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10 Things You May Not Know About MS (Multiple Sclerosis)

10 Things You May Not Know About MS (Multiple Sclerosis)

Do you know much about multiple sclerosis? If you do, it may be because you know someone who has it. I have a family member I’m fairly close with who has it and have heard from her about her condition for over ten years as it took control of her life. I’ve watched videos, read articles about promising treatments, and did some research. Sometimes what doctors and scientists don’t know is more alarming than what they do know. Right now, there are only treatments, no cures, and over 2.3 million people diagnosed to have multiple sclerosis.

But even if you are familiar with MS, here are 10 things you likely do not know. Share the knowledge. Awareness is a step toward a cure.

1.  There are 4 types of MS, but people will exhibit symptoms that are individual to them.

There are 4 types of disease courses identified in multiple sclerosis: relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary-progressive MS (PPMS), secondary-progressive MS (SPMS), and progressive-relapsing MS. Within each “course,” there are varying degrees of severity. One person may be high functioning while another person with the same course could be considered disabled. Some people with the most severe symptoms in a course might need a caretaker. Regardless of being diagnosed with the same course of MS, the symptoms will be individual to each person. One person may experience severe memory loss while another person can lose control of their bladder intermittently while having some memory loss. Some people experience tremors. Others may experience blindness.

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2.  MS symptoms can be exacerbated.

Have you ever got a headache that worsened with noise? Or do you seem to get neck pain only when you have to take a test? Some stress has exacerbated your pain. MS symptoms can be manageable, like a light headache, but then they can be worsened when the sufferer experiences warmer than comfortable temperatures or when confronted by people that emotionally threaten them in some way. They experience stress acutely. A once sociable person may not be able to suffer the company of more than one person at a time or only can stand the company of people who are considerate about their condition. Stressful events, like an unpleasant medical procedure, can worsen symptoms. This is called exacerbation. It is life altering.

3.  MS is difficult to diagnose and can take YEARS to rule in while ruling out other possibilities.

Yes, I thought a doctor could just look at some blood samples and ask some questions and make some observations and then POOF! you’d have your diagnosis. No. It actually can be a long process. Doctors unfamiliar with MS as well as doctors who are familiar with it can take a long time making a proper diagnosis. And remember, there are varying types of MS called “courses” and each has varying degrees of severity. Then you have each person with their individual symptoms. So while people may guess a person has MS, there are blood tests and biopsies that have to be done by specialists who know what they are supposed to be ruling out before they can rule in MS. It can, and often does, take years to diagnose. MRI (a brain scan) is used to diagnose 90% of all cases at this point in time, but it is still just one of many tests that have to be completed. The MRI only shows swelling.

4.  MS can’t be cured; symptoms can only be lessened and treatments can be extreme.

Although experimental treatments and hopeful research for a cure make headlines, there are no headlines for the fact that people get the disease and then can only hope to manage symptoms and hope to lessen them. If a person with MS is lucky, their MS will lighten up for long periods of time or seem to disappear. It never goes away, but it does not get worse. If the person is unlucky, they get hit hard, don’t get any periods of relief, and continue to worsen even with medication and chemo treatments. The person I have in my life went as far as to have her eye muscles cut so her eyes would stop shaking. The shaking, after doing other treatments, including chemo, had not subsided and she was sick to her stomach from the constant eye movement. Other treatments to stop tremors have included the injection of a neurotoxin to cause partial or complete paralysis of specific muscles; this was done in an effort to regain control so she could walk more confidently and not suffer dizziness and nausea. She was able to gain some quality of life back, however, she never regained full function of anything affected by the MS.

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5.  MS symptoms can come and go over a lifetime.

You may think you know your own MS, but then it can suddenly change. You may regain bladder control, but then your short term memory really starts to fail you so you can’t remember who you just talked to on the phone. Then, just as suddenly, it can switch back. You may even feel you can walk without the assistance of a walker for days, then suddenly, wham! you fall just walking down the hall. You just don’t know how things are going to change. The unpredictability and loss of control are emotionally hard on even the most even-tempered of people. One day you can see or write your name, then suddenly you can’t do either, and you don’t know why. It just happens. Not only do the changing symptoms and severity make it hard to diagnose, but it makes it hard to predict the future. How much help could a person need? How independent can they live?

6.  Pain and sleeplessness are common symptoms of MS.

Over 50% of MS sufferers have pain and sleeplessness which exacerbate symptoms. They increase MS’s symptoms’ severity, then in turn, the pains, including headaches like migraines, and sleeplessness, get worse. Keeping cool and taking naps, avoiding stimulation and exertion, become critical. What is also critical is taking things to help the person sleep and be in less pain. The management of MS is ceaseless.

7.  MS is expensive.

I think the thing many people don’t ingest about chronic illnesses is the expense. To make it real, you need to understand that it costs $20,000 to $30,000 a year. That is more money a year than many earn as a salary. A full-time school teacher can start at $35,000. Thirty-thousand is the cost of a nice, new car. It is a down payment on a house. And that only covers the medications. People try to qualify for assistance any way they can, and some volunteer to be test subjects of new, experimental treatments. Their bodies and their income are ruled by MS once it takes over. Some continue to work; others will not be able to work. Those suffering the severe courses of MS will no longer have money for the luxuries others take for granted like specialty coffees, cell phones, and television. But then again, they may have had to stop drinking coffee because of caffeine. They may not be able to see the cell phone to dial a number. They may not be able to see the tv to turn it on.

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8.  MS changes what you can and should eat.

A healthy diet can help everyone, maybe especially those with MS, however, it becomes extreme for MS sufferers. because they become super-sensitive to caffeine, preservatives, fats, sodium, and other not-so-good things. It also gets theoretical, with fad or faux recommendations that hype super foods for curing or cursing a person’s internal systems making it harder for people to make sound decisions by confusing them. But the truth is, foods affect each person on an individual basis and there is no study that can say this diet is going to help or hurt. Just eat healthy is what all articles of substance say, and know that the person with MS ultimately will have to be the best judge of how processed food, sweets, and caffeine are effecting them. Here is a thread on the web that demonstrates how varied MS sufferers’ reactions to caffeine can be;  some people were even helped by coffee consumption while others were hurt by it.

9.  Exercise is critical for people with MS.

It is good for everyone to get regular exercise, point blank, but people with MS have got to exercise like their lives depend on it because it does. To retain a quality of life with less pain, more sleep, and more mobility without assistance, people with MS have to exercise regularly. It isn’t comfortable or easy. It is far from it. But the cost of not exercising is too steep because it is like opening the gate wide to MS and allowing it to walk all over you. And that brings me to number 10, people with MS have to become fighters.

10.  People with MS have to be fighters or become fighters.

The reality is that MS will make its presence known and its power felt at every opportunity. MS is a ravenous enemy. It wants total control of the body and doesn’t care how miserable the person becomes. It even thrives on the person’s frustration, anger, and depression. It blooms. It consumes strength faster as the muscles atrophy. It disrupts sleep so the person’s thinking becomes more confused, repetitive, and incomplete. It unhinges emotions so that tears and laughter erupt with less control. People with MS have to get up every day resolved to eat well, exercise regularly, rest often, and keep a regular schedule that can include weekly doctor appointments. They become dependent on a healthy routine to keep them safe from the enemy. They need friends, family, and medical professionals to support them in their daily battles.

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When it comes to chronic illnesses like MS, I would be surprised if someone could deal with it alone. MS steals away independence and self-control. But people are raising awareness, raising money, and working to find a cure. To learn more about how you can help, visit the Get Involved page of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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