I have recently returned from a four week stint in sunny South Africa. What a unique and special part of the world! I hadn't seen my family in two years and it was time for a much needed catch up. It was an incredible time of special family moments and soaking up loads of vitamin D. The kids rolled down grassy slopes, swam in outside pools, played with their cousins and were read to by their enthusiastic Uncle Dan. Pure bliss. I had hoped to write a few posts while I was away but time eluded me. I did, however, discover and try out some amazing recipes - all of which will be making an appearance on the blog very soon. My favourite was Roasted Veggies tossed in sun-dried tomato pesto on a bed of brown rice. So tasty! I also fell in love with a Brown Rice Moussaka that I discovered at a vegan restaurant called Leafy Greens. It's basically just brown rice with stir-fried, grated carrot and onion, topped with a coconut cream sauce. Full recipes will be posted soon, I promise! I also had some delicious strawberry cheese cake at Leafy Greens - dairy, gluten and sugar-free). Wow, what a treat.
In this post, I want to share a bit about my progress in my journey with MS. I also want to tell you a bit about some new things I've added to my ms diet lifestyle.
I've discovered that things need to be tweaked from time to time. A little adjustment here and there is a very useful thing. Tweaking a few areas of my life has revealed more efficient and effective ways of doing things. I'm a firm believer in saying goodbye to things that are just not working anymore and trying something new. This may be a new food, a different routine, an alternative friendship group or an earlier bed time. The littlest changes can often make the biggest difference. It's true! I'll share some of my recent tweaks with you a bit further down in the post. For now I would like to give you a quick update on my progress.
Me and My MS
I'm thrilled to say that I am still going on 4 years without a major relapse. This is really motivating and encouraging for me. It tells me that I am on the right track and that what I'm doing is working. I do still get the odd twinge or strange sensation in my legs or hands from time to time. This is usually when I'm exhausted or have overdone it a little (or eaten something I know I shouldn't have!). However, after some rest and a good night's sleep it goes away. Eating a few raw, anti-iflammatory meals also does wonders.
The sensation in my right hand was quite badly affected by my worst relapse, 4 years ago and these symptoms have never fully gone away. At the time, my hand was incredibly stiff and I lost coordination in it for a few weeks. It was difficult to write. A little stiffness comes back from time to time but it's more annoying than anything else and I find that meditating and eating clean nutritious food helps a huge amount with this.
Fatigue and Brain Fog
I'm happy to report that my brain fog and fatigue stays away as long as I'm sticking to the MS diet 100%. I do experience a certain tiredness at the end of the day. However, I put this down to a busy day of being a Mom and tending to the needs of two young, and often demanding, children - and running a household! When you have MS it's easy to think that anything negative you feel, physically, is an MS symptom when it fact, it could be something completely unrelated. We are still normal people and will experience 'normal', every day life symptoms! I have some friends who are always sick, exhausted or complaining about aches and pains that they have. They don't have MS. Enough said.
I also feel that I've reached a new level of acceptance of my condition. I think it's taken me a few years to really know, deep down, that I am still me and that I can still do and achieve anything I want to. MS cannot and will not hold me back. Yes, I do need to be more careful that I don't stretch myself too thin or overdo it. However, if I work at a slow and steady pace, with some rests in between, anything is manageable. My diet is a huge part of this mindset. The food I eat gives me the energy and stamina I need to stay motivated, positive and active. It also gives me back a sense of control over my life which MS initially took away from me. This is vital as it frames everything I do in my life - small or big. I rule the roost, not my MS!
A Few New Things
In the past few months, I have added some new routines, foods and supplements to my MS diet regimen. They're not really anything groundbreaking but they're working for me and I'm enjoying some freshness! Here they are in no particular order of importance:
A Smoothie Full of Goodness
Every morning I make myself a beetroot and spinach smoothie. Until recently, I made myself a raw juice which was great but I realised that I got hungry very quickly again. I also wasn't actually getting the important fibre from those amazing fruits I was juicing. A smoothie is great because you can throw tons of nutritious foods in there and benefit from eating a 'whole fruit' as opposed to just the juice. I do still juice my carrots, apples and beetroot but then add them to my spinach, blueberries, almonds and frozen banana - and whiz it all up until a smooth thick liquid is formed. It's delicious and so filling. It keeps me going for hours! Beetroot is also amazing because it contains nitrates which give you a tremendous boost in stamina and energy. This is an amazing way to start the day. It's also good for getting your digestive system moving if it has been a little slow of late.
An Earlier Dinner
Most days of the week, I eat my main and biggest meal of the day at around 2-3pm. By then, the breakfast smoothie has been digested and I'm getting hungry! I usually have some kind of fish with steamed or roasted veggies and maybe some brown rice or quinoa. It's full of good protein, fats and nutrients and will literally last me until 8pm at which point I start feeling a bit peckish. I often make myself a raw juice or just eat a few nuts which tides me over. I can go to sleep with a mostly empty stomach which helps me sleep better and wake up feeling clean and flat tummied - a good feeling.
I made this change because I was getting into some poor eating habits in the latter half of the day. I would eat a salad or something light for lunch and then start to get ravenous at around 5pm. I would then snack, snack and snack some more on healthyish but not terribly nutritious foods. I would eat the kids leftovers and then be too full for a proper meal later on. I would often still eat a good dinner but then feel a little too full. This contributed to feeling a bit crampy the next day.
However, eating my main meal earlier in the day allows it to be fully digested by the time I go to bed and results in less bloating the next day. I even sleep better and my body can fully focus on healing and reconstruction instead of using precious resources for digestion. For those who want to lose a little weight, this is also a healthy way to shed those last few annoying pounds! I love this lifestyle change - it's made a big difference to the way I feel and my discipline with food.
Two New Supplements
I have started taking two new supplements: Rhodiola Rosea and Olive Leaf Extract. They are both amazing for just generally boosting the body and helping to equip it with the right tools for efficiency and healing. They both have their own very cool benefits though:
Rhodiola Rosea: Rhodiola is used for increasing energy, stamina, strength and mental capacity. It also helps the body adapt to and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress. It may also protect cells from damage, regulate heartbeat, and improve memory. The effect is subtle but I find it helps me cope better with the daily stresses of life.
Olive Leaf Extract: I discovered this powerful supplement on my recent trip to South Africa. When I arrived I had been suffering with a persistent cough and sore throat for two weeks. This is unusual for me as I hardly ever get sick. A family member suggested that I start taking olive leaf extract to get better more quickly. I was a little sceptical at first but I was getting desperate and starting taking it a few times a day. After the first day I noticed that my throat was less sore and I felt better and after the second day of dosing myself, I was had completely recovered. It was actually phenomenal.
Olive leaf extract is gaining recognition as a powerful defender against sickness and numerous scientific studies have been conducted to investigate it's beneficial properties. The reported benefits of olive leaf extract range from promoting increased energy and healthy blood pressure, to supporting the cardiovascular system and the immune system. That's certainly what I experienced! So now, I just take one dose every day, as a preventative measure, to fight off any potential germs that may want to invade. They are certainly stopped in their tracks.
There is so much more to say about these two great supplements so, I'll be doing separate posts on each so that I can go into a little more depth about each one.
It's not that I have discovered any new 'wonder' foods, I have just started eating more of certain foods and really enjoying how they are making me feel.
I'm loving almond butter! I could actually just eat the whole jar in one sitting. I put it on my gluten free toast and make yummy sweet treats with it too. My latest discovery is how amazing it tastes when whizzed up with frozen banana and a little maple syrup to make Almond Banana Ice-cream. Too scrumptious!
I have already mentioned beetroot but I'll say again that this a true super food that just does so much for healing and building the body. I love beetroot in smoothies, salads and roasted whole!
Cacao is also becoming one of my firm favourites. It's potently packed with antioxidants and really is delicious when added to most dishes. I put a teaspoon of it in my smoothie every morning. I also make 'icing' using cacao, almond butter, coconut oil and maple syrup. It hardens in the fridge and makes a great topping for gluten free cakes and cookies.
There are so many other staples I love such as avocados, almonds, flaxseeds, sweet potato, courgettes, basil, broccoli and trout. I'm always on the look out for more of these super foods that just have the ability to make me feel like super woman.
Summing it Up
So there you have it. The MS diet is working for me more than ever. I feel motivated and energised by this lifestyle and most importantly my MS is not progressing. I truly feel that I have stopped it in it's tracks. Many of you will want to know what my recent MRI results show. To be honest, I have only had the first one and have decided not to have another MRI for a while. There is some evidence that repeated MRI's can worsen MS. It is not clear whether this is because of the actual machine or the fact that it is highly stressful to be stuck in a confined space for an hour. Either way, I have come to understand that when judging MS progression, it is more reliable to look at the actual presenting symptoms rather than the lesions that show up on the MRI scan. This is my decision and may not necessarily be yours. We all need to decide what it best for our own unique bodies.
If you've discovered anything new that has really made a difference to you, please share it! Feel free to comment below.