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MS Awareness Month: D is for Diet, but avoid the Myths

D is for diet. No, I am not referring to weight loss; although I firmly believe that we should strive to maintain a healthy weight. I am referring to logical and healthy choices. 

Oh, no, here she goes with all her smack about Common Sense.

Well, it's true. And it is true that many of us fight the all mighty weight issue, but calm down and get back to your doughnut. (I just had a piece of pound cake for breakfast, so who am I to scold?)

Let's get the expected information out of the way, though. According to conducted studies, our food consumption should contain a balance of grains, fruit, vegetables, lean meats (or alternative protein), and low-fat dairy products that allow us as many calories as we need to function. Of course, the more calories we consume, the more weight we carry;therefore, make your calories count. Especially important if you are stationary, CS says to avoid the junk foods that contain empty calories.

Calcium protects our bones, so that is essential in our prone-to-fall diet. Fluids, especially water, are not to avoided, even when protecting that ever sensitive bladder. I know the drill: Don't drink anything prior to a trip so that you do not need to visit the lady's; then suffer the consequences of the ol' might UTI later. Nope. The heck with that. DRINK WATER!!!!!! Keeping your body healthy is much more important than worrying about how many bathrooms will be available. (Yeah, yeah, easier said than done...) Because constipation is another favorite of the MonSter, we need to make sure we are getting the necessary fiber in our diet, especially if you tend to be less active. So do not forget to MOVE.

Okay, enough. Lecture done. I guarantee there will be more talk of these issues before this alphabet is complete.  

For now, let's talk CAM: Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Have you heard of it?  If yo are a fan of homeopathic medicine, this is your cup of pills. Homeopathy is  treatment developed in the 1800's that is both low-risk and low-cost proven effective for MS Warriors. The side not here is that it SHOULD not be used in place of conventional medication for controlling disease activity. (Apply Common Sense where needed.)

There are a lot of crazy treatment our there. Some of them might work for you, but (in the words of fashion icon Tim Gunn) "use them thoughtfully". 

Bee venom has been studied for years in relationship to the treatment of MS, but I am not sold. Not only are many people highly allergic to bee venom, most studies have shown that a placebo is just as effective as said bee venom. 

Herbs need to be used with an open mind and observant eye. Although kava kava might fight your anxiety issues, valerian works for your insomnia, and cranberry is a great natural solution to the dreaded urinary tract infection, there are many herbs to avoid because they actually stimulate the immune system, which is already overactive in MS. 
In alphabetical order:
ct's claw
garlic (A bit in your pasta is fine.
reishi mushroom
saw palmetto
shiitake mushroom (Darn...I really like these.)
stinging nettle

Hyperbaric Oxygen and low-dose naltrexone are two treatments that have not yielded enough substantial proof to verify their list to acceptable MS CANs. Proceed sat your own risk.

Marijuana. Ahh, Mary Jane. Weed. Pot. Pass the peace pipe. Well...the studies are out there and surfacing daily. This is truly a hot topic in MS World. I refuse to get in the middle of the fray. Reports are out there that marijuana takes the edge off of MS and the pain associated with the MonSter. This a personal decision and several states in America have gone pro-active to legalize medical marijuana. I support this political move one hundred percent, but this is not about my personal beliefs. In a nutshell, do what is best for you.

There are a lot of CAMs you can do independently or in a class.
Aromatherapy can be beneficial to ward off depression, anxiety, an even cognitive arousal. I love my essential oil diffuser. A little water and several drops of wild orange and peppermint keep my brain sharp in fighting that mid-afternoon brain fog. Lavender is relaxing and melaleucha helps clear my sinuses. 

Keeping your body cool is crucial in dealing with MS. It is a fact that heat exacerbates the MonSter.

T ai Chi and Yoga can be practiced at home and are very effective in easing muscle tension and spiritual conflict. Because we concentrate on the breath while practicing these Eastern exercises, we are actually treating the body to a private meditation that join the body and mind. 

Acupuncture is something I have not tried and I would love to hear from anyone who has. What have I experimented with? Chiropractice, magnets/electromagnetic therapy, and massage. The physical relief of a chiropractic visit is not always immediately felt, but it doesn't wait long to let  you know that you have adequately "adjusted". It can get expensive, though, and studies have not proven that chiropractic service can alter the course of MS and some studies have shown that an end result of a stroke. Yeah, I know...
Magnet and Electromatic therapy uses a low-intensity pulsing to correct what is thought to be an electrical imbalance in the body. Used for hundreds of years in medicine, this treatment can possibly improve spasticity and bladder problems in MS. Massage also reduces spasticity while improving mood and easing certain muscle pains. Though not always terribly affordable. massage is my number one pick of CAM. Warning: It can be addictive.

While this maybe is not the diet you anticipated in this blog, you should know by now that things are not always what they seem. Above all when choosing a CAM, be cautious, be smart, and listen to your pal Common Sense. Never substitute an alternative treatment for prescribed medical procedure. 

Be cautiously skeptical; Always ask questions and don't give up until you have the answers; Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about CAM intervention. Do not assume that natural always means safe. Never believe that more is better. Moderation is the best practice. 

Additional resources:
Alternative Medicine and Multiple Scleroses, second edition, by Allen C. Bowling

PDR for Nutritional Supplements (Thomson Healthcare)

Patients with multiple sclerosis have an average life span.
Many people assume that MS is a deadly disease, when in fact most people with the illness die from stroke, cancer, or heart disease, like the majority of the population. There are many treatments that reduce the symptoms of MS to improve quality of life.

People with multiple sclerosis can still work.
While a work environment may bring some stress into the daily lives of those with MS, being unemployed can also be very stressful. Life without the stimulation of a job and interaction with others can be quite depressing, and is not necessary for those who have multiple sclerosis.

Genetics are to blame for the development of multiple sclerosis.
Genes play a role in the development of MS, but they are not completely to blame. While many patients have one or two family members with MS, researchers, doctors, and patients cannot rule out infectious agents and environmental factors.

People who get MS are older.
Even though many diseases develop during the process of aging, patients of all ages can be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This illness is most commonly diagnosed in patients between the ages of 20 and 50, and approximately 400,000 in the United States have been diagnosed with the disease.

Exercise is not good for people with MS.
Because exercise improves balance, endurance, and strength, it is recommended that patients with MS get physically active on a regular basis. Patients with multiple sclerosis need to make sure that they don’t become overheated, however, so frequent breaks are needed to keep cool.

Multiple sclerosis cases are the same.
In recent years, MS has increased in our cultural awareness because there have been celebrities who have struggled with the disease. However, not all cases of MS are the same. The development of the disease is unpredictable and symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. 

A person diagnosed with MS will need a wheelchair.
Two-thirds of those with MS are able to walk. While these patients often need crutches, a cane, or a walker, many do not require a wheelchair and may only use one to save energy when attending special events or traveling long distances.

Women with multiple sclerosis can’t get pregnant.
While there are many reasons for women to not get pregnant, MS is not one of them. The majority of women who have MS and get pregnant go into remission during the third trimester. Studies have shown that women who get pregnant have less of a chance of developing MS.
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