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Charting Course – Tracking Your Autoimmune Disease Symptoms

It’s been a challenge, to say the least. Deep within my hypothalamus resides some cruel little dictator who enjoys knocking me flat-out on a whim. Evil imp.

My strength was returning. The snow here has melted and the sunshine has warmed the air. (*Deep breath*) …Spring… I had plans. I actually felt well enough to make them- plans, that is. I’ve got the perfect creative project, okay- several of them, all worked out in my head. And I’m chomping at the bit to get started.

Then two days ago, I tanked. Exhaustion, throbbing joints, etc. I stopped answering the phone because making conversation would have been too draining. My cape-less superhero doctor came to the rescue. (I love her!) Another short course of steroids. Thankfully, a short course. Like most who have swallowed down corticosteroids, I have a love/hate relationship with them.

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So, how do you plan anything when there’s a despot turning your own cells against you? Forget the fun stuff. How do you do the everyday tasks, when taking a shower is so exhausting you have to lay down as soon as you’re out?

My wise and truly compassionate husband suggested tracking my symptoms; food intake, weather, “anything you can think of”. “Look for patterns. Maybe you’ll find something that’s triggering your flares.” He’s suggested this idea several times. But I am NOT a spreadsheet girl. Detail stuff makes me twitch.

This time, however, it occurred to me that Princess here is not the first one to need to chart symptoms. Perhaps another kind and graph-loving soul has gone before me, done the work, and made it available for others in need. And, (*gulp*) free? I don’t know about you, but time off from work isn’t so good for our wallet.

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Good news, my Friends! I found three options! Each have their pros and cons, but if you’re in need, one of them is bound to work for you.

The first comes from Backcountry Paleo. Sue Vennerholm  brilliantly created an Excel spreadsheet to track the effect of certain foods on her health. She has a great story here. As time went on, she modified her chart to track other information, not only food reactions. The information she gleaned was invaluable in helping her regain control of her health. She’s made her highly editable chart available as a free download. Check out the post here. I guarantee you’ll be motivated.

The second is Flare Watch. Flare Watch is designed specifically for autoimmune disease sufferers. It’s free right now, as it’s in beta. Sign up now, and your account is free for life. Not a bad deal! The application will generate graphs and charts from your information. You can even print out reports for your doctor. By including your zip code, Flare Watch automatically includes local weather information in your charts. There is a lot of information that can be tracked, but it isn’t customizable. Users set up their profiles by selecting one of the diseases listed. There is an Undiagnosed Autoimmune Disease option, but it is also limited in the symptoms it will track. As of today, I’m not aware of a Flare Watch phone app.

Third is ChartMyself. Holy mackerel, this thing is pretty sweet. This option is fairly customizable, though not entirely. The graphs and charts are flexible, moveable, and just really helpful. The site is geared for women. As of now, weather information must be manually entered. There are lots of places to make notes, and even search capabilities within charts. This has been the best fit for myself so far. And an added bonus, ChartMyself shoots you a daily reminder e-mail. Awesome for those foggy-brain days. To my knowledge, this program is unavailable as a phone app.

I’m encouraged. This is one thing I don’t want to try to create myself! And now I don’t have to. Whew… Friends, if you know someone who could use this information, would you pass it along to them? Here’s to better, more predictable days ahead.

~m

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