Eating Healthy with Scleroderma

Healthy eating can be difficult sometimes, but we all know it can be beneficial for your health. There are foods that can be included or excluded from your diet that could help to manage some symptoms of scleroderma. Results may vary from patient to patient, since each person is unique, and it’s always best to discuss food options with a nutritionist when possible.

Staying Healthy and Strong with Scleroderma

At our recent Scleroderma Patient Education Conference in Chicago, Bethany Doerfler, MS, RD, LDN for the Northwestern Scleroderma Program discussed how to stay healthy. She goes into detail about nutrition and describes the portion sizes when preparing your meals. She discusses the loss of muscle and how eating the right portions of protein, as well as exercising could help to improve that problem. To watch the video for more information click here: 

Combatting Symptoms with Food

Scleroderma affects thousands of people and the symptoms that accompany the disease can sometimes be exhausting. In addition to medications prescribed by your doctor, these recommendations could be a nice addition to your daily regimen. Here are some scleroderma symptoms and food recommendations that could help manage them:
• Decreased GI Mobility/Constipation: High fiber diets with 100% whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; daily probiotic     and/or yogurt with active cultures
• Inflammation: Deeply colored fruits and vegetables can help to increase antioxidants; eat fatty 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 taking a 1000 IU Vitamin D3 tablet with your fattiest meal, which allows for better absorption.
• Fatigue: In order to keep blood sugar regulated, and have continuous energy you should eat small meals throughout the day. If taking an iron pill, you can take with juice that contains vitamin C to allow for better absorption.
• Raynaud Phenomenon: Animal sources of protein with zinc and iron
• Tight skin: Foods rich in vitamin E such as nuts, seeds, wheat germ, and canola, olive, and peanut oil

Source: University of Michigan Health System. “Eating Well with Scleroderma by Linda Kaminski, MS, RD, CDE” http://www.med.umich.edu/scleroderma/patients/nutrition.htm

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Providing Support for Friends and Family with Scleroderma

Friends and family members of those diagnosed with Scleroderma often have many questions about how they can best provide support for their loved ones. This is especially true for those who are unfamiliar with Scleroderma and it’s symptoms, progression, and overall impact. After familiarizing yourself with the disease, there are many simple things that you can do to help provide a support system that your loved one will appreciate.

  • Start by simply asking your loved one what you can do to help. Oftentimes those affected by illness may be apprehensive to ask for help because they don’t want to feel that they are a burden to others.
  • Don’t focus solely on the illness, but rather on your loved one and their physical and mental well-being. Whether they choose to discuss Scleroderma is at their discretion, but it is important to remember not to let this illness define your relationship.
  • Maintain honest, open communication with your loved one. Allowing feelings and frustration to bottle up is never healthy.
  • Some simple ways to help ease daily living activities include things like parking closer when making visits to the store or doctor’s office, as patients can oftentimes experience a great deal of fatigue with Scleroderma.
  • It is important to encourage independence, but offering to take over chores like washing dishes or going to the grocery store can mean a lot to your loved one.
  • Seek out other caregivers. Places to turn for caregiver support can include other family members and friends of the patient (provided that the they have chosen to disclose their illness with others at this time), a therapist or counselor, church or other place of worship, and national caregiver organizations.

Remember that as a friend, family member, or caregiver of someone diagnosed with Scleroderma that you are not alone. There are many great resources available, including support groups located throughout the country. Many of these groups meet in person, and telephone support may be available as well. The Scleroderma Foundation’s website offers a list organized by state that can be used to find a group meeting near you.

Improving Quality of Sleep

A common problem associated with chronic illnesses is trouble sleeping and enjoying a disruption-free quality night’s sleep. Dr. Hrayr Attarian presented on this topic at the Patient Education Conference in October 2014.

Quick Tips to Improve Your Sleep:

  • Medcline Sleep Positioning Pillow is a supportive pillow to aid in side-sleeping and slightly elevated position to relieve nighttime GERD.
  • Establish a soothing pre-bed routine- your body will take the cue that it’s time to get ready for sleep. It might include: Light reading, listen to music, warm shower or bath, and meditation.
  • Keep your bed for sleeping only- avoid using it for activities such as watching tv. By doing this, your brain will associate your bed with sleep, and will help to induce sleepiness. Avoid “screen time” (phones, computers, tv) before bedtime because the glare of the light can stimulate your brain, instead of relax it.
  • Practice relaxation exercises- deep breathing, gradually tensing and relaxing muscles throughout body.
  • Finish meals a few hours before bedtime- trying to sleep on a full stomach is difficult and can be uncomfortable, which makes it tougher to fall asleep.
  • Avoid drinking a lot of water right before bed- doing so could cause you to wake up in the middle of the night for a trip to the bathroom, causing a disruption in your sleep and could make it harder for you to fall back asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol within several hours of bedtime- even some pain relievers have caffeine, so be aware of that. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep, but it disrupts the activity of the brain during sleep, resulting in your sleep not being as restful as it should, and thus you may wake up already feeling tired.
  • Keep bedroom quiet, dark, a cool temperature and well-ventilated. A white noise machince can provide soft background noise to lull body to sleep, if needed.
  • Limit nap time during the day to 20-30 min if possible.

Harvard Healthy Sleep Tips

Sleep Foundation Mayo Clinic Sleep Tips