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!

Articles, Videos

5 Signs Your Diet Isn’t Working For You

Confused about which type of diet is most suitable for you? It can be extremely frustrating to weed through all the health and nutrition info out there, especially if you’re living with a chronic health condition. In this video I list 5 things that might be going on in your body, which might help lead you in the right direction as far as your food choices. 

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.

Articles

6 Nutrients That Help Repair Myelin-Multiple Sclerosis

When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerves do not conduct electrical impulses normally. This results in sensations like: muscle weakness, tingling pins and needle sensations, memory problems, and fatigue. Yes, all the symptoms of MS! The good news is that with the help of certain nutrients, the human body has an amazing natural ability to repair myelin. In the video, I talk about 6 of them.

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

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!

Living with MS

Autoimmunity and Gut Health

The human body is host to trillions of bacteria – at least 1,000 different strains. There are exciting studies on this subject, which are constantly emerging, and they explore the connection between gut bacteria and several inflammatory, autoimmune conditions. Modern day researchers are even suggesting that an imbalance of gut bacteria may have a direct link to multiple sclerosis.

The gut microbiome (which is just a fancy expression for the microscopic bacteria that live within the intestinal system) play a very important role when it comes to the development and progression of autoimmune conditions. In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers found that MS patients have a distinct microbiome compared to their healthy peers.

The study in question found that the gut bacteria in patients with remitting relapsing MS was not significantly different from that of the healthy controls. However, when RRMS patients were further divided into groups that separated those with active disease and those in remission, there was less diverse gut bacteria in the patients in active relapse compared to the healthy controls.

 It would seem that not all gut bacteria are created equal!

The “good” bacteria in the gut help to digest food, manufacture specific vitamins, and protect the lining of the digestive tract. The “bad” bacteria, concurrently, can lead to digestive disturbances, contribute to brain fog, and inflames the digestive tract. Any factors that irritate or stress the digestive tract can lead to systemic, wide-spread inflammation. By controlling inflammation in the digestive tract, we can begin to balance the immune system and potentially stop it from sending an inappropriate immune system response, which causes the body to attack its own tissues. The more we learn about our own inner ecology, the more we discover just how influential this internal environment is.

7 Factors That Contribute to an Imbalance of Bacteria in the Gut

1) Poor Digestive Health
One of the major ways we can work towards balancing our gut bacteria is by improving digestion. An inability to fully breakdown and digest proteins can result in a meal that takes longer to digest. The longer food remains stagnant inside the intestinal system, the more gases and toxins are created (which act as fuel for the wrong types of bacteria). To improve digestive function, try following the simple suggestions listed below:

  • Eat slowly and chew well – to stress and rush through a meal impairs digestion by allowing too much air to mix with the food, and prevents saliva (which contains digestive enzymes to thoroughly coat the meal as we eat).
  • To maximize digestion, it is not advised to drink water (or any other liquid) 30 minutes before or after eating. If you have difficulty swallowing, small sips are acceptable, but take the time to eat slowly and properly chew the food until it becomes a paste in your mouth before swallowing.
  • Avoid over-consumption – stop eating at a comfortable spot (when you are 80% full). Overeating causes undue stress on the body, which impairs the integrity of the intestinal walls, and can lead to widespread inflammation.
  • Populate the gut with “friendly bacteria” by consuming foods that are rich in probiotics. Probiotic foods are those that have been cultured or fermented (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha).
    NOTE: If you are using yogurt as a probiotic, it must be plain and unsweetened. If yogurt contains fruit or added sugar, it has no probiotic benefit, no matter what the label may suggest. The healthy bacteria in the yogurt will feed on the fruit in the yogurt, instead of balancing out the bacteria present in your gut. If you use yogurt as a probiotic, choose plain, unsweetened kefir.
  • Avoid antacids – the body needs stomach acid to release protein-digesting enzymes, kill harmful microbes, and to trigger the release of other digestive enzymes from the pancreas so that food may be properly digested and absorbed.
    If you suffer from heartburn and/or indigestion, consult a natural health practitioner about addressing the root cause of instead of masking symptoms with antacids or proton pump inhibitors.
  • Consider taking a digestive enzyme before meals, but always consult a qualified health practitioner before taking any supplement(s).

2) Yeast/Candida Overgrowth
Candida is a type of yeast that is generally found in the flora of the intestinal system. Although candida organisms are naturally present in the body, they can cause problems if overgrowth occurs, resulting in candidiasis. In chronic candidiasis, rapidly multiplying candida can spread systemically throughout the body. Candida organisms are known to produce over 75 toxic substances. These toxins are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body, causing a wide array of symptoms. Yeast produce their energy by converting sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol, which can cause symptoms such as digestive disturbances, joint pain, and brain fog.

The good bacteria in your system are responsible for keeping candida under control – however, there are many factors which can disrupt this balance, such as antibiotics, birth control pills and oral corticosteroids.

 3) Slow Bowel Transit Time
“Bowel transit time” is the length of time that it takes for food to travel through the digestive tract (an elapse between the time food enters the mouth until it is eliminated as waste). The longer food remains sedentary in the intestinal tract, the more it will ferment and produce gases. Candida organisms feed off putrefying waste in the intestines. If you suffer from constipation, increase your consumption of high fiber foods, ensure you are drinking enough water, and include healthy fats in your diet.

4) Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities (or allergies) can also contribute to irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract, which can result in an imbalance of gut bacteria. Each person has their own unique biochemistry – what contributes to inflammation in one person, might not be an issue for another. All food is capable of initiating an inflammatory response in the body. Food sensitivity testing, followed by an elimination diet, is key in determining diet-related causes of gut-related inflammation.

5) Inflammatory Foods
Over-consumption of stimulants (such as caffeine and sugar), as well as heated oils, alcohol, artificial additives and preservatives, stress the digestive system and can interrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. It is recommended that you focus on whole foods – fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and high quality protein.

6) Blood Sugar Imbalances
“Bad bacteria” in the gut are fed by elevated blood sugar levels, which allow them to grow quickly out of control. The elimination of refined sugars is recommended, as well as ensuring that protein and fiber-rich foods are part of every meal and snack.

Any food that creates dramatic spikes in blood sugar should be avoided – these include white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and concentrated fruit juice.

 7) Chronic Stress
Stress taxes the adrenal glands, and elevates cortisol (a stress hormone). These factors raise blood sugar levels, which can feed the unwanted forms of bacteria in the gut. Chronic stress, anxiety and/or negative thinking all add to the total body burden of internal toxins that can interfere with proper digestion, and disrupt the balance of “good” gut bacteria.

We would be wise to adapt new and healthier/positive methods of dealing with stress. It is critical to maintain healthy amounts of sleep, and practice stress-reduction techniques (such as deep breathing, meditation, journal writing, listening to music, enjoying nature, and spending quality time with family and loved ones).

Interested in learning more about how to improve your digestive health?
Click here to take our online course: A Holistic Approach to Digestive Health

Sources:
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep28484
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25843302
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5326653
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/could-multiple-sclerosis-begin-in-the-gut

Articles, Living with MS

Are You Getting Enough Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids?

Every living cell in the body requires essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are found in high concentrations in the brain, aid in the transmission of nerve impulses, control blood clotting and are essential for rebuilding and producing new cells.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats found naturally in a wide variety of nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, seaweed and fish. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease, inflammation, certain types of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration. Omega-3 fatty acids are also critical for proper brain development and neurological function.  They are classified as “essential” because they are not made in the body and must come from the diet.

There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids. Two crucial ones, EPA and DHA are primarily found in cold water fish. Plants sources like flax, chia, hemp, and green leafy vegetables are primarily alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and are not in their bioactive form. The body must convert these short-chain ALA omega-3 fatty acids into EPA and DHA. This conversion is dependent on numerous key nutrients in a long sequence of complex, enzymatic reactions. Therefore, it’s important to avoid deficiencies by having a well-balanced diet in order for the conversion to take an anti-inflammatory prostaglandin pathway. For more detailed information regarding Omega-3 convervion pathways into EPA and DHA, visit this post.

The Benefits and Functions of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

• Research shows strong evidence that EPA and DHA can help lower triglycerides and blood pressure and that they play an important role in reducing inflammation throughout the body.
• Studies have found omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce joint pain and stiffness.
• DHA is important for visual and neurological development in infants.
• Some studies show that EPA and DHA can improve cognitive function and may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
• Essential fatty acids are required for the production of neurotransmitters.
• Essential fatty acids are the building blocks of hormones and are linked to menopause, PMS and other nervous and endocrine system imbalances.

 Symptoms of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency

• Impaired learning or poor memory
• Rough, dry, flaky skin
• Dry, brittle hair
• Weak or dry looking nails
• Dandruff
• Dry eyes
• Irregular menstrual periods
• Mood swings
• Depression

Sources of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

• Flax seeds • Hemp seeds • Chia seeds • Walnuts • Macadamia nuts • Sunflower seeds • Pecans • Avocados • Wheatgrass • Spinach • Kale • Broccoli • Seaweed • Algae • Nori • Spirulina • Wild caught, cold water fish •

Cooking and Storing

Heat destroys EFAs and results in the formation of dangerous free radicals, which can promote inflammation. Therefore, when consuming omega-3 rich nuts and seeds, it’s best to eat them raw and store in sealed containers in the refrigerator or other cool, dark places that are out of direct sunlight.

Flax, hemp, olive, pumpkin and other omega-3 rich oils should never be heated or used for cooking. Instead, use coconut oil which is more heat stable due to its chemical structure, making it less vulnerable to oxidation and free radical formation.

omega3

* Those taking blood thinners and anticoagulant medications are warned to supplement with omega-3’s using caution, as they may cause the blood to thin and lead to excess bleeding.