MS and the Mind!

Anyone who has Multiple Sclerosis or knows of someone who has MS may have experienced issues with their mind. You’ll hear it clinically described as cognitive issues.  You may not even realize that it’s your MS. You may just think you’re feeling foggy, or unclear, forgetful, stressed, depressed or even have anxiety. You may have troubles articulating your thoughts, ideas, or even sentences. I remember this happening to me before, and never gave it much thought as everyone is forgetful at times, right? I even experienced many, many years of anxiety and depression after my diagnosis. Back in 1987 not much was known about the disease. As the years have passed and with continued research, what we now know is that all of those symptoms and experiences are chief complaints for people suffering from MS!

MS AND THE MIND…. THE STORY OF MY TWIN SISTER….

I can tell you although I am feeling healthy and strong I have a twin sister Kim. (Yes, MS is found more in twins) We are identical twinsms and the mind and she is still suffering the effects of MS. She actually had symptoms before me. She suffered drop foot at the age of 16, but they did not diagnosis her officially with MS until she was 18. Talking about Kim, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the “brain fog” she is experiencing is very real. When she says she is very anxious and I say, what are you anxious about? Relax, life is good! I forget that she is still suffering the effects of this horrible disease and the tricks it plays on our minds. When she tries to compile her thoughts, for example, ordering in a restaurant or even making a list she acts as though she’s almost stuttering to get the words and thoughts together.  One day while we were out to lunch, Kim, was pondering the menu, told me what she was going to order, and when the waitress came it was as if  she was forgetting what she wanted or what to say. I said, Kim, what are you doing (yes, kind of hastily) speak, talk, say something, ha, ha, as I didn’t want the waitress to think there was something wrong with her!!! (I didn’t want Kim to feel bad). It’s very easy to forget the place where Kim is at with her disease.

That story made me think that this might be a significant problem for other MS sufferers and also their friends and family. Just because they may look okay on the outside, everything may not be okay in their mind.  That was an AH-HA moment.  I just expect her to be fine. Do you know anyone like this, someone that you may have been frustrated with? Or perhaps this is you, if so, try to remind yourself that it’s harder for others to see and feel what’s going on inside your mind. Remember MS is very much a hidden disease.

Let’s talk more about cognition:

An easy way to understand cognition is to think of it in terms of memory and thinking. It refers to a whole range of processes our brain undertakes to perform tasks on a daily basis. You can think of the mind by the old adage “a body in motion stays in motion.”  You can say the exact same thing about your mind. You need to keep working your mind to keep it healthy and strong!

How we use our cognitive skills:

  • to focus, maintain attention, concentration
  • to learn and remember new things
  • to understand and use language
  • to think, reason, solve problems
  • to plan and carry out our own activities
  • to assemble things
  • to recognize objects
  • Concentration and memory problems are the most common presentations of dysfunction.
  • Finding the right words’ is a common complaint too, where the person knows what they would like to say, but is unable to ‘find the words’.

 

MS AND THE MIND TIPS & IMPROVEMENTS

  • Use a computer calendar; you can get one with a nice sounding alarm.
  • Make a list. On a post-it, on your smart-phone, in a journal, on your computer (they even have post-it notes for your computer desktop).
  • Get organized:  If you need to get organized, ask a friend, or hire a professional organizer or just take time each day to organize areas/things around you.
  • Have a routine…This will help with your day to day activities, also if you have caretakers it will keep them on your schedule
  • Stimulate your brain – puzzles, cross word puzzles, reading, even computer games
  • Put voice messages to yourself on your phone and set the alarm to remind you…(I still do this as a habit and it helps me stay on track)
  • Make new friends or gather with friends you already have. This is easy to do now when you think of the internet and all the social media at our fingertips.  It’s been proven that having friends or a good social environment is associated with maintaining mental performance and can actually aid in helping your reserves. We need to build up our mental reserve!
  • Learn a new skill. It will help build neural connections, just like when you were a child.  Again this is another great way to build up that reserve!
  • Exercise. Yes, exercise can improve your memory, uplift your mood and can even protect long term against Alzheimer’s. Afterall, who wants to worry about Alzheimer’s on top of the MS?

 

MS AND THE MIND BRAIN BOOSTING FOODS!!!   

It goes without saying; whether you have an auto immune condition or if you’re just looking for better health “you are what you eat.” Are there really Brain Boosting Foods?  Of course there is. The brain requires certain nutrients to function properly, to help control mood, behavior, even mental clarity.

Supplements – Yes, I believe in supplements. (With our busy schedules its harder and harder to eat the best! ) A good Multivitamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Ginkgo Biloba, DHA/Fish Oil (an omega-3 fatty acid), Lecithin, Curcumin (Tuemeric), Coconut Oil, Acetyl-L-carnitine (I use a product high in L-Carnitine and to me it’s a lifesaver or should I say mindsaver), Alpha Lipoic Acid, Ginseng, CoEnzyme Q10.

Vitamin B – When you are under stress and fatigue, your body gets depleted of this nutrient very quickly.  You can find B in Eggs, Green Beans, Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Crab, Lobster, Swiss Cheese.

Iron – Lean meats, iron supplements (with C to aid absorption)

Water – It’s an often overlooked but important necessity of the brain. The brain is 70% water, and a dehydrated brain works at a slower pace. Therefore it is necessary to keep the brain hydrated with plenty of water on a daily basis. I recommend ionized, ph, water. I have been using Resctructured, Ionized, Alkaline water for many years.

Brightly Colored Fruits and Dark Green Leafy Veggies

Oatmeal

Okay, there you have it, some steps you can take immediately

 to help boost your brain power….Take it day by day! 

ms and the mind

Kellie Alderton