Let’s talk about mental wellness and MS. Now, before we dive into the deets, kudos to this sentiment that we’re now pushing, that mental health is simply health. I am completely here for it. I hope you are too!
I choose to use the term mental wellness as opposed to mental illness. But we all know that multiple sclerosis does often come with some form of mental health challenge or the other. And it’s not necessarily because you’re sad that you live with MS, or you’re sad about being disabled. Though those are valid and often the case, depression could arise just because.
Don’t get me started on anxiety. Having MS is most definitely very nerve-racking. A moment of memory lapse could send one into a panic that looks like you went from zero to 100 in 2 minutes.
LET’S TALK ROOT CAUSE
I love the trend that I am seeing on social media while discussing mental health awareness month, however. We’re talking about the gut. This is music to my ears and honestly, one of my favorite topics to discuss.
I believe that this is one of the reasons why mental health issues co-exist with MS. They have the same root cause. An imbalance in our gut.
MS and autoimmunity in general are often the end result of an initial breakdown of the gut barrier and gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut microbiome). It is now pretty evident since many neurotransmitters are made in the gut. About 90-95% of Serotonin is made in the gut for that matter, so mental health challenges are often also an end-point of gut problems.
That my friends is the link between MS and mental health.
However, most people can probably rattle off 2 probiotic foods, maybe 3, and then crickets. They can recall any more. To view one of my Instagram posts on gut health, see Exhibit A to the right and just click on the graphic to access the full post on probiotic foods >>>>>
Food is what I consider to be by far the best way to get probiotics into the body. However, because it is not always possible to get enough or to have access to these as much as we should, we also often need probiotic supplements.
There are so many probiotics on the market that it is often a daunting task to figure out which one to go with.
Some probiotic strains are more beneficial for certain conditions.
It’s a lot of nuances involved in what to take.
This post on Instagram sheds light on these facts and helps to guide your probiotic choice. Just click on the image to the left <<<<<
Part of making sure our microbiome is adequate and diverse is feeding it with the right prebiotics. These are soluble and insoluble fibers and can come as food, supplements (capsules or powder), or even teas.
Great ones are inulin from chicory root, dandelion root/ greens, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, asparagus, and jicama root. Also rich in inulin prebiotic fibers are garlic, leeks, and a small amount in bananas.
Beta-glucan can be found in barley, oats, and konjac root.
Burdock root and yacon root are rich in both inulin and FOS, an oligosaccharide. Wheat bran is rich in an oligosaccharide called AXOS.
Cacao and flax seeds are rich in polyphenols, which help increase the good bacteria and decrease the bad, simply put. Don’t sleep on seaweed either, as they are mostly soluble fiber and can produce short chain fatty acids that nourish the cells of the gut lining. Apples are rich in pectin, which is a soluble fiber. They produce antioxidants and short-chain fatty acids as well.
For a look at what I do with konjac root, for example, check out this post on Instagram by clicking on the image >>>>>
Please continue to pay attention to food sensitivities, as I will not be touching wheat or barley (due to gluten), and very infrequently will I consume oats (gluten look-alike) as a very small component of something, but certainly not a bowl of it.
I will be posting some more content on IG in the upcoming weeks where I will share more tips on how I get in my prebiotic fibers daily.
What are those, you might ask? I’m not going to delve deeply into this here, but you will be hearing about it more, if you haven’t already. Essentially, they are the byproducts of the probiotics feeding on prebiotics through the process of fermentation. These by-products are useful waste products. Examples are enzymes, short chain fatty acids that nourish the gut lining such as acetate, butyrate, and proprionate, vitamins such as B and K, organic acids such as fulvic and humic acids, and more. These can be augmented by taking them as supplements.
The pandemic has brought the issue of trauma to the forefront. But we all had trauma long before the pandemic. That’s especially true with those of us who live with MS. At this point, I believe we can all agree you don’t need to have fought in the war and been diagnosed with PTSD to have experienced trauma. We experience Big T Trauma and Little t Trauma throughout life, but how we process it, or not, determines if it has a big part to play in our future health, mental and physical. So, trauma is a root cause of mental illness.
I realized about a year ago that chronic pain was a trauma response, and I was able to work my way through it and heal from chronic pain with that realization. This means fewer medications/ supplements for me because I no longer need pain or sleep medication.
I have also recently come to the realization that MS itself is so closely linked to trauma, emotions, and a habit of not processing emotional issues adequately in childhood or earlier in life, and our bodies eventually giving up on us. This is why yoga, meditation, EFT Tapping, and such help so much.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Western Medicine has kind of separated mental and physical health but they are not separate, and we need to be working on both. To start to heal physically, in addition to everything else you’re doing for the body and brain, please make sure to care for your mental health as well, because they are one and the same.
In case you hadn’t noticed a pattern, there’s an IG post for that too! <<<<<
What Am I Saying?
It’s great to get the help that you need for mental health. I highly recommend it. See that therapist. See your psychiatrist. Take that medicine. They all work together. I’m certainly not saying forget about treating depression and anxiety and just heal your gut. No. Far from it. But so you can hopefully, perhaps not need medication forever, heal your gut is what I’m saying.
This will help the biochemical changes that the medications are trying to correct slowly start to normalize. Some people need fewer medications after a while, and some need no medications. Whatever you do, please discuss it with your doctor.
Gut health is serious business.
Food and anything that goes in our mouths is serious business. But when you have MS, and mental health challenges, you had better get familiar with how to optimize your gut health.
Mental health is Health. Period!
Fix your gut for MS.
Fix your gut for mental wellness.
And also, fix your mental health for MS.
It’s all connected. One and the same. We cannot, and should not separate them.
MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH!!!
Lastly, check with your doctor before implementing anything new. I am NOT your doctor, though I am a doctor.
This is purely educational, not giving you medical advice, and it is certainly not tailored specifically to you because I don’t have enough information on you to do that.
PS: Get on the waitlist for MS Mastery™ here if you haven’t already. What are you waiting on?