Hello to all you amazing women! January has come and gone and I have been left reeling in it's wake, wondering how the first month of the year has gone so quickly. January is always a slightly difficult month because the excitement of Christmas and New Year is over and there seems to be quite a long wait ahead until the first signs of spring appear. I have definitely felt like we are still in the deep mid winter here in the UK! All of you mothers will know that it is a bit more difficult to entertain your kids in winter than it is in summer. Layer upon layer of clothing needs to be added before you can go out anywhere and then you can't be out for too long before they start getting cold and miserable. Having said that, Rachel and Jordan have loved the recent snowfall. As you can probably tell, I'm counting the days until the weather starts to warm up a bit and I can start getting my daily supply of vitamin D from the sun again. Not too long now, just 39 days until the official start of spring!
Refresher: The Reasons Why And How I'm Measuring Myself
[If you have read this before, skip to My Stats And Analysis section] If you need to know more about what I am actually tracking and why, please see my first progress update for November 2012, I have explained it all there in a lot of detail. I have made no changes to the metrics since that post. But just to summarize, this is why I am tracking my MS symptoms:
- Firstly, I wanted to track my progress as it would afford me the opportunity to look back on the data and see if there were any correlations between relapses, changes in diet and stressful life events. It would hopefully confirm that what I eat/don't eat is certainly making a difference to my symptoms and slowing down disease progression, which would help me to refine / taylor my MS diet a step further for my own body.
- Secondly, I'm also doing this for all of you amazing women! I want you to see the MS diet in action and the ups and downs that I go through on a weekly and monthly basis. My hope is that you will feel encouraged to keep going when you see the stats on how it is working for me. I want you to see my progress based on what I eat. I am going to be completely honest with you and you will notice that there are days when I let things slide a little. Hopefully I can show you that by sticking to the MS diet lifestyle, both relapse rate and disease progression can be significantly slowed.
Just to refresh you, I am also broadly tracking these categories daily, but there is a lower level of detail for the actual criteria, again, you can see that on the November 2012 progress update.
- Hours of sleep I got the previous night
- How stressed I felt during the day (max value)
- Amount of exercise I had (minutes of aerobic and also weigh-bearing exercise)
- Whether I have taken all my MS supplements (see full list of what I take)?
- Amount of good foods I've eaten (foods to embrace)
- Amount of bad foods I've eaten (foods to avoid)
- The presence and severity of MS symptoms I experienced, if any
Some of the targets I have set for each of these are quite difficult to attain, but thats why they are targets! I wanted to set goals for myself that I can work towards, and over time, I plan to move closer each day to achieving them. I'm being honest with you, this is where I am now. But, I dont plan to stay here forever!
My Stats And Analysis
Please also remember, I've averaged and standarized the results into a simple 1 to 5 scale to make it easy to understand. In this way, you can clearly see everything towards the top of the graph, I'm doing well in. And everything towards the bottom of the graph I'm doing badly, this translates as follows:
1 Very Bad
So, here is the graph for January 2013!
I'm happy to see my exercise routine is starting to impact the graph. I think this has also helped motivate me to eat more healthy food. My stress levels have also been far more stable this month, as I have been actively trying to manage my stress, and the exercise helps with that too. My sleep is still not very consistent, my daughter is still waking up two or three times a night, which is really beyond my control at this point, but I could get to bed a little earlier [but I would rather reply to all you ladies! ;)]. Overall, I am feeling like I am making small steps forward, with each month solidifying my MS diet and routine more and more.
I have had another relapse free month which I am so thankful for. Every now and then, I experience a strange hot/cold sensation in my feet. I feel that this is related to inflammation at a dormant lesion which seems to improve when I stick to an anti-inflammatory diet. I trust that my MS Diet will continue to keep the lurking monster at bay, and help heal my nervous system to repair some of this damage.
This month, now that we have a bit more data, I decided to show the history on a single graph, so you can see all the measurements to date:
Things That Happened This Month
It has been a positive month despite the freezing weather! I have had some invigorating exercise sessions and definitely made a breakthrough on that front. When I haven't exercised properly for a few weeks, I always feel like I need to break through a towering brick wall in order to get back to a reasonable state of fitness and feel confident about exercising again. I almost feel nervous about the first time back at gym after a long holiday. However, it doesn't take long before I am sweating it out and feeling great. I start to realise that the wall wasn't as big and thick as I perceived it to be and it was actually a pretty enjoyable task to bash it down!
I'll let you in on my primary exercise routine, which I do at home in my living room. It is just a bit easier with the kids and the cold weather than going out to the gym. I have an Xbox Kinect exercise program called EA Sports Active 2 which allows me to choose my exercises and adjust the intensity of my workouts. It also monitors my heart rate which is pretty useful. I do a full body workout in that includes cardio, toning and stretching. I have set myself the challenge of doing the workout 3-4 times a week for 30-35 minutes. I'm loving it! I exercise before Rachel and Jordan wake up so it is 30 minutes of blissful "me time" as well!
On the days I exercise, I definitely have more energy and I'm able to deal with stress more effectively. I also have a much larger appetite, which is unusual for me because I don't normally get too hungry. This is probably from constant snacking. Don't worry, only healthy snacks like nuts, fruit and rice cakes! I really look forward to my meals and put away large plates of vegetables and salmon with great gusto. This all just reinforces to me how important exercise is to a healthy MS diet.
I have also just started doing a Pilates class once a week. Last week was my first class and also my first time on a reformer. For those of you, who have not experienced the world of Pilates, a reformer is contraption with a sliding carriage, that you lie down on. It has adjustable springs to regulate tension and resistance for hundreds of difference exercises. It almost looks like it could be used as an instrument of torture - haha! I'm sure it has tortured many over eager first timers! It was a fantastic experience and I could really feel every muscle that was being worked.
It is all about control and slow movements. There were quite a few exercises that worked on balance and coordination and I sensed that this was an area my body could be stronger in. For this and many other reasons, I feel that Pilates is essential for anyone with MS. Balance issues are very common MS symptoms and often people don't even know about them until they have taken a serious tumble. Pilates exercises help the body maintain and hopefully improve it's sense of balance and coordination. Another benefit is muscle strength and flexibility. This is incredibly important for us MSers. We need to keep our muscles strong and stretched so that they can recover faster from relapses which scramble the nerve messages to and from them.
I know what you are thinking: you don't have the time or money to do Pilates. In which case, I have good news for you! You don't necessarily have to attend a Pilates class to reap the benefits. A good Pilates workout DVD will be a perfect way to keep your muscles strengthened, toned and stretched. Find a time that suits both you and your family, and do your workout for as long as you have available in the comfort of your home. That time will become a sanctuary for you. It will become an opportunity for you to do something nourishing and stress relieving for YOU. Ask your family to help you find this time and then stick to it!
You may recall in my previous progress report for December 2012, I was considering adding Spirulina to my supplement intake. You may already know that Spirulina is a well known blue-green algae which is commonly found in the salt water lakes of the Central, Southern America and Africa and is considered a “super-food” like kale. After much research, I have decided not to progress with this supplement as part of my MS diet any longer due to these reasons:
- varying cultivation / manufacturing processes between suppliers (no standards or enforcement)
- risk of inclusion of decaying animal matter
- risk of inclusion of heavy metals
- risk of inclusion of other toxin-producing algae
The primary issue I have is with the cultivation process. I am not convinced that this product can be manufactured in a safe and consistent way to ensure only benefits pass to the consumer.
Spirulina is harvested in a variety of ways. This basic process is that it is harvested from a water source, dried and then sold either as a powder or compressed into a tablet. Obviously if it is heated during the drying process, enzyme and nutrient destruction will be extremely high. Some manufacturers use heat to dry the material, others dont. Some use an anaerobic environment that discourages bacterial growth, while again, others don't. Some manufacturers control the water quality it grows in, but some dont at all. Further still, there is potential for contamination with animal remains as many of the ponds are not protected against contaminants like flies, maggots, ants, ticks, mites, ostracods, and even rats, mice and birds.
Spirulina can also contain heavy metals that are toxic to the body - arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. Added to that, other types of algae oftern grow along side Spirulina, which are linked to toxin production themselves (there are 50 genera of freshwater blue green algae and about one third have been identified with toxin production).
[blockquote width="270" align="left"]my body said this wasn't right for me[/blockquote]
I'm not saying that all manufacturers of Spirulina fall short on these points, there may be some out there who can control these elements, and do. Dietary supplements are exempt by law from Food and drug Administration (FDA) regulation, which makes these concerns very real if they are not being followed by manufacturers. I personally didn't feel well after I took my first dose of Spirulina, which is usually a sign the supplement is not right for me.
I have been getting lots of traffic to the site lately, and because of my plans to create our own online members area (see "Things I Will Work On Next Month" below), I decided it was time to upgrade the web hosting. You should notice a much improved load time for the site now!
Lessons I Learnt This Month
Don't be scared of breaking through the exercise wall. You need to just do it. There are so many benefits just waiting to be had from exercise and most of us would rather get thirty minutes more sleep or slump in front of the TV for longer. It is really a big positive in helping us with our symptoms on a daily basis.
Getting to bed at a reasonable time really improves the way I feel throughout the day. I have been working hard on going to bed a bit earlier. I love my evenings. After a busy day of looking after children, I finally get to do what I want to do! Sometimes a enjoy this time a little too much and it starts getting a bit late. I always regret it the next day. I really have felt the difference that going to bed earlier makes. It helps with energy levels, mind clarity and I feel that I can cope with stressful situations more effectively. 10:30pm is LIGHTS OUT time.
Anti-inflammatory foods make a huge difference to niggly symptoms. As I have shared before, my right hand has a very slight stiff and numb feeling that comes and goes. I notice that it feel fine when I have taken care to eat highly anti-inflammatory foods during the day. I juice ginger, kale, apples and carrots in the morning. This is a potent anti-inflammatory concoction and it does wonders for my hand and my sense of well being. An anti-inflammatory diet is truly an MS'ers best friend.
Things I Will Work On Next Month
I am going to continue to improve my exercise routine. As we all know, this requires daily discipline and good planning. I have no choice in the matter if I want to maintain my health and live a vibrant, full life.
2. New Recipes:
I want to continue to develop new recipes and find new and tasty ways to prepare my food. There are a lot of new raw juice and dessert recipes I am itching to try, so expect some new recipes in February!
My mother has been visiting us from South Africa over the past few weeks and she always brings fresh perspective and new ideas. She has always made the most amazing soups and I always ask her to help me with a few when she comes to stay.
We were browsing the fresh produce at the supermarket when we came across the prepared vegetable section. She chose some freshly prepared vegetables that she thought would work well in a vegetable soup: two bags of potato and leek pieces and two bags of mixed vegetables such as cabbage, peppers and courgettes. No chopping was required. We boiled them up in a large stock pot, added a tin of organic tomatoes and a tin of coconut milk. Then we puréed half of the soup and mixed it with the rest which made for a chunky but thick consistency. It was delicious, hassle free and it made quite a few portions that I could freeze for another day! I will be posting the recipe in the recipe section soon.
3. Online Members Community [just for us]:
My husband is an IT “geek”, so I just after the new year I asked him to build us an online community “like Facebook”, but tailored for our needs [I thought I would set the bar pretty high and see what he comes up with, and he’s done just that!]. I am so excited with the progress, I just had to share a sneak peak with you!
Members Welcome "Home" Page:
Close-up of the Group / Forum:
Close-up of the User Activity “Stream”:
4. Tools & Resources:
I am also currently working on developing an “8 Weeks to Reversing MS Program”, which will give you all the recipes, ingredients and meal plans you need to get yourself living the MS diet and seeing all the benefits that comes with that. I get so many ladies asking me to compile something [on an almost daily basis now], that it really encouraged me to put this together. Its a lot of work, but I am hoping to have it ready in March!
Until Next Month
I trust that you are succeeding with your MS diet, even if its just small steps forward each day. We need to learn to enjoy eating healthily, and not focus on all the things we are missing out on. I am really loving eating like this more and more every day. It is so important to embrace this new lifestyle and not mourn your old one. You have started a way of eating that will not only help your MS but will keep your entire body functioning beautifully. You go girl!
I would love to hear your thoughts about the members area, what type of things would you want us to include or what you would like to see? Please comment below, I would love it!
Love and nutrients,
(Photo Attribution 1; Attribution 2)