Thursday, January 31, 2013

Carnival of MS Bloggers #132

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.

As we see each year, the cold weather brings a dramatic increase in the number of people catching colds and flu. When we catch colds, we often feel chills. Eastern medical philosophy explains that the body gets chills mainly for two reasons. First, when the body is weak and out of balance, it reacts by shaking to get pathogens away from body, which stick to the surface of body or enter into the body. Pathogens are always present, even when you’re healthy. But whether or not they enter the body and bring problems depends on how strong and balanced your body is.

The second reason the body gets chills is the cold is so extreme the body shakes to prevent the entrance of cold.
In either case, the body is sometimes overcome and we end up getting sick.

The influence of cold temperatures often leads to symptoms in the nose, throat and air tract. But it also constricts the blood vessels, resulting in poor limb circulation. These changes near the surface of the body are easy to feel and usually short-term. But the cold can actually reach and chill the internal organs of the body, bringing more serious consequences.

Even for generally healthy people, chills can cause a dysfunction of the internal organs. Depending on which organ the chills spread to, a number of problems can manifest, including digestive, respiratory, sexual and emotional, among others. During menstruation, pain, excessive blood loss and/or clotting, and infertility can occur.

If the initial causes of these symptoms continue unchecked, they can lead to more serious, long-term illnesses. Perhaps western medicine doesn’t recognize this, but the East goes so far as to say ‘cold is the source of all disease.’

What does this mean for people with Multiple Sclerosis?
It means that MS patients need to be particularly careful to stay warm and avoid catching colds or flu or they’ll be at risk of having a relapse.

Prior statistics have already shown that relapses occur more often after a cold or bout of flu. The question has always been, “why?” A recent Current Medicine study suggested that cold viruses could produce a protein that wakens the sleeping pathogenic T cells, resulting in MS relapses.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM,) which sees the body and illnesses holistically, the fact you have MS means your body is already weak or out of balance. (This is likely the reason you came down with MS.) Catching cold and chills are also signs your body is out of balance, as we mentioned earlier. The combination of the imbalance caused by the cold weather and the original imbalance (that caused MS) can be too much for the body to take and may result in a relapse.

Both views indicate that viral infection resulting in colds and flu is a factor in MS relapses. So patients should be especially careful about catching colds through winter and times that these illnesses are spreading. Of course, the best way to avoid getting chilled and catching colds is to take precautionary measures.

I recommend the following to keep your selves healthy this winter:
MS patients should do their best to avoid crowded areas, make sure to gargle regularly and get plenty of sleep.

Be sure to dress warm enough, but don’t over do it. You should keep your abdomen/waist area particularly warm. Here in Japan, people do this by wearing a ‘belly band,’ or ‘haramaki.’ (hara=belly, maki=wrap) They’re especially popular with the older generation, but have been shunned as uncool by younger people in the past. Recently, though, modern versions are appearing and gaining popularity. Regardless, staying healthy should be your primary concern, so please use one if you can find it.

Also, be sure to keep your neck, wrists, and ankles warm as well.

With that being said, keeping warm is important, but getting overheated can actually be detrimental. Eastern cultures believe maintaining balance is the key to health in all aspects of life, physical, mental and emotional. Think ‘Yin and Yang,’ and act accordingly. In regards to your body, warm is good, but too hot is not. So don’t overdress or warm your body by the fire.

And finally, don’t bathe in extremely hot water. Long soaks in lukewarm water are recommended.

Regarding diet, basically you should be eating foods that warm the body. For vegetables, garlic, ginger, green onion, and leeks all have a warming effect, but tomatoes and raw vegetables should be avoided because they cool the body. Dark vegetables rich in carotene and root vegetables, such as pumpkin are especially good.

For meats and fish/ seafood, sheep, deer, shrimp, mussels, and salmon are good, but you should avoid crab. Other ingredients that warm the body are cinnamon, pepper, brown sugar, walnuts and chestnuts. Spicy foods warm the body, but should be avoided by people who are particularly dry.

Your meals should be a higher temperature than your body, so soups, stews, and pot cooking are recommended.

I also recommend limiting your alcohol consumption. But if you’re going to drink, do so in moderation. Choose red wine over white. Beer cools the body so you should avoid it, if possible. Again, balance is the key to health, and overconsumption is not balance.
Exercise moderately. You should raise your basal metabolism by building muscle. Lack of muscle makes it difficult for the body to generate heat, so it’s easy to get chilled. (It’s also easier to gain weight for this reason.)

Many people with MS have lost some mobility, thus making traditional exercise difficult. All I can say here is do your best to get some exercise. Even if you’re in a wheelchair, you should be able to do light exercises or yogic postures. There is much info on the net about this so please do some research, or consult your doctor. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Your body will thank you for it.

During the winter, in general you should do your best to just take it easy and not do anything extraneous in work or play. Also, keep your mind stable and calm. Follow the eastern saying, ’Go to bed early and get up late.’

TCM’s philosophy is that winter is a time when things settle quietly, become passive, and everything is stored away and saved. To welcome the new spring, you should spend the winter quietly and calmly to restore your energy.

These last points are made for everyone to maintain health during the winter. But MS patients should be especially vigilant to stay healthy because we have more at risk from falling ill from the cold. I hope the above advice has been helpful for you and will keep you cold, flu, and relapse free this winter. Please take care.

Thanks very much for your time. I’ve enjoyed sharing with you and look forward to doing so again in the near future.

This concludes the 132nd edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on February 14, 2013. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

Comments for this post.

(Top image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eating Foods High in Beta-carotene and Lutein May Protect Against ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive motor neuron disease affecting as many as 20,000-30,000 people in the United States.  ALS attacks the nerve cells (motor neurons) that control voluntary movement and strength.  Motor neurons are located in the spinal cord and brain.  In ALS, motor neurons gradually die which interferes with muscle control and movement, ultimately leading to death.  The cause of ALS is still unknown although research has identified a genetic risk factor in familial (inherited) cases of ALS which account for 5-10% of all ALS cases diagnosed.

New research published in the Annals of Neurology suggests that the consumption of foods containing colorful carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, may prevent or delay the onset of ALS.  Previous research has suggested that oxidative stress is involved in the development of ALS and that persons who take vitamin E supplements (a powerful antioxidant) have a reduced risk of ALS.
Read this post in its entirety:

Eating Bright-Colored Fruits and Vegetables May Prevent or Delay ALS, New Research Suggests

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snuff and MS: Does nicotine protect against MS?

Nicotine may protect against the development of multiple sclerosis, according to researchers from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.  In looking for possible causes and risk factors involved in developing MS, a group of researchers in Sweden have examined several possibilities, including smoking and nicotine use.

In a recent study published online, ahead of print, in the journal Multiple Sclerosis, researchers aimed to investigate the influence of moist snuff use on the risk of developing MS while taking smoking habits into consideration (Hedström, 2013).  A prior study conducted at the Karolinska Institutet indicated that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is associated with increased MS risk (Hedström, 2011).  The same research group had determined that smoking, but not the use of Swedish snuff, increased the risk of MS (Hedström, 2009).

Read this post in its entirety:

Does nicotine protect against MS?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Become a Mentor

The month of January marks the 12th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, sponsored by the Harvard Mentoring Project, MENTOR, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.  The purpose of National Mentoring Month is to recruit volunteer mentors for young people and to spread awareness of the importance of guiding our youth.

Read this post in its entirety:

Contribute to the Future: Become a Mentor

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Carnival of MS Bloggers #131

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.

Lessons Learned: FMLA
from Laura at Inside My Story

The  journey with Multiple Sclerosis is often unpredictable and sometimes takes an  unexpected turn – such is the case with my recent decision to apply for FMLA  (Family and Medical Leave Act) paperwork with my employer.

Here’s  the background story – I have been with this same employer for 22+ years, working  in the field of higher education, and I have generous leave (sick, vacation  and holiday) opportunities available. I regularly use one day of sick leave  to travel to the MS Clinic I attend for my monthly Tysabri infusions, and as  everyone who has MS knows, there are also often other appointments to take  care of our other medical needs.

In  this day of specialized medicine, it is not unusual for us to have multiple  specialists and I often talk about how the number of –ologists I have accumulated  after my MS diagnosis. In addition to my Primary Care Physician (PCP), my  specialist medical team includes a neurologist, cardiologist, urologist,  gastroenterologist, pulmonologist and the otolaryngologist. And then there  are the specialists in assorted therapy modalities who I credit with keeping  me up and moving.

If  you are reading this, you probably already understand how all of these  medical specialists fit into our care as people living with MS. It was on the  advice of my Human Resources (HR) benefits manager that I submitted the  paperwork for FMLA so there would be no misunderstandings about my need to  use intermittent sick leave for these various appointments;  I don’t see all of these doctors every  month, and lately I seem to use about 1.5 days a month for medical check-ups.  I do my best to schedule early morning or late afternoon appointments for  these doctors so I am not significantly disrupting my work day.

In  early December I applied for FMLA through our HR department and got the  supporting documentation from my neurologist, but then HR  surprised/blindsided me last week when I received a message that I am  ineligible for FMLA and my request was denied. My immediate reaction can’t be  written here, but you can imagine my surprise to be told after 22 years with  this same employer, that  I can’t ask  for this job protection. I immediately headed to my internet companion,  Google, and began looking further into the details of FMLA, and that brings  me to this Lesson Learned….

According to the law, to qualify for FMLA you have to have WORKED 1,250 hours  in the previous 12 months. Lunch times do not count in this total. Vacation  days do not count in the total. Nor do sick days. We have a great holiday  plan and get 13-14 days a year of holiday pay – and you guessed it right if  you are thinking holidays don’t count, either.

So thanks to a very generous benefit package and having to use 1-2 days per  months for medical appointments, I fall just short of the required 1,250 hours. Even if I add back in the 70 hours (10 days) I took to recover from my  bunion surgery in April – sorry, I overlooked adding the Podiatrist to the mix of doctors –  my total hours worked still fall just short of the required  1,250 hours. I recently took a fairly serious fall at work due to an  environmental hazard, and used sick days for the time off work, because  Worker’s Compensation in Ohio doesn’t kick in until you miss 7 consecutive  work days.  I was fortunate that I was  only missed work for 3.5 days, but again, those count against my 1,250 hours  in 12 months and even if Worker’s Comp did cover my time, those days can’t be  counted toward my 1,250 hours.

No  matter how I add it up, it will be difficult to reach 1,250 hours WORKED in any 12 month time unless I pass on using my vacation time and can figure out  how to work the holidays. Obviously I shouldn’t cut back on my medical  appointments.

Fortunately for now I don’t need the FMLA protection for my missed work time because I still have an abundance of  sick leave days accrued thanks to15+ years of good health, but as I stated  earlier, the need for sick days is unpredictable – another work related  accident or an MS relapse could easily use those days.

Oh, the things we learn on this journey, and I hope something in my writing  about this will help if you ever find yourself in the position to need FMLA  coverage. You might want to start planning now.

What  lessons have you learned lately from living with MS?

This concludes the 131st edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on January 31, 2013. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Brass and Ivory honored by Healthline

My good friend and colleague Cathy Chester, author of the blog An Empowered Spirit  and writer for HealthCentral, submits a guest post today.  Cathy is a new administrator/writer for Healthline and I must say that I've seen a wonderful MS community developing under her leadership, especially with their Facebook presence.  Cathy informed me that my blog has been honored as one of the top MS blogs by Healthline.

Finding credible information on the web about Multiple Sclerosis can sometimes be challenging.  You need to find a website that is both reputable and informative. Healthline is the site you should read.  Their slogan is “The Internet site doctors prescribe most”, while their mission is to “improve health through information.”  What more could you ask for?  Healthline offers readers, “Objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information, guided by the principles of responsible journalism and publishing.” Their Facebook page is a large caring community of readers learning from Healthline’s articles, while forming relationships with one another through shared experiences.

This premier website has published their “Top 18 Multiple Sclerosis Blogs”.  It comes as no surprise to people with MS that Lisa Emrich’s Brass and Ivory: Life with MS & RA made this prestigious list.  Read what Healthline had to say about her blog:

 “Lisa Emrich is the amazing mind behind the wonderful Brass and Ivory: Life with MS & RA. Lisa’s creative genius helps show readers a fun, balanced approach to life with chronic illness.”

“Brass and Ivory allows Lisa to open her world of personal reflections and MS updates to readers everywhere. She weaves a powerful and compelling story, and makes huge strides for the MS community as a whole through this blog and her other endeavor:  Carnival of MS Bloggers. Thank you, Lisa, for all you do—you are one musician and writer who has certainly found her MS muse!”

Congratulations to Lisa and Brass and Ivory: Life with MS & RA on her nomination, and for her tireless efforts with her successful blog. She continually amazes us with her honesty, wisdom and poise as she masters the art of sharing her life with those of us with MS and RA.   We thank you, Lisa, for your ongoing commitment and dedication to making our lives a little easier.

Thank you!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Autoinjection Pens for MS

Since the approval of the first disease-modifying drug in 1993, the delivery method of the injectable medications for MS has improved with the development of pre-filled syringes and auto-injection devices.  Initially medications required mixing before they were ready to be injected.  Avonex, Betaseron, and Extavia are available in powered form requiring reconstitution.

The pre-filled syringe was designed to eliminate the need for mixing medication and for easy of use.  Avonex, Copaxone, and Rebif are available in pre-filled syringes.  To assist patients who may have difficulty reaching certain areas of the body for injection, or who have limited dexterity, or who may have a needle-phobia, auto-injection devices are available for use with syringes.  Manufacturers of Betaseron, Copaxone, and Rebif provide auto-injection devices for use with their medication which are designed to be reused and loaded with new syringes for each injection.

A new trend in self-injection technique and methodology is the single-use (disposable), pre-filled autoinjector or pen which comes preassembled, loaded with medication, and ready to use.  The Avonex® Pen™ was approved in February 2012 and just last week the FDA approved the Rebif® Rebidose® pen.  With both the Avonex and Rebif pens, the needle remains covered both before and after injection.  The Avonex® Pen™ is the first intramuscular (IM) autoinjector device approved for MS which incorporates a smaller needle and helps to reduce anxiety about self-injections.

Read this post in its entirety:

Disease-Modifying Drugs for MS: New Single-Use, Auto-Injection Device Approved

Monday, January 7, 2013

Importance of Folic Acid

Folic Acid Awareness Week was January 6-12, 2013 sponsored by the National Council on Folic Awareness (NCFA), a partnership of national organizations, associations, and state folic acid councils. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Council on Folic Awareness emphasize that adequate folic acid intake is important for the prevention of birth defects.

As a person living with RA, I am aware of the importance of taking folic acid to help prevent some of the negative side-effects of methotrexate.  As a new bride, I am impressed with a simple effort by the county to raise awareness of the importance of folic acid in healthy pregnancies.

When Rob and I went to the county courthouse to apply for our marriage license, we received a large folder containing the information and paperwork required in the Commonwealth of Virginia to get married.  One brochure enclosed in our folder provided by Fairfax County focused on the importance of folic acid intake for every woman of childbearing age.

Read this post in its entirety:

Folic Acid: Important for RA and for Mothers

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Carnival of MS Bloggers #130

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.

Celebrating Five Years of the Carnival of MS Bloggers!!  Happy New Year!

My goodness, time has flown by during these past five years. From the very beginning, the Carnival arose from my passion for helping patients, for spreading awareness of MS, and for connecting the MS community.  I have been the sole force behind publishing the Carnival every other week.

As you may have noticed, the frequency of the Carnival has become irregular as of late.  Part of that was due to the wedding in October and part has been due to the increase in my personal advocacy work which has resulted in the decrease of my time to read the more than 600+ MS blogs which exist.

I need your help.  Keep sending links to your favorite recent posts.  If you find a gem of a post on another blog, please bring it to my attention.  Help me to continue publishing the Carnival and strengthening the community.  Post links on your blog to the Carnival (and to Brass and Ivory).  Please advertise this service and help spread the word.  Thank you!!

This concludes the 130th edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on January 17, 2013. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, January 15, 2013.

Becoming Comfortable with Disease

Sometimes living with chronic illness gets, well, tiresome.  Sometimes thinking about chronic illness gets to be monotonous.  But living with chronic illness is a chronic situation.  One which can never be forgotten nor neglected.

Once you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, life will never be quite the same.  First of all, there are doctor’s visits.  Then there are medical treatments and lifestyle changes.  Finally, there is the need to learn about the disease and how it may affect you on a personal level.

Even after seven years post-diagnosis, I am still learning about MS and how to best live with the disease.  As a health writer/blogger, I read articles on the latest MS-related research.  I try to follow the latest news and blogs.  Every once in a while, I get saturated by it all.

Read this post in its entirety:

Are You Bored of MS? A New Year's Resolution