Physical Wellness: One Part of the Sphere

We’ve talked about different aspects of wellness here on the MS Conversations blog in the past, and this month as we’ve covered topics related to depression we also wanted to touch on factors of physical wellness too, because all of the elements of wellness can intertwine and are equally important. Living with a chronic illness like MS can make it difficult at times to have control over one’s physical health because of how unpredictable and unknowing the disease course can be. However, there are pieces of physical wellness that a person can try to maintain influence over, even though MS may have other plans in mind.

Daily habits and behaviors can have great influence over one’s physical health and can include things like diet, exercise and sleep practices. With a disease like MS that can affect physical body function, maintaining consistent sleep or exercise routines can be challenging at times. It’s in these cases where people may need to get a little creative and modify/adjust practices to make things work for them. Working with healthcare professionals on symptom management strategies can help with this. Applying good habits to daily routines may improve physical health needs, especially with sleep practices. And though at this time there is no one specific diet known to influence MS and they continue to research this, maintaining healthy eating habits and a well-balanced diet can have positive effects on one’s physical nutrition. Each person is unique and what works for one’s physical health may not for another, so it’s important to evaluate behaviors and choices that can apply to your situation and what your needs are.

Another part of this physical piece includes maintenance and follow-ups when it comes to one’s care. I don’t know anyone who necessarily “enjoys” going to the doctor or hospital, but it’s one of those things that has to be done sometimes. Making sure to see your doctor regularly, notifying them if you’re having an issue or experiencing changes in symptoms are all good habits to try to enforce when it comes to your health. It’s not always an enjoyable experience having to go to the doctor or having medical tests/procedures done, but it’s a way to ensure that you’re doing all you can to keep your care in check and to maintain control over this aspect of your health. There are even tools and resources to help keep communication flowing between you and your medical team for your physical care needs. Though physicality is merely one aspect of the entire wellness sphere, it remains a vital part that contributes to all of the other elements of wellness and to one’s overall care.

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Irish Potato Candy – Recipe of the Month

This month’s recipe comes from MSAA Staffer, Emily O.

Growing up, I spent most of my time after school at my grandparents’ house until one of my parents would be done with work.  One of my favorite traditions from this time of year was helping my grandmother make her own homemade Irish Potato Candy as a St. Patrick’s Day treat.  My mother loved Irish Potato Candy and, though we made the candy every year, my grandmother and I loved making it as a surprise for my mother.  Years later, I still make the candy as a way of honoring both my mother and grandmother.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. regular cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 16 oz. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter.
  2. Add in the vanilla.
  3. Add in confectioners’ sugar a bit at a time until the mixture forms a ball.
  4. Stir in the coconut flakes with a (sturdy!) spoon.
  5. Spread ground cinnamon in a shallow dish or on a plate. You may need to repeat this process a few times depending on how coated you like your potatoes.
  6. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.
  7. Grab a small piece of the cream cheese and coconut mixture and roll in your hands to form a small ball (I usually make mine about the size of a quarter) and roll the ball in the ground cinnamon until the ball is coated.
  8. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and let them chill for about an hour or so, until they are firmer.

*We hope you enjoy our Recipe of the Month selections on MS Conversations. Just remember: these entries may not necessarily be a part of an MS-specific diet; these are simply recipes compiled from MSAA staff and friends either from their own family recipe collection or based on recipes we think you might enjoy. As always, make sure to consult your doctor about any food or nutrition questions as they relate to your MS.

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Nutrition and Multiple Sclerosis

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As we wrap up this month focusing on reaching out to supportive professionals, there is one other group of professionals that plays an important role in the overall health of individuals with MS. One of the top questions asked in regards to MS care is around the idea of a diet for MS, or which foods to avoid for individuals with MS. Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer as there has been no hard science that indicates that any particular food groups are specifically beneficial or not to those with MS.

With MS being a very individualized disease, meaning that it affects each person in a different way, it is difficult to say that one thing will work for everyone.

Just as MS is a very individualized disease, understanding and creating a nutritional plan must be individualized as well. Meeting with a dietitian or a nutritionist may help to better understand the foods and nutrients that your body needs in order to work properly. By working with a professional, he or she can help to safely monitor the changes occurring in your body based on the foods that you add or withdraw, depending on your plan.

Talk to your doctor about a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist in your area. You may also wish to reach out to your insurance provider to learn about insurance coverage for these visits. Licensing and education can vary between those in the nutritional field, it is important to do some research on the professional and their background and beliefs about nutrition. Some nutritionists may have a belief in herbal supplements and other forms of natural healing while others may not. Knowing what you are comfortable with in regards to your treatment and matching that with the appropriate practitioner can aid in the overall process of crafting a healthy regimen for you.

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Spring into Action

Spring into Action

Well, it’s officially spring… although I know a lot of people up north would disagree with the cold weather… but I thought I would talk about some of things that I do to “Spring into Action” around this time of year.

Since the weather is actually REALLY nice in Texas right now, I’ve been trying to spend a lot of time outside… and for those of you who enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, there are some things we need to take into account. Like… how long should we stay outside? For me, it’s all about reading the signs my body gives me. If I start to feel overheated, I go into shade, or go inside. If I’m REALLY overheated, like I get in the 100+ Degree Weather we have in Texas during the summer, a cold shower always helps!

Now, before it gets TOO hot outside, there are some things you can do that will help you manage the heat later on. Do you have any MS Cooling Packs? If not, I highly recommend checking out MSAA’s Cooling Distribution Program. I’ve come to find that the Cooling Neck & Upper Spine Wrap, from Polar Products, really cools my core temperature. Also, there are those little Wrist Cooling Wraps that help as well. Also, when sitting outside on those hot summer days, I LOVE my Cooling Seat Cushion. Now these are just my personal opinion that I’ve found through trying different types of cooling products that help me out, and that I also don’t have to put on under clothing.

When it comes to any type of cooling product used for Heat Intolerance & MS, I feel like it’s a personal preference. The ones listed above are what I use when I’m just sitting outside, watching the kids play, etc. But when it comes to doing things outside like going on walks, yard work, etc. This is when I would use my Cooling Vest. There are A LOT of different types to choose from, so again, personal preference. By clicking on any of the links above, it will take you to different things offered by Polar Products. But there are other Cooling Product Companies out there; I just listed the ones that I have personally used.

Now, I know that a lot of us made some promises to ourselves for the New Year to become more active, eat healthier, etc. I’ve been doing that… and I have a gym membership… and I can say that the exercise that I can do the easiest is swimming. I did make sure that the gym I got a membership to had an INDOOR pool, because with the way the weather has been lately, you never know what you’re going to get.

I’m not going to say it was REALLY easy beginning exercising regularly again, but I do enjoy it. I think one of the most frustrating things I’ve been dealing with is the fact that I was so used to what I was able to do BEFORE I got MS, when I was in Athletics in school, Swim Team and things like that. But I’ve come to the realization that if I don’t want to overdo and aggravate my MS & MS Symptoms, that I have to make a new routine. It takes time, but I feel like I have more energy now. I don’t go to the gym every day, but I do try and walk a little bit on the days that I don’t.

Now about this whole “eating healthy” thing… let me just say that I am a born & raised Texan, and I love my southern food and Mexican food… so this is a REALLY tough issue! I’m not being REALLY intense with it, but I am watching my portions and things like that. I won’t ever be able to stay away from carbs and all of that yummy stuff that I crave, so I decided I wasn’t going to make a plan that I wasn’t going to fully stick with. But by watching my portions and having small snacks in between meals, it’s pretty easy, for me anyway. Oh, and let me just tell you that I am a VERY picky eater and don’t eat the suggested fruits and vegetable intake that you’re supposed to, but I did find a yummy supplement at a health store that I mix with water in the morning and drink that with my breakfast (it tastes like candy, by the way) and that way, I have had my “suggested daily fruits and veggie intake.”

Okay – I hope I didn’t overload you with all that information, but I did want to cover a few of those topics that I know are really popular right now. I hope everyone is outside enjoying the weather- if it’s not too cold, that is.

For more information about Resources for your MS, check out MSWorld’s Resource Center.

Best Wishes!

Ashley Ringstaff – Volunteer for MSWorld.org

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3 Simple Steps to Better Food Choices

For many, the New Year brings along new promises and new goals for healthy living.  Making better choices and eating healthier come hand-in-hand.  Over the years, I have adapted some techniques that I think have helped my family to make better food choices, and I wanted to share them all in this blog.

First, in order to make healthy food choices, you have to surround yourself with healthy options.  If you don’t buy junk food, or have it in the house, you are more likely to make better choices.  Let’s be honest, if it comes down to a cookie or an apple, I am pretty sure I’ll choose the cookie.  But if it’s between an apple and some strawberries, it’s a win-win situation! By planning what is available to you, you are setting yourself up to make good choices.

The grocery store can be very intimidating and stressful, especially if you are hungry, which brings me to my next point:  always have a snack or a full meal before shopping.  This will prevent the cravings purchases, and you won’t be distracted by your stomach.  It helps to have a grocery list with you and to only purchase what is on your list.  I like to look at the store circulars beforehand and make note of the sales and write these items down on my list.  Only purchasing the items on my list helps me to make better choices, as well as helps with my food budget.

Speaking of food budget, one thing that I have found helpful over the past couple of months is creating a weekly “menu” for my family.  Usually on Sunday, I will pull together my local circulars and look at the sale items.  The majority of my food budget goes towards purchasing meats, so this is where I start building my meals.  I have my “go-to” recipes and start from there.  Maybe chicken with vegetables one night, some form of pasta another.  Eventually I have formulated a “menu” for the week.  Now looking at my menu, I will create a list of the ingredients I will need for those items, and place them on my grocery list.  This helps to ensure that I purchase everything in one trip, for all the meals I will be making that week.

The food menu has helped my family make better decisions when it comes to eating.  Knowing what is for dinner and knowing that I have the ingredients to make it prevents the “oh no, what should we do for dinner” scenario-which often leads to bad choices!

It took a while for this to become a practice in my house, and this may not work for everyone.  I encourage you to take a look at your food purchases and try to make some changes that will work for you.

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