We’ve all been there before…. 2015 is rapidly coming to an end and you are asking yourself, “What resolutions did I make in January that I successfully achieved?”. Time seems to go faster and faster as the years go by. Before we know it, March is already here. Soon it’s time for fireworks and then we come to a screeching halt when the last 6 weeks of the year rolls around and many are thinking “Where did 2015 go?” Many of us can relate and we find ourselves coming up with new goals, hopes, and dreams for the next year. Unfortunately, when you have a chronic illness, you don’t get to pick when you have a flare up or who or what it affects. But don’t worry, that’s the beauty of New Year’s Resolutions…. It’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and move forward without regret. I think especially for those with chronic illness, we may often feel like “we can’t have it all” which is simply not true. I often tell myself I can have all the hopes and dreams I want……. but I may not be able to have them all at the same time!

There are a variety of areas one might want to improve upon but I think one of the most important is getting adequate sleep. We all know when our sleep patterns are disrupted that definitely has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. According to Raymonde Jean, M.D., the Director of Sleep Medicine and Associate Director of Critical Care at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York, “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear”. It’s hard enough having a chronic illness and feeling you are constantly running on “empty”. You owe it to yourself to recharge and get your gas tanks full again. If you are having trouble getting a restful night sleep, it might be worth trying some relaxation techniques before bed such as a warm bath, or reading a no brainer book. Maybe you are more into yoga or Pilates— perhaps doing a calming activity like that before you hit the pillow will pay off. A common complaint from those of us who suffer from digestive issues is GERD- gastroesophageal reflux. There is a direct correlation between acid reflux, diet, and sleep. According to NSF’s 2001 Sleep In America Poll, adults in America who experience nighttime heartburn are more likely to report having symptoms of sleep problems/ disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness and restless legs syndrome than those who don’t have nighttime heartburn (https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep).

Another important component to good health is making sure you are hydrated. The effects of dehydration can range from mild to severe. According to the NIH, “Mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning.” This can range from very minor thing like affecting your concentration, short-term memory, or even arithmetic ability to more severe things like dementia or delirium in the elderly. Dehydration can certainly affect the digestive tract too. These effects can range from causing constipation to delaying gastric emptying. Did you know that it only takes a water loss of between 1 and 2 percent before your body will send a signal that says you are thirsty? This is according to an article entitled “Studies on Hydration Suggest Dehydrated Drivers May Pose Hazard on the Road and Majority of Children Don’t Drink Enough Water”. Dehydration has also been linked to other illnesses like high blood pressure. In general, you should aim to drink about ½ your body weight in ounces at minimum to prevent dehydration. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be drinking at least 100 ounces just to maintain adequate hydration.

Finally, a good, nutritious diet can’t hurt. So, what exactly is a healthy diet? Of course everyone has different preferences and requirements they should be meeting in their diet but in general, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americas 2010 (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating), a healthy plan*:

• Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
• Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
• Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
• Stays within your daily calorie needs

Incorporating a variety of foods in one’s diet is always important. Every food has different health benefits so if you are sticking to only one food group or sticking to your staples, try to branch out and see how much color you can incorporate on your plate. Who knows you might just find a few new favorite foods and it can’t hurt to be healthy at the same time!

In conclusion, just because you haven’t been as healthy or maybe you fell off the wagon this year, that doesn’t mean that the change can’t start now. Dust yourself off and ring in this New Year with your health as a top priority. Your health future can be as bright as you make it by just making a few changes. Are you going to let 2016 be the year that you make the change or is December 2016 going to look just like December 2015? Start this next year off on the right foot and make this year about YOU for a change! Maybe you start by making one change at a time each month or one every 3 months. As long as you are moving forward on this journey that’s all that matters. Here’s to a happy and healthy lifestyle full of wonderful changes, beautiful memories, and the best that life has to offer.

*We realize that those with digestive tract issues have trouble maintaining a healthy diet, but perhaps you can follow some of these recommendations