Articles, Living with MS

Living with Multiple Sclerosis For 20 Years – Opening my Vault of MS Stories

This September 2021 is my 20 year MS-iversary and I’ve decided to open my vault of personal stories and share what life has been like for the past 20 years living with this illness – stories I’ve never told publicly before!

Some of the things I’ll be talking about in this video series:

  • how I was diagnosed with MS
  • tests I was given to diagnose MS
  • multiple sclerosis medications I’ve been on
  • being relapse-free for 10 years
  • how I eat to manage MS
  • funny, sad, embarrassing MS moments
  • different MS symptoms I’ve had

If you’re interested in this type of content, please subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of these videos!

Living with MS, Videos

Steve’s Multiple Sclerosis Story

Steve was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2004 at the age of 23.
When I came across his YouTube channel where he talks about how he manages his MS with diet and lifestyle, I knew I had to hear his story! We ended up having an amazing conversation that lasted over 2 hours and in the process, I made a great new friend!

Living with MS, Videos

MS Stories – Meet Ashleigh

Meet Ashleigh, a friend of mine who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 33. She kindly agreed to share her MS story.

We all have a story to tell and yours is important. If you’d like to tell your multiple sclerosis story, I’d love to hear it! Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Living with MS, Videos

Multiple Sclerosis and Mood Swings

Mood swings are a common symptom of multiple sclerosis, which sometimes goes unrecognized. MS lesions in the frontal lobe of the brain can affect: mood, memory, emotions, judgement, motor function, impulse control, and problem solving abilities. But there are other factors that can contribute to mood swings that are not caused by multiple sclerosis such as chronic stress, blood sugar imbalances, depression and hormone imbalances.

In this video I talk about a few of the ways I have learned to manage mood changes since being diagnosed with MS in 2001.

Living with MS

The Best Diet For Multiple Sclerosis

You probably came here looking for a definitive answer about what specific diet is the very best diet to follow when you have multiple sclerosis. From vegetarian to vegan, to raw vegan to paleo – I’ve known people who have tried them all, including myself!

One thing I would say is this. Be cautious of taking advice from someone who gives general advice claiming one specific type of diet either cures or heals MS.

Even though nutrition can have a profound impact on our health and how this disease plays out in the body, there is no ONE specific type of diet for slowing, halting or preventing multiple sclerosis  – other than a whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet that addresses some of the points I discuss further down in this post.  Each and every one of us who have been diagnosed with MS are metabolically, genetically, biochemically unique, and we have different factors that could be contributing to inflammation in the body.

What is balancing for one person, isn’t necessarily going to have the same effect for someone else. And why would it? Your liver, your kidneys, your adrenal glands – every cell in your body has lived a distinct life specific to you and your experiences. Even the state of your digestive health is unique to only you. We all might have been diagnosed with the same health condition but the lives we have lived are very different.

I have been living with multiple sclerosis since 2001, and I’ve spoken to so many people who follow all kinds of different diets. Some people manage their MS quite well following a vegan diet, but that might not work for you if you an intolerance to grains, beans and legumes, or serious digestive problems.

Many people with MS have a tendency of having food sensitivities, meaning certain foods can keep the body in a state of low grade systemic inflammation and steady rate of progression. It’s up to each of us to figure out what works for us as individuals.

One popular diet for MS is the paleo diet, which includes animal proteins. Vegan and paleo are both completely opposite diets from one another, yet there are many people who are quite successful in managing their health while eating in these different ways. And well, some people are not successful at remaining symptom-free at all. So why do you think this would this be?

We each have to figure out what is anti-inflammatory for us as individuals! And this doesn’t just include food. Sleep, stress levels, and exercise also play a very important role.

The online program I have created is not a specific diet plan. It’s a program designed to teach you how to bring balance back onto your body – YOUR unique body. There has to be balance in the diet no matter what type of diet you’re following. Most importantly, it needs to be anti-inflammatory!

So the best diet for MS?
– is anti-inflammatory for YOU as an individual
– focuses on gut health
– corrects nutritional deficiencies
– supports brain health
– contains nutrients that helps regenerate myelin
– supports natural detoxification and functioning of the liver
– helps you identify and minimize all stressors that could be contributing to inflammation (above and beyond diet)
– addresses the importance of restorative sleep
– incorporates stress management techniques and exercise

The best diet for MS is one that nourishes your mind, body and spirit!

The best diet for MS doesn’t give you unrealistic, unattainable goals. It helps you achieve balance in your body and develop healthy diet and lifestyle habits for lifelong success.

My online program A Holistic approach to Living with Multiple Sclerosis, is now up and running!

Multiple Sclerosis Diet

Never let any medical diagnosis stop you from pursuing the best health possible!

~Chantale, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001
Health conscious and relapse free since 2007!

Living with MS

The Effect of Gut Bacteria on MS

Studies have shown that the bacteria in our gut play a very important role when it comes to the development and progression of autoimmune conditions.

Researchers have discovered that MS patients have a distinct microbiome compared to their healthy peers. One specific study divided RRMS patients into groups that separated those with active disease and those in remission.  They found there was less diverse gut bacteria in the patients in active relapse compared to those who stay in remission for longer periods of time.

One cause of this gut bacteria imbalance is caused by an overgrowth of candida, a type of bacteria that lives throughout different regions of the body. Even though it’s natural to have a certain level of these types of bacterial colonies in the body, problems arise when the levels grow to unhealthy levels.

Not all gut bacteria are created equal!

Some of the good bacteria in the gut help to digest food, some manufacture specific vitamins, and other strains of bacteria even help protect the lining of the digestive tract. When there is an imbalance, too many strains of certain types of bacteria outnumber the beneficial strains. This can cause digestive problems and is an irritant to the cells that line the digestive tract. When left untreated, any irritation in the digestive tract can lead to inflammation and something called leaky gut syndrome, which can be linked to autoimmune reactions.

Anything that irritates or stresses the digestive system can lead to systemic, wide-spread inflammation. By controlling inflammation in the digestive tract, we can begin the process of bringing balance back into the body and potentially stop the immune system from misfiring.

To learn more about the different underlying causes of candida and how balance gut bacteria, visit the second module of my free online program: A Holistic Approach to Living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Sources:
Specific Gut Bacteria May Drive Progression of Multiple Sclerosis, Study Finds
Gut Microbes Could Help Trigger Multiple Sclerosis
Gut germs play role in multiple sclerosis, studies show.

 

 

 

 

Articles, Living with MS

It all starts in the gut!

The reason why Module 1 of my MS program starts with addressing gut health is because according to the holistic model of health, the underlying cause of autoimmune reactions is triggered by intestinal hyperpermeability, commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome.

In this scenario within the digestive system, the intestinal lining becomes irritated and inflamed and allows substances such as undigested proteins, microbes, and toxins to slip into the bloodstream (where they do not belong). The immune system detects and registers them as foreign substances. This puts the immune system on high alert to attack these substances as a method of self defense.

A mechanism called molecular mimicry, in which these foreign antigens in the blood stream share structural similarities with self-antigens now has the body attacking your own tissues. In order to stop this misguided immune system response, it’s important to remove foods and other factors that could be contributing to inflammation in the body. This is crucial because anything that irritates (the body or mind), can keep the body in a state of low-grade inflammation.

We start with the basics in this program by addressing digestive health. The reason for this is because we could be doing all the right things and eating the healthiest diet possible, but simple eating habits we might be practicing could be undoing all that good.

For example, if we’re drinking large amounts of water with meals or eating too fast, these type of eating habits stress the digestive system and impairs the way the body digests and absorbs nutrients. This is a stressor to the body and the digestive system. If we want to stop the body from initiating an autoimmune response, we need to be aware of some very simple habits that could be causing irritation to the gut lining.

Check out the first module of the program. It’s free, seriously no catch.
Check it out >> HERE <<

 

Articles, Living with MS

Are You Getting Enough Potassium?

Muscle cramping, weakness, fatigue, tingling or numb extremities, heart palpitations…are you getting enough potassium?

There can be several different underlying causes for some of the symptoms above. In my nutrition practice however, I analyze a lot of food diaries submitted by my clients and over the years I have noticed that many people are not getting enough potassium.

Potassium is both a mineral and electrolyte. It is the third most abundant mineral in the body and required for the proper functioning of several organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain and muscular tissues.  Potassium also plays an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump. Low levels of potassium can have severe effects on the heart, nerves and muscles.

Signs of Potassium Deficiency

  • Muscle cramping
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling or numb extremities
  • Heart palpitations
  • Passing large amounts of urine or feeling very thirsty most of the time
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depression, confusion, irritability

Factors That Deplete, Destroy or Compromise Potassium Absorption
Dehydration, diarrhea, excessive sweating and laxative abuse are common causes of low potassium levels.

A blood test can check potassium levels, kidney function, glucose, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous if an electrolyte imbalance is suspected.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
The recommended dietary intake for potassium is between 2,500 – 4,700 mg. Aim for the higher end if you are more active and sweat a lot, or if you experience frequent loose stools.

The kidneys control the balance of potassium by removing excess potassium into the urine. Those with kidney disease should use caution when it comes to eating potassium-rich foods. In some people with chronic kidney disease, the kidneys may not remove extra potassium from the blood.

Potassium-Rich Foods
The great thing about this wonderful mineral and electrolyte is there are so many foods that contain large amounts of it. For example, just one avocado contains 1,067 mg.

Potassium Foods

Avocado 1 whole

1,067 mg

Acorn Squash 1 cup

896

Spinach 1 cup (cooked)

839

Salmon 1/2 filet

777

Tomato sauce 1 cup

728

Yogurt 1 cup

573

Beets 1 cup (cooked)

518

White beans ½ cup

502

Banana 1 large

487

Sweet Potato 1 large

438

Coconut water 1 cup

395

Black beans ½ cup

369

Lentils ½ cup

365

Kale 1 cup (cooked)

329

Soy milk 1 cup

300

Almond milk 1 cup

190

Oats 1 cup

140

Quinoa ½ cup (cooked)

125

Hemp Seeds 1 Tbsp.

120

To give you an idea of what the ideal amount of potassium for the day might look like, I made two sample meals plans. These meal plans do not take into account other nutritional needs. They are just an example of how to include more potassium-rich foods into your diet if you are deficient. If you still have a difficult time meeting your potassium needs, try adding fresh salads, green smoothies, more fruit and vegetables or coconut water into your meal plans!

Plant-Based
Sample Potassium Meal Plan #1

Food

Potassium in mg

Breakfast
1 cup rolled oats (cooked)

140

1 banana

487

1/2 cup blueberries

57

1 cup soy milk

300

1 Tbsp. hemp seeds

120

Snack

1 medium apple

108

Almond butter – 1 Tbsp.

119

Lunch

1 cup quinoa

250

1/2 cup cooked spinach

419

1 cup broccoli

278

1/2 sweet potato

219

Dinner

1/2 cup black beans

369

1/2  cup lentils

365

1/2 cup cooked spinach

419

1/2 avocado

533.5

Total

4183.5 mg

Sample Potassium Meal Plan #2

Food

Potassium in mg

Breakfast

1 cup rolled oats (cooked)

140

1 banana

487

1/2 cup blueberries

57

1 cup almond milk

190

2 Tbsp. hemp seeds

240

Snack

1 medium apple

108

Almond butter – 1 Tbsp.

119

Lunch

1 salmon fillet

386

1/2 cup quinoa

125

1/2 cup broccoli

139

1/2 sweet potato

219

Dinner

1/2 chicken breast

191

1 cup cooked spinach

839

1 carrot

160

1/2 avocado

533.5

Total

3,933.5 mg

 

Living with MS

MS and the Connection to Gut Health

On September 28th, 2017 I was invited to do a talk for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada to discuss the fascinating link between multiple sclerosis and gut health.

I’m always so grateful to be given the opportunity to do these talks. I received such good feedback from the lecture that I decided to release an audio recording for those who either missed the talk, or for who don’t live in my area.

If you’re interested, you can also download a free copy of the handout that was given out.  If you follow the along while listening to the audio recording, it will be like you were right there in the room with us!

Topics include:

    • The impact of gut bacteria on MS
    • Multiple sclerosis and the leaky gut connection
    • 7 causes of that lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria
    • Tips to balance the gut microbiome
    • Nutrients and substances that help reduce gut related inflammation

Download a free copy of the Autoimmunity and Gut Health handout using the link below.
MS_talk_Sept28

Living with MS

Is Juicing Good or Bad For Multiple Sclerosis?

To Juice or Not to Juice?

Juice cleansing. Juice fasting. Juice feasting. Is it right for everyone?

Juicing is a centuries-old health practice that can be traced back to ancient cultures. Some sources state that juicing was even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls that date back before 150 BC and over the last 10 years, the popularity of juicing has really soared.

So what’s the hype all about?

Juicing and blending provides an easy and delicious way of increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we consume each day. Fresh juice also provides the body with an easy way of absorbing all of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants contained within these foods. There are however, a few things one needs to consider before rushing out to buy a juicer.

Every single one of us has different nutritional needs based on our current state of health, stage of life and activity level. Whenever someone is looking to make a change to their diet, it’s wise to start with small changes and introduce new foods or ways to prepare food, in a slow manner. We never want to shock our system or quickly throw our bodies into detox mode.

Toxins, chemicals and heavy metals store and bio-accumulate everywhere in the body including the brain, bones, organs and fat tissue. Whenever one makes a dramatic change to their diet, like quickly moving to a raw foods diet or doing a juice cleanse, there is a possibility of toxins quickly releasing into the bloodstream. This can cause many problems and holds the potential to exasperate any health condition. One thing that isn’t mentioned too often in the juicing world, is the symptoms of detox and health complications related to detoxification. Those with cancer or autoimmune conditions should always use caution and consult a certified natural health practitioner before radically altering the diet or embarking on a juice cleanse.

Common Symptoms of Detox Include:

  • headaches
  • lethargy
  • muscle aches and pains
  • mucus or other discharge
  • skin rashes, hives, acne breakouts
  • white coating on the tongue
  • flu-like symptoms
  • irritability
  • difficulty sleeping
  • weakness
  • cravings
  • nausea
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • digestive upset

Considerations

1. Autoimmune Conditions
There are many factors which have been known to exasperate autoimmune conditions. For those diagnosed with an autoimmune condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, you are probably aware of how stress affects your condition. Any kind of stressor, whether it be nutritional, emotional, mental, physical or environmental can have a negative impact on MS. A sudden change of diet is no exception.

Myelin, the fatty covering the nerves is also a target site for toxin accumulation. Whenever the body begins to cleanse the accumulation of toxins in this area, the nerves may become irritated and trigger symptom flare-ups.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start including fresh juices into your diet. It just means it’s best not to make any sudden or drastic change like doing a juice cleanse if you haven’t already cleaned up the diet, or if your condition is unstable.

My own personal experience in taking a holistic approach to managing MS is that I transformed my diet slowly, making small changes over the course of a year. It wasn’t until I was completely off of processed food that I started juicing. I wouldn’t say that I planned it that way, it’s just how my life and health transformation played out.

2. Diabetes and Blood Sugar Imbalances
Anyone with blood sugar imbalances should use caution when juicing. In order to avoid spiking the blood sugar, it’s best to juice more vegetables than fruit and to juice fruit in small amounts, sticking to those low on the glycemic index.

Do you have any of the following symptoms of unstable blood sugar?

  • Are you cranky, irritable or suffer from headaches if meals are late or missed?
  • Do you get light headed or dizzy if meals are late or missed?
  • Do you often crave sugary snacks, carbs and caffeine in the afternoon?
  • Are feelings of anxiety or nervousness relieved by eating?
  • Do you often experience fatigue or hunger a few hours after meals?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you could be suffering from unstable blood sugar levels. In this case, it’s best to eat fruit and vegetables in their whole form, where the fiber is still intact. Protein and fiber is what helps stabilize blood sugar levels. When you eat the whole fruit with the skin, which contains the fiber, the natural fruit sugars are released into the bloodstream much slower, resulting in better blood sugar control.

3. Thyroid Conditions
No doubt cruciferous vegetables possess many antioxidant, cancer-fighting nutrients, but they also contain isothiocyanates, a compound which acts as a goitrogen. Goitrogens are naturally-occurring substances that can interfere with the function of the thyroid gland.

In healthy people who do not have a thyroid condition, these compounds will not cause a thyroid imbalance or negatively impact your health, but for those with a pre-existing thyroid condition, one should consider limiting their consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables. In studies, cooking has been shown to inactivate these goitrogenic compounds. As much as one third of this goitrogenic potential may be deactivated when foods are steamed and boiled.

For those with thyroid conditions, the following list of foods are best eaten cooked, not juiced or consumed raw.

Kale • Spinach • Collard greens • Swiss chard • Arugula • Watercress • Bok choy • Broccoli • Cabbage • Cauliflower • Mustard greens

4. Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
Juicing can be a healthy way of getting more nutrients to an expectant or breastfeeding mother, but it is not advised to quickly transition from a nutrient poor diet to drinking an abundance of fresh juice. Even a mild detox can release toxins to the fetus. Numerous studies have shown that breast tissue is a major site of toxic build-up and these toxins can be released into the breast milk. It is recommended that one cleans up the diet at least six months prior to becoming pregnant and it is not advised to practice a juice fast while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Take Home Message
It’s always best to make small changes to your diet slowly over time. Add one fresh juice a day, but watch for symptoms of blood sugar imbalance or any other symptoms related to detoxification listed above. Keep a food/symptom diary and write down how you feel, both emotionally and physically after eating. Record symptoms you experience after meals or when new food is introduced into the diet. Pay attention on how your body reacts to stress, food, sleep and exercise.

Learning to be in tune with your own body allows you become your own personal health expert!