Thursday, January 31, 2013

Carnival of MS Bloggers #132

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.

As we see each year, the cold weather brings a dramatic increase in the number of people catching colds and flu. When we catch colds, we often feel chills. Eastern medical philosophy explains that the body gets chills mainly for two reasons. First, when the body is weak and out of balance, it reacts by shaking to get pathogens away from body, which stick to the surface of body or enter into the body. Pathogens are always present, even when you’re healthy. But whether or not they enter the body and bring problems depends on how strong and balanced your body is.

The second reason the body gets chills is the cold is so extreme the body shakes to prevent the entrance of cold.
In either case, the body is sometimes overcome and we end up getting sick.

The influence of cold temperatures often leads to symptoms in the nose, throat and air tract. But it also constricts the blood vessels, resulting in poor limb circulation. These changes near the surface of the body are easy to feel and usually short-term. But the cold can actually reach and chill the internal organs of the body, bringing more serious consequences.

Even for generally healthy people, chills can cause a dysfunction of the internal organs. Depending on which organ the chills spread to, a number of problems can manifest, including digestive, respiratory, sexual and emotional, among others. During menstruation, pain, excessive blood loss and/or clotting, and infertility can occur.

If the initial causes of these symptoms continue unchecked, they can lead to more serious, long-term illnesses. Perhaps western medicine doesn’t recognize this, but the East goes so far as to say ‘cold is the source of all disease.’

What does this mean for people with Multiple Sclerosis?
It means that MS patients need to be particularly careful to stay warm and avoid catching colds or flu or they’ll be at risk of having a relapse.

Prior statistics have already shown that relapses occur more often after a cold or bout of flu. The question has always been, “why?” A recent Current Medicine study suggested that cold viruses could produce a protein that wakens the sleeping pathogenic T cells, resulting in MS relapses.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM,) which sees the body and illnesses holistically, the fact you have MS means your body is already weak or out of balance. (This is likely the reason you came down with MS.) Catching cold and chills are also signs your body is out of balance, as we mentioned earlier. The combination of the imbalance caused by the cold weather and the original imbalance (that caused MS) can be too much for the body to take and may result in a relapse.

Both views indicate that viral infection resulting in colds and flu is a factor in MS relapses. So patients should be especially careful about catching colds through winter and times that these illnesses are spreading. Of course, the best way to avoid getting chilled and catching colds is to take precautionary measures.

I recommend the following to keep your selves healthy this winter:
MS patients should do their best to avoid crowded areas, make sure to gargle regularly and get plenty of sleep.

Be sure to dress warm enough, but don’t over do it. You should keep your abdomen/waist area particularly warm. Here in Japan, people do this by wearing a ‘belly band,’ or ‘haramaki.’ (hara=belly, maki=wrap) They’re especially popular with the older generation, but have been shunned as uncool by younger people in the past. Recently, though, modern versions are appearing and gaining popularity. Regardless, staying healthy should be your primary concern, so please use one if you can find it.

Also, be sure to keep your neck, wrists, and ankles warm as well.

With that being said, keeping warm is important, but getting overheated can actually be detrimental. Eastern cultures believe maintaining balance is the key to health in all aspects of life, physical, mental and emotional. Think ‘Yin and Yang,’ and act accordingly. In regards to your body, warm is good, but too hot is not. So don’t overdress or warm your body by the fire.

And finally, don’t bathe in extremely hot water. Long soaks in lukewarm water are recommended.

Regarding diet, basically you should be eating foods that warm the body. For vegetables, garlic, ginger, green onion, and leeks all have a warming effect, but tomatoes and raw vegetables should be avoided because they cool the body. Dark vegetables rich in carotene and root vegetables, such as pumpkin are especially good.

For meats and fish/ seafood, sheep, deer, shrimp, mussels, and salmon are good, but you should avoid crab. Other ingredients that warm the body are cinnamon, pepper, brown sugar, walnuts and chestnuts. Spicy foods warm the body, but should be avoided by people who are particularly dry.

Your meals should be a higher temperature than your body, so soups, stews, and pot cooking are recommended.

I also recommend limiting your alcohol consumption. But if you’re going to drink, do so in moderation. Choose red wine over white. Beer cools the body so you should avoid it, if possible. Again, balance is the key to health, and overconsumption is not balance.
Exercise moderately. You should raise your basal metabolism by building muscle. Lack of muscle makes it difficult for the body to generate heat, so it’s easy to get chilled. (It’s also easier to gain weight for this reason.)

Many people with MS have lost some mobility, thus making traditional exercise difficult. All I can say here is do your best to get some exercise. Even if you’re in a wheelchair, you should be able to do light exercises or yogic postures. There is much info on the net about this so please do some research, or consult your doctor. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Your body will thank you for it.

During the winter, in general you should do your best to just take it easy and not do anything extraneous in work or play. Also, keep your mind stable and calm. Follow the eastern saying, ’Go to bed early and get up late.’

TCM’s philosophy is that winter is a time when things settle quietly, become passive, and everything is stored away and saved. To welcome the new spring, you should spend the winter quietly and calmly to restore your energy.

These last points are made for everyone to maintain health during the winter. But MS patients should be especially vigilant to stay healthy because we have more at risk from falling ill from the cold. I hope the above advice has been helpful for you and will keep you cold, flu, and relapse free this winter. Please take care.

Thanks very much for your time. I’ve enjoyed sharing with you and look forward to doing so again in the near future.


This concludes the 132nd edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on February 14, 2013. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

Comments for this post.

(Top image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Carnival of MS Bloggers #131

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.


Lessons Learned: FMLA
from Laura at Inside My Story

The  journey with Multiple Sclerosis is often unpredictable and sometimes takes an  unexpected turn – such is the case with my recent decision to apply for FMLA  (Family and Medical Leave Act) paperwork with my employer.

Here’s  the background story – I have been with this same employer for 22+ years, working  in the field of higher education, and I have generous leave (sick, vacation  and holiday) opportunities available. I regularly use one day of sick leave  to travel to the MS Clinic I attend for my monthly Tysabri infusions, and as  everyone who has MS knows, there are also often other appointments to take  care of our other medical needs.

In  this day of specialized medicine, it is not unusual for us to have multiple  specialists and I often talk about how the number of –ologists I have accumulated  after my MS diagnosis. In addition to my Primary Care Physician (PCP), my  specialist medical team includes a neurologist, cardiologist, urologist,  gastroenterologist, pulmonologist and the otolaryngologist. And then there  are the specialists in assorted therapy modalities who I credit with keeping  me up and moving.

If  you are reading this, you probably already understand how all of these  medical specialists fit into our care as people living with MS. It was on the  advice of my Human Resources (HR) benefits manager that I submitted the  paperwork for FMLA so there would be no misunderstandings about my need to  use intermittent sick leave for these various appointments;  I don’t see all of these doctors every  month, and lately I seem to use about 1.5 days a month for medical check-ups.  I do my best to schedule early morning or late afternoon appointments for  these doctors so I am not significantly disrupting my work day.

In  early December I applied for FMLA through our HR department and got the  supporting documentation from my neurologist, but then HR  surprised/blindsided me last week when I received a message that I am  ineligible for FMLA and my request was denied. My immediate reaction can’t be  written here, but you can imagine my surprise to be told after 22 years with  this same employer, that  I can’t ask  for this job protection. I immediately headed to my internet companion,  Google, and began looking further into the details of FMLA, and that brings  me to this Lesson Learned….

According to the law, to qualify for FMLA you have to have WORKED 1,250 hours  in the previous 12 months. Lunch times do not count in this total. Vacation  days do not count in the total. Nor do sick days. We have a great holiday  plan and get 13-14 days a year of holiday pay – and you guessed it right if  you are thinking holidays don’t count, either.

So thanks to a very generous benefit package and having to use 1-2 days per  months for medical appointments, I fall just short of the required 1,250 hours. Even if I add back in the 70 hours (10 days) I took to recover from my  bunion surgery in April – sorry, I overlooked adding the Podiatrist to the mix of doctors –  my total hours worked still fall just short of the required  1,250 hours. I recently took a fairly serious fall at work due to an  environmental hazard, and used sick days for the time off work, because  Worker’s Compensation in Ohio doesn’t kick in until you miss 7 consecutive  work days.  I was fortunate that I was  only missed work for 3.5 days, but again, those count against my 1,250 hours  in 12 months and even if Worker’s Comp did cover my time, those days can’t be  counted toward my 1,250 hours.

No  matter how I add it up, it will be difficult to reach 1,250 hours WORKED in any 12 month time unless I pass on using my vacation time and can figure out  how to work the holidays. Obviously I shouldn’t cut back on my medical  appointments.

Fortunately for now I don’t need the FMLA protection for my missed work time because I still have an abundance of  sick leave days accrued thanks to15+ years of good health, but as I stated  earlier, the need for sick days is unpredictable – another work related  accident or an MS relapse could easily use those days.

Oh, the things we learn on this journey, and I hope something in my writing  about this will help if you ever find yourself in the position to need FMLA  coverage. You might want to start planning now.

What  lessons have you learned lately from living with MS?


This concludes the 131st edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on January 31, 2013. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Carnival of MS Bloggers #130

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.

Celebrating Five Years of the Carnival of MS Bloggers!!  Happy New Year!


My goodness, time has flown by during these past five years. From the very beginning, the Carnival arose from my passion for helping patients, for spreading awareness of MS, and for connecting the MS community.  I have been the sole force behind publishing the Carnival every other week.

As you may have noticed, the frequency of the Carnival has become irregular as of late.  Part of that was due to the wedding in October and part has been due to the increase in my personal advocacy work which has resulted in the decrease of my time to read the more than 600+ MS blogs which exist.

I need your help.  Keep sending links to your favorite recent posts.  If you find a gem of a post on another blog, please bring it to my attention.  Help me to continue publishing the Carnival and strengthening the community.  Post links on your blog to the Carnival (and to Brass and Ivory).  Please advertise this service and help spread the word.  Thank you!!


This concludes the 130th edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on January 17, 2013. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, January 15, 2013.

MS Bloggers A-D

MS Bloggers E-L

MS Bloggers M

MS Bloggers N-S

MS Bloggers T-Z

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