Brain Injury, low carb, MS and Ketogenic Diet, My Story, prosopagnosia, sight loss, Uncategorized

7.Improvements in my eyesight and face blindness (prosopagnosia)

I was admitted to hospital with loss of function of my left leg and left arm. The doctors told me that I had had a stroke (but I know now that it was actually an MS “event”) and I was put into a stroke ward. I was 35 years old and the youngest person on the stroke ward. I remember the cleaner coming into the ward and doing a “double take” when she saw me, unable to believe that I was there. Every morning on waking up, I would find something else (of my body) that didn’t work. My leg was getting worse and worse, my arm was getting heavier, my face was getting even droopier, and the doctors couldn’t tell me if I would be able to move my arm and leg or walk ever again. I couldn’t take it all in! I honestly thought my body was just closing down. A day or two later, I woke up one morning and found, to my horror, that I couldn’t see!

grayscale portrait photo of shocked woman
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

I was opening my eyes wide open but couldn’t see anything. The daylight coming through all the windows was unbearably bright and I couldn’t focus on anything, make out any shapes, or recognise anything. It was as though the ward was full of bright light and, although I could hear the familiar sounds, I couldn’t see anything. I remember trying to look at the woman across the ward from me, trying desperately to find her and focus on her but I couldn’t. Eventually, I heard a nurse nearby and told her that I couldn’t see anything. She went off to get a doctor and came back with a doctor who asked me questions and then left. It truly was a shocking, scary moment and I don’t remember anything from that day but I do remember going to sleep that night thinking that I was going to die. I thought that my body really was closing down and that I wasn’t going to wake up again. I actually prayed to God that night and eventually fell asleep. As you might have already guessed, I woke up the following morning alive!

person holding round smiling emoji board photo
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Time passed in hospital and although I couldn’t focus on anything, I could see fuzzy people, and could mostly make out what things were. Later, I was wheeled down to the eye department and had to try to read the eye chart (of letters) on the wall. I could make out some of the letters and read what I could from the vertical column of single letters. This was when I was told that I had hemianopia, which is that I could only see one (right) side of things. I had only seen the last letter of each line of six or seven letters.

I couldn’t see people’s faces properly either. They were out of focus and I could only see the right half. I had to rely on listening to their voice to identify who it was. When I finally left hospital, able to walk a little, I couldn’t see well enough to walk anywhere. Over the following two years, my eyesight gradually got more in focus but it still wasn’t great. After a week at the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), I learnt that I could not tolerate fluorescent lighting and that some coloured glasses might help with the brightness of the light. This was life changing because I couldn’t bear going outside in the light. I went to an optician who had colour equipment. As soon as I looked at text through the green tint, the lines of text went into lines and I could see it properly. It was amazing.

Eventually, I was able to get coloured glasses that also helped my eyesight, however, as things became clearer, I became more aware of the fact that although I could see the right half of peoples’ faces, I still couldn’t recognise who they were. This prosopagnosia (face blindness) has caused some difficulties. I have lost friends through this because they cannot understand that I don’t recognise them (when I am looking directly at them) or have taken it personally believing that I am ignoring them on purpose. It is such a hard thing to explain and I can’t understand it myself and I live with it!! I can see the person’s right half of their face but cannot recognise it. If there are several people all together, it is even worse and my brain goes into “overload” and I cannot recognise anyone or anything. It is like there is just too much information going into my brain and it can’t process it. However, since starting on this high fat, low carb (HFLC) lifestyle, things have definitely improved.

close up cooking cuisine delicious
Photo by Oscar Mikols on Pexels.com

Improvements in my eyesight and face blindness (prosopagnosia)

This is a difficult thing to measure and monitor but since being on this HFLC lifestyle, I do think that there have been improvements to my vision. Not only has my eyesight improved in general, i.e., my focus is slightly more stable, but I can also see more of the visual field too (the space that you see with your eyes). For example, where before, I could see the last letter of a word, I can now see half of the word.

Likewise, I can see the right half of objects, the right half of scenes/vistas and the right half of peoples’ faces. Isn’t it amazing that my brain, on some level, must be perceiving the whole object but only an exact right half of the information gets through?! On a really good day, I can sometimes see a little of the bottom left corner of a face, i.e., the full chin and jaw. I’m hoping that this will continue to improve as I stick to eating HFLC. Another strange thing is that after my MS event, I couldn’t even visualise someone’s face, and had no visual memory of faces. Now, however, I can sometimes visualise (or visually recall) a face. So, if I’m thinking about someone, I can sometimes see them in my mind. This doesn’t always happen. For example, if I meet more than one person at a time, my brain gets overwhelmed and can’t process all the information. This means I ignore most people if I join a new class until I have met them one to one and my brain has had a chance to process all the information. Similarly, before, when I went to new places, I wasn’t able to record it in my mind and indeed would not recognise it if I returned to the same place at a later date. Now, I can often remember and visualise places and can often recognise them when I return.

Finally, I have to admit that, despite it being a huge irritation at times, it can also be hilarious! I have walked past people who I’m looking for, have taken someone’s arm thinking it was my friend but it wasn’t, have been unable to find things that just happened to be slightly to the left. People ask “why can’t you just turn your head round and see the other side then?” As obvious and completely rational as that sounds, it doesn’t work! Obviously, if I read the letters “rple”, I know that there’s something missing and can then make my eyes move over to the left to see “purple”. However, for other things, it’s not that obvious and I forget all about the left side’s existence (hemi neglect). I will talk about this in more detail next time.

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Brain Injury, low carb, MS and Ketogenic Diet, My Story, myelin, sugar is dangerous, Uncategorized

6. High Fat, Low Carb (HFLC)

High Fat, Low Carb (HFLC)

High fat

With Multiple Sclerosis (MS), holes appear in the myelin (fatty insulation covering the brain’s “wires”). These holes distort or prevent signals getting from the brain through to, for example, a finger. A high fat intake helps myelin  by giving it the nutrients that it needs.

I am not saying to eat the so-called “bad” fats like fish & chips or processed foods because they don’t give our body nutrition. However, “good” fats come from foods such as, for example, salmon, avocadoes, coconut oil and cream. Since our body doesn’t manufacture these nutrients, it is vital that we get them from another source, i.e., food.

avocado.jpeg

 

Also, because fat is filling, it means that I feel full and satisfied after eating and am never hungry. The problem when sugar is consumed is that you feel hungry because the sugar has not replenished your cells or given them any nourishment so the body still feels hungry for nourishment. To make matters worse, the body also craves more sugar to make up for the lowered sugar level (see blog 5).

Low carb/ no sugar

Initially, this was the difficult part! Low carb means low carbohydrates which are all the foods I used to eat! This includes breads, crackers, pasta, potatoes, rice, and of course cakes, biscuits etc. The desire for bread and pasta left me after some time. I also found it difficult to find something to eat at lunchtime, for example, in the canteen, which doesn’t contain bread, pasta, or chips (fries)! The trick is to always take my own prepared lunch which doesn’t contain carbs AND saves me money too!

I found it difficult to stop sugar (because I was addicted to the stuff!) but after a short while, the craving for something sweet left me. This was indeed a liberating moment, to be completely free of sugar cravings.  It had ruled my life for 20 years! However, once I got the initial few days over with, the cravings left and didn’t really come back. I rarely crave something sweet.

I have had much help from “The Wahl’s Protocol” book (see blog 4 for link to this book) which explains the science behind the influence of good nutrition on the cells in more detail. I have also had tremendous help with what to eat from Libbyditchthecarbs who has a website, Facebook page, and published books with her low carb recipes including low carb meals, deserts, snacks, family meals, lunches, and party foods. You name it, Libbyditchthecarbs  has a recipe for it! From time to time, if I do fancy something sweet, I can still have something sweet and low carb! Through Libbyditchthecarbs, I found quick, easy and delicious recipes for sweet treats, deserts, and amazingly good “fat bombs” which satisfy any cravings for something sweet. Link to ditchthecarbs:  https://www.ditchthecarbs.com

I have been high fat, low carb for a couple of years now and my improvements so far include:

  • being able to think straight (no brain fog)
  • better leg “connection” (quicker reaction time and more controlled movements)
  • mobility; more natural, balanced walking
  • better balance
  • less dizziness when moving head or turning round
  • the feeling/ sensation on the left side of my face has returned
  • the feeling/ sensation in my fingertips has returned
  • finger “connection” (quicker reaction time and improved fine motor skills)
  • clearer skin/ better complexion
  • whiter eyes
  • and a more stable state of mind, no more cravings for chocolate!!

I also think that my eyesight and “face blindness” have improved slightly but I will talk about this in more detail in my next blog. If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brain Injury, MS and Ketogenic Diet, My Story, myelin, Uncategorized

4. MS and Myelin

MS and Myelin

What is Myelin?

Myelin is like the plastic insulation around an electric wire. It helps electricity pass through the wire effectively and efficiently, in other words, quickly and smoothly. Myelin helps signals pass through the brain “wires” quickly and smoothly. Myelin is actually fatty and is white in colour.

Yellow Coated Wire Near Black and Blue Coated Wire

For decades, it was believed that myelin could not be repaired or improved, and that MS was incurable. I was told that it was not possible for my brain to heal, and that, despite having initial signs of improvement, any improvement would most likely halt soon. However, over the last decade, this idea is beginning to change!

Damaged myelin: what happens in multiple sclerosis (MS)

Damaged myelin is like the insulation of my neural “wires” having holes, similar to an old electric wire where the inner copper wires can be seen through the holes. I imagine some of the signals from the brain getting lost through these holes or changing shape as they pass through this holey pipe. This means that signals from the brain are not going to get through as quickly, if at all, or they may be distorted.

What effect does this have?

If the signals from my brain are distorted or prevented from passing through, the desired action may not be carried out properly. For example, when I try to walk, I have to concentrate on (mentally) telling my left leg to lift up once my right leg has landed on the ground. However, often when my brain sends a signal to tell my leg to lift up to take another step, the signal doesn’t get through so my leg doesn’t lift itself or, if the signal gets distorted, my leg doesn’t lift itself up enough, or it lifts too late. The outcome is usually that I trip!

falling man.png

My personal thoughts on what causes the damage

What causes this damage? This is the big question! Although the cause is still not known, I have my own ideas on this. I am NOT a doctor, an MS expert, or a nutrition expert but I DO live with MS and have met many others with different severities of MS. The following is a summary of one of my personal thoughts on why I believe I have MS and I am not trying to deny any information that professionals believe. For me, I believe the main reason that caused holes to appear in my myelin is a lack of (good) FAT intake.

Since the age of 10 (1980), I was on a low fat diet most of the time, always trying to get thin. This meant that I avoided all types of fat and always opted for the low fat versions of everything, which are usually high in sugar/artificial sweeteners, for example, yoghurts, cereals, sauces, and spreads. I also drank a fair amount of diet, carbonated drinks, also high in artificial sweeteners, to satisfy my sweet tooth. Furthermore, I never ate oily fish, e.g. salmon and mackerel. Essential fatty acids, which are vital for brain function, are not produced by the body and therefore must be consumed. It is only now that I realise that the fatty myelin is important to my neural “wires”, and that possibly stopping the intake of “essential fatty acids”, such as omega 6 or omega 3, into my body for over 25 years (!), meant that my myelin could not replenish itself with the necessary nutrients and essential fatty acids. Little is known about both de-myelination and re-myelination (in the central nervous system and brain) but it would seem logical that a deficit in my fat intake over many years could lead to holes in my fatty myelin. Cholesterol is also required by the body to make vitamin D, the very vitamin deficit that has been linked to MS (For review of research see: Sintzel, Rametta & Reder; 2018) https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs40120-017-0086-4.pdf.

More FAT

A couple of years ago, I read a book by Dr. Terry Wahls called “The Wahls protocol”, which explained how nutrients influence your cells. Dr. Wahls had been a practising GP when she became wheelchair-bound with MS. With her medical knowledge and personal experience, she produced a healthy way of living that she has shown to help MS and many other diseases. Today, Dr Wahls is walking again and even cycling and has helped hundreds of people improve their MS symptoms. I decided to try the high fat, low carbohydrate diet (cutting out sugar completely) and the results were amazing.

My improvements

It had been over ten years without any feeling in my left hand fingertips. I had assumed that the nerves had all died and that I would never be able to feel my fingertips again. After only a few weeks on this high fat, low carb (HFLC) way of eating, the feeling came back and I can feel my fingertips again.

hand butterfly.jpeg

Likewise, I noticed a huge difference in my brain. Often my brain would struggle to think straight, would get tired quickly, would be easily overwhelmed, and would not cope well with over-stimulation. After a few weeks of this eating plan, I began to notice that my brain had indeed improved and still continues to improve. Another improvement has been the coordination between my left and right side, for example, my walking is more balanced, and my left hand can participate in everything again. The improvements really have been incredible and I am so thankful to have found Dr. Wahls and grateful for her book.

fingers.jpeg

Diet has certainly played a huge part in my improvements and, before I move onto other things that have helped my MS, I will continue on this “food” theme. Next time, I will talk about the toxic effects of sugar/ sweeteners on my body function and brain. Thank you for stopping by and be sure to subscribe. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!