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

5. Sugar and Aspartame

Sugar

Sugar, for me, is highly addictive and I was particularly addicted to chocolate. Of course, I didn’t understand any of this at the time but I now know that the reward system in the brain is stimulated by sugar in the same way as it is stimulated with drugs like cocaine and even heroin. This means that when I eat sugar, the neurotransmitters (dopamine and opioids; in the brain’s “reward system”) are released which makes me feel good. This is why I feel good when I eat sugary stuff. Soon after eating sugar, your sugar levels then drop to below their initial level leaving you feeling depleted. This is when your body thinks that it wants more to compensate which explains why I always wanted more and why it is so addictive. Researchers have even shown this addictive nature of sugar on the behaviour of rats and observed craving, bingeing, and withdrawal behaviours (Avena, Rada, and Hoebel; 2008).

pink sugar.jpg

 

I was aware of the fact that once I started to eat sugary foods, e.g., at 7:00 p.m., I would want more of it an hour later and more of it after that until I went to bed. I would have cravings for something sweet, which, at times, would completely take hold of my brain until I gave into it. These are all signs of my addiction. However, sugar is not good for me. It plays no role in maintaining my body and can clog up liver function. The liver stores excess sugar as fat when we eat too much of it, and, as is the case in too much alcohol, can lead to liver disease. Most of us know about the links between sugar and diabetes but sugar has also been linked to a number of illnesses including higher risk of depression (Westover and Marangell; 2002) and heart disease (Fuller, Shipley, Rose, Jarrett, and Keen; 1980).

So, after experiencing a sugary “high”, we are more likely to want to repeat the pleasurable experience, especially as a reward, for example, after a hard day at work. Being bombarded by advertisements (the advertising companies know the psychology behind it too!) only makes it harder to ignore and easier for us to grab a packet of sugar/chocolate treats on the way home. However, the more of this white substance that we consume, the harder it is to achieve that “high” again. Yes, I AM still talking about sugar here! Our brains adapt to higher levels of sugar and compensate by releasing less dopamine/opioid neurotransmitters so the only way to achieve the “feeling good” factor is to eat even more of it. Just like other drugs, our brains become adapted to more and more of it.

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Realising that I was a “sugar junkie”, I decided to give it up and in my desperate attempt to avoid sugar, I then chose diet versions of everything instead. To me, this meant low fat versions too. I would read “diet” or “low fat” on the label and think that it meant it’s good. Little did I realise that many low fat products actually contained even more sugar! Many diet products contain aspartame and most diet drinks contain aspartame. So is aspartame ok?

 

Aspartame

Like I have said before in a previous blog, I used to drink a fair amount of diet, carbonated drinks thinking that I was being healthier drinking the “diet” version! When I had my MS event, which left me visually impaired, and with left side weakness and hemi-neglect, I later started on a high fat, low carbohydrate (HFLC) way of eating. I don’t call it a diet because I have never succeeded on any “diet” that I have been on and I just don’t do diets anymore! So, I continued this way of eating for over a year, and experiencing huge improvements in my health, I decided to drink some diet carbonated drink one evening to see if it would have any effect on me. It tasted different to how I remembered it and was extremely sweet and artificial tasting.

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However, the next morning, when I woke up, I noticed immediately that I could not feel my left hand fingertips again. Can you believe that? A few glasses of diet carbonated drink on Friday evening actually caused me to lose the feeling of my fingertips again by the following morning. My brain felt sluggish and as though it was in some thick fog again. I couldn’t think straight at all, and my left leg felt as though it was not properly “connected”. That’s how it feels when my leg is not receiving the signals from my brain to move. It is like the leg is not plugged in and is slow, doesn’t respond, and is heavy.

As I continued back on the HFLC way of eating, the feeling in my fingers returned again in the following few days, but it was fascinating at how this diet drink had had such an immediate effect. I have since tried other foods with aspartame in them and have concluded that aspartame has negative affects on my brain causing me to lose the feeling in my fingertips, stops the connection with my left leg, and causes my brain to become foggy and unable to think straight. I even found one brand of diet drink that didn’t contain aspartame and drank that from time to time. On one occasion though I bought the wrong bottle by mistake and the next morning, found again that I had lost the feeling in my fingers. At the shock of this, I looked at the bottle and then realised that I had got the wrong bottle by mistake. Likewise, I bought some mints that I thought were aspartame free but soon had the same affect on my brain and, again, when I looked at the ingredients, they contained aspartame. I have also, on occasion, had a sugary treat and found the same thing. My fingertips lose their feeling, my brain can’t think straight and my leg loses its connection. So what have I concluded?

I have concluded that sugar is not good for me; my MS symptoms and my brain function deteriorate almost immediately. I have concluded that aspartame is not good for me either; again my MS symptoms and my brain function deteriorate almost immediately. Sugar and aspartame are like poison to me.

Next time, I shall talk about more about the high fat, low carb/ ketogenic way of eating. 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!

References

Avena, N. M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B. G. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(1), 20–39. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.04.019

Fuller, J.H., Shipley, M.J., Rose, G., Jarrett, R.J., & Keen, H. (1980). Coronary Heart Disease Risk and Impaired Glucose Tolerance; The Whitehall Study. The Lancet, 315, 8183, 1373-1376.

Westover & Marangell (2002) A Cross-National Relationship Between Sugar Consumption and Major Depression? Depression and Anxiety, The Official Journal of ADAA, 16, 3, 118-129.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Story, Uncategorized

3. Right Brain Damage = Left Side Symptoms

The brain is made up of two hemispheres. Very roughly speaking, parts of the left hemisphere are involved in moving the right side of your body and seeing things in the right field of vision. Likewise, parts of the right hemisphere are involved in moving the left side of your body (e.g. left arm or left leg) and seeing things in the left field of vision.

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On the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan of my brain, white spots could be seen in the (right) internal capsule which is deep in the brain and contains a bundle of nerves or “wires”. These wires send signals between the brain and, for example, the limbs (for movement) and send information from your eyes to your brain (for vision). The internal capsule is a common area to be affected in patients who have had a “stroke” (CVA; cerebrovascular accident) which is why a stroke was my initial diagnosis, and not multiple sclerosis (MS). I couldn’t move my left arm or left leg because the damage in the right side of my brain prevented motor (movement) signals getting to my left limbs. Even the left side of my face couldn’t move. I could not see anything on the left side through both eyes because sensory (visual) signals were not getting through the wires in the brain. In other words, I could only see the right side through my right eye, and the right side through my left eye. Confused yet?! Each eye can only see the right side. This is called hemianopia.

 

Field of vision

I could see the right visual field but couldn’t see anything in the left visual field. Imagine a clock split into two halves, I could see the numbers 12 round to 6 on the right half, but the left-hand side of the clock did not exist. People have asked me why I just don’t turn my head round to see the left side. This does sound pretty logical to me too but it doesn’t matter if I turn my head, my eyes still refuse to move to the left and that side simply does not exist for me. Similarly, when I read, I often miss the first few letters of each word. This has its funny side because, as a counsellor/therapist, I am often shocked when, instead of reading the word “therapist”, I see the word “rapist”!

Therapist

The left side, however, is NOT black like the image above and I am therefore not aware of the fact that I am missing something. The strange thing is that I forget that the left side even exists! This is called hemineglect. I totally neglect the left side of my body, the left side of my visual field and no matter how many times I tell myself to remember, I still forget to pay attention to the left side. This is why I cannot ever cross the road without a zebra crossing or traffic lights. If I am walking, I have to continuously remember to lift my left leg but often trip or stumble because, in that split second, I forgot to lift it.

Finally, I only see the right side of people’s faces and the right side of their body. This means that I don’t see people waving at me with their right arm (which is on my left side!) and often don’t recognise them at all, especially if they are in a busy environment. When I look in the mirror, I only see the right side of my own face and haven’t seen the left side for years! I wonder if that side has less wrinkles?!

 

Wink Smiley Happy Smile Yellow Face Icon W

 

 

Next time, I shall talk about myelin, the fatty coating around the neural wires in our brain and possible ways to help it repair itself. 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!

My Story, Uncategorized

2. When the brain goes wrong!

When The Brain Goes Wrong

At first, I couldn’t understand how the left side of my body could be “not working” and what it had to do with my brain. I couldn’t understand why the doctors were doing a Computerised Tomography (CT) scan and a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan of my brain! Amazingly, I could have drawn a (perfectly straight) line down the middle of my body separating what worked and what didn’t. Half of my face drooped whilst the right side was totally unaffected. It was upsetting when I caught a glimpse of my face in a mirror (before I lost my sight) and I could see that only half of my mouth was smiling! Even my left eye seemed to be droopy. The doctors originally diagnosed me with having had a stroke (cerebrovascular accident; CVA) and it wasn’t until four years later that I was finally diagnosed with MS.

So what did the brain have to do with this?

Well, like the plastic insulation that is around an electric wire to help it conduct electricity more efficiently, the neural “wires” in your brain have myelin around them to help conduct the signals from your brain to, for example, your finger. So, when you decide to move your left index finger up by a centimetre, a signal is sent from your brain through the neural “wires” which reaches your finger and moves the finger up by a centimetre. On managing this, feedback is then sent back to your brain to update the finger’s new location.

How does MS affect this?

In the case of multiple sclerosis (MS), damage to the myelin (the insulation around the wire) may result in gaps or holes, which prevent good conduction of signals to and from the brain. The signal may be distorted, slowed down, or even completely lost. This means that the desired action of moving your finger is distorted, slow, or not carried out at all. If the damage to the myelin is significant, the signals simply cannot pass through the “wires” and therefore you are unable to move your finger, hand, or arm. In my case, signals were not getting through to my left leg or arm so I could not move them. They were like dead weights. I was mentally willing my finger to move but it wouldn’t move! No matter how much I concentrated on the finger, it would not move.

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After six weeks in hospital, one afternoon while I was still trying to make my arm move, I felt the signal getting to my elbow. Of course there was no evidence of this and nothing moved, but I felt it! The next day, I could feel the signal reaching half way between my elbow and my wrist. A couple of days after that, the signal arrived to an inch away from my middle finger, and the following day I actually moved my middle finger a little bit!!!

These initial few weeks in hospital were absolutely hellish.  I continued to deteriorate on a daily basis and was scared to go to sleep for fear of waking up in the morning to find something else that wasn’t working. I just could not understand what was happening. Would I be able to walk again? Would I be dependent on a carer for the rest of my life? The thought of being a “burden” on someone filled me with horror. The sensation of a signal trying to get through to my finger was the first little glimpse of hope that I had had but would it be able to reconnect with my finger?

Next time, I shall explain how the brain controls the two sides of your body. 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, do let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!

My Story, Uncategorized

Mindscope Counselling: The beginning

How did I get here?

In the summer of 2005, I had a multiple sclerosis (MS) “event”, which caused the limbs on the left side of my body to stop working. I spent two long months in hospital during which time I woke up one morning to discover that I couldn’t see and everything was blurry.  Soon, I began physiotherapy to help regain function of my leg and arm, i.e. to improve physically. This was great but what I really needed, even more than that, was some help with my head, i.e., mentally!

The doctors couldn’t say whether my left-sided limb function OR my sight would return or not and the thought of being dependent on others was too grim to even consider. I couldn’t think straight and the doctors were unable to tell me if I was going to make a full recovery or, at least, improve. Just three weeks before, I had been a “fully fnctioning” person driving home after having finished school (I was a teacher!) for the summer holidays, singing along to my music and here I was getting worse every day. I was shocked at my body not working properly, shocked that I no longer had control over my leg or my arm, shocked that I could not see, and shocked that I was suddenly stuck in hospital sitting in a wheelchair. The final straw was that I was forced to see my visiting mother every day, with whom I had not shared a close relationship. I was worried about my mental state and, in desperation, I asked to see a psychologist who advised me to talk to a counsellor instead.

Counselling, for me, was life changing. I felt inspired and compelled to become a counsellor so I could help others. I have since studied Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience and Humanistic Counselling to learn as much as I possibly can about the brain, the effects of brain injury, and how counselling can help untangle the confusion of thoughts, feelings and memories in the mind. I have also managed to help “repair” my brain through a mixture of counselling, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), meditation, and most importantly, a high fat/low carbohydrate diet.

I created Mindscope Counselling to provide a source of useful information on counselling, neurological disorders, NLP, counselling models and other related aspects of psychology, as well as offer a safe and open space to ask questions and talk to others. In addition to counselling individuals, I write a regular blog on lots of interesting topics, including counselling, brain injury, and my own personal experiences of MS and following a low-carb/high-fat diet. Please subscribe to be notified of new blog posts!