Ladies, you have been a wonderful encouragement and source of creative inspiration for me these past few weeks. I never get tired of hearing how you are taking back control of your lives and effectively managing your symptoms through the MS Diet. From all around the world, stories are pouring in about how this illness is being stopped in its tracks! For many women, MS has become a blessing in disguise as they find themselves in a much healthier place than they have been in for years. Nothing like a chronic illness to motivate you to make some drastic changes!
I am currently writing to you from the country I grew up in, beautiful sunny South Africa. My amazing and supportive family still live in Johannesburg and I enjoy taking the kids to visit them once a year. It's a great opportunity to get some much needed warm sunshine and, of course, to connect with the special people that are part of my life from a far. I am showered with luxuries such as beauty treatments, afternoon naps and wonderful meals while I am here. Even though I'm still running after my little ones, it really is a good break and change in routine for me. My family are incredibly supportive of the MS Diet and I arrived to a kitchen jam packed with fruit and vegetables, all varieties of nuts and delicious salmon. All there just for ME! I'm grateful.
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 March 2013!
Not one of my best months, March. Exercise feel completely flat. Sleep has been erratic but I'm determined to go to bed earlier. The launch of the resources on the site had some part to play there too, as well as on the stress level. I am in good habits with my supplements and diet, which has helped me through this tough month!
And here's the total progress to date:
Things That Happened This Month
The Good News
It was very exciting for me to be able to launch the new MS Diet resources this month. As I'm sure you know, I have been working hard at putting together meal plans, recipes and other resources to help you stay on course with your MS Diet. The response has been great and there are now over 60 community members who receive a new meal plan with recipes each week and are meaningfully connecting with other like minded women. Creative recipes and meal ideas are being being shared as well as solid advice and words of encouragement. I am loving being a part of this community and am so thankful for the women that are making it all possible.
The other good news is that all my nutrient and hormone levels seem to be in the normal to high range. I had my blood tests done last month to see if I was deficient in any vitamin or mineral. I feel that it is good to have them done every six months to a year just to be sure that I am on the right track. I am relieved and grateful that the diet I am following and the supplements I am taking are doing what they are supposed to do!
The Bad News
The not so good thing that happened is that I had a definite reaction to citrus fruits this month. In my research, citrus foods have been flagged a few times but not enough was said for me to really take notice of the fact that they really can be food sensitivity culprits. I had been wanting to try out a 'Lemon Aid' juicing recipe for a while and I finally got around to juicing a whole lemon with some apples. The Juice Master had sworn that it would be the most delicious and refreshing raw juice I would ever enjoy. As soon as I started drinking it, I knew that it was too concentrated for me. Even so, I drank more, thinking that the enjoyment factor would kick in soon. Unfortunately it didn't and most of it went to waste. Then, in the same week, I ate a few oranges and tangerines which I don't usually do. They were just really delicious.
A few days after having eaten all this citrus fruit, the soles of my feet went numb and the numbness began to creep, insidiously, up both of my legs. I didn't have any doubt that the symptoms were related to the citrus. I had been eating well and had not had a particularly stressful week. Luckily the numbness went away after about two weeks but it was quite a heavy price to pay for a little bit of citrus enjoyment.
I have since discovered that many people with MS have an acute sensitivity to the citric acid, contained in citrus fruit. These include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and limes. Many sources advise that citrus fruits be avoided completely. I am obviously one of those sensitive people and need to seriously stay away from the citrus! I seem to be fine with a squeeze of lemon on fish every once in a while but never again will I eat an orange or juice a whole lemon. That was obviously just too much for my fussy body to bear! I am sad about it because I used to love drinking freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice.
I can't help wondering whether the copious quantities I consumed at certain points in my life was one of the factors in the development of my MS. I don't think I will ever really know. Everyone is different and you may be absolutely fine on citrus fruits. Just be aware that they do have the potential to cause symptoms and don't eat too many of them in one go!
Lessons I Learnt This Month
1. New products
I have come across some brilliant new products that will add a little more variety to your meals, especially breakfast:
- Quinoa flakes
- Buckwheat flakes
- Millet flakes
- Chia Seeds
These are all incredibly versatile ingredients and can be added to almost any meal. The flakes allow the food to be cooked very quickly. It is usually a somewhat lengthy process to cook quinoa and the flakes allow it to be cooked within minutes.
They are also anti-inflammatory and leave an alkaline residue in the blood. This is important because our blood pH should be slightly alkaline ( 7.35 - 7.45 ). Below or above this range can lead to symptoms and disease. To maintain health, our diet should consist of 60% alkaline forming foods and 40% acid forming foods. To restore our health, our diet should consist of 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods. Generally, alkaline forming foods include: most fruits, green vegetables, spices, herbs and seasonings, seeds and nuts.
I will definitely be experimenting with these foods to create new, tasty meals.
2. Baby Potatoes
These little spuds are better for your blood sugar levels than fully grown potatoes. As we all know by now, we should mostly be eating foods that are going to have a stabilising effect on our blood sugar levels. Foods that release energy quickly will cause a sudden spike in our blood sugar levels which will cause more insulin to be produced. Insulin causes more saturated fat to be stored in our bodies so we want to stay away from elevated insulin levels for too long. I am not 100% sure why but it may have something to do with the nature of their skin and concentrated nutrients. please let me know if you find out the definitive reason.
3. Half Day Fast
We all know that most of the healing and reconstruction that the body needs to do happens at night while we are sleeping. This is because it doesn't have to do any of the usual daytime tasks such as digesting food and expending energy. This process of cleansing actually continues for most of the morning on the next day which means that having days where you just drink raw juice and water until 12am will help your body cleanse itself of any nasties that have been building up. I do this a few times a week and definitely feel better for it. This is a good option if you feel that a week long fast is too difficult for you at the moment.
Things I Will Work On Next Month
I still haven't been able to get into a solid exercise routine in last few months. I must say that I really struggle in the winter. It is so cold and I lack the motivation to get out of the house. This is about to be remedied because summer on it's way. I look forward to continuing my Pilates, perhaps trying some yoga and other types of exercise classes. I have also realised that my family needs to 'let' me do this. Other mothers will know the joy and sacrifice that being a mother involves. It is often difficult to get around to doing things for YOU. If you are finding this tricky, have a candid chat to your family about the importance of exercising and how they need to allow you at least three hours in a week to get to the gym or go for a run. Let's do this! It is a vital part of staying well.
This is a perpetual struggle for me. I just need more hours in a day! However, I know that the hours before 12am are much more 'quality' sleep hours than the hours after 12am. Have you ever gone to bed at 2am and woken up at 10am? You still managed to get your 8 hours but still feel really tired. This is because most of our 'deep' sleep happens before 12am. This allows us to feel more rested the next day, even when we are up early. My challenge is to get to bed between 10pm and 10:30pm. You are welcome to hold me accountable for this!
Until Next Month
I am learning, all the time, to listen to what my body is telling me. I think I am getting better and better at it and I am now able to recognise almost immediately when something hasn't agreed with me. If a product has gluten in it, I start to feel quite lethargic and sleepy. I just crave my bed! Sugary products make me feel spaced out and have an effect on my concentration levels. As mentioned above, I can now see how my body reacts to citrus fruits. It is a process of discovery and I often make mistakes and pay for them but at least I won't go near that food the next time! You live and learn and hopefully improve the way you do things. My aim is to get more and more skilled at managing my MS. It needs to become a fine art. I hope you are finding success with your MS Diet and feeling great!
I look forward to hearing more stories and connecting with more ladies this month!
PS: I would LOVE it if you left a comment below to tell us how your progress is going, please keep us updated!
Love and nutrients,