Are there options for treatments for MS that aren’t pharmaceuticals?
YES! Unfortunately, there is not a cure for MS. The drugs we are prescribed are not a guarantee that we will live a symptom free life. The only promise is the possibility of a reduction of relapses. We have more control over this than one may think. Reducing stress and healthy habits can keep us moving and shaking (the good kind of shaking – not nervous shaking – Haha!). Options are available for MS symptoms too. And, have you considered; is it MS? We tend to blame every ache, pain, itch, fatigue and tingling on MS – but not always the case. We may need to look at other possibilities and react and treat symptoms differently.
Why do many of the current drugs have side effects that are so challenging to cope with?
Because they are so very powerful and are attempting to suppress your immune system. MS drugs are not the only ones that create havoc in your body. Have you listened to any of the commercials for any of the latest potions to treat diseases like diabetes, heart disease, depression, Parkinson’s, Psoriasis or any of the other illnesses out there? They side effects are often scarier than the disease symptoms themselves. Then, we take medications to combat the side effects that have their own list of side effects and it goes on and on. Stop the madness! I had a Neurologist who has since retired. My first few years with MS, I would tell him symptoms such as numbness, fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, etc. After asking if he could prescribe something, he would say he could but he then proceeded to list thc side effects of the medication he could prescribe. Not always, but often that was enough to make me not want to try it. I have done well with keeping prescriptions to a minimum.
If I stop taking my medications, will I get worse?
Maybe. Maybe not. It is all a guessing game. You could stay on your medications and get worse. These medications are not guaranteed to completely prevent your current, past or present symptoms from disappearing. But, you can make a tremendous impact on your health through diet, strength training and mindset. We all know there is no cure. That does not mean that we cannot live the best life possible.
Is it possible to eliminate or minimize my MS symptoms?
Absolutely – with no doubt but it is a process – it takes time, effort and patience with yourself. Begin by looking at the following three aspects of your life.
Food – there are many suggested diets for those with MS . Some are very restrictive and nearly impossible to follow long term. How do you know one diet or another would be the best option for you? Would give you the energy and health benefits you are seeking? We must look at the food we eat as something we are giving our body to use as fuel. The right kind of fuel for me, ,may not be right for you. The best discovery method I have found is elimination. Eliminate foods from your day to day consumption and note how you feel. Find the foods that work best for you and try to consume these most of the time to achieve energy and reduce fatigue.
Strength Training – This has been a life-saver for me. The more muscle mass and movement I can create, the stronger and less rigid or stiff I feel. I am amazed at the little amount of movement required to increase strength. And, no cardio required as this raises core temperature which can lead to short term symptom.
Mindset – If I were putting these three MS altering items in order, this one would be first. We must put a stop, literally say the word “STOP” when your mind turns to negative thoughts regarding this disease. There is always something positive to focus your mind. If your mind will not stop, doing something to put your mind elsewhere is the best option.
Are there MDs that know how to integrate natural therapies for MS?
I believe they are out there but still find most will rely on medications as the primary method to control MS exacerbations. My first neurologist believed to use the least amount of medications possible. He realized how most medications had side effects that were often worse than the symptoms they were intended to control. He appreciated alternative therapies, nutrition, etc as methods to live the best life possible.
How can I best support a friend or loved one?
Be patient. Be encouraging. Be sympathetic. What not to do? Please do not after listening to the loved one’s current issues with pain, numbness, fatigue or any MS symptom, comment that you have the same issue or have had the same issue. As with any illness, unless you have MS and even then, everyone has a different reaction and a different tolerance, it really is impossible to compare not to mention the fears of what can happen with this lifelong disease.
Where is the best place to start with a care plan for MS?
With your doctor and your family. You will need your doctor’s support and guidance whether you choose to use a disease modifying drug or not. Severe exacerbations can be reduced with steroid injections, other systems can easily be prescribed a mild medication and your doctor can run tests to determine your health status. Discussions with family will allow loved ones to know how they can help. Family members can be your biggest cheerleaders of the alternative therapies you would like to try or adopt.
I’ve been diagnosed with MS, is there hope for a healthy, normal life?
There is!! It is all about finding what works for you. We all may have the same label on our disease but we are not all the same with the disease. Do not let the sad stories get you down. It is not your story. You can write your own! Let’s figure out what you need to keep a healthy body and mind working well to live the best life you can.
How do I resolve the conflicting information I'm finding about MS?
It is everywhere but no different than most diseases. I believe the best way to resolve the conflict is by determining what works for you and what you are willing and able to do. Read it all, think it through, give it a try – adopt it or abandon it.
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Three things everyone with Multiple Sclerosis must do NOW, to live their best life
by Pam Cusano