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Don’t stop me now… Louise and how gardening and her MS go together

Posted on: April 30 2021

This week, it’s National Gardening Week and we’ve been sharing ways that you can adapt your garden to become accessible with symptoms that include decreased mobility. Louise hasn’t let her multiple sclerosis dampen her love for gardening. Instead, she’s made adjustments to continue growing a selection of fruit and vegetables. Here, Louise shares her tips on how she manages her garden with mobility challenges with some methods you can adopt too. peer pod host louise_0.jpg

‘Don’t stop me now’.  That is me speaking to my multiple sclerosis (MS), in relation to my passion for gardening, nature and the outdoors. When I was diagnosed with MS about five years ago, I was determined to spend as much time as I could outdoors, despite my diminishing walking ability and muscle strength. I have a third of an acre, which I manage with labour-saving layouts and structures, timing strategies, and help with heavy tasks. The front garden consists of flower and shrub beds with gravel and moss paths in between to eliminate having to lug or pull a lawn mower round to it. There is lawn in the rear garden which is mown from March to early summer then allowed flower, with what are usually regarded as weeds, for pollinators and to encourage wildlife. The trend to let part of your garden ‘re-wild’ is beneficial to nature and less effort.

The vegetable and herb garden is structured in raised beds which I cultivate using the ‘no-dig method.’ I work on it early in the morning when my leg strength is at its best and before the sun makes me feel dizzy or saps my energy. If this happens, I go into the shade or indoors, leaving everything where it is, and I usually recover by late afternoon when I return to do light jobs or water if needed. It’s rather like a Mediterranean lifestyle, rising early to work outside, taking a long midday siesta and returning later in the day. I fill plastic milk containers with water or liquid fertilizer and leave them dotted around at various points in the garden so water is at hand. This eliminates having to carry heavy watering cans and buckets or walking back and forth to turn hose pipes on and off.

Beyond the lawn and vegetable garden I have an orchard of cherry trees where I have an apiary and chickens. I have a newly erected polytunnel with staging along one side so I can potter along in there with something to hold onto, plus a couple of chairs I can use for rest when needed. I am growing plenty of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines for the ‘eat a rainbow’ diet advised for a healthy immune system.

By the back door I grow herbs and salad leaves, all the year round, in pots and troughs so I can just snip off a few leaves, as needed, without having to walk far. It is where I also have a flip top compost bin for the easy disposal of vegetable food waste, coffee grounds and paper. Quantities of organic matter are essential for no-dig cultivation.

Besides produce and flowers, a garden yields many benefits for health and mental wellbeing.  Our immune systems require plenty of Vitamin D from sunlight and our circulation and breathing improves with fresh air and being amidst plants. Functional exercise, taught in MS exercise and Pilates classes, can be applied to the movements required for gardening tasks and, as such, help to strengthen muscles and improve neurological pathways.

My MS does mean that, at times, I do not have the strength or energy to work in the garden, but this gives me the opportunity to just stop and stare at the wonders of nature reminding me of the poem titled Leisure by William Henry Davis which begins like this... 

‘What is this life if, full of care, 

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows’…

 

Louise is the host of our Nature Peer Pod. You can join Louise and the rest of this pod’s participants each week in their meet, via Zoom. You can find out more about our Peer Pods by clicking here.

7 Tips and tools for accessible gardening this National Gardening Week

Posted on: April 27 2021

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Living with a long-term health condition can overshadow your hobbies at times, but gardening is one that you can truly make your own. By knowing your capabilities, using adapted tools and different methods of gardening, you don’t have to miss out on the Great Outdoors. Not only does growing your own flowers, fruit and veg wield a bountiful crop and the satisfaction from growing it yourself, but it also has a wealth of benefits. The physical activity involved is great for your overall health, and your mental health can reap the benefits of what you sow, too. From helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, it can also do wonders for your confidence and self-esteem.

Here, we round up the top products and tips to improve your gardening experience, just in time for this year’s growing season and for National Gardening Week!

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Easi-Grip Trowel 

Developed by UK company, Peta, the Easi-Grip Trowel is helpful for people with weak grip and poor hand control. The angle of the handle means that the wrist and hand stay at their natural angle and doesn’t require as much grip. There’s also the option to add an extra arm cuff for additional support. £14.95, peta-uk.com

Raised Beds

If you struggle to bend down or kneel and would prefer to garden from a standing or seated position, try adding raised beds to your garden or allotment. You could ask someone to help you make some so they’re perfect for your height (either seated or standing), or shop around for a suitable product. Be sure to check the size before you buy!

Wheeled Pot Trolley 312HZBZIddL._AC_.jpg

Large pots full of compost can be very heavy, so why not invest in a wheeled garden trolley? This enables you to move pots around the garden with ease and helps to avoid any injuries that heavy lifting may cause. 

Choose Wisely

Picking plants that require less attention can be the perfect solution. If you’re unsure how much time you can commit to your garden or struggle to maintain it, opt for plants that are slow-growing or don’t need pruning regularly.

Secateurs

When it comes to pruning your plants, there’s a whole range of options to assist you. This handy guide from Carry on Gardening will help you to determine the best set of secateurs, whether it’s a battery operated set, or the cut and hold design. Think about your mobility and having to pick the clippings up and what is the safest option for you in terms of grip and the type of blades.

Folding Garden Kneeler 15_210_image_1.jpg

Cushion your knees and take a seated break with this 2-in-1 design from VonHaus. Place it on the foam pad side down, and use the bars to assist you with getting up from ground level, or flip over to sit down. A trowel, fork, hand rake and storage bag are included too. £21.99, vonhaus.com

Sprinkler or watering systems

Watering cans can be really heavy and depending on the size of your garden, it can take a long time to get all the plants watered in the summer. Consider options such as sprinkler systems that can be set on a timer, ortimer or moved around the garden to make sure that your plants continue to bloom and grow! Alternatively, this wheeled sprayer is a more portable option to use.

 

Remember…

Knowing your abilities and identifying the areas that you require assistance with is important, and key to finding the right tools to help you. It’s always best to get someone to help you with any tasks that require climbing ladders, and other more dangerous tasks for example. Map out your garden and figure out the areas that you want to adapt or refresh, whether that be bit by bit, or a complete overhaul.

To find likeminded people who enjoy gardening, the great outdoors, and all things nature-related and have MS, why not join our Nature Peer Pod? Each week, this group meets via Zoom for a catch up and have a chat. It’s a great way to meet people who can relate to your situation and forge new friendships. Find out more about Peer Pods and the different groups by clicking here.

Multiple sclerosis - I do it my way

Posted on: April 26 2021

Karen.jpgBy taking a holistic approach, yoga teacher Karen is living medication-free 16 years after diagnosis

I remember going on holiday one summer in the mid-1990s and having a numb body from the waist down. The sensation of swimming in the pool was very odd. It went after a few weeks and I didn’t think to go to a doctor. I was about 27 years old.

I had been getting numb feet and hands for years after that, and generally feeling tired, but put this down to working 12-hour day and night shifts and commuting into London. I was running on empty, and stressed, too. I took redundancy from work as the company were relocating, and I had a baby boy at age 35.

Roll on to 2005, age 37, and I have a 2-year old child. I was trying to fix our house alarm and it went off, ringing loud in my ears. Next, I couldn’t walk straight. I went out of the front door, but was all over the place.

It was disorienting and frightening. I had vertigo and couldn’t stop vomiting. My hands went numb, I found it hard to do anything involved with fine motor skills such as doing buttons up.

I was in shock. It felt like a bereavement – a loss of the life I thought I was going to have, more children, and a new career – I was due to start a graduate teacher training program, which I gave up.

The MS consultant phoned me one evening as I was putting my son to bed, my husband was out. I still remember the look of bewilderment on my sons face as I continued putting him to bed after the phone call, tears streaming down my face. I hope nobody else hears like that.

I do remember spending that first year after diagnoses in bed a lot, sleeping. I was extremely fatigued but, oddly, for the first time, I listened to my body and rested instead of pushing on. My son was still taking day naps, which helped. Having the diagnosis meant I felt justified in taking the rest I needed. I had permission!

Trying treatment

I went into helpless auto pilot mode. I thought the doctors know best surely… this is what they do as a specialty. I took steroids originally and I went on to beta interferon and started injecting three times a week, but every time I injected it took me 24 hours to recover. There was something in me that just didn’t feel right.

I started working part time at my son’s preschool, and then had time to start back at regular yoga practice. The feeling of strength, calm and increased energy that yoga gave me was heartening.

By 2010, I had taken myself off the medication and started doing yoga regularly and in 2014 I had qualified as a children’s yoga teacher, enjoying teaching the additional needs children in the preschool. In 2015, after a yoga retreat to India, I took an 18 month, 200-hours yoga teacher training. I’ve been teaching five years now.

Yoga means to yoke or union – of the mind, body, breath, spirit, everything is connected, so you tend to take your practice off your mat into your daily life. My coordination and balance improved, I gained strength, and an overall sense of calm. Acceptance for me is the key.

Holistic approach

As well as practising yoga, I take vitamin D, B12, magnesium, and omega 3.

If I feel an MS ‘hug’ on its way, or my legs getting numb, I’ll cut out wheat, dairy and sugar (inflammatory foods) until I’m back on track. Oddly, pre-diagnosis, I had been trying to conceive from the age of 30, and at 35, after seeing an acupuncturist who told me to cut out wheat, dairy and sugar, fell pregnant within a month! My parasympathetic nervous system was a mess... so I always revert to a ‘clean’ diet when I need to. I wake up to hot water with lemon and ginger, another great natural anti-inflammatory food.

Very recently I tried a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) for five days. I was reading a book by Dr Valter Longo, The Longevity Diet. The FMD claims to trigger cellular clean up and renewal. I had so much energy after it and am going to look at doing something similar every season.

"As well as practising yoga, I take vitamin D, B12, magnesium, and omega 3"

I have hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the wonderful Milton Keynes MS Therapy Centre which, oddly enough, I wasn’t told about by my MS doctor. It worked fantastically when I was first diagnosed, giving me much-needed extra energy. But I tried it again a few years ago and it didn’t have quite the same effect.

I also love walking and wild swimming with friends.

I was a real ‘type A personality’ and driven to the point where chronic stress was a normal part of my life. I went from being a bit of a people pleaser, to being able to say ‘no’ more. Ironically, MS changed my life for the best.

Staying positive

I believe in practising gratitude. Always be grateful for all you have, however small. I try and exercise every day. I love tai chi, and have massage to boost lymphatic flow.

I’d advise anyone with MS to eat well and listen to your body. Try and heal your gut. Make yourself a priority. Remember it’s OK to say no, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to rest, and it’s OK to slow down. Know your limitations, but remember to keep moving. Be you. Do what makes you happy. Take one day at a time.

Get good quality sleep. Eat anti-inflammatory foods. The gut and its involvement with autoimmune diseases seems pretty topical at the moment. Join a yoga or exercise class, even if it’s online currently. Preferably start a live class when they are allowed again, or a Zoom-type class where you can feel part of a group and the teacher can see you. If you don’t like it, try something else until you do. As humans, we are designed to move.

Try and get outdoors everyday, too. If you can’t take a walk, sit in the sunshine, lie on the grass and look up at the clouds. Even in the winter I’ll lie with my legs up against a tree or a wall for up to 20 minutes – it’s so grounding and calming for the nervous system. I’m not really into social media by choice too... I find it too energy-sapping. I like some of the really good positive groups that I follow, but for me, restricting use is essential for my wellbeing.

Please don’t panic. Check out the positive stories of MS, such as Dr Terry Wahls. Take responsibility for your wellness. Find out what you can do to help yourself. Perhaps find a support group that is positive. Most importantly, listen to your body. Take time to be still and feel what your body needs.

My hope

On a medical level, I’d like to see people supported in their lifestyle choice of managing their condition through lifestyle changes. I’d like to see the doctors telling people what we could be doing to help ourselves. I’m sure there are some great consultants and MS nurses out there.

The NHS is saving £8,000 plus per year by not providing me disease modifying drugs but, more importantly, I’m managing the symptoms. But yoga classes, massages, acupuncture, and hyperbaric oxygen aren’t free. If these could be provided on the NHS then I think we could be tackling MS from all sides.

I’m not anti medical intervention, though. If I felt I needed help and medication in the future I’d ask, but there is so much we can be doing for ourselves. I’m coming up to 16 years diagnosed and feeling better than ever.

On a personal level, I’d say do not let MS define you. I don’t use the term ‘my MS’, and don’t introduce it as part of me as people are quick to judge and discriminate. After qualifying as a yoga teacher, I got offered a couple of jobs at gyms, and I’m pretty sure if I’d put MS on the form, I wouldn’t even have got through the door. I never took a day off sick, because I manage the symptoms.

Some people like the ‘MS warrior’ stance but, for me, ‘acceptance’ is the key. I’m not fighting MS, I’m living and breathing it.

My symptoms are there to remind me, I am at ‘dis-ease’. So take a breath, take it easy, and slow down. Our bodies are designed to be in a natural homeostasis state and will respond to how we treat them, so treat them well.

Find out about Karen’s yoga teaching at www.karennoonyoga.com

If you liked this, read: Diet and lifestyle advice for multiple sclerosis

Tessa's story - MS Awareness Week #ThisIsMS

Posted on: April 19 2021

Tessa hasn't let MS deter her from acheiving amazing things, having authored several books and forge her path within the local community through her writing. Here, she shares her story from diagnosis to present day. 

I wanted to tell my story to show others who may be just at the start of their multiple sclerosis (MS) journey that there are ways, even without disease modifying drugs (DMDs), to manage your symptoms, achieve your goals and lead a full and enjoyable life. 3_3.png

I’m seventy now and have lived with MS for almost 35 years. I was diagnosed with progressive MS shortly after the birth of my first child, at a time when there weren't any MS drugs available. As a new mother, I was determined that my daughter was not going to grow up to be a young carer, and that meant researching ways to help myself. I decided to see if there was any evidence that changing my diet might help, and I soon discovered there had been quite a few trials involving MS and food. I then consulted a doctor who also believed nutritional medicine could help MS, and I started to feel better.

In fact, I felt so much better that my husband accepted a temporary teaching post in Australia, and we moved to Tasmania for a year, where I had another child. It was whilst we were in Australia that I heard of a radical new theory about treating MS, which involved intensive exercise – specifically, weight training. Back in Britain, I added regular weight-training to my low fat, gluten-free and dairy-free diet, and my symptoms stabilised. Although I had some residual disability, I no longer worried that my symptoms might suddenly get worse.

I remained stable for thirteen years, during which I started writing regularly, and began an Open University degree. My book about nutritional therapy for MS, The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book, was published in 2007, and I’ve since published three children’s detective novels, The Eye Spy Series. I’m now working on a Young Adult (YA) novel.

I’m not the only person with MS who has found that it has brought pluses as well as minuses into my life. Being unable to carry on working full-time gave me the opportunity to try writing, which had always been an ambition of mine. Being a stay-at-home mum with MS was sometimes isolating and lonely, but writing has helped me to get involved with the local community and make new friends. And although my MS symptoms have progressed a bit during the last ten years (mostly sight and bladder problems), I’m still able to walk around the house, and only use a wheelchair outdoors.

I was extremely lucky in finding the right advice just when I needed it, but I think it also helps that I’m a glass-half-full person. I’ve always seen MS as a challenge to be overcome, and not an insurmountable obstacle. I just wish that medical training included more about the benefits of a healthy diet and the right sort of exercise, so that medical professionals could start handing out advice on these at the same time that they hand out DMDs. Knowing that you are doing something to help yourself is hugely empowering. 

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#ThisIsMS - Sally-Ann's story

Posted on: April 19 2021

For MS Awareness Week this year, we wanted to hear from people who live with the long-term health condition. This is Sally-Ann's story. 5_1.png

Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). A year before, I had woken up one morning and was blind in one eye. After seeing an eye specialist, I was diagnosed with optic neuritis and was told it would take a year to recover. Over the period of year, I lost eyesight in both eyes about three to four times and this led to my diagnosis of MS. MS wasn’t new to me. It was a condition I had watched my mother live with for many years, and my mother was wheelchair-bound and my father her full-time carer. From being diagnosed with MS and been fortunate enough to have treatment and medication straightaway it has thankfully kept my symptoms at bay and they are very mild. I’m still able to work full time, and every year I raise money and awareness for various MS charities. MS for every one of us is completely different, we all react differently to all the different medication and all of our symptoms can be so different. We call it a snowflake disease because none of us are the same. I’m very lucky that my eyesight has fully recovered and I am currently relapse-free for four years due to the medication I am on.

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#ThisIsMS - MS Awareness Week 2021 - Declan's story

Posted on: April 19 2021

This week is MS Awareness Week, and we'll be sharing stories from people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Every experience with MS differs for everyone, and each story shows how indivudal the journey can be. Declan shares his story and how he didn't let his sympoms stop him from following his dream to study law. 

My name is Declan Groeger and I live in Cork, Ireland. I was diagnosed with RRMS in 1988, but I can trace the initial signs and symptoms to 1983. I had often yearned to study Law and in 1999 I decided to do something about it. I applied for, and was accepted, onto an evening course studying law at my local university – University College Cork. It seemed to be a daunting challenge which would involve three hours, three evenings a week for the initial two years and progress to three hours, four evening a week for the next two years. All this, plus tutorials and study whilst holding down a full-time position as a real-estate agent. 2_4.png

I did 16 subjects over the initial four years which was the same number of subjects that full-time students studied over three years. Lectures and tutorials were at pre-ordained times – all after a day’s work, but study times were a different matter entirely. My boss allowed me a certain amount of freedom and I was able to manage some study time while in the office. My non-college evenings became study time, as did Saturday mornings but that was it. I still needed family time with my wife and two daughters.

My handwriting had deteriorated over the years to where it was barely legible as tiredness eclipsed my drive to be as good as I could be, and I knew that note-taking in lectures could be illegible without context. I bought a laptop, and my wife bought a voice recognition program. I would read my notes into the laptop, within 24 hours, while everything was fresh in my mind.

After I had completed my four-year stint and achieved my Bachelor of Common Law (BCL) with a 2:1, I discovered that I was addicted and enrolled for a further two years for a post-grad and achieved Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and by that time in 2005 I had got the further education bug out of my system.

I retired in 2010, 22 years after my diagnosis due to fatigue. It was a good decision for me as my quality of life has improved. I have undertaken a number of online courses over the years to keep my brain as active as possible and I like to think that I doing alright, particularly in these strange Covid-19 times.

 

Team Purple Pups

Posted on: April 15 2021

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Cathy and Sue took part in the Big Purple Dog Walk for MS-UK, and raised over £400 with their team of pups and walkers. Cathy shares their story and the support they were able to give each other during the challenge. 

'After the success of Run Every Day in January 2021 for MS-UK, Sue our Run Together Leader and MS-UK ambassador asked if we would like to join in The Big Purple Dog Walk, and many of the Run Together members jumped at the chance to sign up. Some team members were really struggling through the dark gloomy months, on top of trying to cope with the stress of Covid. So, we put together Team Purple Pups. Our Purple Pups are called Idris, Padfoot, Widget, Stanley, Tala, Willow, Mav, Jess, Nelly, Hunter, Max, Holly, Blitz, Ozwold, Shadow, Poppy, Willow 2, Lenny and Winnie

Team Purple Pups did us proud, they had us out every day, rain or shine! To get out in the fresh air, even for a short walk is just the best cure if you are feeling a bit down, anxious or just want to clear your head! Some of the Purple Pup’s walked miles every day, some of the slightly older dogs could only manage a few miles a day, but together as a team the Purple Pup’s covered so much mileage and completed quite a few marathons!

The MS-UK challenges throughout lockdown have helped so may of our Run Together Purple Pup owners. The challenges have got us out and about and we have met up with other Run Together members and Purple Pup’s pups and has been a life saver for many. Sue and our Run Together members have looked out for each other since lockdown last year and provided support and encouragement to anyone struggling with the Covid situation and not being able to see their loved ones. They relied on our running family to get some of us through some very dark times.

A huge thanks goes to Sue Bennett, without her, none of these MS-UK challenges would have happened. Sue has looked after us all since the very first lockdown, with live videos on Facebook, our Purple WhatsApp group, arranging buddy up runs or walks and just being there to support her team members. Cathy Flynn Team Purple Pups.jpg Team Purple Pups thoroughly enjoyed the Big Purple walk and have raised £405 for MS-UK!'

Diet and lifestyle advice for multiple sclerosis

Posted on: April 14 2021

tanya washing rachel.jpegIn the second part of her blog, nutritional therapist and naturopath Tanya Clarke reveals the diet and lifestyle choices which help her manage her condition

As I mentioned yesterday, a holistic approach aims to find the root cause driving the chronic illness. It could be poor nutrition, allergens, lack of exercise, infections, lack of sleep, toxins and/or stress - physical or emotional - or any combination of these.

I follow a naturopathic diet, based on organic wholefoods. It is a very anti-inflammatory diet, high in vegetables (raw or lightly steamed) and whole fruit.

I eat a rainbow of colours of fruit and vegetables. Colourful vegetables and fruit contain specific micronutrients that support your health and combat biological stress with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules.

I rarely eat cow’s milk products, but goat and sheep products are fine. I minimise caffeine and tannin intake, except for green tea. I rarely eat gluten, simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. I am not vegetarian but I eat a lot of vegetables and I eat more fish than meat – I only eat red meat occasionally.

I do not eat processed foods as they can be a problem due to their high sugar and salt content, and they are very inflammatory. I check for food intolerances, and avoid the resulting foods as they can increase inflammation. I try to add them back into my diet after a period of elimination.

Omega 3s

iStock-542318754.jpgI check for nutritional deficiencies and possible malabsorption. For me, adding flaxseed oil in to my diet every day is essential. It is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, which is anti-inflammatory. I eat cold water fish – wild salmon, herring and mackerel, two or three times a week, as this is also a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. Foods rich in essential fatty acids may be beneficial in decreasing symptoms and flare-ups of MS.

I add organic lecithin granules to my diet every day – this is important for the structure of the myelin sheath. I check for heavy metal toxicity and follow chelation therapies for reducing this. I used to keep a health diary to note what I was eating, my stress levels, emotional status and physical activity – I would score my overall wellbeing for that day out of ten, then for that week, then the month, and so on, reducing the frequency of recording as symptoms improved.

Medicinal mushrooms

iStock-155136042.jpgI am trained in the use of medicinal mushrooms, and I have found that they can be very helpful with MS as they are immunomodulating. They are a good source of vitamins D and B12, and they can offer neuroprotective and neuro-regenerative benefits. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.

To support the health of my gut and the elimination of toxins, I do a 10-week gut restoration programme and a six-week cleanse programme every year. I exercise regularly to keep my muscles strong – spending plenty of time outdoors in nature with my horses and dogs. I try to catch the sun for 15 minutes when it is out to top up my vitamin D levels. If the weather is bad, I find yoga beneficial for my strength, flexibility and breathing – it provides a boost for my physical and mental wellbeing.

Meditation

iStock-470134944.jpgI meditate every day. Various studies have shown that meditation may be helpful in reducing pain and improving quality of life in patients with MS. I have used both acupuncture and homeopathy, which helped to bring my body back into balance.

I am very careful with my stress levels. If I know that I am about to go through a very stressful period, I focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet to support me and increase the amount of time that I spend outdoors. I also meditate more frequently. Learning to say ‘no’ was very difficult for me initially but absolutely essential when looking after myself. It is not being selfish, it is just that there are times when taking on any more would be detrimental to my own health.

Never forget that good health is all about keeping the body in balance. That balance has different requirements for each individual, but it can be found and improvements can be made.

MS is not an inherited disease, however there is genetic risk that may be inherited. More than 200 genes have been identified that each contribute a small amount to the overall risk of developing MS. So starting with your genetic profile is useful, as it can guide you with how to create the most appropriate environment for your body to prevent it following the potential disease path of a genetic predisposition.

Start your journey

Think about your physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. For each one, consider how you can best support your body. Often it will be a combination of DMDs and dietary/lifestyle choices.

Hippocrates said in 400BC that ‘All disease begins in the gut’ so optimising gut function is a great place to start. With MS being an autoimmune condition and with 70-80 per cent of your immune system being in your gut, optimal gut health is crucial.

iStock-913034864.jpgStart with looking at your diet – what are you putting into your body? Is it a healthy balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, not too much saturated fat or processed food? Are you staying hydrated?

Then look at how you are eating – do you watch the TV while eating? Do you always eat while on the go? How stressed are you when you do eat? Do you chew your food properly?

Next, look at what you are absorbing from that food. There are tests available to check for nutritional deficiencies and possible nutritional malabsorption. Genetic predispositions are useful to know here. Check your vitamin D and vitamin B12 status if your GP has not done this already.

It is important to consider elimination. Your body will create waste – how well do you eliminate that waste (stools, urine and sweat)? If your elimination processes are not functioning well, toxins may build inside your body.

Toxin overload

Minimise exposure to exogenous toxins – eat organic food when you are able. Look at other toxins that you may be exposing yourself to – skincare products? Household cleaning products? Tap water? Diesel fumes? Solvents? Aerosol sprays?

Avoid smoking – studies have found that tobacco smoking is associated with more severe MS. It also may speed up disability and disease progression.

Always try and avoid overwork and fatigue. Manage stress – try the breathing 4-7-8 technique, where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, then out for eight, daily meditation - start with free guided meditation on one of the apps - and practise positive thinking.

Make sure that you get enough time to sleep and rest. Go to bed early and aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.

Exercise regularly. Tai Chi and Yoga are very good to help relaxation, balance and with muscle strength. Try to get outside every day in the fresh air to enhance your mood and to provide you with some vitamin D when the sun is shining.

Stay connected with friends – join a support group. Sometimes this may have to be via video calls.

Overall, learn to listen to your body.

Holistic approach

It should be emphasised that dietary and lifestyle options should be complementary and not be taken as alternatives – they should be part of a holistic approach and be under the guidance of your medical practitioner. We are all individuals. A wellness journey is a very personal one – a journey that can help you find your unique combination of factors that can nudge your body back into balance.

Please make sure that you consult your MS consultant/GP before self-prescribing supplements and making significant dietary changes. This is particularly important if you are on prescribed medications. It is essential to check that there are no drug/nutrient interactions.

Yesterday I explained why a holistic approach is so inportant in MS. You can read that post here My holistic approach to multiple sclerosis

Tanya is a naturopath and nutritional therapist. To contact her, visit www.tanyac.co.uk

 

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My holistic approach to multiple sclerosis

Posted on: April 14 2021

tanya washing rachel.jpegNutritional therapist and naturopath Tanya Clarke has multiple sclerosis. Here she reveals why a holistic approach is so beneficial to this condition

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong condition that causes a multitude of symptoms that affect physical and cognitive function, as well as mood. There is no cure. Disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) are available for people with active relapsing disease, and these can change the course of MS. However, due to the unpredictable and variable nature of MS and the fact that it affects every aspect of life – work, family, and social life, a holistic approach to care is required to meet the needs of those living with the condition.

A holistic approach will aim to find the root cause driving the chronic illness. The root cause could be poor nutrition, allergens, lack of movement, infections, lack of sleep, toxins and/or stress (physical or emotional) or any combination of these.

Naturopathic approach to multiple sclerosis

It is important to consider a person’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. All four aspects need to be in balance for optimal health. MS affects individuals differently, so the support each person requires will vary. It is not enough to focus on only one aspect such as diet, when that person may be living such a highly stressed life that they are unable to absorb the nutrients from an improved diet. A holistic approach is essential to find the antecedents, triggers, and mediators of chronic disease. It will look at the interaction of genes, lifestyle, and environment.

I chose to train as a naturopath because I have experienced the benefits of choosing a system of health care which promotes the body’s own self-healing mechanism. The principles of naturopathy were first used by the Hippocratic School of Medicine in about 400 BC. The Greek philosopher Hippocrates believed in viewing the whole person in regards to finding a cause of disease, and using the laws of nature to induce cure. It was from this original school of thought that naturopathy takes its principles –

The healing power of nature – nature has the innate ability to heal.

Identify and treat the cause – there is always an underlying cause, be it physical or emotional.

Do no harm – a naturopath will never use treatments that may create other conditions.

Treat the whole person – when preparing a treatment plan, all aspects of a person’s being are taken into consideration.

The naturopath as a teacher – a naturopath empowers the patient to take responsibility for his/her own health by teaching self-care.

Prevention is better than cure – a naturopath may remove toxic substances and situations from a patient’s lifestyle to prevent the onset of further disease.

This approach, alongside DMDs, can be very beneficial to chronic conditions such as MS. 

Check back here tomorrow, when I will reveal to you my holistic diet and lifestyle choices I use to manage my multiple sclerosis, and give you some pointers to help you start your wellness journey.

Take part in the London Marathon Walk this September!

Posted on: April 13 2021

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Join #TeamPurple this September for a different kind of London Marathon, accessible for all! 

If you have always had your sights on completing a walking marathon, and you are up for a challenge, then maybe this is the event for you. The London Marathon Walk is your chance to conquer the capital with your friends, and with a fundraising target of just £100, you could do something amazing this year for MS-UK! 

Image.jpg The London Marathon Walk will take you on a unique route around our capital city, taking in world-famous sights and less well-known corners as you trace a 26-mile route through London.  This challenging day will see you setting off bright and early, and will take you through peaceful parks and alongside waterways, passing iconic landmarks including St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye as you walk through the historic heart of the city. 

We would love to invite you to take part in this very special event for MS-UK, and complete your own kind of London Marathon! Guaranteed to be an achievement you will remember for a very long time, whilst making a difference to people affected by multiple sclerosis.

Sign up today and receive an MS-UK top to wear with pride! Contact Jackie in the fundraising team for more information on 01206 226500 

Register for the London Marathon Walk 

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