In today’s world of instant communication and gratification, it is in my opinion that everyone is on information overload, especially when it comes to facts about health. For any questions that arise there are a multitude of opinions with regard to answers. There is a litany of conflicting do’s and don’ts and it is no wonder we’re all confused on what’s best.
You want the quick fix – instant gratification to feel better, look better and be better. But does that really exist? There’s a plethora of information out there but how do you know what’s true and really works versus what simply offers false hope?
Recently, I co-chaired a Wellness Initiatives in MS strategy meeting launching the National MS Society’s Wellness Initiative for 2015 – 2018 that is in response to their constituency wanting to place a greater emphasis on dietary and lifestyle approaches to creating greater health in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The deliberations were lively and thought-provoking and the range of viewpoints made for a rich and productive meeting. This was a challenging meeting both with a very ambitious agenda and a diverse group in attendance. Participants’ expertise and insight have provided critical information to helping draft a roadmap for next steps with regard to wellness initiatives.
One of the primary concerns addressed was the question, “If something is found to be beneficial for health overall, is it therefore advantageous for MS health?” The consensus was a resounding, “Not necessarily.” If you read any message board on social media and/or follow more than one person who shares their experience with MS, you will have a multitude of opinions on what you should do, how you need to treat your illness, in addition to what you absolutely should not do. Are any of these opinions based in fact? Very few viewpoints, if any, are grounded in scientific proof.
While focusing on diet, exercise and cognition/mood, we talked about how to translate strategy into action; how to garner clear, measurable outcomes; impact on disease progression and/or the patient; quality of life; partnerships and advocacy; creating tool kits; barriers such as cost, effectiveness, adherence, and funding; as well as gaps in knowledge. As a first step toward new research endeavors, it is hoped to try to end the information overload when it comes to MS and wellness strategies giving people solid information upon which to base their treatment decisions. In the meantime, I base what I do for myself on how I feel. If the protocols I follow keep me feeling well (which they do), then I continue to do them.
I come at life in general from an integrative perspective. While I believe it is imperative to do as the doctor recommends with regard to prescribed medication, I also know that exercise, nutrition/diet, and cognition all play a vital role in my overall wellbeing. This is why I try to do some form of movement every day. Typically I practice yoga twice a week (one restorative, one gentle), do strength training twice a week, and walk 30-40 minutes at a brisk pace 4-5 times per week. There are days I can do it all and there are days I can only muster enough energy to do one activity. Sometimes all I do is clean the house. Either way, I move every day and always congratulate myself on my accomplishment. What do you do for exercise? Do you consider movement and exercise one in the same?
With regard to diet and nutrition, there is way too much unproven information out there. From all of my own research, I find that simply as a human being who wants to live healthy, a diet rich in real, unprocessed foods is best. Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits along with organic lean proteins seems to be the closest to a natural diet. And when taking my MS into consideration, I attempt to follow a Mediterranean diet that offers anti-inflammatory properties. Because MS is an inflammatory disease, it makes sense to eat foods that will help decrease or minimize inflammation. What type of diet do you follow? Or do you consider diet a 4-letter word?
When it comes to cognition/mood, I definitely have what is commonly referred to as MS brain. My short-term memory is quite poor no matter how hard I concentrate. Certain parts of my memory are simply gone since the initial onset of my disease. With the help of medication and a strong spiritual practice, I have become more present to the moment which definitely helps to improve my memory. A spirituality practice helps aid in keeping the brain healthy and engaged; creating new and healthy neuropathways. What is your spiritual practice, if any?
If you notice, I’ve offered no suggestions for what you should do; only suggestions of things to consider when deciding upon a lifestyle to create. Life is a journey, hopefully a long one, and you want to keep it the healthiest possible. After all, you only have one place to live and that’s your body. Take care of it and nurture it so you can be present, be purposeful and be well.