Every month, our online masterclasses offer insight to different topics and special areas of interest that have been suggested by participants who attend our exercise classes. The masterclasses complement our weekly online exercise classes which take place every Tuesday and Thursday from 11am. The aim of each masterclass is to focus on a chosen topic area that people have identified as needing to know more about.
The masterclasses are led by Alan Pearson, our level four exercise specialist who has nearly a decade of experience providing exercise prescription as a means of managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Alan structures each masterclasses to first provide the understanding behind the theory of a problem such as foot drop and then demonstrates techniques to help manage the issues experienced through the use of exercise.
Our next masterclass is on Friday 16 April at 11am, which is second in the series of our online masterclasses where we will be focusing on corrective stretching. If you would like to know more about the session or how to register, click here.
See below some of the feedback we have received from our masterclasses that have taken place so far
“I thought the session was nothing less than brilliant. So practical, so reassuring, and so understanding. Alan is amazing.” – Jackie
“Alan's balance masterclass was excellent. I can't tell you how very helpful it is to get these insights into how our brains and bodies work together and the effects that damage can have and how we can work to maintain and improve those links. They are really motivational too.” - Sarah
“It’s so helpful to learn about what’s going on in the brain and body and to understand more about the links between them. It’s obvious that Alan knows his stuff.” - Lisa
A healthy and balanced diet is essential for everyone, and as March is National Nutrition Month, we’re sharing how diet can affect multiple sclerosis (MS).
Many people use their diet to complement other therapies, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing MS. Typically, inflammatory foods are known to be a trigger to the gut and result in a sometimes unhealthy gut microbiome, which can worsen the symptoms of MS. Whilst inflammation generally is the body’s barrier against infection, for people living with MS, it can be painful and ongoing as the myelin neurons are incorrectly recognised as pathogens, thus the inflammation continues and oxidation results in damaged cells.
However, your food choices can impact the levels the inflammation and can be a way to control the way in which your gut reacts. Fruit, vegetables, oily fish, and nuts and seeds are great direct anti-inflammatory foods.
Several diets have been specifically designed for people living with MS. There’s the Overcoming MS (OMS) diet, The Swank Diet, the Wahls Protocol, and the Best Bet Diet, to name the most notable options.
The OMS Diet is one of the most popular amongst MSers that are using diet to help manage their health, and it follows a largely plant-based diet, with the addition of fish. It is built from the foundations of the Swank Diet, which encourages a low consumption of saturated fats. Kellie Baron reveals how the OMS Diet helped her MS after she was diagnosed with MS in 2013.
At the time Kellie was working part-time due to fatigue and other MS-related symptoms. Several relapses eventually led to diagnosis, by which time she had just discovered OMS through a random Google search of the exact words ‘Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis’. She attended Professor Jelinek’s one-day conference in Brighton in 2013 where she learned all about the OMS Recovery Program, and the science behind it, and adopted the recommendations immediately.
“The diet was a huge change because I was eating absolute rubbish before that, lots of meat, dairy and saturated fat,” she said. “But it was like a switch went on in my mind. I don’t miss the old way of eating. I’m cooking a lot now which I never used to do before, and I’m eating amazing food.”
Since adopting the OMS way of life, and choosing to take the disease modifying drug Copaxone, Kellie has remained relapse free and seen improvement in her general health. Her Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score has dropped from 2.5 down to 1, with blurry vision in one eye her only remaining symptom.
“I’m back at work full-time now, have had promotions, and I’ve run a triathlon and cycled 100 miles,” she said. “The fatigue has gone, the numbness has gone, and I’ve had no more relapses. It has made such a huge difference to my life.”
There are also similar stories like Kellie’s from followers of The Best Bet Diet and Wahls Protocol, but one thing they all have in common is reduced fat and clean eating.
For more detailed information about these MS diets you can download our free Choices booklet surrounding the topic of diet and supplements. Always consulting your GP, neurologist and MS nurse before making any changes to any disease modifying drugs.
Dean Jeffreys, Online Programmes and Project Manager, explains MS-UK’s new national service and why you should get involved
Hello! I am the newly appointed online programmes and project manager here at MS-UK. I have the pleasure of launching our new and exciting online service for 2021. I have been working at MS-UK for just over three years now, and I will be using this experience to deliver and offer a wide range of online activities for the multiple sclerosis (MS) community.
This year, we will begin by launching our online exercise classes that are accessible for all abilities, and showing you how to get the most out of exercising from home. In addition, we will be starting other new classes and courses that will be the core offering from MS-UK. This includes mindfulness courses, chair yoga sessions, and our peer support service that will help you connect and stay socially active with others.
As we move forward in the year, we will be adding many more activities that you can get involved in. This includes live information sessions on topic areas such as diet and nutrition, symptom management, and complementary therapies. We will also offer alternative activities to those that get you physically active, including sessions on things such as poetry classes and arts and crafts.
As with everything we do at MS-UK, it is community-led, so if you have suggestions for activities you would like to see us hold online, you can email us firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what activities you would like to see in the future.
Online exercise classes
Starting in January 2021, we have our new online exercise classes, with six classes taking place every week on a Tuesday and Thursday from 11am. The classes are structured in a way that will make them accessible for all.
The classes themselves have been specifically designed to help people stay active at home, and will be delivered by our Exercise Specialist, Alan Pearson. These classes will give you the confidence to manage your wellbeing independently by attending the classes and practising the exercises in your own time.
How the classes are structured
Find out more
Please visit our website page www.ms-uk.org/ms-uk-online to see what we have going on and to book a class. If you have any questions and would like to know more about what we are offering, please email email@example.com or call MS-UK on 01206 226500.
Thank you for reading and I hope to see you in a class with us soon!
These simple, veg-packed soups make perfect warming winter lunches
Cauliflower and coconut soup
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 small garlic clove, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
½-in. (1-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 small cauliflower, washed and chopped
1⅔ cups (400 ml) water
⅓ cup (80 ml) coconut milk
Salt and pepper
1½ tsp gomasio
3½ tbsp (20g) cedar pine nuts
Cook the onion and garlic in a little of the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat, until the onion is translucent. Add the ginger and cook for 1–2 minutes, until golden.
Add the cauliflower and remaining olive oil and cook until lightly colored.
Pour in the water, bring to a boil, and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the cauliflower is cooked. Blend with the coconut milk to make a smooth, creamy soup. Serve the soup hot in bowls, sprinkled with the gomasio and cedar nuts.
King kale soup
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 medium-sized head broccoli (about 14 oz./400 g), washed and chopped
About 10 kale leaves, washed and shredded
3¾ cups (880 ml) water
⅓ cup (80 ml) coconut milk
Salt and pepper
Green scallion (spring onion) tops, washed and very finely chopped
Edible flowers, washed
Cook the onion and garlic in half the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat, until softened but not colored. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 1–2 minutes, until the onion is golden.
Add the broccoli and kale to the saucepan with the rest of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the coconut milk and blend everything together to make a smooth, creamy soup. Serve the soup hot, topped with chopped scallion tops and edible flowers.
Extracted from Wild Recipes: Plant-Based, Organic, Gluten-Free, Delicious by Emma Sawko (Flammarion, 2020).
Photography © Greta Rybus
On Tuesday 14 July MS-UK will be launching our national exercise classes on Facebook Live specifically designed for those with multiple sclerosis (MS). Each week we will be hosting two live classes via Facebook. This will include an upper-body class on Tuesdays and lower-body class on Fridays both at 1pm.
The classes are designed to be accessible and inclusive for all. Both classes will be broken down and an alternative exercise demonstrated to ensure participation for all clients regardless of the individual’s ability.
The sessions will last approximately 30 minutes and will be delivered by MS-UK’s Wellness Coaches. Our Wellness Coaches are Level 4 exercise specialists who have over 13 years’ experience working with our clients in MS-UK’s wellness centre. The session will focus on correctional exercises, co-ordination, balance, mobility and strengthening exercises. The exercises performed during the class will offer the opportunity to take away from the class and be performed independently.
- Main session (neural engagement, co-ordination, strength and stability)
- Cardiovascular (pulse raiser)
Some equipment can be used during the classes that you will find around the home. These include two food cans (or light gym weights (1-2kg max) if you have them), bath towel, walking stick/broom handle and carrier bag.
How to join us on Facebook
If you already have a Facebook profile you just need to search @MultipleSclerosisUK or click this link www.facebook.com/MultipleSclerosisUK/ to visit our Facebook page at 1pm on your chosen day. The live feed will appear on our profile page. If you do not have a Facebook account you can set one up by following these instructions.
Allergy UK is calling for people to consider the needs of people with food allergies and avoid stockpiling Free From products. At MS-UK, we received a call from a lady with multiple sclerosis (MS) who was worried she would soon not have anything at all to eat. ‘I’m away from home at the moment visiting my son who is in a care home,’ she said. ‘I have various stomach issues and when I’m unwell all I can manage are two Alpro yoghurts per day – that’s what keeps me alive. But there is only one Tesco where I live, and it is a 25-mile round trip to get to. I will have to go every day, and only be allowed three each time, that’s if they have any.
‘I feel like people with severe allergies should be able to buy more than three, because we are so limited on what we can actually eat.
Allergy UK, the leading charity for people living with allergies, says it is appealing to shoppers to think about those that require the “free-from” produce to feed their families.
For those who are elderly, vulnerable, or work for the NHS, supermarkets have created special allocate shopping hours. They are as follows:
8-9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday reserved for NHS and social care workers alongside elderly and vulnerable customers.
NHS hour 7am-8am every day but not on Sundays. Must show NHS ID.
No special hours for the elderly.
Prioritised a one-hour slot for elderly and vulnerable every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9am in all stores except smaller Express shops.
NHS staff can visit large stores one hour before the usual opening time every Sunday.
Prioritising NHS workers and elderly in larger stores every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8-9am.
OAPs. The first hour every Monday and Thursday.
NHS and emergency service workers. First hour each Tuesday and Friday.
On Friday, it launched a protected shopping period for the elderly and vulnerable at every store which will take place during the first opening hour.
The first hour of trading – Priority hours for elderly and vulnerable people.
The final hour of trading - NHS staff only, ID must be shown.
In the latest issue of New Pathways, we look at the ways animals help people living with a long-term condition like MS. Here, one MSer tells us what her pets mean to her - read the rest of the article in the magazine.
“Having my animals means I have a responsibility to look after them,” explains MSer Ann Kerr. “I have to go out each and every day to them. I may not feel the same every day, but they don't know that, they need me. No matter how I feel in the morning, my animals are pleased to see me, and I always feel better for being with them. They don't comment if I'm a bit slower today, they accept me and are always pleased I'm there.
“I can, and do, spend all day with my animals, I never get bored, they are all different and all have different needs, but all of them give pleasure to me.”
Living in Scotland, Anne says she has a determined streak that means she won’t let MS beat her. “I ignore it and get on with life,” she says. “A neurologist told me about the Ashton Embry Best Bet Diet and I’ve followed it ever since – I don’t take any medication. Having my animals keeps my mind busy and active – I still muck my horses out, and ride.”
Anne took up riding as an adult, which she says is later in life than most keen riders, but was a natural and even took to endurance riding, covering vast distances on her pony, Tia. “Endurance riding is like orienteering on horseback – you are given a map and various check points and off you go.
“Tia came to me as a general riding pony, but we developed into a very good endurance riding team, doing distances of up to 50 miles at a time!”
Anne still has Tia, who has been with her around 18 years, and who she calls a “very good friend.” Also trotting around is Midge, a 37-year-old retired Shetland pony. “She came on loan from a friend to keep Tia company, and the friend has let her stay here as she is very happy with Tia,” explains Anne.
There’s also Saffie, a 10-year-old highland pony that Anne has had for four years. “She’s my youngster, a very gentle pony who follows you around like a puppy.” Saffie is the only pony Anne rides now. “I feel very safe riding her, and she adapts to whatever the rider requires. Due to mobility, I need to use a mounting block (a tall box which the rider stands on for ease in getting onto a horse) and she stands still and is very patient while I get on.
“Then there’s Bess, my 14-year-old collie-lab cross. She goes everywhere with us and again, is a very gentle girl. I’ve had her since she was tiny. I was riding Tia through a local farm when the farmer offered to show me the puppy he had left from a litter and it was love at first sight! She's never put a paw wrong since.
“Finally, I have Scoobie, a 12 year old ginger cat who came from the same farm that I got Bess from. I was then banned from going through that farm by my husband!
“They are all such good animals, so loving, well-behaved, calm and quiet, and they all come when they are called.”
Keeping active with MS
It’s clear Anne deeply loves her animals, but they offer more than just love, they give her a purpose and something that takes her mind off of having MS. “The animals ensure that I'm active every day,” says Anne. “It might not always be the same level of activity, but I'm always active, always needed and always having to plan their wellbeing.
“They keep my mind active and focused because I have to plan what I'm going to be doing every day, what I'll need, for example, do I have everything the animals need in, or do I need to order feed, and so on. Physically I need to look after the stables on a daily basis, I groom ponies, I pick feet out, clear the fields, and that's just the horses – the cat and the dog also need to be looked after and exercised. There are no days off for me – not that that’s a problem!”
John Mills tells us about his marathon motivation and how training helps him manage his MS
Here’s a quick introduction for those of you that don’t know me. My name’s John Mills and I’m going to be running the London Marathon for MS-UK this year.
I was delighted to be asked to blog on the run-up to the big race by the team at MS-UK. It’s a cause that’s very personal to me. The year 2017 was one of big changes. My wife gave birth to our beautiful daughter, I turned 30, and I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
In this blog, and further forthcoming ones, I will write about my journey and progress from the perspective of a runner, how my training is progressing and how my MS is in relation to this.
I tried my hardest for over a year to ignore my diagnosis. I didn’t want MS to define who I was but, with the help of MS-UK, I have now realised that I can help define the condition instead, by raising awareness and promoting the fantastic work that MS-UK do.
Having already started fundraising, raising over £2,000 in a month, and meeting 20 or so #TeamPurple runners at a recent event means that there is now no turning back for me!
I am using the Nike Running Club (NRC) app for no other reason really than I have had it since 2013 and I know what to expect when using its training plans.
Royal Parks run
To get me off to the best start possible, I signed up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I am so pleased that I did. More than anything, I learnt what to expect come the 26 April 2020.
Here is what I took away from the day.
1. As silly as it sounds, 16,000 people is a lot to get across the start (and finish) line and that number will be doubled come April, which feels a little overwhelming.
2. Headphones are not needed. You won’t need headphones come race day (for training they are a must, for me anyway) as there is so much more going on to keep you occupied other than a playlist; the sights of London, steel bands, marching bands and the incredible support. It’s amazing that someone who you have never met before shouting your name can put a smile on your face after just having ran 13 miles!
3. Try to at least roughly plan where your supporters will be beforehand as you will undoubtedly miss them, as I did, if you don’t know where they are. My first recommendation to anybody running the marathon for the first time is to try and get some race day experience so you know what to expect.
My wife Sasha and I ran the Colchester half marathon for the MS Society back in 2016 because someone Sasha knows had been diagnosed with MS earlier that year. We raised £1,800 and, ironically, I had no idea that just a year later I’d be diagnosed myself.
I’ve always enjoyed running, but even more so now, as for me it is a form of meditation. All I need to think about is putting one foot in front of the other – nothing else matters. You are only competing against yourself. I wanted to act now with regards to running a marathon because with MS you just don’t know if or when it will have a greater impact on your everyday life.
Running and, more specifically, training for the Royal Parks half marathon and now the London marathon is part of my daily routine. It may sound odd, but if I wasn’t running, fatigue would get the better of me and I would spend the rest of the day in bed.
Today is a perfect example of that. I find maintaining a routine is key and exercise forms a strong part of that. I’m told that there is science behind that, but I am by no means an expert. All I know is that it helps me.
Training for the marathon is a great incentive for me to get out and maintain a certain level of fitness. After a run I get a sense of accomplishment and feel like I am beating MS one day at a time.
Currently I am not on any disease-modifying therapy for my MS, but I am due to start Ocrevus which works perfectly around training as it’s a six-monthly infusion. I take it as a sign that I am supposed to be running this marathon.
To sponsor John, visit his JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-mills-msmyselfandi
Doing Veganuary, or just fancy cutting down on meat? Try this delicious Chinese-style meal from the ‘£1 Chef’ Miguel Barclay, famous for creating delicious recipes on a shoestring. Perfect for tight January purse strings, this meal costs just £1 per serving.
Chinese-style oyster mushrooms
You can make this dish with any type of mushroom, or any veg really, but I find oyster mushrooms have a wonderfully meaty texture that make this a satisfying and substantial alternative to a Friday night Chinese takeaway.
½ mug of basmati rice 1 mug of water
Handful of oyster mushrooms
Splash of sesame oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
Squeeze of golden syrup or honey
Squeeze of sriracha sauce
Pinch of sesame seeds
½ spring onion, sliced
Put the rice and water in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat with the lid on for about 7 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Meanwhile, pan-fry the oyster mushrooms in a splash of sesame oil over a medium heat for a few minutes, then add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes until the garlic starts to brown. Add the golden syrup and sriracha and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken, then stir in a splash of soy sauce.
Serve the mushrooms on a bed of basmati rice and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and spring onion.
Extracted from Miguel Barclay’s Meat-Free One Pound Meals, Published by Headline, £16.99.
MS Clinical Nurse Practitioner Miranda Olding reveals the different treatment options for this common MS symptom
Spasticity, otherwise known as a tightening or stiffness of the muscle, is due to increased muscle tone and exaggerated response to muscle stretch. It is a common multiple sclerosis (MS) symptom and can affect the way we function, such as walking and posture. In addition, it can increase fatigue and cause pain. Unmanaged, it can lead to permanently shortened muscles called contractures and can affect daily living.
Spasticity also refers to involuntary muscle contractions or sudden movements, which range from a mild feeling of tightness, to severe, painful spasms, often of the legs. Here we focus on the problem of constant stiffness.
Treatment of spasticity is ideally done with the person with MS at the centre of a multidisciplinary team, with neuro physiotherapist, occupational therapist (OT), MS nurse, any relevant consultant, and possibly wheelchair services all liaising with each other.
The first thing to be aware of is that anything that is bothering the body can trigger or exacerbate spasticity in MS, so before medication, these 'trigger factors' need to be dealt with. They include, but are not limited to, infection, constipation, urinary retention, sore skin or pressure areas, anything that pinches, rubs or chafes, increased emotional stress and pain.
Muscle relaxant medication
The key with all muscle relaxants is to start low and go slow. You can even cut tablets in half with a tablet cutter from a pharmacy and start with a smaller dose. The idea is that by gradually increasing it every few days, you find a dose which reduces the problem, without causing too many side effects. The first people usually try is baclofen, and the most common side effects are drowsiness, or feeling weak. Because MS involves both stiffness and weakness in the muscles, you can find that a degree of stiffness is needed to maintain the strength needed for standing, so it can be a fine balance.
NICE guidelines recommend gabapentin as the next treatment to try if baclofen is not right for you. This is often used for nerve pain in MS, but also has a muscle relaxant effect. However, some people find the sedating side effects, or the fact that they are putting on weight, too difficult.
Another muscle relaxant that can be tried, which is less sedating, is tizanidine. But you will need a blood test before and for the first three months of treatment to check that your liver is coping and is not being harmed.
Occasionally, an older muscle relaxant, dantrolene, is tried. Diazepam (valium) is also effective as a short term muscle relaxant, but it is easy to become dependent on this. Clonazepam can also be tried.
When just a couple of defined muscles are causing the problems, botulinum toxin (botox) can be very effective when injected to paralyze these muscles. This needs to be repeated around every three months.
There has been evidence for some time that components of the cannabis plant can help some people with MS spasticity and pain. Sativex, the cannabis-derived medicine, is licensed to treat spasticity in people with MS, and is now available on NHS prescription from a specialist doctor, so speak to your neurologist or MS nurse to find out more. It is still illegal to possess this drug if you do not have a prescription.
CBD oil is a cannabis-based product that contains none of the psychoactive component, TCH, and so is legal for anyone to use. In studies where there was evidence of effectiveness, doses ranged from 0.8 to 1.8mg, taken between 2-4 times per day. The easiest way to control the dose is to take it in liquid form, and start with one drop under the tongue, then increase as necessary.
If other medications aren’t proving effective, a referral can be made to be seen in a specialist spasticity clinic, where a baclofen pump can be considered. This involves a tiny dose of baclofen being delivered straight to the spinal column via a small plastic tube, fitted to a pump, about the size of a shoe polish tin, which is inserted just under the skin in the abdomen. As the dose is so small, people have a lot less side effects than with tablets.
The way that you sit and lie in bed is important to break up the pattern of tight muscles with MS spasticity. However, this is something a physio or occupational therapists (OTs) can help with. OTs can also assist with night time splints to stretch out hands that have become very tight and to help ensure that all seating and equipment is supportive.
Keeping a full range of motion is important. Start by seeing a neuro-physio, and then keep things going with exercise. Everybody should be able to do some exercise or stretching, whether this is attending a regular exercise or yoga class, using regular or assisted gym equipment, including from a wheelchair, or even just passive stretching with a helper. A resource for this, 'Stretching with a helper' can be downloaded here https://bit.ly/2rrqHFu
Exercise not only helps to stretch out tight muscles, but also to reduce spasticity and spasm, boost fitness and lift mood.