Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Know

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Inflammation is not good for anyone’s brain, but people with MS need to be even more aware of lifestyle choices that can either increase or reduce inflammation. The below is an excerpt from the article, Fight Arthritis with Food and Supplements, by Dr. Leo Galland, a board-certified internist. The article focuses on arthritis, but these foods are just as applicable for MS.

If you are following the Swank Diet, McDougall Diet or have heard about Dr. Terry Wahls, this list of do’s and don’ts should be familiar. It’s always reaffirming to read about the benefits of nutrition to fight disease, which seems to be more common these days… or since I seek it out maybe I just notice it more!

1. Eat at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Choose those with bright or deep colors like cherries and berries and sweet potatoes that contain natural anti-inflammatory nutrition. NOTE: Food allergies can trigger inflammation for some people, and if there is a food that your body reacts to, you should avoid it, no matter how healthy it would be for someone who’s not sensitive to it. Tomatoes, incidentally, seem to have more of anti-inflammatory effect when they’re cooked or juiced, but most other vegetables and fruits are better if they’re fresh.

2. Choose your oils wisely.
Extra-virgin olive oil has natural anti-inflammatory benefits, whether raw or cooked. Recent research has identified the antioxidant called oleocanthal, which is only found in extra-virgin olive oil. Oleocanthal is a natural anti-inflammatory with potency strikingly similar to that of the drug ibuprofen in inhibiting an enzyme that causes pain and inflammation. Even better pain management results have been observed when, in addition to fish oil, extra-virgin olive oil is part of the natural anti-inflammatory diet.

Flaxseed oil and flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed), also have significant anti-inflammatory effects, but should not be cooked, because cooking destroys some of the beneficial omega-3 fats.

But other vegetable oils, like corn, safflower or sunflower oils, can increase inflammation and counteract the benefits of anti-inflammatory nutrients in your diet.

3. Eat fish three times a week.
Especially wild salmon, if it’s available and affordable, but don’t fry your fish; frying interferes with the benefits. Supplement your diet with the natural anti-inflammatory, fish oil. The amount of fish oil you need is not fixed; it varies from about a teaspoon (4000 milligrams) to a tablespoon (12,000 milligrams) each day, depending upon what else is in your diet. The more meat, poultry, egg yolk or dairy fat you eat, the greater your need for fish oil, because these foods contain arachidonic acid, a pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid. The more you use vegetable oils other than extra virgin olive oil, the more fish oil you need.

4. Avoid sugar and foods with added sugar and refined carbohydrates
Reduce inflammation by cutting out white flour products, white rice and white potatoes. Several studies have shown that consuming foods of this type aggravates inflammation. Instead eat high fiber foods like whole grains and legumes. Studies have shown that high fiber diets are anti-inflammatory. Don’t worry about carrots. All the publicity given to the Glycemic Index of foods (the tendency for a food to raise blood sugar) has given carrots a bad rep. The carotenoids in carrots, anti-oxidants that create the orange color, and the fiber, make carrots an anti-inflammatory food. Carrots, like tomatoes, are also more nutritious cooked than raw.

5. Drink tea, black or green.
Green tea and black tea can help with fighting inflammation. You need at least three cups a day to get the benefit.

6. Use anti-inflammatory spices in preparing your food.
Ginger and turmeric have excellent anti-inflammatory effects, although human clinical trials with these spices are much more limited than for the other principles listed.

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Lesions on My Mind… Literally and Figuratively.

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Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~ Hebrews 1:1

I’m going to the neurologist in a couple of weeks.

It’s technically my six month follow-up… about four months late. Using “the holidays” as an excuse for the delayed appointment is a good reason, but honestly, I just haven’t wanted to know what was going on in there. If I’ve been fine, does it matter? My neurologist would say “Yes.” I say, “No.” And we’re both biased.

Either way, this upcoming appointment and inevitable MRI have me thinking a lot about lesions: What do they really mean? On my first scan my neurologist said there were old lesions that could have been around for five or ten years… but I obviously never exhibited any symptoms. When comparing my first scan to my second scan, there was a reduction in lesion size and no new lesions; when comparing my second to my third scan, there was an appearance of new lesions. I was devastated at this last outcome.

I’ve tried to find information about disease progression and the appearance of lesions, but the verdict seems to be up in the air. Some studies say there is a correlation and others say that lesions are only an indicator of disease, but not necessarily an indicator of progression.

So in a few weeks, I’ll find out what’s been going on in my brain. And good or bad results, being through the latter makes this looming outcome less scary.
 

Hello, 2012!

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I haven’t written in a while and just wanted to check in and let you know I’m still healthy; still without any MS issues since my first exacerbation in June 2010… so I’m 18 months and counting!  It’s funny, sometimes I feel like I’m a recovering alcoholic keeping track of my number of days sober 🙂

Previously, I felt that my posts should always contain some new medical information or some “point,” but my view has changed.  I think that the best part about reading MS blogs is hearing about people who are truly living.  It’s inspiring to hear from those who are taking on each day and living despite of their diagnosis.  So with that, I’ll write down some of my happy news and try to write more about my “life.”

2012 is starting off to be a great year.  My boyfriend (now fiance!) and I traveled to New York for the New Year.  Central Park was the highlighted spot of the trip.  First, he surprised me with a proposal in the Park.  Second, we participated in a New Year’s Eve run through the Park: fireworks and a four-mile run at the strike of midnight.  It was a great experience and something totally different for us.

New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Central Park run.

I thank God for a healthy 2011, not only for myself, but my family and friends too.  I pray that our blessings will continue in 2012… and that there will be great strides forward in finding the cure/cause of MS.

I continue to stick to my diet, my exercise and for now all I can say is: Life Is Good.

A spoonful of cinnamon helps the medicine… go away?

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Now I have another reason to justify my daily purchase of cinnamon tea from Caribou Coffee 🙂

A neurological scientist at Rush University in Chicago has received a $750,000 grant to study the effects of cinnamon on multiple sclerosis.

Kalipada Pahan, PhD, has previously published studies about sodium benzoate (a metabolite of cinnamon) and how it’s able to block MS progression in mice.  The new grant money will be used to expand on his earlier research and analyze the effects of cinnamon on mice.  Check out the full article.

The MS Time Bomb

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Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength. ~ Corey Ten Boom

In the beginning I used to think about it all the time. When would “this” (MS) happen to me again? I felt like a walking time bomb: Every day that I’m normal could be my last… every hour, minute, second.  I never used to think about my life like that. And doing so was exhausting.

I finally realized – MS shouldn’t cause so much uncertainty in my life. No one knows what the next hour, minute, second will bring.

For example, my MS-free boyfriend survived a fiery car crash this spring. A woman rear-ended him on the interstate and their cars burst into flames on impact. He could have died, he could have been severely burned… thank God he escaped with only a cut on his forehead and a sore back.

Occasionally I’ll still hear that tik, tik, tik of the MS time bomb.  But I try to push those thoughts out quickly and only acknowledge them by thanking God for today and trusting that I’ll be in His care tomorrow.

An inspirational story for the weekend.

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I came across the story of Terry Wahls and her remarkable recovery from secondary progressive MS and I’ve tried to think of a way to tie it into a blog post. I’ve realized the best way is just to post it.

She’s a clinical professor at the University of Iowa and was on her way to being bedridden in 2003. Today she bikes to work and no longer takes medications. She credits an intense, nutrient rich diet along with an exercise regime and neuromuscular electrical stimulation for her recovery.

Hopefully her status as medical professional and her well-documented recovery from SPMS will continue to shed light on the amazing benefits of diet and nutrition to fight this disease.

http://www.uiowa.edu/be-remarkable/portfolio/people/wahls-t.html
http://www.terrywahls.com/

Brain News

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One article is old, the other just published yesterday – but they both support the belief that our brains can heal. You just need to stay active.

The newer article, What Parkinson’s Teaches Us About the Brain, is particularly interesting to me. While the article is quick to note exercise is not a cure, Parkinson’s patients who participate in forced exercise show improvement in tremors and other disease symptoms. The doctor who is part of the research study is hopeful that this information will help patients with other brain-related diseases… and of course I immediately think “MS!”

Check them out. Both articles are a quick read:
What Parkinson’s Teaches Us About the Brain
This Year, Change Your Mind

Balancing My Fat Checkbook

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I realized I write a lot about being gluten and dairy free, but don’t give much attention to the importance of eating a low fat diet. Both the Swank and McDougall diets stress the importance of eating less than 50 grams of fat and 10 grams of saturated fat a day. And low fat is the whole point of the diet – excluding inflammatory foods is just an extra step.

While avoiding dairy and gluten helps keep my fat intake low, I still need to be conscious of how much fat I’m eating. So the past two weeks I’ve been diligent about keeping a running tally each day. And it’s amazing how easy it is to get up to 50 grams of fat; especially if my snack at work is a handful of walnuts, almonds or pistachios.

I know this post is kind of boring and it sounds like a tedious task, but this is my health. And just like I keep track of my finances, I need to keep track of my fat too. I’m at 26 grams fat; 2 grams saturated right now. I’m allowed 24 grams more fat and 8 grams more saturated today. See, not hard 😉

Ciliaca Lattosia

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August is coming to a close and I thought I should get one post in before September rolls around. So, due to the lack of new MS research or interesting articles that I’ve been able to find… I thought I’d write a little bit about my recent vacation.

At the beginning of this month, my family and my boyfriend’s family embarked on our first trip to Europe. Ten days, six cities and four countries: a whirlwind vacation, but so much fun. We went with a tour group and were bused to all the famous sites. I saw the Alps, the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican and the Colosseum; explored London by riding the Underground and toured Venice from the tapestry seat of a Gondola.

And the best part… I was able to stick to my diet the whole time!

Okay, so maybe that’s not the best part – but I was nervous about my food options abroad (especially in Italy). And I still have a hard time advertising my dietary restrictions – it makes me feel like I’m being difficult. So I prepared for the worst and packed a bunch of Lara and Kind bars. However, the tour guide was a huge help and my fears were unfounded.

In London, we ate at a pub that served a gluten-free fish & chips option; at the Moulin Rouge, the head waiter talked to me and then had the chef prepare an alternative gluten/dairy free meal. In Italy, the tour director gave me a small piece of paper where he wrote “Ciliaca Lattosia” and told me to carry it wherever I went.

This trip took me out of my comfort zone on so many levels. I traveled to different countries, experienced different cultures and learned what it felt like to not speak the local language! But it also helped me become more assertive and confident when it came to my food. It put me in the position where I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t order the “safe” salad and then eat something later at home. Eating at the restaurant was my only option and I had to make sure I got a filling, gluten/dairy free meal.

On the last night of the trip, my boyfriend’s mom snapped a picture of me with my sign. “This is how we’ll always remember you on this trip.” And that’s just fine with me.

Losing what you love.

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My first work in oil - 2010

I’ve always loved to draw, but I never really thought about losing that ability until recently. Typically when thinking about MS, staying mobile is the first thing that crosses my mind.

Charcoal & pastel - 2009

So when my friend and I decided to resume our “art nights” (a.k.a drawing and drinking red wine), I realized being an artist (I use this term loosely) is just another aspect of my life that I’ll have to fight to keep. And it’s realizations like this that make it hard not to look at my life as a long daunting task.

Since MS entered the picture, I’ve learned (and still am learning) to make a conscious effort daily to treasure the here and now, and to appreciate the simplest activities of the day. Honestly, even washing the dishes has become less of a chore because I’m thankful that I can do it.

Tunnel in Central Park, NY - 2011

Last night was our first art night in a year and to commemorate, I’ve posted a few of my pieces. The Central Park picture is the first piece I painted after my diagnosis.