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Nova Scotia Seniors – Multiple Sclerosis

Posted Nov 10, 2016

Multiple Sclerosis can be a life altering diagnosis and more than 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by it. However, there are things you can do to mitigate the prognosis – a lot.

What is it? It is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by our own immune systems that attack the protective coating of our nerves. This causes interruptions in communication between our brains and our bodies. If it is bad enough, the nerves themselves deteriorate to the point of permanent damage. Again, you need to work at arresting, reducing or delaying symptoms – yes, possible.

There are certain risk factors involved:

  • While it can occur in anyone, the most commonly affected are those between 15 years of age and 60
  • If there is family history, your risk of getting MS increases
  • Women are twice as likely to be affected by MS as men are
  • Certain auto-immune diseases can place you at a slightly higher risk, such as Thyroid disease, Type 1 Diabetes and inflammatory Bowel Disease

Smokers are more likely to trigger a second event and therefore, relapsing-remitting MS

There are other factors that increase vulnerability to MS, such as race, diet, climate, and certain viruses.

The symptoms vary from person to person but these are a few to look out for:

  • Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs (typically on one side of your body)
  • Partial or complete loss of vision (usually in one eye at a time), often with pain during eye movement
  • Double vision (prolonged)
  • Tingling or pain in parts of your body
  • Electric-shock sensations certain neck movements – bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
  • Tremor or unsteady gait
  • Slurred speech
  • Easily fatigued
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with bowel and bladder function

See a doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms for unknown reasons.

Progression of the disease again varies from person to person. Most of those with MS have a relapsing-remitting course. They experience periods of new symptoms or relapses that develop over days or weeks and then, can usually improve partially or completely for months and even years.

60 to 70 percent of people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop a steady progression of symptoms, known as secondary-progressive MS. These usually include issues with mobility.

Primary-progressive MS consists of no relapses, only the steady progression of symptoms.

When diagnosed, your doctor will probably provide one of the disease altering drugs, such as Interferon (and there are a host of others), given by injection, which will slow the progression of the MS. These are known drugs with few side-effects. You may experience some flu-like symptoms (aches, chills, etc) for a month or two but the benefits outweigh the pitfalls. There are many types of medication in the arsenal of MS fighters, depending on the progression of the disease and whether or not it is responding to treatment.

For those who have lost some mobility, it is vital to keep active – so physio is a must.

A change in lifestyle could make a huge difference as to how the disease progresses. Obviously, smoking is top of the list and then, diet and exercise – basically a healthy lifestyle will help maintain health and increase your quality of life – for years.

Researchers from the Emergency Practice Innovation Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne have followed a large cohort of 274 people with MS who completed baseline questionnaires prior to undertaking a live-in week-long course promoting a plant-based whole-food diet plus seafood, regular exercise, adequate sun exposure, and stress reduction.

As has been shown for heart disease, such an ultra-healthy lifestyle resulted in dramatic improvements in the condition of the cohort, who were on average 18% better physically, 23% better mentally and 20% better in overall quality of life five years later.

Said Professor George Jelinek, lead researcher in the study, who himself was diagnosed with MS in 1999 but has adhered to the program and remains well.

So… Dietary Factors

Some dietary suggestions for patients with MS include:

  • Drink lots of water each day (sound familiar?) and avoid caffeine.
  • Vitamin D – essential (either through being out in the sun or by supplement)
  • Eat a diet rich in fiber, particularly from whole grains (especially bran, oats, or flax), fruits (particularly prunes), and vegetables… again, familiar
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and fish oil supplements, have been associated with auto-immune disorders. Such fatty acids are also available in supplements as docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acids. Doctors recommend that people with MS eat three fish meals a week.

We’ve heard it all before and we know, logically, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Now we know it can alter the progression of a nasty condition.  It’s definitely time to give in and get healthy. After time, you will see the differences in how you feel as opposed to how you felt.

Please take a look at what the Mayo Clinic has to offer on the topic and please stay healthy.