InforMS: Fall 2017

InforMSFall2017 coverSleep

It's an integral part of wellness, especially when you're living with MS.



Sleep, Exercise & Nutrition: The Three Pillars of Wellness

By Patricia Daily | The treatment of multiple sclerosis has changed dramatically in the past 25 years. Although we still don’t understand what causes the disease and can’t repair the damage done by it, we can signiifcantly slow it down. Slowing MS down is important because we now know that the human brain has a tremendous capacity to repair itself and recover from all sorts of damage, given the chance.

For people with MS, giving the brain that chance is a two-pronged process. We need to slow the disease down enough so that the innate repair systems in the brain can catch up, and we need to optimize the functioning of that repair system. So today, the most progressive strategies for treating MS involve the early and continued use of disease-modifying therapies AND the development of lifestyle interventions that encourage brain repair. Enter Wellness Strategies.

Wellness is a term all over the news, but what does it mean? It isn’t the opposite of illness and it isn’t just about your physical body. It is a process of becoming aware of and moving towards those options that encourage health.

Wellness involves a balance of emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, leisure and physical activities. All of these components are critical for wellness. Sleep, exercise, and nutrition are the three pillars that support physical wellness. Although all interact with and in uence each other, many experts believe that sleep is the most critical and underpins the development of the other two.

The importance of understanding the what and how of sleep was highlighted this month when the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology was awarded to three US scientists for their work on the molecular mechanisms that control our circadian rhythms—critical functions that influence our sleep. 

This issue of InforMS is focused on sleep, one of the three pillars of wellness, and why it’s important—whether you have MS or not—and on specific sleep issues that often occur when someone does have MS. See this issue's main article on Sleep. Next up, Tom Stewart offers tips for a better night’s sleep. Nutrition advice can be found in Kerri Cechovic’s interview with registered dietician Holly Prehn. The third pillar, exercise and yoga, have helped Reese Garcia navigate her MS diagnosis.

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By Patricia Daily | Sleep is an activity that, until recently, didn’t get much respect.

For centuries we assumed that nothing happened when we were asleep because the brain and body weren’t doing anything but resting. It’s only been in the last 80 years or so—since the development of technologies like EEG and MRI—that we have been able to study sleep real time. It’s been an eye-opener to learn how incredibly active our brains and metabolisms are while we aren’t. But even though we are developing a greater appreciation for how complex and important it is, what actually happens during sleep is mostly a mystery.

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Getting a Good Night's Sleep

By Thomas M. Stewart, MS, JD, PA-C | Insomnia, or diffculty in initiating or maintaining sleep, can be a symptom or a malady. For example, many people with MS experience depression, which has many symptoms such as irritability and tearfulness. Another important symptom of depression may be a sleep disturbance (either too little or too much sleep). Thus, in some cases, poor sleep may be thought of as a symptom. Sometimes, however, poor sleep is not a symptom of some other medical or psychiatric condition. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea are known as primary sleep disorders and are common among people with MS.
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Nutrition & MS: A Conversation with Holly Prehn, RD

By Kerri Cechovic | Some of the questions that we hear frequently from people living with MS are around the topics of diet and nutrition. “What foods should I avoid?” “Is there an MS diet?” Indeed, a healthy and nutritious diet along with an active lifestyle is a key part of maximizing your lifelong brain health.

But with information coming at all of us faster and in higher volumes than ever, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to a healthy diet. With so much out there, what’s the best way to think about how to approach our nutrition to promote our health, especially while living with MS? 

We recently spoke with Holly Prehn, registered dietician at the Center for Integrative Medicine at University of Colorado Hospital to learn more about healthy nutrition, the role of diet in MS, and practical tips for making changes in your nutritional habits.

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Staying Active with MS: A Conversation with Reese Garcia

Reese Garcia is 24 years old, grew up in Colorado, and recently graduated with her Master’s degree in public health. She was diagnosed with MS two and a half years ago. Reese experienced her first symptom when she was thirteen years old — every time she would bend her neck, she would get what felt like an electrical signal through her body. Fast forward to her senior year in college when she started experiencing total numbness on the right side of her body and made an appointment with a neurologist. 

Since her diagnosis, Reese has experienced a five-month episode of optic neuritis where she lost acuity and some color vision in one eye. Since then, her symptoms have included nerve tingling, vertigo, spasticity and neck pain.

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