Friday, September 26, 2014

September 2014 Round-Up of MS News and Research

  • Melatonin supplementation may improve quality of life in MS patients
  • Actemra safely used in patient diagnosed with MS and RA
  • Long-term disability may be predicted by evoked potentials in 20 year MS study
  • Other studies of interest  
Read this post in its entirety:
Hot Topics and MS Research News for September 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Does Yoga Help RA?

The short answer is yes, research has demonstrated positive benefits of yoga for persons living with RA. In preparation for writing this article, I conducted a quick search (using terms rheumatoid arthritis and yoga) of research studies indexed in PubMed and came up with 25 entries. It was interesting that among those 25 entries, I discovered:
  • a small number of the published articles were papers that detailed the protocols for future research studies (e.g., Evans, 2011; Middleton, 2013);
  • a small number of the studies were pilot studies conducted to investigate the feasibility of conducting larger studies (e.g., Evans, 2010); 
  • not many studies have been conducted which specifically investigate yoga and RA, with less than a handful being randomized, controlled studies; and 
  • a significant number of the articles were actually reviews or meta-analyses of the small number of completed studies published within a certain time period (e.g., Telles, 2012).
How does yoga benefit persons with RA?

Here are some of the reported benefits of yoga in patients with RA seen during select clinical trials of various methods, outcomes, measurements, and duration.

Yoga helps to decrease:
  • Disability
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Rheumatoid factor levels (reduced in both men and women, but remained above normal in women; Telles, 2011)
  • C-reactive protein levels (primarily in women; the average levels in male participants more than doubled; Telles, 2011)
Yoga helps to improve:
  • Range of motion and balance
  • Chronic pain acceptance
  • Mood
  • Energy
  • Relaxation
  • Sleep quality
  • Self-efficacy and confidence
  • Vitality and general health
  • Mindfulness
  • Daily functioning
  • Quality of life
  • Hand grip strength (males only in one study; Telles, 2011)
 Read this post in its entirety:
Benefits of Yoga for RA Patients

Monday, September 22, 2014

Video Games Can Improve MS Symptoms

Games are fun! Games that help to improve our cognitive skills, manual dexterity, physical abilities, problem-solving skills, creativity, and overall brain health work to keep us flexible in many more ways than one. In our recent discussion of mobile device applications, I didn’t include many games; but there are some great offerings.

Did you know that crossword puzzles help word finding skills, but not memory? Aerobic exercise helps to improve physical fitness and keeps the brain healthier through increased blood flow, which does help to improve memory. Studies have shown that aerobic fitness is associated with healthier gray and white brain matter which helps to reduce long-term disability in MS (Prakash, 2010).

Physical therapy (PT), often combining strength training and flexibility, cardiovascular and endurance exercise, as well as balance and gait training, is a mainstay of treatment for people with multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders. I can attest that the benefits of PT can be significant and long lasting, but sometimes continuing physical therapy exercise on your own can be less than exciting. As a result, compliance to exercise programs can be difficult even when the benefits are tangible (Mostert, 2002).

Physical therapy can also improve neurological function through neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, that works as an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost functions in the event of brain injury or trauma. Neuroplasticity, however, is not a static phenomenon; it changes as different types of plasticity are more active or less prevalent during a person’s lifetime.

At the time I was finally diagnosed with MS, I had lost use of my left hand, arm, and several fingers. During four months of intense physical/occupational therapy, my therapist guided me through very specific and targeted activities and exercises aimed at creating new neural pathways between my hand and my brain in order to regain lost function. She described it as creating a detour and making the detour the permanent road for the electrical messages. That is one form of neuroplasticity.

Read this post in its entirety:
Better Balance and Brain Connections Through Playing Video Games

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Favorite MS Apps in 2014

With so many people using smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, it is no wonder that there seems to be an “app” for just about anything and everything.

Applications come in many different form and serve a variety of purposes. Not only are there games galore (which are fun if you need to pass some time), there are apps to track activities, apps that are basically miniature websites, apps used to access businesses and services, apps aimed to educate and entertain, as well as apps that connect individuals.

If you search for current apps related to “multiple sclerosis” on iTunes, you will find up to 65 iphone/ipad apps available, approximately 80% of which are free to download. Many of these apps are also available for Android devices in addition to other apps that are only available for Android.

One of the most recent apps I loaded onto my iPad is one developed for the massive ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS conference which was held in Boston, September 10-13, 2014. This was a cool find because once every three years, the separate continental conferences dedicated to MS are combined into one massive event. This year’s joint conference was expected to attract up to 7,000 attendees from 90 countries.

In this 4-part series, I will share with you some of my favorite MS-related applications as well as many new ones I’ve recently discovered. In this post, I focus on conference/meeting apps as well as apps that connect with social networks.

Related Posts in this Series:
MS Apps 2014 - Conferences, Social Media, MS Awareness
MS Apps 2014 - Multiple Sclerosis/Neurology Publications
MS Apps 2014 - Educational, Entertainment, Games
MS Apps 2014 - MS Management, Care Coordination

All of the mobile apps featured are free.

Read this post in its entirety:
Lisa's Favorite MS Apps 2014 - Conferences, Social Media, MS Awareness

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to Help a Loved One Who is Depressed or Suicidal

It is difficult to get close to someone who is depressed. It can be, well, depressing, and frustrating and infuriating and maddening and sad and concerning. Trying to reach through the darkness to a loved one who is buried in depression can make you feel completely inadequate and helpless. You may begin to feel unloved or unappreciated and may want to distance yourself emotionally as a measure of protection.

Just as the person who is depressed may feel overwhelming helplessness, loved ones can feel quite the same. Helpless to know what to do or how they can help.  Even as someone who struggles with depression, I don’t often know what to do to assist those around me when they are feeling more than “blue” or a bit anxious.

What can I do to help my loved one who is depressed or suicidal?

First of all, know that a person who is suicidal may not ask for help. They may push you away, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want help. Most people who commit suicide don’t want to die, they just want to stop hurting. Almost 1 million people attempt suicide each year in the US and it is estimated that 5 million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves at some point in their lives.

Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs, taking them seriously, and speaking up if you are worried. When talking to a suicidal person, let the person know you care, listen (don’t lecture), be sympathetic and non-judgmental, offer hope (but don’t argue, patronize, or try to “fix” their problems), and know that you are not putting ideas in the person’s head when you ask directly if he/she has had thoughts of suicide.

Recognize these warning signs of suicide, excerpted from (©):
  • Talking about suicide: Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as "I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again..." and "I'd be better off dead."
  • Seeking out lethal means: Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Preoccupation with death: Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
  • No hope for the future: Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped ("There's no way out"). Belief that things will never get better or change.
  • Self-loathing, self-hatred: Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden ("Everyone would be better off without me").
  • Getting affairs in order: Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
  • Saying goodbye: Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again.
  • Withdrawing from others: Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
  • Self-destructive behavior: Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish."
  • Sudden sense of calm: A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

Read this post in its entirety:
What Can I Do to Help My Loved One Who is Depressed or Suicidal?

Carnival of MS Bloggers #159

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

from MirandasMSBlog

Bacteria and Digestion

I quite often get asked about bloating. But did you know that you don’t have to have digestive symptoms to be suffering from ‘dysbiosis’ or wrong bacteria in the gut? It might be easy to think of this as something that’s just a minor inconvenience. However – gut problems are not just miserable & uncomfortable, they can also possibly play a role in auto-immune diseases like MS. In fact Hippocrates, the ‘Father of modern medicine’ is quoted as saying that ‘all disease begins in the gut’.

If the health of the gut breaks down, undigested food molecules can pass into the bloodstream. This is known as ‘leaky gut’. These undigested food molecules can be interpreted by the body as ‘bad guys’, and activate an immune reaction, causing a food intolerance. According to the theory of ‘molecular mimicry’, the confused immune system can then mistake other molecules, of the body’s own tissues, which are similar to these undigested food molecules, to also be ‘bad guys’ or pathogens, and launch an immune response to its own tissues, setting up an auto-immune disease.

So let’s take a look at this one aspect of gut health; bacteria, & how it affects us. The gut is basically a long tube, that travels from the mouth to the anus, with many shapes & sizes along the way, to accommodate the different stages of digestion! I’ve discussed constipation, diet and stool health, and the link between auto-immune disease and food intolerances before in this blog , but today I’m thinking about the tiny beings who live with us, lovingly help to keep us healthy but also depend on us too for their existence – Bacteria! bacteria

bacteriaFrom the 1600s, and the invention of the first microscope, we have known about the existence of our internal bacteria, but up until quite recently, the focus for medicine has been more about the ‘war on germs’, and the eradication of infectious disease. We now understand that our gut is home to approximately 100 trillion micro-organisms. Did you know that: Bacterial cells outnumber our human cells to the extent that you could say that we are actually only 10% human, and 90% bacterial? Or that three pounds of your body weight is bacteria?

75% of our immune system is comprised of intestinal bacteria – and it also helps to regulate metabolism, digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food. The health of our gut depends on this intestinal ‘flora’ being in balance, and gut health is critical to overall health, with poor gut health implicated in a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases, autism spectrum disorder and even depression. So what can disrupt the healthy bacteria in the gut? Top of the list is

  • Antibiotics – life saving but also seriously disrupt the ‘biome’

Amongst others,

  • Steroids and other medications like birth control and non- steroidal anti-inflammatories
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
  • Diets low in ‘fermentable fibres’ – food for the good bacteria
  • Chronic stress and Chronic infections

What can we do to help repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria? And what to do if suffering from ‘digestive discomfort!’?

  • Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke, yams, dandelion greens, leeks, onion, garlic, or bananas) or take a pro-biotic ( good bacteria) capsule that includes Pre-biotics ( food for the good bacteria)
  • Eat fermented foods like kefir, live yogurt,( be aware these 2 are dairy based), kombucha, sauerkraut, kim chi, – traditionally most societies do, but we’ve forgotten to!
  • and/or take a high-quality, MULTI-STRAIN PRO-BIOTIC ( good bacteria) capsule daily – Bio-Kult is a good one, many others too
  • Keep your diet as close to whole foods as possible
  • Learn how to manage stress healthily

Taking regular probiotics helps to re-establish the strength of our gut and digestion, reducing the incidence of food intolerances, and allowing the body to free up more of its energy for healing painful conditions. It has also been found to help prevent recurrent infections like urine infections, and increase our ability to fight off the bad bacteria. The cheapest dairy-free way to get good bacteria into your diet is by making your own sauerkraut – It’s super easy to make – just get a head of organic cabbage, chop it up, punch it in a bowl, sprinkle salt on it, let it sit for half an hour, then put it in jars with a bit of salt water and let it sit on your kichen top for a week. There’s loads of instructions on the internet, but that’s about the size of it. Then use it like pickle. Til next time :)

This concludes the 159th edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on October 2, 2014. 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, September 20, 2014.