What is Flare Free Math and when do I do it?
Flare Free Math is the mental math you do to figure out how many of your trigger foods you can have without ending in a flare.
What's a flare?
An autoimmune flare-up is when you have intense sudden onset symptoms of your immune system attacking itself. And those symptoms will vary based on your condition. So if you're like me and have Rheumatoid Arthritis, you may feel sudden intense pain, stiffness, and heat in your joints. You may also feel extremely fatigued or you may even come down with a fever.
Joint pain and fatigue is quite common for most autoimmune warriors but for example, if you're a lupus warrior you may also break out into a severe rash. If you're a Hashimoto's warrior, you may suffer from sudden unexpected constipation and/or sensitivity to cold.
You may have one of these symptoms, some of them, or all of them. And your symptoms can vary in duration and intensity based on how many trigger factors you have come into contact with. A flare may come on relatively quickly but it may also take you know 24-48 hours to kick in.
It all really depends on how sensitive you are to these triggers, how progressive your disease is, and what your coping mechanisms are.
By the way, this goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway - I’m not a doctor or a nurse. This is not medical advice or anything. I’m just speaking from experience. Please do your own research and ask your practitioner if you need a better explanation of any of that.
When can I start doing Flare Free Math?
Most people won't be able to indulge in any of their trigger foods without flaring until they tamper down their inflammation, improve their gut microbiome, and have their autoimmune symptoms under control.
And that may take eating Flare Free 3 times a day for 3-6 months.
Most of my clients report feeling better in a matter of weeks but ideally, you want to try and continue eating Flare Free for those first 3-6 months before you start reintroducing your trigger foods so you can really identify which foods you react to.
If you have chronic systemic inflammation that has gone unmanaged for years, having a "little bit of gluten" or "just one beer" here and there is really going to stand in the way of your healing.
According to functional nurse practitioner Dani Williamson from our Instagram Live, ‘One bite of gluten sets the inflammatory response back in your body for six months."
So ideally, you need at least 6 months of being gluten free at the bare minimum to get your inflammation under control. If you take gluten, dairy, sugar, corn and soy out of your diet all at once, you really should be able to tamper down that inflammation, improve your gut microbiome and take control of your autoimmune condition within 3 months.
Can you eat Flare Free 3 times a day for 3 months and still have rampant inflammation, joint pain, and symptoms of your disease? Absolutely. There’s a lot that goes into the onset of an autoimmune condition and therefore there’s a lot that g
oes into the management of it. Food is just one piece of the puzzle.
But in terms of doing Flare Free Math, what we're talking about today, I just don’t think this concept is going to work for you if you’re brand new to eating Flare Free and you’re still eating gluten here and there.
Gluten is definitely the one thing that I eat the least because it’s just so easy to avoid these days and because I know gluten is a huge trigger for me. At the beginning of my healing journey in 2015, once I officially went gluten free, the migraines and eczema that I had dealt with for years completely went away.
And trust me, I was very hesitant to go gluten free. It was the last thing I removed from my diet because I was like, "People have been eating wheat for thousands of years! There's no way gluten is a problem for me."
So I initially started by removing sugar because that was easiest for me. Then I started only eating goat and sheep's milk dairy. THEN I removed gluten. And at first, I was still drinking beer because I had no idea beer was made from wheat.
Listen, you don't know what you don't know, but you can't unlearn what you learn.
So there you go. You can't be gluten free or live Flare Free if you're still drinking beer. I know, that's a hard pill to swallow. Sorry. But it’s true.
Is Flare Free Math something I have to do every day?
Once you get past that initial 3-6 months and you've tampered down your inflammation, you've improved your gut microbiome and you've taken control of your autoimmune condition, you want to aim to eat 80-90% Flare Free at home and then do Flare Free Math for that other 10-20% of the time.
So this is something you'll do any time you're traveling, you're out of town, on vacation or eating outside of the home. Whether it's grabbing something quick that you can eat in the middle of a busy day or going out t to dinner at a restaurant for a date night with your partner.
How do I do Flare Free Math?
I’m going to get into this in more detail in my flagship course, complete with a point system to help those of you who love numbers and need a structured outline to follow, but in a nutshell, the longer you’re eating away from home (IE: a week at the beach), the more you have to eat Flare Free each day. If you’re just going out for a date night with your partner, you’ll have more wiggle room to indulge because you’ll be able to prepare your immune system in the days and hours leading up to the date night and you’ll be able to really nourish your immune system in the days after.
And my flagship course will include anti-inflammatory supplement suggestions and tips for stopping a flare dead in it's tracks, etc.
For the sake of this podcast episode, let's pretend we're out of town for the weekend, okay?
I like to start with drinks because that's usually the first thing we have everyday and the first thing we order at a restaurant, right?
But before we do that, think about some other factors you may have to take into consideration first. Like, will there be any meals you have to eat today that you will have zero control over? (For example, maybe you're visiting family for the weekend and your grandma's making her famous Chicken Pot Pie for lunch or something).
Then you may want to take into account what your favorite meal of the day is. I polled you guys on Instagram and dinner was the winner so we’ll use that as our example today because whatever your favorite meal of the day is, is probably going to be the meal that you indulge in the most.
From there, you can break it down into which part of the meal you're looking forward to the most.
For example, if you're going to a restaurant that's known for its cocktails and you LOVE really nice craft cocktails, you know you're going to indulge in cocktails at dinner so you can start with that and work backwards.
So let's take that scenario and use that as an example.
I know I'm going to have 2 or 3 really nice craft cocktails at this restaurant tonight and there's no telling if they'll have any sugar free cocktail options so I'm going to assume sugar and alcohol are going to be my big indulgences today.
And remember, we're starting with drinks...
So first thing in the morning, I already know I'm going to have a Flare Free beverage with breakfast. Black tea, black coffee, sparkling water, mineral water, lemon water, etc so I’m in the positive. I'm going to avoid anything that's going to have sugar or dairy in it right off the bat because I don’t want to be in the negative before I get to grandma’s house and eat that Chicken Pot Pie which is going to bring me further into the negative and cut into the points I’ll have to spend on cocktails at my favorite restaurant for dinner.
So what will I choose for breakfast?
Since I know I’m going to have my favorite meal of the day at one of my favorite restaurants tonight, and my grandma is making her famous Chicken Pot Pie which is full of gluten, dairy, corn and sugar, I’m going to have a Flare Free breakfast.
At the hotel breakfast bar that might look like scrambled eggs, sausage and roasted potatoes. Simple, easy and satisfying.
Now it’s time for lunch at Grandma’s!
Again I’m going to start with drinks and even though grandma made fresh sweet tea and lemonade and has offered it to me twice already, I’m going to politely choose the water instead because I haven’t had Grandma’s Pot Pie in years and I’m not sure how my immune system is going to react to it at this point in my healing journey and it would be rude and damn near impossible to not eat that while everyone else is.
So whatever vegetable sides grandma has, I’m going to load up on those and I’m going to skip the biscuits, bread, pimento cheese or whatever other delicious treats she has out for appetizers and indulge in that Chicken Pot Pie so I still have Flare Free points to use at dinner.
Finally! Dinner - my favorite meal has arrived!
The meal I have been looking forward to all day has finally arrived and up until this point, I’ve only had a handful of my trigger foods all day and I’m feeling good!
I’m not sure how my immune system is going to react to that Chicken Pot Pie in the next 24-48 hours so I am going to make sure to alternate Flare Free courses with indulgent courses tonight and use my Flare Free points on them cocktails, baby!
So right off the bat I’m going to start with my favorite cocktail and look! They have a cocktail with honey simple syrup instead of regular sugar simple syrup!!
So that leaves me with some wiggle room which I’m very excited about.
To start off I’m going to order a gluten/dairy free salad or vegetable appetizer because I see this delicious looking steak on the menu that comes with mashed potatoes and I love mashed potatoes! Since I have some wiggle room from the sugar free cocktails, I should be able to have dairy in my entree.
But before I decide on that entree, I’m going to look at the dessert menu to see if there’s anything gluten free available.
At this point I make a mental note of the fact that none of the meat or vegetables I’ve had today were organic or pasture raised and all of the food was cooked in inflammation promoting seed oils. I also remember I haven’t taken any supplements or had enough water today because we’ve been busy. And…tomorrow we’re going to that little ice cream shop by the water we’ve been meaning to try so…
I decide to skip on dessert tonight. I order the steak entree and have my last and final cocktail.
And that’s how you do Flare Free Math!
SO TO RECAP THIS HYPOTHETICAL TRAVEL DAY:
-Breakfast was entirely gluten/dairy/sugar/corn/soy free to the best of my knowledge - there’s no telling what was in those breakfast sausages and potatoes
-Lunch included gluten, dairy, corn and sugar
-Dinner had alcohol and dairy
**All meals had inflammation promoting cooking oils, factory farmed meats and conventional produce.
I hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions, please comment below!
If you'd like to listen to the full podcast episode, click here.
I've made a couple graphics for you to help you next time you need to do Flare Free Math:
If you’re ready to get off the rollercoaster ride of autoimmune flare-ups and take control of your autoimmune condition without changing what you eat, check out the services I offer on my website including the Flare Free Cooking Academy, my monthly membership subscription that teaches you to use anti-inflammatory food as medicine through monthly seasonal meal plans, virtual cooking classes and 1:1 coaching sessions and a private online community of autoimmune warriors just like you.
Thanks for tuning in for another episode of Edible Rx - the podcast that teaches you to use food as medicine.
I’m Laura Rodriguez, signing off. Until next time guys…eat your damn vegetables!