The Check-In

Checking In: MS Symptoms

What good is discussing diet and lifestyle changes if I don’t reveal the ongoing results?

Doing an honest self-assessment of any sort is hard, particularly when trying to find ways to manage an unmanageable disease. There’s a huge desire to make everything a “success” or engage in placebo effect-like thinking, but that isn’t always the case.

Overall, I feel like I am managing my MS better, but on a day-to-day basis, my mileage may vary because of various external factors.

Current Health Self-Check

Currently, I am not doing so well. Not necessarily because of the MS, but I have a weird seasonal head cold. Drippy nose, sore throat, and exhaustion. I can only assume that if a person without MS gets a cold like this they may feel wiped out but are able to go about their daily lives with minimal interference.

With MS and any illness, I get so wiped out that getting out of bed is a hardship. Ash had to stay home until Jai went down for his morning nap on Tuesday because I was so worn out. I needed the extra couple of hours of sleep this afforded me before I was able to start the day and take care of a toddler. Jai and I stayed in our PJs and read lots of books and minimized movement so I wouldn’t overdo it.

This is a key example of why getting sick with MS is “dangerous.” It won’t necessarily cause any physical harm, but infections are a key cause of flare-ups so there is a risk of needing to get steroids to treat the inflammation. I don’t get avoidant if I know someone is sick, but I do recognize that even a simple cold can knock me off my feet for a couple of days that might just inconvenience someone else.

Normally I wouldn’t write about getting sick factoring into how I am currently feeling because I tend to not get sick all that often, but since having Jai it has become a more common occurrence. 

Beyond the cold, I am feeling okay overall. There’s been some emotional disappointment in not being able to maintain my diet as strictly as I wanted, but doing what is best for my overall health is more important. My brain fog and memory issues haven’t gone away or lessened it, but that may be because I am not doing enough mental exercises to help stimulate neuron repair.

Fatigue is still an issue, but not so much on the days that I am more active. I find high-cardio days means that I have more energy throughout the day and days I do yoga there might be a greater dip in energy by the afternoon.

Being completely honest: I haven’t noticed many changes since my last check-in after my diet reset. I feel more active, happier, less sluggish, but no appreciable changes to my MS symptoms.

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Personal Motivation

Checking In: Coping with Personal Stress

Today a major milestone in my health journey. Five years ago today, I had my very first MS flare-up. At the time, I didn’t know what it was, but I was lucky enough to get answers less than a year later.

Today’s post contains a more in-depth tale of my journey to the MS diagnosis and what brings about my flare-ups. Read the shorter version here.

2012: The First Time

A few days prior to my flare-up, I finished up my final classes, got my grades in, and flew up to Connecticut to help my parents move. As an only child with one year of marriage under my belt, my parents wanted to leave the cold hollows of New England and join Ash and me in Georgia.

This was a particularly hard journey for me because it meant that I would be saying “goodbye” to my childhood home. We moved in when I was 6 and I had many fond memories stored inside; there were over 20 years of memories and I was extremely sad to no longer have the ability to visit it.

December 13th would be my last night sleeping in my old room, and on the 14th I would help my parents finish loading up the moving truck and help them drive down to Georgia over the next three days.

I was not in a good mood. I was grumpy, irritable, but most of all, stressed out.

It was my second year teaching college students composition, struggling with normal Graduate school stressors, and now the final stress of losing what felt like a family member was too much for me.

But there would be more.

On the 14th, a little more than an hour away from my location, Newtown happened. I had to keep it together to help finish the moving process, but inside I was really struggling with all of my feelings. I had a tight burning in my chest as I swept and mopped the living room floor. I had to keep everything together.

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The product of my labor: a clean living room floor. Possibly the only time I did this chore in this house.

 

We loaded up the truck around 6pm, my mom and I hopped in her car, and we headed south while my dad followed in the moving truck. We were headed towards Pennsylvania where we planned to stay for the night at a motel.

I slept on a pullout bed which was extremely uncomfortable. I was exhausted, so I didn’t think much about the day’s events, and I fell asleep.

When I woke up, there was an oval spot in my right eye’s field of vision. I had a slight headache and I was feeling unwell. At first I thought my glasses were dirty, but no matter how often I cleaned them, that spot wouldn’t go away. I rubbed my eyes thinking there might be some junk with no luck. I didn’t understand what was happening as we went to get breakfast at the local McDonald’s.

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Found on the restroom door of that McDonald’s. Even with the spot in my eye I could see how dated this was…

I had had migraines before, but I never experienced an aura prior to the migraine. Normally I would not have a migraine and then boom, migraine without warning. My migraines were increasing in frequency. I would have one once a year and I was starting to get them every 6 months or so, so when I looked up my eye symptoms, it seemed like a natural progression.

Figuring it was an aura, I was relegated to being the navigator when I didn’t have a black skull cap I bought at a gas station over my eyes to help manage what I thought were the beginning moments of a migraine. When we stopped in Virginia for the night we all thought the spot would go away with a good night’s sleep.

It did not. In fact, it got worse. It didn’t cover my whole field of vision, but it was more prominent. The day before, I could kind of see through this smudge. Now it was a translucent spot that partially blocked objects.

I was definitely scared. I didn’t know what was happening and how to fix it.

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Information Huddle

Gluten and the Autoimmune Disease

Gluten is delicious. I love gluten. I love bread that is crusty on the outside yet chewy on the inside. I love bread-based sweets like donuts or kringles when I ate sugar.

While I love gluten, it can be problematic for people with autoimmune diseases and sensitivities like me, which is a huge disappointment for a consumate foodie.

What is Gluten?

“Gluten is a mixture of proteins found mostly in wheat, but also in barley, rye, and oats. These grains make up many of our breads, pastas, granolas, noodles, tortillas, and beers.” – Popular Science

In my previous jaunts into veganism, I became a huge fan of Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG) to make the ever versatile and ever tasty Seitan. Talk about overdosing on gluten.

If you don’t have any issues with gluten, I recommend either making seitan or going to a vegetarian restaurant with fake meat. Chances are it’s seitan and it’s mind boggling how similar to meat it is in flavor and texture. It’s perfect if you are a newly minted vegetarian/vegan and you still crave that meaty flavor.

Gluten, figuratively speaking, is one of the glues that binds the world together. In it’s various forms it helped civilizations grow and flourish when it was cultivated and it is in plenty of Western recipes that it has a solid place in our culture of eating.

For many people, gluten does not negatively impact or affect their health, though removing it from one’s diet is viewed as a means to promote weight loss. The science is still out as to whether cutting gluten from a person’s diet who doesn’t have an autoimmune disease is beneficial. But going gluten-free in recent years is the thing to do in order to promote personal health and well-being.

As an aside: I think being gluten-free falls into that category of: “if I think it works and I am seeing benefits from it, then it works.” I am not going to judge.

However, if you have an autoimmune disease, gluten can affect you differently and that’s what I want to examine further in today’s post.

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Information Huddle

Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary

Dairy has its place in the Western diet. It is a valid way to consume calcium, get vitamin D, and other important vitamins and minerals. The issue is that it causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. Some people are aware that they have a sensitivity to dairy, and some are completely unaware that it might be the source of minor issues.

It may not affect everyone, but there are still some issues with consuming dairy in the recommended quantities.

The biggest problem is how addictive it is, especially in cultural consciousness. If you’ve ever gone dairy-free, considered going dairy-free, or know someone who did – the usual response is: “how will you live without ice cream/cheese/eggs?” and “I could never go without ice cream/cheese/eggs, I love them too much.”

It is possible to go dairy-free with all new options for alternatives out there, but it isn’t the same sometimes. That said, lessening one’s consumption of dairy does a body good.

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Information Huddle

Bad Fats and Good Health

National news programs, both morning and night, love to talk about obesity in America. Obesity affects us all in some way: either we will know someone who is obese or we will be/are obese. I will flat out admit this: according to my BMI, I am obese (30.6). It’s not something I am proud of and getting on the scale at the doctor’s office is a blow to my ego. But I’ve accepted that while I hate the numbers, there is some truth to the matter: I need to make some changes to my lifestyle to move that number between 18.5-24.9 and be considered medically healthy.

By shifting my BMI into the non-obese range means that I could be adding years to my life. While I can’t guarantee those additional years will be good years due to the MS, I can make sure the good ones are filled with quality due to good physical and mental health.

The main culprit in the obesity epidemic in America is high-fat foods, specifically deep fried foods. As mentioned in my last post, it’s very hard to walk into any restaurant and not find multiple fried foods on the menu. The Western Diet is large portions, high-calories, high-fat, and high-sugar. I am being reductive, but anecdotally it is easy to see how pervasive the high-fat diet culture is in media and day-to-day life.

Making the necessary changes in my diet tend to be rather hard for me. There are several things I’ve said to myself when I have chosen unhealthy options over the healthy ones:  it’s affordable, it’s fast and easy, it’s portable, and I deserve this. On the Internet I have read multiple times how much cheaper it is to eat fast and fried food versus the healthier options. Having gone through a starvation via poverty period myself in adulthood, I can agree: it is cheaper to eat higher calorie meals that helped sustain me for the entire day.

Let’s be honest, the healthier options do take more work: either to prepare or to mentally prepare yourself for being “good” and not indulging on the more sinful delectable.

Being healthy in America is doable, but it’s hard when there is so much temptation out there. And once you’ve had a taste of that golden goodness, it’s hard to not want to go back again and again.

I’ve previously blogged about how foods affect our microbiomes. Today’s post is going to expand upon that concept by focusing on one type of food that affects our gut bacteria: high-fat foods and how that might affect weight, emotional health, and physical health.

Continue reading “Bad Fats and Good Health”