Welcome! This blog contains research & information on lifestyle, nutrition and health for those with MS, as well as continuing information on the understanding of the endothelium and heart-brain connection. This blog is informative only--all medical decisions should be discussed with your own physicians.

The posts are searchable---simply type in your topic of interest in the search box at the top left.

Almost all of MS research is initiated and funded by pharmaceutical companies. This maintains the EAE mouse model and the auto-immune paradigm of MS, and continues the 20 billion dollar a year MS treatment industry. But as we learn more about slowed blood flow, gray matter atrophy, and environmental links to MS progression and disability--all things the current drugs do not address--we're discovering more about how to help those with MS.

To learn how this journey began, read my first post from August, 2009. Be well! Joan

Monday, June 3, 2019

Lessons learned from The Biggest Little Farm

When Jeff was diagnosed with MS in 2007 and I began reading about Multiple Sclerosis disease etiology,  I wondered why more and more people were being diagnosed in recent decades.  Was it simply better means of diagnosis, thanks to MRI technology?  Or was there something more, something about our modern lives that contributed to rising rates of MS?

When I looked at all of the things that had changed over the last two centuries, and how these environmental changes and MS were linked, I found the connection I was searching for in the endothelium.  link  The Endothelial Health Program was created as a means to restore endothelial cell health, and it addressed all of the environmental factors connected to MS---all of the things we could change in our lives. link   And in the ensuing years, researchers have published on this connection, as well.  Western lifestyle and MS -- Intestinal permeability, food additives and MS  --
The Western diet/lifestyle and disease

It has been a journey for me and Jeff, and so many of you, as together we learned how to incorporate nature, sunshine, organic nutrition, outdoor exercise, better sleep habits, reduced time with technology and stress, and increased time with family and mindful living.  Our recent friendship with farmers John and Molly Chester, creators of Apricot Lane Farms and the documentary The Biggest Little Farm, (which Jeff scored), has reaffirmed all that I intuited over a decade ago.  Our health as human beings relies on the health of our surroundings.   All that we breathe, eat, drink, take in and love becomes part of us.

I hope you have an opportunity to see The Biggest Little Farm on a big screen.  link  This film is all about the inconnectiveness of life on planet earth, the importance of healthy soil for healthy food and healthy lives, and living in harmony with nature.  It is very much like the description below, of life lived before the industrial revolution.  I hope you can find ways to make these changes in your own life.  I hope we can ease the pain of MS in our lifetime.  And I hope we can heal our planet.  Because we are all connected.

Here is a section from The Endothelial Health Program I wrote in 2008, about the change in our modern lives, and the impacts on health.  

Be well,

Life as it been lived for thousands of years

You and your husband get up from bed as the sun rises and the rooster crows. You get dressed and head outside together to milk the cows and feed the livestock. You work the pump at the well, get a drink of water, which comes from a fresh spring underground. The physical exertion of pumping water and carrying it, lifting the feed and milking the cows has worked up a good sweat. You gather some fresh eggs from the henhouse, and head inside to cook breakfast. The meal includes coffee or tea made with spring water, fresh milk from the cow, eggs and toast with apple preserves, jarred last fall.

The children rise, get dressed, eat together and are soon out the door to walk to school. Your husband heads off to his work in the barn.  There is laundry to be washed and hung on the line and gardening to do. You spend over two hours out doors, in the sunshine.  Again, hard work and more exercise. This is not a life of leisure!

Fresh fruits and vegetables are eaten in season and canned and jarred for off season.  There isnʼt meat every day, but fish from the stream or chicken from the henhouse are served. Grains are whole, and flaxseed is added to the bread. Root vegetables and greens are plentiful. Mealtime is spent together as a family. After dinner, and after the dishes pots and pans are cleaned, the family sits together and reads or plays board games. Soon the sun sets and itʼs time for bed. Everyone is tired from the dayʼs activities and ready to sleep.

21st Century--Our Modern Life

You rise in the dark to the incessant buzz of the alarm clock. Itʼs a quick shower in chlorinated city water and blow dry before heading to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. You get your water from the tap and microwave a breakfast sandwich of processed ham and cheese to go. You check your e-mail on the laptop and holler to wake your husband and the kids and hurry them up- thereʼs no time to waste! They get dressed, grab their backpacks and eat their microwaved breakfasts as everyone piles into the van.

Itʼs off to school where you drop them at the door. Then you get back on the freeway to sit in traffic. Love those fumes! Youʼre starting to get a headache. Trapped on the road, you try to make good use the time by calling clients and checking your phone. Your stress levels are now through the roof of the van. You get to the office late and have to deal with everything that has been piled on your desk. No time for the gym, and lunch is going to be a bag of peanut M&Ms and a can of Coke. You never see the light of day, except through your office windows. By the time you get home, itʼs dark and the kids are fighting over the Playstation.  You still need to make dinner. Your husband has texted you, heʼs running late and will miss dinner...again.

You pile the kids back in the van and head to a fast food place. Itʼs drive through and the kids donʼt mind. Youʼre famished and get a double cheeseburger, since you skipped lunch, how could it hurt? You get everyone home and get the kids doing their homework. Itʼs nine pm before you know it, and your husband finally gets home. He walks in and just wants to sit in front of the TV, heʼs exhausted. You get the kids bathed and into bed. Itʼs 11pm before you fall into bed, head pounding. You have trouble sleeping, and it seems like by the time you finally drift off, the damn alarm is ringing again!

I do not mean to over-romaticize or idealize the lives of men and women from centuries ago. Theirs was a very different experience, and it was physically and emotional demanding. People got sick then, very sick, and many died premature deaths. But not many suffered from chronic diseases. Our modern lifestyle is much easier in many ways-- we have automated appliances to do our labor, vehicles to transport us, and conveniences our great, great grandparents could only have dreamed of. 

Our modern lifestyle has disrupted many natural and hormonal patterns; such as the circadian rhythm. We no longer use the sun to tell us when to rise and set. And doctors are seeing a deficiency of vitamin D (the hormone made by our skin when exposed to sunlight) linked to many diseases. Not coincidentally, lack of sunshine is one of the causes of endothelial dysfunction.

Here are some of the modern issues which are harming our endothelium:

1. Oxidative stress- Our bodies constantly react with oxygen as we breathe and as our cells produce energy. Our utilization of oxygen is a two-edged sword.  We need oxygen to survive, but as a consequence of using oxygen, highly reactive molecules are produced known as free radicals. These are electrons which have lost their partner in our breathing or energy process, or from outside influences, and they are now on their own. Unpaired, these free radical electrons damage the endothelial wall and make it permeable. Free radicals disrupt the balance of nitric oxide. In most instances, our body has enough of a supply of antioxidants from food to neutralize these molecules, but if the body is depleted, or there are too many coexistent factors, there is injury to the endothelium and a change in the balance of NO.

Some external factors which can dramatically increase the number of free radicals in our bodies and influence NO when we ingest, inhale or come in contact with them are:

Plastics, especially PCBs and BPA (1)

Smoking and second hand smoke
Smoking reduces nitric oxide in the blood vessels and causes an increase in ADMA, the modified amino acid which puts strain on the heart. Nicotine also causes vessels to narrow, so that less oxygen is delivered to the heart. Platelets become stickier, and therefore clot formation is increased. Smoking raises the level of carbon monoxide in the blood, which increases the risk of injury to endothelial cells. (2/13)

Metals exposure such as mercury and cadmium (3)

Air pollution, especially diesel exhaust (4)

Chlorine found in public drinking water (5)

2. Eating Bad fats
Heavily saturated trans fats, hydrogenated fats and chemically-altered fats damage the endothelium. (6)

3. Stress
Cortisol, the hormone released into the body when we are under acute stress, impairs endothelial production. (7)

4. Sleep deprivation- Lack of restful sleep, due to obstructive sleep apnea or simply not enough time in bed, creates endothelial dysfunction and constricts blood flow.

5. Acute Bacterial or Viral infections -
Chlamydia pneumonia, Lyme disease, Sepsis, Staph, EBV
All of these infections can become chronic as the endothelium is weakened, bacteria and viruses enter the tissues and the immune system is unable to fight (8)

6. Low Vitamin D levels-
A lack of sunshine and dietary vitamin D injures the endothelium (9)

7. Low Vitamin B12 levels-
Anemia/low vit. B12 creates high levels of homocysteine in the blood (a sulfur containing amino acid) which damages the endothelium A strict vegetarian diet that excludes all meat, fish, dairy and eggs, or an unbalanced diet of processed foods could create low vit. B12 levels and damage the endothelium (10)

8. High intake of glucose-
Ingesting too much glucose in the form of simple sugars increases endothelial cell death and increases oxidative stress (11)

9. Sedentary Lifestyle
Lack of physical exertion, especially cardio-vascular exercise, damages the endothelium (12)

The Chester Family