Have RA? You Can Get Your Energy Back!

It’s no surprise that rheumatoid arthritis can put a damper on your energy. So what can you do when you’ve lost your get-up-and-go? Read on for simple steps to fend off fatigue.

Gabrielle Lichterman
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3. Real-life fatigue fighter: Ditching energy-zapping foods
When Jessica Gottlieb was diagnosed with RA and struggling with fatigue, one of the first steps she took was cleaning out her refrigerator and cupboards of junk food. “I started looking very closely at what I was eating and how it was affecting my energy levels. I cut out sugar and added lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables. I keep almonds in my car and try to eat a little protein throughout the day. Doing all this helps my energy stay a little higher,” says the Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

Why it works: Food can have a powerful impact on how much vigor you feel or how sapped you get. For instance, sugary foods and simple carbohydrates—such as white bread and potatoes—cause a sharp spike and then steep drop in blood sugar, which makes your energy crash, while protein and whole grains help keep blood sugar level, says Dr. Hahn. On the other hand, certain foods—such as cold-water fish (including salmon and tuna) and olive oil—can improve symptoms by reducing inflammation.

Try it yourself: “The ideal diet for an RA patient is one that is low in calories and red meat, has zero trans fats and is high in cold-water fish, fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Hahn says. 

4. Real-life fatigue fighter: Stress-blasting LOLs
Next time you feel worn out, try watching a comedy, logging onto a funny website, calling a friend who always makes you chuckle or doing anything else that gets you to laugh. Enjoying hearty laughter is the surefire energy-boosting cure for Matt Iseman, a Los Angeles-based former medical doctor turned professional stand-up comedian with RA. “When my symptoms first came on, I was sleeping around 12 hours a day and still needing naps. I was exhausted all the time and depression was creeping in. I realized the only time I wasn’t tired was when I was doing my stand-up comedy. I was energized by the comedy.”

Why it works: Mirthful laughter releases a flood of tension-relieving and mood-lifting endorphins that help you overcome tiring stress and depression that frequently accompany RA. And while the jury is still out, a recent study in the journal Rheumatology suggests that laughing may reduce symptoms in people with severe RA by lowering levels of the inflammation-triggering protein interleukin-6.  

April 2013