Guest Blog Post: Dr. Terry Wahls - Your Bowels and Multiple Sclerosis

As many of you know, I am a big advocate of gut health for MS.  I've worked with Dr. Terry Wahls on several projects and am grateful to have her expert advise on the connection between gut microbiota, the brain and MS health.  I take a probiotic every morning and have tested my hut health.   Thank you Dr. Wahls for providing this insight! 

Your Bowels and Multiple Sclerosis

The microbiome impact on multiple sclerosis risk is a hot area of research these days.   The microbes living in and on our body have a major impact on our weight, mood, immunity, and even heart health!  If you want health – you need to cultivate a healthier microbiome.  The mix of species living in your bowels depends on many factors.  

Did you know your poop could be so valuable for keeping you healthy?



When we are born, we acquire bacteria from our mother as we pass through the birth canal. If we are born via C- section, we acquire bacteria from the hospital workers who help deliver us, and which bacteria we acquire can greatly influence our health. Children born via C-section are at a higher risk of developing obesity, mental health problems, asthma, allergies, and auto-immune problems.
There is growing evidence that the microbiome has a role to play in patients with multiple sclerosis. Those with MS have a different mix of species than those without MS.   Also, scientists can, by examining the mix of microbial species living in the stool, predict who is experiencing a flare of MS symptoms.
Severe constipation is a hallmark of having a problem with the microbiome, and constipation is a common problem for those with MS.   One of the best strategies to address constipation is to increase the fiber in the diet. This can be done by adding more non-starchy vegetables, fermented foods, salads, and raw vegetables and fruits.  We instruct our patients in our clinics and our clinical trials to monitor their bowel movement consistency and adjust their diet.  

Here are a few simple strategies that we teach our patients to begin shifting the mix of species living in their bowels.  

1.       Eat 6 to 9 cups of non-starchy vegetables and berries each day
2.       Eat fermented foods with every meal
3.       Ditch the sugar and replace dessert with fruit to top your meals
4.       Eliminate artificial sweeteners
5.       Add more fiber (such as a chia puddings, flax seed puddings) to have soft bowel movements each day.

Cultivating a healthier microbiome begins with eating more home-cooked meals.  

In my clinics at the Veteran Affairs hospital, many of our patients were on disability with limited financial means, plus they have either forgotten or never learned how to cook.  We spend time giving our patients cooking classes and teaching people how to save money by making meals that are both delicious and affordable. 
I do clinical research and study the impact of diet and lifestyle on multiple sclerosis related symptoms.   In our current clinical trial, we are comparing the low saturated fat diet to the low lectin version of the modified paleo diet (Wahls Elimination).  In this trial, we are collecting detailed information about what people are eating as well as stool samples so we will also be able to asses how the microbiome changes as they adopt the study's diets.
I have also written a book, The Wahls Protocol, which gives people the tools to reclaim their lives from the ravages of autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and asthma.  In addition, I have written a cookbook, The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life,to make it easier to learn how to cook at home. It is filled with strategies to make affordable meals, simply and quickly to get your life back on track.

Take action for a healthier gut.

If you want to learn more about the diet and lifestyle approaches I use to treat autoimmune, neurological, psychiatric, and other health conditions and the clinical trials that we conduct, visit www.terrywahls.com. If you want to dive deeply into the protocol that I use, consider attending The Wahls Protocol Seminar that I teach every July.   In the seminar, we teach people the skills they need to be more successful at adopting and sustaining the diet and lifestyle changes that restore health and vitality.  

Thank you, Dr. Wahls, for sharing this important information with us.  We appreciate all you do to help us say #takeTHATms!.  

Articles about Gut Health, Diet and MS: 


Plasma Cells in the Gut May Actually Help Fight MS

A Fish Diet May Help Reduce Risk of Multiple Sclerosis


Probiotics May Be Able to Help People with MS



Emotional Hangover from MS - and what to do.

The MS got a hold of me, worse than it’s been in months.   But there were reasons.  Pushed beyond comfort by demands of life, it caught up with me.  And caught up bad.   

Often we talk about the physical pain of MS, the tremors, the spasticity.  The pain the comes from every nerve ending or the fatigue that covers us in a lead blanket.

And then the pain wanes and we feel better for a bit.  But the emotional sludge that remains behind is detrimental to our health and happiness.  

And boy did I feel it this morning when the day got started.  Frustrated, irritated and angry at life, my legs crumbled their way out of bed to get some coffee.  Crumbled for sure as there was no jumping for joy today.  



Why my?  Why this damn MS that suffocates me and keeps me jailed up in my body?  

Sure, I aim for happiness.  Positive thinking and all is great an my focus.  But today, I’m not going to fight it.  My emotions are way over the top upset and there’s no denying that I really I despise my MS right now.  

Unfortunately the angrier I get the more worked up my MS becomes.  This isn’t productive or healthy for anyone.  
Time to force a change! 

Yes, I’m using the word force.  Enter something beautiful in life:  A sit in the garden.  A chat with a friend.  A stroll through the neighborhood.  Find the beauty, grace and appreciation that is the bases of life.  It’s there but when I’m this worked up it’s hard to see beyond the tears. 


But forcing this is easier than it may seem.   Just sitting out in the garden for a few minutes is helping.  

BREATHE DEEP EXERCISE
1.  Breathe in deep to the chest.  
2.  Take the breath deeper, into the belly and gut and let it distend out as far as possible
3.  Keep taking in more air, aware of the beauty around you. 
4.  When full of air, sit a second then exhale deep.
5.  Exhale through the mouth, letting out everything dirty, angry and evil. 

Repeat! 

Ahhhhh...  Feeling so much better already.  

Now, to remember this trick during the busyness of the day.  


Now that I can see straight and am calming down, time to record my issues.

Even after almost 20 years of this illness, I am still learning about it.  Today was a lesson learned.  AFter three days of physical hell, the emotional hangover was even worse.   Next time my body faces exacerabations from mismanagement I must remember this tailing wind of emotions that have entwined me.



Thank you Selma Blair - #YesWeCane

Dear Selma,

You are such  a trooper.

Showing up during a flare up and rocking the red carpet.  Total baller.  We love you Selma!

Folks may not realize just how important your decisions and actions are for us living with MS.  Sure, we’ve had many celebrities in the past tooting their MS horn.  And we’ve appreciated all of them.

But to see someone, living in a relapse, experiencing dysphonia and other MS symptoms, walk the red carpet during the 2019 Academy Awards Vanity Fair party is just the best ever.

And, what makes it even more special is your positive attitude.  Your neurologist said you have about a 90% chance to return to normal.  Stay positive and focused.

Everyone with MS responds differently to the disease and to treatments.

Seventeen years ago, I could not walk or see unassisted.  I looked like I had consumed several martinis by 8 AM.

But you know what?  After perseverance and taking care of myself, I have recovered from many of my earlier symptoms.   It’s not easy, this day to day management of MS, but its doable.

Be easy on yourself and be compassionate toward your MS.   Watch you diet and reduce modifiable risk factors.

Some of my tips for newly diagnosed are here:  Tips for Newly Diagnosed with MS

And most important - reach out and ask for help if you need it.  It’s so easy to isolate with MS, but today let’s focus on sharing our stories and using them to help others.

You, my dear, are a rockstar in so many ways.   Take care and know that there is an entire MS community here for you if you need us.

And remember, #yeswecane and  #takeTHATms!

Best wishes,

Caroline Craven
@thegirlwithMS

If you missed Selma Blair on the red carpet - check it out:


Seeking Experts and Finding Treatment Answers

This blog post is sponsored by Med-IQ- working together to improve the lives of those living with MS

Treating multiple sclerosis (MS) takes more than a drug.  It’s a lifestyle change combined with teamwork.  These changes have made a huge difference in my life and I feel this information can help you live better. By combining self-care with guidance from medical professionals, patients are finding better ways to manage their MS.  

Health care professionals provide medical advice and recommendations.  Self-care empowers patients by helping them take charge of their lifestyle.  

Having access to current research, scientific findings, and professional expertise can make a difference in how health care professionals treat their patients. 

This is one reason why I chose to work with Med-IQ, an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, other health care professionals.
The second reason is because Med-IQis helping share my stories with those that can help others - the health care professionals who treat patients on a regular basis.   

The more our medical team understands and knows what we are living with, the better they can serve and help those with MS live a better life.  
They know the medical tools.  We know our symptoms.  Together we can make a difference!

Symptoms Versus Disease


There is strong evidence that treating MS as early as possible has its benefits.   

Whether you are newly diagnosed or living with MS for years, the question about which treatment is best never ends.  

MS is a complicated illness.  There is the demyelination of the nerves and the symptoms that result from this nerve damage.  There is no cure.  

But MS is more than the disease.  The resulting symptoms can cause havoc on someone’s quality of life.  

Because of the loss of myelin, nerves short circuit and do not communicate as they should, resulting in a broad range of symptoms such as extreme fatigue, pain, spasms, numbness, tingling, cognitive issues, bladder problems, vision problems, and more.    

Doctors may prescribe a variety of drugs to prevent future occurrence of the symptoms and help you live better. But, many of these drugs have side effects or are not tolerated by some patients.  

DMT Basics 


Today there are 15 disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for MS patients, varying from less aggressive forms to bulldogs that have hefty side effects.  They are FDA-approved, clinically tested treatments to help slow down the progression of the disease and its associated disabilities. But which one is right for you? 

DMTs are designed to reduce inflammation by using a variety of factors that affect the immune system.  The hope is for fewer relapses, less severe relapses, slower progression, and reduced disabilities.  DMTs are notdesigned for symptom management.   

DMTs are divided into categories based upon route of administration: injectables, oral drugs, those taken intravenously with an IV.  The drugs range from less aggressive drugs with fewer side effects to aggressive medicine with more risks.  

The 15 approved DMTs as listed on the National MS Society’s website: 

Injectable
Oral
Intravenous

You can find a list of these medications on the National MS Society’s website, as well as risk and safety information for each (DMTs). 


DMT Risks and Side Effects 


It is known that treating MS early and aggressively has its benefits.  But how aggressively should it be treated?  

With the increased amount of aggressive MS treatments come greater risks and side effects.  Liver damage, hair loss, and even death may occur.  

In order to best minimize risk while attacking MS, it’s necessary to be in open communication with your doctor and nurses about the medicine, your lifestyle, your habits, and the risks you are willing to take.  There are options.  

Three Habits of a Proactive MS Patient

These three habits can support you in managing your MS.

1.     Create open communication with yourself, your family/friends, and your doctor and care team.  
2.     Attend doctor appointments and use MRIs & other measurement tools to track disease activity.
3.     Practice self-care: Love yourself with healthy actions.

Open Communication


It’s crucial that you are able to talk comfortably with your health care providers to find the best combination of medicine and to help minimize risks.   
  
Do you drink?  Smoke? Take your medicine on a regular basis? 

Scary as it may seem, being honest with your doctor and care team will provide the best outcomes.  This will only come if you are honest with yourself.  

While advances in research are getting closer to finding targeted drugs for individuals, at this time it becomes a trial and error game.  And this can be difficult.  

Be patient and kind to yourself during this time.  Be open with yourself and your doctors.  Ask questions, be smart.  Together you will find the right solution!  

Self-Care 


Every person is different and reacts differently to medicine, but there are actions one can take to minimize MS symptoms naturally.  

This is time to bring in self-care.  While the DMT is fighting your disease, bring in your own actions to fight thebattle.  

Take control of what you can: eat healthy, stop smoking, exercise, and practice life skills to manage stress.  

MS patients have a harder time with their disease when other comorbidities occur, such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.  The better we can manage our own health, the better chance we have for controlling MS.  

Finding Quality of Life

MS is a manageable disease.  Through teamwork, honesty, and action, patients’ lives are fulfilled.  Quality of life is increased.  

Consult with your doctor.  Talk with family and friends.  And check out reliable sources of information like those listed below.  

And above all, know that you have this - that you are going to take action and do the best you can. 

That together, we are going to say, #takeTHATms!  


Resources

b.       Mayo Clinic 


Take the Survey

Help us learn more about your experience with MS and working with your care team experience by taking this survey.  The survey, which includes more education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are anonymous and will be shared only in aggregate.  Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with MS treatment and your care team, which will help us develop future educational initiatives for doctors to improve MS care.

The surveywhich includes further education on the topic, will take less than 15 minutes and upon completion, and you will be entered into a drawing to win 1 of 3 $100 VISA gift cards, with a total prize value of $300. 

The emails and names will only be used for awarding the winner.  They will not be kept!  



The information provided through this activity is for continuing education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient’s medical condition.

Join the fun and #takeTHATms!


#multiplesclerosis #livebetter #spon #takeTHATms!



I was compensated by Med-IQ through commercial support from Genentech to write about MS.  All opinions are my own.