Monday, January 26, 2009

MS Magnifies Stressful Situation

Dr. Swank used to explain to us that a MS patient feels things more strongly than the average person. He said there would be times that my wife would feel things 10X stronger than me. This included emotional and physical things. MS seems to have a way to heighten the senses and my wife is no exception. Her MS has caused her to have cramps, stiffness, physical pain, emotional pain, mood swings, and a range of other feelings. Yesterday was the perfect example of this.

Working on a campus with kids all day can be stressful. We take care of all of their needs 24/7 and then have to deal with their parents, other staff, school etc. on any given day. We also have regular staff meetings with other personnel that are also responsible for children on our campus. In our weekly meeting, one of the houseparents was very frustrated about some issues on campus and proceeded to vent her frustration to one of our bosses. During this venting, I could visibly see my wife tense up. Her hands started to tighten into fists and I could see the stress start to work its way through her body. She was not involved in the venting or the problem, but just by sitting in the same room she became physically involved in the encounter.

At one point in the conversation she felt compelled to defend another staff on our campus without becoming personally involved in the issue. She explained herself well, but her hands were visibly shaking and I could see the stress in her eyes and body. The tension from being in the same room during this venting exhausted my wife. She was flush and physically hot during this time, and remained that way for some time after the meeting. I know that she "feels" things more strongly than I do, and this meeting left her physically and emotionally spent even though she was not the one in the conversation.

MS and stress do not go well together, and we are reminded of this often. Our Chiropractor pointed out that one way he knows where our body is out of whack is by the physical indicators. He pointed out that our skin temperature, skin blemishes and other factors can easily tell him where the problems are occurring. He was able to show me on my wife's back where she was out of alignment and then show me the blemishes right at the problem area. It really was very fascinating. Stress manifests itself in so many strange ways and MS seems to magnify it. Just being in the room with a stressful situation can wear out my wife, and this particular event went on for maybe twenty minutes. We hope that the next staff meeting isn't quite so "exciting".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hormones and Multiple Sclerosis

During the first year of learning about Multiple Sclerosis from our Naturopathic Doctor, we learned quickly that hormones play a huge roll in the bodies ability to function properly. Depression, mood swings, water usage, adrenal function, sleep problems and many other issues in Multiple Sclerosis seem to stem from hormone problems. The way we originally found this ND was through a video he created on the human body's need for water. Through this video he explained how hormones in the body regulate water which attributes to the underlying issues of disease. This video was made specifically for auto immune diseases and the effects water had on the healing of these diseases.

After visiting with the ND we soon learned that there were tests we could perform that would give levels of hormones circulating through the body. He advised us to complete a Female Circadian (24 hour) Hormonal Panel from Sabre Sciences. This test is conducted over a 24 hour period using swabs to capture saliva for testing. She would swab her mouth at different times so that our ND could see how her hormone levels were throughout a full day. The hormones tested included Cortisol, DHEA, Progesterone, Estradiol and Testosterone. The test also included 6 minerals/electrolytes. We were quite shocked to see the irregularities when the results arrived from the first test.

My wife has had insomnia off and on for years. With the hormone test, we found out why. In the results, you could actually see the Cortisol level jump in the middle of the night which would cause her to wake up and have issues sleeping. There were many other irregularities too that we soon found out affected her mood and many other issues she was having. Based off of these tests, we received a compounded cream that my wife would use daily to regulate her hormones. Once on the cream, she started sleeping better and feeling better. We were instructed to take the test fairly often at first to see the progress of the cream so it could be adjusted. We learned that it takes quite a bit of time for your hormones to come back into balance and you have to work to keep them balanced.

Through the hormone testing we also found that my wife's adrenals were shot. They were overworked and stressed out. My wife has had times when she would start to feel light headed and woozy and the ND attributed this to her adrenal problems. For awhile this seemed to happen often, but utilizing certain supplements, rest and diet, she was able to stop this problem. There is much more to say about hormones and MS, and on a future post I will try to give specifics on my wife's hormone level
results. I feel like this is one of the key elements we used to begin gaining some control over my wife's health.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Multiple Sclerosis Leg Pain, Twitching and Heaviness

My wife has had some sort of leg issues from the beginning symptoms of her Multiple Sclerosis. We have always been able to treat her symptom and her issues go away, but it can be a real annoyance for her. Normally she has one leg that is worse than the other, and it seems to be pretty random which leg it attacks. Most of the time her legs just become tired. If she walks too much or is standing too long her legs will become tired and as she explains it, "heavy". She has also had other issues though that seem to come back anytime she over does things.

One of those issues is twitching and restless legs. Usually it starts with her leg or legs getting tired and then she sits down to rest. Once she sits down, her leg will start to twitch and jump. Sometimes I can place pressure on her leg and it will subside, but there have been times that her legs will spasm bad enough that she will kick things in front of her. Her legs don't hurt as much during this time, but it is more of a nuisance that she gets very frustrated with. She has also had restless leg sometimes when she lays down to sleep. This can keep her up until it subsides which leads to her being exhausted and more issues.

Another issue is her leg giving out. We were walking one day into the mall and she suddenly fell. She was able to catch herself, but was frustrated and embarrassed that she fell in front of so many people. This has only happened a few times, but when it does, she tells me that it just feels like her leg gives out from under her. She explains that it feels like her knee will not support her and the leg just buckles. Again, this has only happened a few times, but is quite abrupt when it happens. Her legs may be tired before it happens, but there are no other warning signs that it will happen. Clumsiness and falling seem to happen with Multiple Sclerosis. I know that my wife had great balance before her symptoms started, but now has problems with it periodically.

Heaviness is something else she says happens to her legs. It usually starts with tingling and numbness and then she will drag the leg or have issues tripping over things. Sometimes she will have this in the mornings if she laid on her leg wrong in bed, or this will happen after a long hard day of standing and walking. She describes the tingling as if your foot was going to sleep and it won't wake up. It is usually more annoying than harmful, but it does affect her when we have plans or are out trying to go somewhere.

Another issue is leg pain. I have already written a post about the pain, so I won't say much here. Leg pain in Multiple Sclerosis seems to be quite common. My wife only has pain when she pushes too hard and goes past her stopping point. When the pain does start, it is often difficult for her to do anything. Again, this doesn't happen very often, and if she is listening to her body, she can keep her legs from progressing to this point. The pain usually runs on the outside of her thigh from her hip to her knee. This is one of the major leg muscles that is worked on during Bowen Therapy and massage. Her knee will sometimes also hurt, and the muscles along the top of the thigh.

Once in our marriage my wife lost all ability to use her legs. She stayed that way for about a month until we started seeing an ND that treated her with a host of things. This is the sad place that we seem to find so many MS patients. My wife's mother has lost all use of her legs and has not been able to use them for years. I know that she never tried the different therapies we have used, but I often wonder if she would still be able to walk today if she did. When my wife lost the use of her legs, it started as numbness in her torso then spread down until her toes were numb. Her legs just wouldn't cooperate with her, which I know was frustrating. I am glad this has only happened once, and that we have been able to stop it from happening since then.

This week we are going skiing for three days. This is one sport where her MS doesn't seem to cause problems. She can usually ski all day and rest well, then ski another day. Today, she is prepping for next week. She is taking the time to lay down, rest her legs, and give her body time to recoup before the trip. We have learned that rest is an essential part of life for an MS patient. We have also found that if she rests and listens when her legs start to tire, she can avoid the leg twitching and pain. We have been able to use rest, Bowen Therapy, Massage, Chiropractic, diet and supplementation to keep my wife walking, running and using her legs without any major issues. We have also used yoga and stretching to release tension in her legs, especially her ham string.

I spoke with a physical therapist the other day about back pain and leg issues. He pointed out that almost every patient he sees has tight hamstrings. He showed me how the hamstring affects the back muscles which in turn can cause leg pain, back pain and headaches. When my wife was getting regular massages, participating in yoga and stretching, she didn't seem to have the headaches and leg issues. The PT explained that this is one of the major muscles that needs to be stretched regularly to keep the body functioning properly. These are just a few ways that a my wife has kept her ability to walk and run.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Diet for MS pt 2

My wife has followed two main diets over the years. Swank's MS Diet and the Breaking the Vicious Cycle diet. She followed Swank's MS diet to the letter for 10 years, and only stopped due to a career change that impeded cooking regularly. Dr. Swank always told us that when she quit the diet, she would begin to have issues within two years. He was right, and after the two years were up, she began to have issues regularly. After a few years of these issues, she had the worst attack of her MS and became numb from her chest down. That is when we first saw a Naturopath and began the "Breaking The Vicious Cycle" diet.

In Swank's diet, my wife was limited to 15 saturated fat grams per day. This meant following very strict guidelines and made it very difficult to dine at a restaurant. With the Vicious Cycle diet, she cut out all wheat and sugar. There is much more to the diet, but these two things created the most issues. Cutting wheat out of your diet is extremely difficult, since it is found in so many foods that you don't think it is in. Sugar is also difficult to cut out. As difficult as it is, both of these diets have proven themselves to help.

In my last post, I referred to parasites, fungus and other things in my wife's blood. After seeing these critters and problems, we realized that our diet could feed them or kill them. We learned quickly that sugar feeds so many parasites and other bacteria in your system and that one way to kill them is to starve them. Our gut is full of bacteria, some good and some bad. We were very aggressive with re-establishing good bacteria and killing the bad bacteria. Using a combination of diet, antibiotics, probiotics and supplements we were able to re-establish the good bacteria.

Through stool testing, we were able to establish a base line and see the progress through this treatment. If you research the links from digestion to other issues in your body, it is overwhelming. When your digestive track is not functioning properly, it affects hormones and nutrition to just name a few things. In the beginning of this, my wife would have days where she felt like she had the flu with aching and a general bad feeling. Once we had her digestive track working properly, we could tell a marked difference in her energy level, overall mood and overall health. We were also able to see the results directly in her blood, stool tests and hormone panels.

These diets are hard, but for us, they are a foundation we have used to build health. We know that it is only a matter of time for my wife to get ill when we are off of the diets. In a world of fast food, fried food and nutrient deficient food, we have to be even more aware of what we are putting into our bodies. Multiple Sclerosis has shown to be affected by diet over and over, and my wife's health has shown that we can use diet to help control the disease.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thanks Dr. Roy L Swank!

Over 17 years ago my wife first met Dr. Swank. She had devoloped some odd symptoms that the doctors were not able to explain and had went through all of the normal testing to find out what it was. After months of testing, prodding and frustration, my wife's family was exhausted. The medical bills were stacking up and the doctors were lost. My wife's father is a pharmacist and has spent years working in the medical field. He had an idea that my wife might have MS even though her tests had come back negative at this point. With this thought on their minds, my wife's mother had heard about Dr. Swank at a concert by a famous pianist. He had mentioned his daughter was seeing Dr. Swank for her MS so my wife's mother approached him and asked him about their situation. He told her about Dr. Swank and his research and they immediately contacted Dr. Swank and setup an appointment.

Because of my wife's age, Dr. Swank was able to see her immediately. They visited him at his Oregon office and he confirmed that she had Multiple Sclerosis. He spent a lot of time explaining what they needed to do and how they could treat the disease without the medications. He started her on the Swank MS Diet and instructed her about rest, stress and a host of other important things. He helped her family to understand how to best help her and reassured them that she was going to be OK. After this first visit, Dr. Swank became their rock in an unstable world of MS. He would take emergency calls at all times of the day and night, and would consult as needed on my wife's health. After we were engaged, I took the trip with my wife to meet Dr. Swank. He took hours with us that day to explain how the marriage would affect her health and explained my role as her new spouse. We visited him yearly and he helped us with the decision to have a child. We feel strongly that he helped shape our view of MS and our view of living with the disease.

Dr. Swank passed away in November and he is going to be sorely missed. He was always so positive about my wife and her health, and everytime we would leave his office feeling like we had some control over this crazy disease. He has left a mark on this world and has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of MS patients have a normal life without lots of medications or side effects. Thank You Dr. Swank for your research, life and your passion for people.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Should I Leave, My Wife Has MS?

I have analytics setup on this blog to track the posts that are most read and where the readers are coming from. I was checking them the other day and I noticed that someone found my blog by typing "should i leave, my wife has ms". This really struck me and I haven't been able to get it off of my mind since. After looking around the net the last couple of years I seem to come across men often that are trying to decide if they need to leave their wives after they are diagnosed with MS. I know how hard it is to deal with the physical limitations, the mood swings, the financial issues and all of the other things that come along with the disease, but I would never leave my wife because of a disease.

To the guy that wrote this, please stay with your wife! She needs you now more than ever. When I first met my wife she didn't tell me about the disease for awhile. She later told me that she kept it hidden because the men she had told before just checked out of the relationship. I didn't check out and it surprised her. Your wife needs your attention, love and affection more now than ever before. My wife has commented over the years that she is very fortunant because her family has been so supportive. Your wife needs that rock to lean on because she feels so vulnerable and helpless.

Is it stressful to live with someone that is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis? Sure it is. We paid on doctor bills for years after she was diagnosed, and we are always paying for treatments and doctors to help her. She is forgetful at times, moody at times, stressed at times, and can't give me the attention at times that she would like, but that doesn't make me love her any less. My wife knows that I stress about her and the disease, but she also knows that when she needs me, I will be there. One thing I have learned through all of this is that the word love is very skewed today. Love can mean all sorts of things. For instance, I love tacos or I love that music. Love is so much more than that. As a father, I love my daughter and would lay down my life for her. As a husband, I love my wife whether she is numb, can't walk, can't see, can't talk or is doing great. Love isn't conditional. If your love is conditional, then you've bought into a lie about what love is.

Please stay with your wife! Research the disease, and find out how you can help her. Go out of your way to be intentional about your life and arrange it to support her and let her know that you are there. Tell her how beautiful she is and how much you appreciate her. Give her massages to help with the pain, and be patient. It took me years to understand how the disease affected my wife, and in the beginning I didn't have a clue why she reacted the way she did at times. Now, I know, and it helps me to know what to do and what not to do to really support her. After 13 years of marriage, I wouldn't choose a different path. I have had to put aside selfishness and embrace hard times, and it has made me a better man. She will make you a better man if you will stay with her.

Diet for MS

Quite a few years ago a man from Big Lake, TX was featured on the national news after overcoming Multiple Sclerosis using natural treatment. He was wheelchair bound and couldn't use his legs very well, and had tried conventional treatment and had limited results. After quite a few years he decided to try a Naturopathic Doctor in San Angelo, TX to see if he could help. The Naturopath used supplements, vitamins and diet to treat the disease and within a few months the man was walking and playing golf regularly. The news media ate it up and loved the fact that this man was walking after being wheelchair bound.

I have spent the last few years purchasing books and online material that claims to have the cure or treatment for MS. I have purchased online books from individuals in other countries and from MS sufferers. Through reading all of these, there is a few things that you will find that are contained in every one. They almost all talk about fish oils and the use of Omega's in your diet. They almost all talk about stress and anxiety and the need to control the stress in your life. They almost all talk about the use of a good multi vitamin and other specific vitamins that have shown to help MS patients. Many of the MS sufferers refer to a diet they followed and other treatments they used to remedy their problem. It is interesting that so many of these articles, books and materials all refer to the same things.

The very interesting thing about the man from Big Lake was he drank diet sodas everyday. He was addicted to them and once he began natural treatments and quit drinking the sodas, the feeling in his legs came back. If there is one thing I have learned through all of the years of research and talking with patients and doctors, it is that you have to eat well to get well. Every book and article I have read has contained some form of diet. Dr. Swank's MS diet seems to be one of the first diets out there specifically for MS, and his success rate with patients was astounding. Eating healthy is a common thread that can't be ignored when approaching MS. It affects your gut, nutrition, nerves, hormones and a host of other things that directly affect Multiple Sclerosis.

When my wife first started seeing our Naturopath, he found out that she had a leaky gut. In lay terms, she had feces in her blood. I still have the video from that first dark field microscopy of her blood. You could actually see the parasites, fungus, cells and yes, feces, in her blood. We immediately started a diet that included Mastica Gum and L Glutamine to repair the stomach lining and intestinal lining. We also tested her stomach acid and started using acid pills to create the right ph in her stomach. We learned that acid reflux isn't always too much acid, sometimes it is too little. When the ph is thrown off in the stomach, it really messes up the rest of your digestive system. My wife wasn't getting the nutrients or digesting her food properly because her digestive system was so out of whack.

The doctor immediately cut out the wheat and sugar in her diet and within a few weeks she saw her energy levels go up and her fatigue start to go away. She also had less pain and just felt all around better. She had also had issues with bowel movements before this. Once we were utilizing the diet and supplements she started to have bowel movements regularly. To this day, if she is not feeling well we go back to the basics and start to look at bowel movements and nutrition. We also started to treat for parasites and fungus in the blood. We also have the tape from the second dark field microscopy and it showed a huge improvement from the first visit. The feces were gone and the cells weren't clumped together. The parasites and fungus were showing up less and my wife could definitely tell that her health was improving.

When we worked at the Naturopath's office, this seemed to be the first thing he did with all of his patients. The gut seems to be the core of nutrition and health. When the digestive process isn't working properly, it really messes with the rest of your health. I have personally watched patients come in and just by fixing their gut, they feel 100X better. Two books that we have used over the years to help with a starting point are "Swank's MS Diet" and "Breaking the Vicious Cycle". They are both pretty hard to follow, but well worth the effort.