Tuesday, 15 April 2014

the science of food and supplements - whoo!

Soooo, coming up to a month off of Avonex and all is well so far. I'm still planning on going through the province, but that takes time and some paperwork that I don't have yet. 

In light of not being on a disease-modifying therapy at the moment (thanks to Blue Cross) and relying on diet, exercise, and rest, I want to talk a little about supplements and specific dietary choices I make to support them. I mention a few in this post from last year, but thought I'd elaborate since "what do you supplement?" is a big question in MS circles. So, likely a boring post for everyone else. Sorry 'bout that!

Let me start by saying there are, give or take, 96,560.6 kilometres of blood vessels in the average adult human body. The endothelium is the gatekeeper - the protector of those thousands of kilometres of blood vessels, and it is highly active in regulating the body's inflammatory processes. Endothelial dysfunction has been linked to a wide variety of diseases. MS is one of those diseases. So, I primarily supplement to reduce inflammation and protect my endothelium. 

I've mentioned before that I'm a vegetarian. I'm lacto/ovo which means I consume some dairy products (primarily cheeses that don't use animal rennet) and eggs. Aside from the fabulous dishes we consume at home, these are choices I make to support regular meals:

B12 supplement
Why? I don't eat red meat, which is the highest source of B12, and this vitamin plays a key role in the normal functioning of the nervous system. Specifically important to someone with MS, a disease that attacks the nervous system. It's found in Swiss cheese, eggs, and some fortified soy products too.

Vitamin D supplements 
Why not just tan? Take a look at this post and you'll get an inkling of the importance of vitamin D for someone with MS. There is a lot of research into the link between vitamin D and MS and it all points to increased intake being a positive thing. I take 5000 IU a day. I also spend a lot of time outdoors, but living in Atlantic Canada means we spend 5 months a year without strong levels of the UVB needed to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D also helps absorb calcium. Which leads me to...

No brainer. Aside from the well-known roles calcium plays in tooth and bone health, it also plays a significant role in muscle contraction. Spasms can be a painful symptom of MS for many and I'd like to stave that off for as long as possible. Spasticity in MS comes from an imbalance in the electrical signals coming from the brain and spinal cord, often caused by myelin damage. While I can't predict which areas of my brain and spinal cord will demyelinate, I can prepare my body to fight it as much as possible. So, I take a small calcium supplement - beans, leafy greens, and tofu take care of the rest.

Supporting food
Seeds/nuts and leafy greens for the magnesium intake. Vitamin D is somewhat inefficient without magnesium to help process it. 

Next up is Turmeric/Bromelain
What the heck are those, you ask (who am I kidding - who even reads this far?)? Both support liver function. Bromelain is a powerful anti-inflammatory found naturally in pineapple and can help fight osteoarthritis. There are strong links between MS and osteoarthritis - both being diseases of inflammation and while I don't want to get too deeply into that here, let's just say that I do not want another incurable degenerative disease on my plate. 

The curcumin in turmeric modulates the body's inflammatory response by down-regulating the activity of enzymes involved in inflammation mechanisms. I've stared at that sentence trying to simplify it further, but no can do.
More info here.

Milk thistle
Whut? Milk thistle is a spiky little flowering thistle whose active ingredient, silymarin, modulates oxidative stress and prevents cell death in the liver. While the research into silymarin has mixed results, many studies show liver protectant qualities.
More info here.

Green tea
Yep, plain old green tea. The active ingredient, EGCG, is an Nrf2 activator. Basically, Nrf2 is a powerful protein that is latent within our cells and it can't move or  get to work until released by an Nrf2 activator like EGCG. When it's released it can migrate and bond to DNA located at the regulation mechanism for the antioxidant system that is available in all cells. This process allows for production of important antioxidants, lowering overall oxidative stress. I drink green tea all day long. If you didn't follow that, I'm sorry. Drink green tea. It's tasty.
More info here.

Dietary choices
Fruits and veg. We aim to get 7 servings of fruit or vegetables a day. It's not hard when you consider that 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or salsa is a serving. Half a cup of any fruit. Half an avocado. This is great reading on the importance of this step. Yay for lowering risk of death! Not risk of abc disease or disorder xyz, but actual death. Full stop. Seriously, how can anyone argue against these kinds of findings?

So that's about it. That's how I protect my protector. It's not a big deal to stay on top of, and the research is out there for each and every supplement, so...why not, right?

In other news, mom and Lindy arrive in two days. I'm superduper excited to see them - I think this city will feel like a real vacation for them - there's not a lick of snow left on my property now. They're still buried in Newfoundland. 

PS. Doggins is doin' great. Small gait issue with the rear right, but that may always exist after the cruciate and then the meniscus damage. She's happy as a clam, though. As are we all.

PPS. Signed up for the MS WALK in Saint John this year. Looking forward to it! 

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
- Albert Einstein

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