovid or another anti-viral medication to help you recover faster.

2. Heating/Cooling Pad

Another item that really helped me recover from COVID was a lavender heating and cooling pad. I’ve talked about using a lavender heating pad in the past on this blog for general muscle aches and joint pains, but it was definitely helpful in recovering from the virus as well.

For example, when I was running a low-grade fever, I was able to put the pad in the freezer to turn it into a cooling pad, helping me cool down when I was running hot at night. When I had bad muscle aches and joint pains, I would heat up the pad in the microwave and within a minute, I was able to get some relief.

There are many inexpensive heating pads that you can find online – for example, I found this lavender heating pad from Amazon for only $12.99. You can obviously get an unscented version if you prefer, but I do enjoy the floral aroma.

3. Humidifier

As someone with Sjogren’s syndrome, having a humidifier is always a good bet, since it makes the air feel less dry and helps moisturize your immediate environment. That being said, it also helped me to feel more comfortable when sick with the virus, since COVID gave me a bad dry cough as well, not to mention I had a flare up in many of my Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms, like eye, mouth, and skin dryness.

The humidifier I use is from the brand Crane, but you can find various humidifiers online in different styles and sizes that will fit your space best.

4. Throat Spray

If you’re like me and you experience a bad sore throat and cough when you’re sick with COVID, then I’d recommend looking into an over-the-counter throat spray to help relieve some of the soreness and discomfort. You can get throat sprays with a numbing agent, like phenol or lidocaine, at most major pharmacies. I ended up picking up this cherry-flavored throat spray from CVS, and it definitely helped me get through some of my worse days.

If you’re looking for more of a natural throat spray, you can try an echinacea throat spray such as this one on Amazon for less than $12. Echinacea is a natural compound derived from perennial flowers, and has been used among Native American populations for its healing properties. That being said, echinacea is believed to work by boosting one’s immune system (like Vitamin C), so if you have an autoimmune condition, just be sure to get the go-ahead from your healthcare provider before taking any herb or medication that could increase immune activity.

Those are the items that helped me the most to recover more quickly from COVID-19. Are you someone with an autoimmune disease or other chronic illness who caught the virus? If so, what helped you to recover? Let us know in the comments below!