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Archive for the ‘Autoimmune disease’ Category

Roasted Vegetable Bean Salad

In Autoimmune disease, Fighting Cancer, Gluten-Free diet, Meal Ideas, Recipes, Vegetarian on October 4, 2013 at 9:44 AM

roast veg bean salad 1 cropJust because fresh, summer vegetable season is drawing to a close does not mean you have to stop eating them!  Vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colors provide an abundance of nutrition, are naturally low-calorie, loaded with antioxidants for fighting disease and inflammation, and fill a hungry tummy for an extended period of time (thank you, fiber!).  Whether you are watching your waistline, trying to prevent cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, or managing inflammatory autoimmune conditions, such as scleroderma, lupus and multiple sclerosis, this salad is a healthy addition to your eating plan.  It is compatible with vegan and gluten-free lifestyles as well.  Some of the ingredients are available fresh all year round whereas others will be found in your grocer’s freezer during the off season (which are equally nutritious and healthful).  This tasty and refreshing salad makes an excellent pack-n-go lunch choice or a light meal to share among friends.  The recipe as outlined below makes three generous servings containing 260 calories, 20 grams of carb, 16 grams fat (only 2 grams saturated…nice!), 8 grams fiber and 8 grams of protein.   Enjoy!

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup of peeled fresh or frozen edamame (green soybeans); steam frozen in microwave 4-5 minutes

1 cup fresh or frozen corn, steamed in microwave 3-5 minutes (cut fresh off cob)

2 cups fresh or frozen thin green beans, washed and cut into pieces (blanch fresh beans in boiling water for 90 seconds; steam frozen beans in microwave 3-4 minutes)

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

1 orange and 1 yellow bell pepper sliced into 1-inch pieces  (organic is best)

10-15 large fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons (this will serve as primary leafy green)

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Prep edamame, corn and green beans as described above.

2.  Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine sliced peppers and tomatoes in small amount of olive oil and spread in single layer on baking sheet lined with parchment or foil coated with cooking spray.  Roast for 15 minutes (until blistered), remove vegetables from oven and roasting pan, and place on new foil for 10 minutes to cool.

3.  Combine all cooled vegetables into large mixing bowl:  corn, edamame, green beans, roasted peppers, tomatoes and basil ribbons.

4.  Whisk together dressing ingredients in a smaller bowl and toss with vegetables.

5.  Chill at least 2 hours before serving to allow for flavor enhancement.

6.  Serve with warm bread, as desired.

Would you like more healthy recipe suggestions?  Interested in learning realistic strategies for creating a balanced lifestyle to meet your individual health needs?  Consider ordering the second edition of my book,  “You Gotta Eat!” at www.thenuttynutritionist.com.  Eat well!  Feel well!

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“Eating Well with Scleroderma” Video

In Autoimmune disease, Scleroderma, Wellness on September 6, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Living with an autoimmune chronic disease, such as systemic scleroderma, fibromyalgia, lupus or Crohn’s, undoubtedly tests one’s ability to maintain a happy and productive life. In my opinion, there is no worse feeling than losing control over your own body. The unpredictable nature of autoimmune illness renders you helpless in the face of physical pain, debilitating fatigue, and unceasing emotional turmoil, and has the capacity to steal your quality of life. Systemic scleroderma invaded my body over 11 years ago, and I have struggled to meet every physical and emotional challenge this savage beast has thrown my way. As a practicing dietitian, I have the advantage of knowing how to modify my eating and lifestyle habits to manage the symptoms and resulting stress. I would like to share the filmed presentation I offered at the national Scleroderma Foundation’s annual Patient Education Conference in Atlanta this past summer. Even though the presentation is tailored to the specific needs of patients with scleroderma, the information and suggestions apply to everyone living with autoimmune illness.

The direct link to the presentation will not paste on this page, so I suggest connecting here to http://www.youtube.com and then typing “Linda Kaminski Eating Well with Scleroderma” in the search box at the top on the YouTube home page. It will be the first title listed. Enjoy and I hope my suggestions help you live a longer, healthier life DESPITE scleroderma or any other autoimmune condition. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns: lindakaminski@thenuttynutritionist.com

Live well! Feel well!

Power Up, Peeps!

In Autoimmune disease, Diabetes, Fighting Cancer, Managing cholesterol, Wellness on October 23, 2011 at 10:47 PM
As a dietitian who specializes in chronic disease management, I spend the majority of my time helping people prevent or manage conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, and autoimmune disorders (scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc).  Of course, the dietary suggestions I make for each client are based on his or her individual health needs and taste preferences.  However, there are specific fruits, vegetables, and herbs that I consider “power” foods and encourage everyone to eat them on a regular basis, regardless of health status.  My judgments are based on a food’s ability to lower blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure; provide antioxidants for heart disease and cancer prevention; and/or as act as anti-inflammatory agents, important for taming autoimmune disease, and preventing heart disease and diabetes.  I will share my so-called “power foods” and suggested serving sizes with you now.  It will be impossible for the average person to include all 15 of these foods on a daily basis, but aiming for 3-5 times per week for each will certainly “power up” your nutritional status and help you thwart disease.
 
Vegetables
 
1.  Sweet potato/Yam:  easier on blood sugar than a white potato and helps lower cholesterol due to its high soluble fiber content; great source of carotenoids and other antioxidants for eye health, heart health, and cancer prevention; anti-inflammatory properties for those with autoimmune conditions.  Serving size: 1 cup.  
 
2. Dark green leafy vegetables: such as spinach, kale, arugula, collards, mustard greens.  Contain potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties for heart health, autoimmunity, and cancer prevention; excellent source of potassium to help lower blood pressure.  Serving size:  the more, the better.  Caveat:  be careful if on blood thinning medication, as these are high in vitamin K.
 
3.  Cooked tomato products:  such as tomato/vegetable juice, spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, pizza sauce.  Contain potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties for heart health, cancer prevention, and autoimmune modulation; excellent source of lycopene for men’s prostate health; rich in potassium for lowering blood pressure (especially if no salt added during processing).  Serving size:  1/2-1 cup.
 
4.  Broccoli:  exceptional source of cancer-fighting compounds; anti-inflammatory benefits good for heart and autoimmune conditions.  Easy on blood sugar.  Serving size:  1 cup.  Substitute: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Bok choy, or other cruciferous vegetables.
 
5.  Starchy beans:  such as kidney beans, black beans, red beans, white beans, garbanzo beans, etc.  Excellent source of soluble fiber which is easier on blood sugar and helps lower LDL cholesterol; many varieties are rich in potassium for lowering blood pressure.   Antioxidant properties.  Serving size:  1/3 cup.  
 
Power fruits:
 
1.  Avocado:  YES!  IT’S A FRUIT!  Rich in monounsaturated fat, known to fight inflammation and raise healthy HDL cholesterol.   Serving size:  1/8-1/4 medium size.  Caveat:  high in calories, so don’t consume a whole avocado every day or your body will take on the shape of an avocado…
 
2.  Cherries:  potent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, great for heart health, joint pain, and autoimmune conditons;  2 tbsp cherry juice daily can ease arthritis pain.  Serving:  12-20 fresh cherries or 1/4 cup dried cherries (2 Tbsp. dried with diabetes).  Caveat:  can raise blood sugar if you have diabetes, so watch portion size.
 
3.  Blueberries:  highest antioxidant/anti-inflammatory power for cancer prevention, heart disease, brain health, and autoimmunity.  Serving:  3/4 cup  fresh/frozen or 1/4 dried blueberries (2 Tbsp dried with diabetes).
  
4.  Apples: excellent source of soluble fiber for lowering LDL cholesterol; potent antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties for heart health, cancer prevention, and easing autoimmune flare-ups.  Serving size:  “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but you knew that already, right?  Caveat:  organic is best, as conventionally grown apples have high pesticide residues.
 
5.  Kiwi:  excellent source of vitamin C, particularly important during “cold and flu season”; rich in potassium for lowering blood pressure; contains papain, a natural enzyme that can aid protein digestion for those with digestive disorders; high fiber makes it easier on blood sugar and speeds intestinal transit for optimal colon health and for those with autoimmune-related intestinal motility issues.  Serving:  1-2 medium kiwis.   
 
Power herbs/spices:
 
1.  Cinnamon:  potent anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory properties for cancer and autoimmune conditions; helps lower blood sugar.  Serving:  1/4-1/2 tsp. daily, added to coffee, tea, oatmeal, yogurt, etc.
 
2.  Basil:  potent antioxidant/anti-inflammatory for heart health, cancer prevention, autoimmunity.  Serving:  add liberally to salads, sauces, meats, side dishes.  Fresh or dried.  Acceptable substitute:  oregano or rosemary.
 
3.  Tumeric (curcumin):  loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammation properties  for heart, cancer, autoimmunity;  Serving:  1/8-1/4 tsp  Substitute:  cumin, curry
 
4.  Fresh Garlic:  cooked lightly to release antioxidant/anti-inflammatory components, excellent for fighting inflammation, lowering cholesterol, and cancer prevention.  Serving:  1-2 cloves.  Caveat:  may need to hand out nose plugs…
 
5.  Paprika:  potent antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties, for the same reasons as other herbs listed above.  Excellent topper for chicken and fish.  Serving: 1/8-1/4 tsp.  
 
As I have said time and again, it is always best to eat real, wholesome foods rather than to rely on pills and supplements to give your body what it needs to look and feel well.  Taking so-called fruit or vegetable pills or powders will not provide the same benefits.  Add these powerful foods to your shopping list this week and be on your way to feeling your best!
 
 
 

Fighting Inflammation of Autoimmune Illness

In Autoimmune disease on October 15, 2011 at 5:15 PM

I am often being asked to provide specific dietary and lifestyle guidance for individuals suffering from a wide range of autoimmune illness, particularly Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid), rheumatoid arthritis(joints), Type 1 diabetes (pancreas), celiac sprue (small intestine), Crohn’s disease (GI tract), and systemic scleroderma (skin and connective tissue).  As a victim of systemic scleroderma myself, I know first hand how frustrating it can be to diagnose, treat, and manage the symptoms of autoimmune disease as a result of its unpredictable nature and variation in severity from person to person.  Even more aggravating is that autoimmune illness often runs in families, and it is not unusual for a person to be plagued with multiple autoimmune conditions over the course of his or her lifetime.  For example, my mother was diagnosed with Graves’ disease (autoimmune hyperthyroidism)  in her 40’s, while I developed one autoimmune condition as a young girl in the form of psoriasis, which affects the skin, and then developed systemic scleroderma 20 years later, which affects not only my skin, but internal organs as well.  Professionally, it is not unusual for me to treat a person suffering from Type 1 diabetes who also needs to follow a gluten-free diet as a result of celiac sprue, as these two autoimmune diseases commonly cluster together.   This one-two punch will certainly challenge a person’s ability to eat appropriately for his or her health needs, that’s for sure.

Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system becomes overactive and starts to attack perfectly healthy cells or organs in the body, leading to the malfunction and/or destruction of a given organ system or physiological function.  The disease that develops is dependent on which cells or organs are being attacked.  Inflammation is an outward sign of overactive immune activity, and often results in heat, pain, redness, or swelling in the area of attack.   This is useful when your body needs to heal following an injury, but extended periods of exaggerated inflammation on healthy tissue will ultimately be destructive.  Rheumatoid arthritis, in which the immune system targets the joints, is a more obvious example of chronic inflammation with its hallmark pain, redness, and swelling of hand, finger, and knee joints.  However, there are many autoimmune conditions in which inflammation is less obvious, as it wrecks havoc deep within the body.  In the case with Type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, thereby mandating an external source of insulin to control blood sugar for the rest of one’s life.  There is no outward sign of an inflamed pancreas.  The same situation applies to Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, in which the immune system attack results in chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland, which can interfere in the secretion of thyroid hormone and potentially destroy the thyroid gland completely, requiring full hormone replacement therapy.  

What causes autoimmune illness, you ask?  While the absolute cause of any one particular autoimmune disease is unknown at this time, if one is prone to autoimmune illness as a result of family history or other genetic traits, triggers that can set the autoimmune process in motion include an infectious agent, such as a virus or illness; dramatic physiological demands, such as during puberty, pregnancy, or after childbirth; substantial emotional and psychological stressors, such as the loss of a loved one or other major life change; environmental toxins; and reactions to medications.  Once the autoimmune process is underway, inflammation begins to take its toll, and physical manifestations of a given disease begin to become apparent.

The best diet changes one can make to help manage the physical manifestations of autoimmune illness is through the consumption of foods believed to fight inflammation and avoiding those suspected of aggravating it.  No need to add more fuel to the fire, right?  Most autoimmune conditions will have periods of flareups (high inflammation) and periods of remission (low inflammation), but there are no known cures for a single autoimmune illness at this time.  Doing your best to manage inflammation throughout the course of your illness will prove most beneficial to your overall health and well-being.

Here are my dietary suggestions for combating inflammation:

1.  Choose fresh, whole, minimally processed foods, without preservatives, artificial ingredients, or hydrogenated oils.  If there are “chemical” sounding names in the ingredient list, avoid it.

2.  Eat a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, incorporating all colors of the rainbow: green, red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue, such as berries, spinach, and sweet potatoes.  Choose organic as often as possible to limit exposure to pesticide residue.

3.  Choose 100% whole grains, such as barley, quinoa, and oats, while limiting refined, white grains, especially from wheat flour.

4.  Avoiding wheat and dairy may improve various symptoms related to autoimmunity.  Everyone will respond differently, but it may prove worthwhile to try cutting out all wheat products (bread, pasta, baked goods, cereal) and/or dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, pudding) to see if symptoms improve.  Please note:  it is best to not cut wheat and dairy at exactly the same time or you will not know which one is responsible for any improvement. 

5.  Cut down on added sugars.    (Hard to do with Halloween and other food-infested holidays right around the corner…but may be well worth the effort!)

6.  Avoid trans fats, in the form of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils found in deep fried fare, fast foods, and many processed items found at the grocery store.  Check ingredient lists.

7.  Include inflammation-fighting omega-3 oils from fish, especially wild salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed.  Research suggests fish oil supplements are helpful in providing inflammatory relief in doses of 3-12 pills per day, depending on severity.  (always discuss with your doctor first)

8.  Choose anti-inflammatory fats such as extra virgin olive oil, almonds, and avocado, instead of pro-inflammatory oils such as vegetable blends, corn, sunflower, and safflower.

9.  Limit animal protein portions, especially from beef, pork, lamb, and processed meats like bacon, sausage, salami, and bologna.  Choose fish and organic eggs, cheese, and yogurt more often.

10..  If drinking alcohol, choose red wine!   Instead of coffee, choose green tea.

11.  Drink fresh, filtered water that has never been exposed to plastic.  Use a water filtration system at home and drink only from glass or stainless steel containers.

It is important to realize that there is no ONE diet that will work for everyone to reduce inflammation.  Trying the above-mentioned suggestions will likely improve your overall energy level and sense of well-being, even if you do not experience absolute relief from your symptoms and physical challenges.

Eat well!  Feel well!

Healthy Living with Scleroderma

In Autoimmune disease, Wellness on March 22, 2011 at 9:51 PM

Living with a chronic disease undoubtedly tests your ability to maintain a happy and productive life.  Systemic scleroderma invaded my body over nine years ago, and I have struggled to meet every physical and emotional challenge this savage beast has thrown my way.  Due to the God-given virtues of relentless determination and strength of spirit, I have managed to maintain an active personal life and career as a dietitian and educator, in spite of this menacing disease.

In my opinion, there is no worse feeling than losing control over your own body.  The unpredictable nature of scleroderma renders you essentially helpless in the face of physical pain, debilitating fatigue, and unceasing emotional turmoil, and has the capacity to steal your quality of life.  After an initial period of time in which I felt overwhelming misery and defeat, I wanted to regain control over my happiness and prevent the disease from running my life. I decided to take matters into my own hands by embracing the things I could control, such as the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits that would enhance my ability to manage the symptoms and resulting stress.  I eventually made peace with my body by treating it well.   I now offer you the chance to do the same. 

A healthy daily diet for a person living with scleroderma should include:

 small, frequent meals spaced out throughout the day  (eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours)

2-3 servings of fruit each day (one small whole fruit or 1 cup melon, berries, mixed fruit)

 5-7 servings of vegetables each day (1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked) 

2-3 ounces of high quality protein at each meal (lean meat, eggs, low-fat cheese, peanut butter)

 2-3 servings of fat free or low-fat organic yogurt or milk (1 cup)

 1-2 servings of healthy fats from oils, nuts, and/or seeds  (1 tbsp oil, 1/4 cup nuts, 2 Tbsp seeds)

choose fresh, whole, minimally processed foods, without preservatives, artificial ingredients, or additives such as sugar and hydrogenated oils.  (the shorter the ingredient list, the better)

 take a daily multivitamin supplying 15 mg zinc, 10-18 mg iron, plus vitamins A,D,E,K

drink half your body weight in clean, filtered water every day (120 # person should drink 60 oz.)

 eat 8-12 ounces of fatty fish per week (such as wild Alaskan salmon)

 

Lifestyle changes for specific scleroderma-related issues: 

1.  REFLUX/HEARTBURN- eat small frequent meals to prevent overfilling your stomach; avoid eating within 2-3 hours of bedtime; pass on foods that may aggravate symptoms such as citrus fruits, tomato products, greasy fried foods, coffee, garlic, onions, peppermint, gas-producing foods (such as raw peppers, beans, broccoli, raw onions), spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and alcohol.  If you carry extra weight around your midsection, weight loss may also improve symptoms.  Elevate your head and torso to prevent regurgitation of stomach contents into your airways and lungs while you sleep.  A bed wedge specifically designed for this purpose is recommended– simply doubling up on pillows is not effective.

2.  DECREASED GI MOTILITY/CONSTIPATION- daily exercise, such as walking, helps move food through the digestive tract; eat a high fiber diet with 100% whole grains, fruits and vegetables; take a daily probiotic supplement (such as ALIGN) and/or eat yogurt with active cultures regularly; increase fluid intake.  Nutrient absorption problems may also present in persons with GI involvement.   This may result in a vitamin B12, iron, or zinc deficiency.  If you are diagnosed with such a deficiency by way of a blood test, you may benefit from taking a separate 1000 mcg vitamin B12, extra iron sulfate, or a 50 mg elemental zinc supplement.  (always discuss with your healthcare provider)

3.  DIFFICULTY SWALLOWING- blenderize or juice fresh fruits and vegetables; make homemade smoothies with fruit, yogurt, and whey protein powder (without artificial sweeteners); include soft, moist protein sources at meals and snacks such as cottage cheese, yogurt, fish, chicken with gravy, and ground meats. 

4.  EXCESSIVE WEIGHT LOSS– liberally add sources of healthy fats to your diet by way of olive, canola, and peanut oils, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and oil-based salad dressings; consider including a liquid nutrition supplement (such as Ensure Plus or Boost) between meals 1-3 times per day;  eat every 2 hours to maximize calorie and nutrient intake.

5.  INFLAMMATION- increase antioxidant intake by choosing deeply colored fruits and vegetables (especially dark green, deep yellow, orange, red, purple, and blue); eat fish, ground flaxseeds, and walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids; eat vitamin E-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, and extra-virgin olive oil; consider including the following inflammation-fighting supplements:  1000 IU Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol); 500-1000 mg Vitamin C; 50 mg Selenium; 50-150 mg Coenzyme Q10.  Do not take vitamin E or beta-carotene supplements.  

6.  FATIGUE- eat small, frequent meals to provide continuous energy and keep blood sugar from dipping low; increase fluid intake; participate in 30-60 minutes of moderate daily exercise such as walking, bike riding, pool exercise, pilates, yoga, or tai chi.  Sleep for 7-8 hours each night. 

7.  POOR CIRCULATION/RAYNAUD’S PHENOMENON- exercise will increase circulation to areas suffering from limited blood flow; if you suffer from finger ulcers, eat animal sources of protein with zinc and iron (such as beef and pork) to aid in wound healing.  Dress warmly for bed, including mittens and socks, as body temperature drops while you are sleeping.

8.  TIGHT, THICKENED SKIN- eat foods rich in vitamin E such as nuts, seeds, wheat germ, and canola, olive, and peanut oils; consider taking a 5 mg (5000 mcg) Biotin supplement.  

9.  JOINT STIFFNESS- all exercise increases blood flow to the joints; strength training increases muscle mass to support bones and joints and prevent falls; range of motion exercises and stretching relieve stiffness.  Consider taking a Glucosamine with Chondroitin supplement.

AVOID CERTAIN PLASTICS:

While the cause of scleroderma remains unknown, research studies have linked low dose exposure to plastics containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and BPA (bisphenol A) with increased occurrence of scleroderma.  (In my opinion, whether this correlation is fact or fiction, it is better to be safe than sorry.)   I highly recommend avoiding all foods and beverages that come in contact with these environmental chemicals.  Here are some suggestions to accomplish this:

-avoid consuming foods and beverages contained in plastics with #3, 6, or 7 recycling numbers

-PVC (used in soft plastics) and BPA (used in clear, hard plastics) can seep into water and/or food even at room temperature.  Heating the plastic makes this occur at a higher rate.  Safe soft plastics include “Saran Wrap” and “Glad Wrap” brands.  (avoid Reynolds Wrap)  Never allow plastic water bottles to heat up in your car during the summer months.

-microwave foods in glass containers only–use glass cover, wax paper, or paper towel to cover. 

-store heated foods to be refrigerated in glass containers only.

-limit use of canned foods with plastic lining.  

-avoid reusable plastic water bottles—use stainless steel bottles instead.

-do not refill single-use water bottles.

 

Compelling reasons to do some form of exercise every single day: 

-decreases levels of stress hormones that lead to inflammation and Raynaud’s attacks

-improves mood, calms anxiety, and tempers feelings of hopelessness

-enhances body image, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth

-improves energy and sleep quality

-increases levels of “feel good hormones” that combat depression and lessen pain

-enhances circulation to hands and feet

-decreases joint stiffness while improving range of motion

-dissipates swelling in hands, arms, legs, and feet

-increases intestinal motility

-improves lung capacity

-regulates appetite

How to develop an exercise program: 

1.  Select an activity or two that you would enjoy doing.  Participating in a variety of different activities will help keep you interested and motivated, while reducing your risk of injury.

2.  Gather the “tools” that you will need to perform the exercise (s) (new shoes, resistance bands, exercise ball, video tapes, club or park memberships, etc.)

 3.  Decide where you will do the activities–neighborhood, gym, in house, etc. 

4.  Determine the time of day you will most likely be able to exercise. (add it to your schedule!) 

5.  How often will you perform the various activities?  (i.e. walking 3 times per week, yoga 2 times per week, and strength training 2 times per week)

6.  How long will you exercise each time?  This will depend on your level of tolerance for activity.  If you haven’t been previously exercising, start with 10 minutes and add one minute to each subsequent session to help build your energy and fitness level.

Set a specific achievable goal:   i.e.  walk outdoors or on treadmill at 9AM, 5 times per week, for 45 minutes

An ideal program consists of 3-5 days of cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise for 30-60 minutes, 2-3 days of strength training for 20-30 minutes, and daily all-over body stretching exercises.  Consider hiring an exercise professional (ACE or ACSM certified) to help you get started.

On a personal note:

I have thrived on being active and participating in a variety of novel and challenging activities over the course of my lifetime.  The possibility that scleroderma could rob me of my passion for exercise, by hardening my body and lungs, frightens me like nothing else.   Even though my lungs now forbid me from engaging in long-distance running (as I had in the past), I have found a new, more manageable passion:  Bikram Yoga. 

Why Bikram?  I was drawn to the idea of sweating profusely in a 105 degree room for 90 minutes.  For someone with compromised circulation and very painful hands, this environment sounded like heaven!  I quickly discovered this to be a very intense, cardiovascular form of yoga, in which the postures, when done properly, are very physically demanding.  I am not going to kid myself.  Despite my above-average fitness level, it takes a great deal of effort for me to make it through a class.   Even after dutifully practicing twice a week for the past seven months, I am often very fatigued and sore afterwards.  Why do I stick with it, you ask?  Am I insane???  Absolutely not: the significant physical and emotional advantages I have gained from this practice have changed my life.   Let me share with you the benefits I experience from each and every class:

1.  heated room improves circulation to my compromised hands, feet, and GI tract

2.  reduced finger joint stiffness and increased strength

3.  more pliable, less painful skin on my hands and forearms via increased hydration and exfoliation through sweat       

4.  improved lung capacity via deep breathing exercises  (as indicated by my recent pulmonary function tests—       yay!!!)

5.  improved intestinal motility, as specific compression postures target this area

6.  excessive sweating reduces fluid retention in my hands, feet, and legs

7.  relaxation response from intense exercise  (same as my old “runner’s high”), which reduces stress and induces a sense of calm

I am by no means suggesting that Bikram Yoga is the ideal exercise for people with scleroderma.   I am awed by what this discipline has done for me and simply wanted to spread the word.  Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.  If you get the “go ahead”, you may just want to give this a try.  The best things in life are never easy…

Live well.  Feel well.

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