Multiple sclerosis is a disease where areas of inflammation occur in the brain and/or spinal cord causing damage leading to various symptoms including spasticity, numbness, trouble walking, and/or impaired vision, to name a few.
These symptoms are indicators that inflammation is present around the nerve coating called the myelin sheath preventing the affected nerve fibers from working properly. When/if the inflammation dissipates, the myelin will often heal and repair itself resulting in the nerves working correctly again. However, constant or repeated attacks of inflammation (exacerbations) can leave a scar (sclerosis) which can cause permanent nerve damage. Most people with MS have multiple areas of scarring (plaques) hence why the disease is called multiple sclerosis.
According to MS Watch, “Inflammatory lesions can cause significant damage to the myelin sheath (called demyelination), which protects nerve fibers (axons), as well as to the nerves themselves. The deterioration in myelin can be repaired, although this in-built repair mechanism appears to become less effective after repeated inflammatory relapses…More serious, however, is the damage that can be caused to the underlying nerve fibers. It is this nerve damage that is believed to result in permanent neurological deficits and disability.”
Although a person cannot completely avoid inflammation in the body and brain, you can do things to minimize it:
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This is similar to the Mediterranean diet which is low in foods with a high glycemic load (too much sugar causes inflammation) and high in omega 3 fatty acids (helps decrease inflammation) and fresh foods.
Include an abundance of fresh vegetables (dark leafy greens), fruits (dark colored berries), fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, extra-virgin olive oil, and Asian mushrooms (fully cooked). Think about foods that are high alkaline (helps keep the acidity and pH levels in your body in balance).
Minimize your eating of diary, red meat, artificial/processed foods, gluten, refined sugar, and alcohol (these are highly acidic). Many people with MS believe that a gluten-free diet is the answer but research has not found actual evidence to prove this and it is a difficult lifestyle to maintain setting up a high probability for failure. It’s much easier to maintain a Mediterranean diet, and in my opinion, more delicious!
Exercise. Studies show that moderate exercise, approximately 30 minutes a day, reduces levels of inflammation. When you exercise, as your heart rate increases your muscle tissue releases proteins into your blood stream thereby lowering inflammation levels. If exercise is challenging, try movement of any kind. Every little bit helps.
Vitamins, supplements and herbs can help address inflammation (although consult your physician before consuming any to be sure you will not have an adverse effect with any medications you are taking).
Fish oil has been proven to calm inflammation in the brain. Although not clinically proven, it is thought that vitamin D helps reduce inflammation in people with MS. Check with your doctor to get your levels tested and see if you are deficient.
Also ask your doctor about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen. There are risks involved however they do combat inflammation.
Try adding ginger or turmeric to your diet. You can find fresh, powdered or capsule form and they both contain anti-inflammatory properties.
In summary, if you have MS (or any other inflammatory disease) and want to take an active role in combating the effects of inflammation, in addition to using your disease modifying therapies (DMTs) try consuming more fresh foods, vegetables and fruit; exercising or moving 30 minutes a day; and talking to your doctor about adding certain vitamins and supplements. You may lower risk of exacerbations.
How do you minimize inflammation?
Barbara inspires hope through mindful health and a meaningful life. By combining healthy living, spirituality, and neuroscience principles, she helps people understand how to be proactive in their health care versus reactionary in their sick care so they can feel great in their body and in their life. Her greatest wish is to never hear a person say, “I should be taking better care of myself.” To learn more and receive her FREE guide, visit Appelbaum Wellness.
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