Episode 1 is a general introduction but episodes are being uploaded and removed daily. Today’s is on gut health PLEASE watch it, you may know lots already but I feel this is a great resource to summarize the important bits. Episode 2 (today’s) is about how digestive issues are a warning sign for auto-immune disease. If you suffer from digestive issues this is for you:
It is sunny, but not too hot, and there is a perfect breeze. A couple of days ago I realised that there is a spot round the back of the communal garden I share with my neighbour, under some trees which is just perfect. My neighbours don’t really come out into the garden, and so I am able to have it all to myself on a beautiful day like today. It is peaceful and inspiring, with a lovely piece of sky to watch the clouds go by. I sat down to write a few days back and found that is was really ideal.
Having felt the healing nature of the earth I always read about, I decided I would try a bit of yoga this morning as I walked barefoot across the grass. I sat in my new favourite spot and found it so easy to become hypnotised by my breathing. What a wonderful yoga session. I really recommend walking barefoot on the grass first thing in the morning if you are lucky enough to have a garden, or a park/forest nearby. It truly is healing, I can feel it, and if you try it, I’m sure you will too.
One of the most important things I have learnt from MS is that everything happens for a reason. To paraphrase the words of Eckhart Tolle; Life will throw at you whatever you need to wake up. It is up to you to do the rest. If you don’t take control and fix what is wrong with the way you are living, how can you expect yourself to recover?
MS is not the end of the world, it is a wake up call – listen to it! It has empowered me to take control. It has reminded me that I am alive and that I need to respect my body by not filling it with junk food or thoughts. Feed your body with the fuel it needs to repair itself and to maintain optimum health. The thoughts we think and emotions we feel are just as important and capable of doing a lot of damage. We need to calm the mind and learn to take life in our stride. Stress has enormous consequences on your body’s health, learn to deal with it properly and avoid it wherever possible. Stop taking everything personally, try not to over-think it all, just let yourself be and enjoy the present, don’t forget that it is all we have.
Now a days, if you live in a city; the answer is no. Have you noticed how pure the air you breathe feels in the countryside or by the sea? It is quite different to the air we are used to breathing in the city. Of the city air we breathe in, only about 30% is oxygen. Oxygen makes up 80% of our bodies so it is extremely important. Not only does it lift your mood, but it is needed in every aspect of your body’s functioning, including the nervous system, to keep you healthy. How can we city-dwellers get more oxygen? Here are a few of our options:
HBO (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) can help, during which you breathe about 90% pure oxygen and this is good for everyone!
Learn to breathe correctly – most of us use only a third of our lungs’ capacity when breathing. A good way to improve your breathing is by doing exercise such as swimming where you need to breathe harder. Practicing yoga and meditation will also help you learn to breathe correctly, as well as de-stressing you in the process.
Pranayama breathing practices can teach you to breathe correctly. We should inhale through our nostrils, expanding our belly and then chest and then exhale with the mouth, as our chest and belly relax. Exhalation should last twice as long as inhalation – but this should not be forced, and will be perfected with pranayama breathing exercises. The body has been breathing wrongly for too long to just change it suddenly. It is a gradual yet extremely worthwhile process. I have started practicing these breathing exercises during yoga first thing in the morning.
According to Stancak A jr, alternating breathing through the left and right nostril can influence our brain activity. Wood C. Mood wrote that we can also use such exercises to make ourselves feel more alert, enthusiastic and to improve our overall mood.
“Breathing through the left nostril stimulates the right brain hemisphere and intensifies the functions of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is connected with a slowing-down of the heart rate and consequently greater stroke volume of the heart (greater amount of blood is pressed out of the heart per beat, as a consequence of lower heart rate)”
“Breathing through the right nostril stimulates the left brain hemisphere and the sympathetic nervous system. This results in accelerated heart rate, higher blood pressure, greater consumption of oxygen by the body cells and constriction of the blood vessels of the skin, thus preserving body temperature (which explains how some yogis can be totally oblivious to extreme weather conditions).”
The benefits of breathing correctly are overwhelmingly important, a few of which are:
Strengthening of the heart and lungs, through quicker blood flow towards them
Strengthening of the nervous system and supplying it with more oxygen
Increased brain function and clarity
Significant reduction of the quantity of free radicals in the system
Reducing the number of asthma attacks in asthmatics as well as reducing the dosage of anti-asthmatic drugs needed
Lowering the intensity of shortness of breath in chronic bronchitis
Adapt better to cold and heat
Once we have mastered Pranayama we can move onto Kumbhaka which involves holding your breath. It has been discovered that, when practiced correctly, Kumbhaka can reduce the body’s metabolic processes and thus its oxygen consumption. With this practice we can influence the parasympathetic nervous system lowering both heart rate and blood pressure. (Bhargava R, Gogate MG, Mascarenhas JF.)
Now that I am practicing pranayama with yoga, am I enjoying the yoga postures so much more. I find it helps to imagine I am breathing in sea air, it reminds me of la Manzanilla, a Mexican beach I used to wake up and do yoga on, bliss! I inhale and exhale as the sea ebbs and flows. I also keep finding myself breathing properly during the day – unconsciously. It just feels better. I am so sure that it is doing me good. So come on people, let’s get breathing correctly!
I often find myself daydreaming about la Manzanilla…
Food is not only important for boosting your immune system and sending your MS into remission, it also has a great impact on your mood. Since having started my MS diet I have been in an exceptionally good mood most of the time. A big part of this is because I am really doing all I can to work against my illness, which is very fulfilling in itself. I recently discovered that another reason however was to do with the particular foods I was eating and their relation to mood balance in the brain. In fact, a diet recommended by nutritionists to pull oneself out of depression, is very similar to my own. Here I will outline the mental advantages of eating as I do:
Not only are saturated fats extremely harmful to us (especially those of us with MS) physically, they have also been shown to reduce intelligence and to lower our mood.
Omega 3, one of the EFAs (essential Fatty Acids) essential to people with MS found in fish and linseed also makes us happy! Not only do EFAs prevent the short-circuiting in the brain which takes place during MS, (the myelin sheath is made out of Phospholipid and EFAs (DHA or arachidonic acids) and these combine to stop those short-circuits) they also greatly improve your mood. It has been proven that there is a lower rate of depression in areas where a lot of fish is eaten, as well as a lower rate of MS of course. Among Inuits a case of MS is unknown for example.
The EPA and DHA found in oily fish and flaxseed (linseed), hemp and walnut oils is what makes up half of the fat in brain-cell membranes. Because DHA builds receptor sites and improves reception; it also improves your mood – if you have a higher level of DHA you are also likely to have higher levels of serotonin and acetylcholine. You will get enough of both EPA and DHA which are equally important and work in unison, if you eat oily fish three times a week.
The best sources are oily fish and shell-fish rich in docosahexaenoic acid (essential nutrient for the brain) like herring, mackerel, kippers, tuna, whitebait, lobster, sardines, mussels, sprats, squid, prawns and shrimp. Salmon, trout, haddock, flounder and cod are also fine. Herring, mackerel tuna and salmon will also significantly improve your mood, and your concentration span.
If you don’t like fish you can take fish oil supplements and follow the vegetarian guidelines: Vegetarians should aim at having 1 tbsp of flaxseed (linseed) and a tsp of its oil once a day. They can also try Spirulina which is a great source of Omega3 and Omega6.
Diets and drugs that lower cholesterol cause a deficiency in omega3, encouraging demyelination and leading to depression.
Phosphatidyl serine found in organ meats is extremely important for the liver, immune system, nerves and brain. It provides the building materials needed for neuronal membranes as well as neurotransmitter receptor sites. It also improves memory, mood, concentration, learning and one’s ability to cope with stress. Vegetarians can take supplements of Evening Primrose oil instead.
Protein – almost all neurotransmitters are made of it. It also influences your mood. The quality of proteins depends on its amino acid balance. You only really need eight of these as the body makes the rest itself. Click here for a list of the best proteins.
Amino Acids make serotonin, a happy neurotransmitter which makes us happy. To ensure you are getting enough it is essential to chew your food really well. Another way of ensuring your body’s absorption of amino acids is to use a quality blender such as vitamix to get amino acids out of all the food you eat, including vegetables.
Choline is essential for the building of nerve cells and the receptor sites for neurotransmitters. A deficiency in this nutrient is the most common cause of memory decline. In order to make acetylcholine – the memory neurotransmitter, your body also needs vitamin B5, B1, B12 and C. If the body is deficient in choline it will use it to make acetylcholine instead of for building nerve cells. Choline also improves concentration and can make you more alert as well as clear-minded– something very useful to people with MS who often have problems concentrating due to mental fatigue.
Choline can be foundinfish, especially in sardines, eggs, liver, soya beans, peanuts, other nuts (be careful not to eat too many because they are high in saturated fats). It can also be found in the supplement lecithin.
DMAE found in large doses in sardines and anchovies works like Choline to make acetylcholine even quicker than the latter because of the speed at which it crosses into the brain from the blood. It also reduces anxiety and improves mood significantly. It also improves attention span and regularises brain-wave patterns. Too much can cause insomnia. Vegetarians can take supplements of 100-300mg in the morning/at midday.
Carbohydrates most break down into glucose during digestion and so turn into the best fuel for our cells; the brain uses a lot of this glucose. A low-carb diets have been shown to cause low moods. The best carbohydrates are those which release a steady amount of sugar slowly into the bloodstream. To make the release of glucose into the blood slower, combine with protein. The best carbohydrates to go for are whole, unrefined grains, all vegetables and some fruit; click here for a list of the best slow-release carbohydrates.
So you see, eating well is not only good for your physical health, helping to stabilise your MS, but also for your mood. Eating well will keep you healthy and happy, so why not start now?!