March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness month and Walk MS events take place all over the country throughout spring. These events are aimed at bringing awareness to the potentially debilitating disease that doesn’t have a cure yet.
So what is multiple sclerosis?
Imagine waking up one day and suddenly not being able to see, or walking down the street and out of nowhere one of your feet no longer works.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. In otherwise healthy bodies, the brain and the spinal cord communicate seamlessly through nerves.
With multiple sclerosis, that communication is disrupted when the immune system mistakes this function as something harmful to the body and begins fighting it. It eats away at the fatty, protective covering (myelin sheath) of the nerves, and with the nerves now damaged, this causes the natural impulses from the brain to the spine to be interrupted.
This communication is vitally important in every aspect of body movement, whether conscious or unconscious, and function.
People with MS usually aren’t diagnosed until they actually require a diagnosis—when something drastic and scary happens like the inability to control limbs or bodily functions and answers are needed.
Weakness, fatigue, pain, tingling, blurred vision, and a host of others.
As a disease that affects the brain, it can also affect how the brain works, so symptoms can include emotional instability, depression, memory, judgment, and balance.
Pain is also a common complaint before diagnosis, and since this is a nerve disorder, common painkillers are ineffective.
Other symptoms may include sexual inefficiencies such as decreased or difficult vaginal lubrication in women and erectile dysfunction and impotence in men.
Diagnosing MS is not usually immediate, given that the symptoms are variable and could be related to a number of other issues; therefore, MS diagnosis is usually the result of eliminating of other things.
People with MS may experience “attacks” or episodes where the symptoms are more pronounced, potentially triggered by stress, poor diet, or other lifestyle choices, lasting days or months at a time. This can be followed by a remission, although some may not experience remission.
It is degenerative, which means that it can get progressively worse over time, especially if lifestyle changes aren’t made to support your wellness.
Multiple Sclerosis is a relatively rare disorder that primarily affects people ages 20 – 50, most of whom are women. Symptoms can start at any age but MS is less frequently diagnosed in people younger than 18 and older than 40. In fact, less than 5% have symptoms before 18.
There are about 350,000 adults currently living with MS today, compared to less than 20,000 children.
How is MS treated?
There is currently no known cure for MS. As a degenerative disease, the best option is to manage it in order to control the severity and occurrence of symptoms.
There are a number of drugs on the market aimed at helping to manage the symptoms, and the FDA received approved the first drug, Ocrevus, to treat certain more severe forms of the disease.
DIY Treatments and Diet
As with anything else, maintaining a healthy diet is the key to managing and controlling MS. There isn’t a one size fits all diet that everyone with MS can follow, but there are a number of things people suffering from this disease can do and foods to consume and avoid.
Exercise is one of the best things someone with MS can do. Exercise can not only improve the performance of daily living activities, it can increase and improve energy levels, decrease muscle atrophy, improve balance, and manage spasticity.
Limit inflammation through a plant-heavy diet. So this means: avoid animal-based foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, as well as trans fats.
Limit sugar and salt intake, as it can contribute to weight and fluid retention. Eliminate refined grains, like white bread and pasta, and eliminate gluten.
So the diet of someone with MS should include plenty of fruits and veggies, fish, and healthy fats.
Multiple sclerosis doesn’t have just one look. Some people, like TV personality, Montel Williams, can appear as healthy as anyone, while others are more visibly disabled, confined to walking aides and wheelchairs.
The MS Society wants to find cure and end this disease. Walk with DTY to help end MS April 29 in DC. Visit The National MS Society website for more info on how to take part.