Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)

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6 tips for losing weight after steroid use

Steroids are not merely the stuff of athletic star scandals. Physicians routinely prescribe steroids for multiple sclerosis exacerbations and many other conditions. Additional medical applications for steroids include Addison’s Disease, allergies, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disorders, Bell’s Palsy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Crohn’s Disease, dermatitis, Epstein-Barr virus, lupus, Lyme disease, organ transplants, pancreatitis, sarcoidosis, certain skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, vasculitis and more.

Of course, anabolic steroids (which enhance the male hormone, testosterone) are a different sort of medication than the more commonly prescribed corticosteroids. Cortisone, prednisone and similar steroidal medications are of the corticosteroid variety.

Corticosteroids (like cortisone and prednisone) may be administered by inhalation (as an inhaler, mist or spray), by injection (as an intravenous, intramuscular, or subcutaneous dose), orally (as capsules, pills, or liquid medicines) or topically (as creams, ear drops, eye drops, ointments, or lotions).

For many steroid medication recipients, corticosteroid usage (particularly long-term usage) can lead to considerable weight gain.

Photo by GaryRabbit - ABS Free Pic

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author (LAN/Kicking MS to the Curb) holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

Weight gain is a common side effect of corticosteroids.

Because corticosteroids can cause increased appetite, decreased metabolism and even a redistribution of body fat, many corticosteroid users become frustrated and disheartened by this long-term side effect.

Body weight gained during lengthy periods of corticosteroid use can be difficult to shed. How can steroid users lose those pesky pounds? Here are six practical pointers for slimming down after corticosteroid medication use.

1. Set down the salt shaker.

Water retention is a well-known side effect of corticosteroid medications (such as prednisone). By sharply decreasing salt consumption, individuals who are taking (or have taken) corticosteroids can lose considerable water weight fairly quickly, eliminating the bloat.

2. Guzzle gallons of water.

Let’s face it. Nearly no one drinks enough water each day, and corticosteroid users are no exception. Increased water intake can help to cleanse the body from toxins, spent medications (such as corticosteroids), and even sodium that has built up.

3. Be diligent about diet.

A healthy diet is important for anyone, but this is particularly crucial for a patient using prescribed corticosteroids (like prednisone). Corticosteroids often cause increased appetite, so users need to scale back on snacking, particularly carbohydrates and fats.

4. Pick up the pace.

Corticosteroids (such as prednisone) generally slow metabolism in users, so regular exercise is essential for restoring this balance. Rigorous physical activity (such as biking, hiking, jogging, skating, exercise walking, or playing sports) helps to prevent corticosteroid weight gain and take off those excess pounds that may have been added while undergoing steroidal treatments. The key is to pursue whatever workouts work for the individual, without overdoing it and setting off another medical incident.

5. Maintain muscle mass.

Many individuals taking corticosteroids for various medical reasons discover, to their dismay, that their hard-earned muscular physiques seem to lose form. Calisthenics, fitness training, and weight lifting can help to retain and restore muscle mass – both during and after use of such corticosteroids as prednisone and similar steroidal medications. In particular, many corticosteroid users focus heavily on abdominal muscles, as the midsection seems to be the main focus of fat redistribution for many individuals taking steroidal medications.

Exercising and weight training may be extra challenging for those living with multiple sclerosis or other potentially disabling medical conditions. Problems with balance, endurance, flexibility, and other issues may come into play. Professional physical therapy or individually adapted fitness training often prove helpful. In some cases, such regimens may be covered by health insurance plans, if initiated by medical prescriptions.

6. Give yourself a break while taking steroids.

Anxiety, irritability, mood swings and stress may accompany corticosteroid regimens – as well as the medical conditions warranting the use of these steroidal medications. Many medical experts recommend that their patients refrain from exercising personal perfectionism during treatment, focusing on healing and recuperation.

Once steroidal treatment has been completed, these individuals may hope to zoom in on weight loss and personal fitness again.

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10 tips for fighting off the fiercest flu

Influenza is abundant around this time of year, and the current flu strain is attacking with a vengeance. Flu sufferers can be sidelined for several days, while others may require hospitalization. Those who battle chronic medical conditions (such as multiple sclerosis) often worry about possible exacerbations, while they slug their way back from influenza.

What can folks do to prevent infection with the dreaded flu?

Adapted from vintage movie still / public domain image

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author (LAN/Kicking MS to the Curb) holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

Here are 10 ways to minimize risk of catching and sharing influenza.

When it comes to staving off potential sickness, it pays to take an all-in approach. After all, an estimated 35 to 50 million Americans suffer from influenza each year.

1. Decompress.

Stress sends the human body working in overdrive, which can actually make a person more vulnerable to a host of health problems, including flu infection. Even a few moments of relaxation can help to restore balance and improve one’s ability to fight off sickness. Strategic breathing techniques, yoga, and even quiet reading or games can help an individual to reduce stress.

2. Eat your vegetables.

Veggies are vital for health, as most folks know. Leafy green produce works wonders for stocking the body’s nutritional supply and fighting off flu and other illnesses.

3. Fill up on fruit.

Fruit is another essential for combating sickness. The nutrients in fresh fruit, in particular, bring a midwinter bounty to the body’s immunity system. And the added fiber of fruit keeps the digestive system operating properly, just in case.

4. Get moving.

Exercise is a well-known stress-buster. At the same time, a good sweat can work wonders in purifying the body from germs. What’s more, a few deep breaths in the cold winter air can kill off respiratory germs that tend to lurk in closed quarters.

5. Pour on the fluids.

Proper hydration is a must – particularly during flu season.

6. Skip the sugar and starches.

Who doesn’t crave carbohydrates in cold-weather months? Still, refined sugars and starches may actually reduce the body’s ability to combat flu germs.

7. Sleep well.

Grandma was right. A well-rested individual enjoys better odds of fending off the flu – and recovering more quickly, if he or she should happen to succumb to it. Fatigue adds vulnerability to all sorts of sickness.

8. Stop for a shot.

Each year’s flu shot aims at taking on the current strains of influenza, making this annual appointment important, particularly for the very young, the elderly, or those with any sort of immunodeficiency. Of course, the inoculation doesn’t take full effect for at least two to three weeks after administration, so it pays to be prompt.

9. Take the right vitamins.

Vitamins are vital, especially during the season of sickness. Key components include Vitamins A, C, D, and E. Many nutritionists also swear by cranberry, echinachea, elderberry, garlic, ginger, probiotics, and zinc for fighting the flu.

10. Wash your hands.

Proper personal hygiene may be the most important flu prevention measure of all. Those popular antibacterial soaps and gels may ease consciences, but the real secret to stopping influenza is basic hand-washing with traditional soap and water.

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Not all nose-dives are MS' fault

Multiple sclerosis is profoundly inconvenient. The MS MonSter can cause all sorts of mishaps, including sudden tumbles and stumbles. I cannot count the number of times I have been jogging or strolling or even standing still, only to find myself suddenly flat-out on the ground, looking up at the sky.

Hey, it happens.

Only that’s not what happened to me today.

I laced on my sneakers, grabbed the leash, and stepped outside for a jog with my dog. (I’ve committed to a somewhat ambitious mileage total, at least by my standards, for the year. So I need to get out there as much as possible, especially on days when the Upper Midwest’s version of Old Man Winter isn’t too wicked.) With the best intentions, we loped down the road towards a nearby industrial park to knock off a few miles.

Around mile two, a big truck rumbled by, kicking up some gravel along the way. As best as I can tell, my dog spooked at this commotion and bolted straight at me, knocking me off my feet. Tangled in the leash, we both toppled to the ground – right there in the street. She squealed, and I groaned.

We collected ourselves and limped pitifully homeward.

Dog photo - public domain. Other photos by this user. All rights reserved.
I guess I can’t really blame this on MS. Not this time.

Sure, I woke up with an MS headache this morning, but that’s sort of a given. I’m also battling a bout of heightened MS vertigo, and I’ve been dropping all sorts of things (like keys, pens, silverware, and other stuff) randomly for a few days. Those tend to be tip-offs that the MS MonSter is lurking in the background.

Still, although inconvenient MS may often make a convenient excuse for painful mishaps like falls (and often rightly so), the blame for this particular plunge lies elsewhere. Right now, she’s pouting by my feet, while I ponder how to mend both knees on a brand-new and pretty pricey pair of nifty Nike winter stretch running tights.

And I’m thinking: Once I catch my breath, I’m gonna have to stop at the store and pick up another bottle of ibuprofen. I’ll be needing that soon. 

On the plus side, I did not land on last-year’s fractured wrist. Can we just call that a silver lining?

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It's not writer's cramp. It's M.S.

Ugh. I can hardly even sign my own name today. My hands are achy and sore. My palms are clammy. And I can’t hang onto a pen without dropping it.

Is it writer’s cramp? Nope. Guess again. It’s one more drawback of life with multiple sclerosis.

That hand muscle spasm, wrist weakness, finger fatigue, and overall manual clumsiness all seem to be part and parcel of MS.

Photo adapted from public domain image
MS can be difficult to define. Even doctors have trouble with that. (Maybe that’s why it seems to take them months, or even years, to diagnose it properly – despite the whopping battery of odd and unpleasant tests they tend to administer in the process.)

The symptoms of MS are even weirder.

MS warriors may battle any number of uncanny symptoms of this chronic neurological monster on a given day. At the same time, we might be able to accomplish quite a lot in other areas.

Here’s the craziest thing. The onslaught of MS symptoms varies, both unpredictably and randomly. 
Word cloud created by this user with online generator.

A single Mser can experience the entire gamut, a strange variety of symptoms, or a single one for a stretch. The symptoms may resolve without warning or persist. It’s tough to tell.

Tomorrow, for example, I am slated to run in a midwinter trail race. It’s hilly and rugged and hard. But I aim to finish. I might even log a respectable race time, at least for my somewhat advanced age group. (The entry numbers tend to diminish, as the age numbers go up.)

But I can’t write a full sentence by hand without fumbling and dropping my pen. And the words I do scratch out are barely legible. Sure, penmanship was never my strongest suit in school, but my handwriting was readable.

Wait till I try to tie my shoes.

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