Are supplements worth it?

What is the scientific evidence behind supplements? Many people I've met (and I've done this myself) with chronic health conditions latch on to supplements that they have heard will help, often eschewing western medicine for more natural/holistic treatments. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely think diet and lifestyle changes are integral to chronic health management. But as Terry Wahl's states in her TEDx talk, the supplements really didn't do much to halt her progression, it was only after she started getting the same nutrients in the whole food format that she started to improve. Supplements can cost a lot of money. Many we just urinate out. As a person on a budget with a chronic illness, I don't really want to be pissing away money, literally. So selectively choosing what is worth it or not is important. Plus when I was at my height of supplement consuming, my liver enzymes were high for over 6 months after I stopped. Now I just stick to the basics. Vit. D, a probiotic, and a B complex. In this pursuit of choosing worthwhile supplements here is a cool infographic on the scientific evidence (or lack thereof) behind supplements. On here each supplement is ranked by quality of evidence for each condition. There is even a handy dotted line called the "worth it" line. Here is a screenshot to this highly handy resource: Snake Oil Supplements

Wahl’s Diet Week Two

Overall compliance - 103.5%

This week was a resounding success. I not only got around 15oz of organ meat in, I also had seaweed and met or beat most of the veggie requirements. Overall compliance was 103.5%. As you can see in the table below, I am still not getting enough blue/blacks and yellow/oranges. Will try to adjust this in the coming weeks.
Dark Leafies Sulfur Red Yellow/Orange Blue/Black
7-Dec 3 3 2 1.5 0
8-Dec 2.5 4 1.5 0 1
9-Dec 4 3.5 1 0 1
10-Dec 3 3 1 1 1
11-Dec 3 3 1 1 1
12-Dec 3 3.5 2 0 1
13-Dec 3.5 2.5 3 1 1
105% 107% 164% 64% 86%
Here are a few meal plans: Organ/sulfur meal - 12 oz liver lightly sauteed on both sizes so still tender with 2 cups onions and a half a cup garlic (getting in my sulfurs)

Day 11

Breakfast: few olives, carrot and hummas, smoked trout. Lunch: Blanched Kale with spices, cauliflower and broccoli Dinner: Spinach, Kimchi, Seaweed salad, and chicken Gyozos at Asian fusion restaurant Snacks: blueberries, raspberries, carrot, olives trout

Day 12

Breakfast: olives, carrots and hummus, smoked salmon Lunch: Salad with tomatoes, onions, red pepper Dinner: piece of lamb, salmon fish sticks, blanched kale sauteed with onions, garlic and spices, cup of blueberries, carrots Hurrah for my first week of full compliance! Now if I can just get those blues/blacks/oranges up a notch.  

Man of Steel Workout (my) Week One

In an effort to combat MS with both diet and exercise, I've been trying to implement a rather crazy workout plan, especially when you consider the MS. Often after one of the work out days, my feet twitch like crazy. And sometimes my neck buzzes. But my MS specialist assures me that this is normal and to not stop exercising as a result. During my last follow-up in November, I said, "I think my feet cramps are linked strongest to either stress or exercise." He said, "Do not use your wonderfully analytic mind to figure which one is more of a contributing factor. You just named the two most common causes for muscle spasms in MS. But all research points to exercise being a net positive so keep at it." My friend bought me a pedometer, so in addition to trying to slowly follow Mark Twight's Man/Soldier of Steel Workout, I've also been counting my steps. Because I am traveling internationally, I've found that I can hike up a small hill (1,400 ft elevation gain) to work and so this is what I mean by "hiking". I usually do this instead of the "active rest" days on the 1 month workout plan which usually consist of 60 minutes of light cardio followed by plank, dead hang, or overhead hold. For those who are just interested in the Man of Steel workout, I'll detail in full detail where I succeeded and failed, since this workout is not doable for a person of even relatively high fitness. To implement this 100% you need to already be in the top 10% of fit people as noted by where it requires 50 pull-ups at the end of a workout as if it is no biggie. For those with MS, be encouraged to try stuff way more difficult than you think you can do! So here is my accounting. My week summary of steps and days exercised is:
Steps Exercise
7000 No (partial, did pushups and squats in apt)
12000 Day 1 of Man of Steel
13200 Hiking (Day 2 of Man of Steel)
14800 Hiking (extra active rest day)
9426 Rest Day
11700 Day 3 of Man of Steel
14400 Hiking (Day 4 of Man of Steel)
Week average: 11,800 5 days exercise this week
In the Man of Steel workout plan (found here), there are 3 days per week of hard activity and 3 days of week of "active rest". I did 3 days of active rest aka cardio for 60 minutes though I did not do the 5 min add-ons of plank, overhead hold, and dead hang. Here is how the hard days went.

Workout One:

Fairly good. I did the whole thing, though I probably rested more than the official recommendation between rounds and failed a bit on the split jumps. Jeezzzuus those are hard. Workout One consists of a 10 min warm up (I did the ellipticals). Then I went into the 3 sets of 5 wall squats, 20 air squats, 10 jump squats, and 20 walking lunges. That’s tough I will say. But a good sort of tough. Then I went into the series of 4×30/30 Frog Hops, Split Jumps and Burpees. Around the time I got to the split jumps, I was unable to sustain 30 seconds. I would crash around 15 seconds, and barely manage another few split jumps in the last 30 seconds. After the burpee rounds, I just lay on the floor panting for a solid 2 minutes. Before finally taking a walk around the gym and stretched for a solid 15 minutes.

Workout Three:

10 min warm up -  ellipticals. Five rounds: 5x proper push-ups (chest all the way to the floor to a chest plank) & 10 air squats - Success!! 25 pull-ups or plank pulls - Here I used one of those assist machines for pull-ups. I could do around 3 or 4 pull-ups at a time since I tried to use as little weight as possible for the assist. Even so, I started with 90 lbs assist, then had to bump it up to 110 lbs to complete the 25 reps. Burpee Pyramid 1 - 10 - 1: Yeah. Only got to 7 on the pyramid. I was dying. Cool down for 10 min (walked and stretched). That was all I accomplished this week!

Week One on the Wahl’s Diet

Overall Compliance - 73%

I've completed my first week of attempting to follow the Wahl's Diet. My overall compliance rate was 90% on the 9 cups of fruits and veggies. I did well on getting Omega-3s and failed utterly on getting any seaweed for iodine or organ meats for B-vitamins and Co-Q 10. So if I were to weight the seaweed, organs and omega-3s each as 10% and the veggies as 70%, my overall compliance rate would be 73%. I've found it really useful to keep a running spreadsheet open on my computer that I update throughout the day with what the exact breakdown is in each category for each day, and then total up an overall weekly compliance rate. Below is a table of the 9 cups of fruits and veggies this week, with the 3 cups of brightly colored broken down by color group. What was interesting there is that the reds are easy but the blue/blacks are hard for me. I've only really found blueberries and blackberries in the blue backs. Does anyone have any other ideas?
Dark Leafies    Sulfur     Red    Yellow/Orange   Blue/Black
30-Nov 3 3 2 1
1-Dec 3 3.5 2 1
2-Dec 2 2.5 1 0.5
3-Dec 3 0.5 1
4-Dec 3 4 2 1
5-Dec 3 0.5 1.5 2.5 1
6-Dec 3 2.5 2 1 1
Week 1 Summary 81% 90% 150% 93% 58%
As for what I ate, here are some of the days, broken down.

Day 1:

Lunch: Large salad of arugula, field greens, red pepper, onion, red beet, with homemade dressing of olive oil, 1/2 squeezed lemon, garlic, pepper, salt and herbs. Dinner: Vegetarian restaurant buffet with a 1/2 plate of cauliflower, and a 1/2 plate of carrots, leeks, and berries. Snacks: A 100g piece of organic salmon, carrots with tahini hummus.

Day 2:

Lunch: Large salad of kale, arugula, field greens, red pepper, onion, red beet, with homemade dressing of olive oil, 1/2 squeezed lemon, garlic, pepper, salt and herbs. Dinner: broccoli, sauerkraut mushrooms, onions, garlic, cabbage and kale with a coconut curry sauce. Snacks: chicken strips, tomato soup, cup of blueberries

Day 3:

Breakfast: 3 Eggs with onions, tomatoes and red pepper Lunch: Dinner from night before leftovers

Dinner: 12 oz wild salmon with large salad of romaine type lettuce, olive oil, balsamic, tomatoes, onion, and avocado.

Day 4:

Breakfast: cup of blueberries, red carrot with hummas, olives Lunch: Dinner of sulfurs leftovers Dinner: Vegan dinner with soy cheese quesadilla and falafel wrap (not Wahl's compliant and derailed the day!) That's it for this week!

Implementing the Wahl’s Diet

So in addition to my upping my workout regime. I have decided to really give the Wahl's diet a full go. I've been following it ~60% for a while now, but that isn't really good. And my last MRI, with two new lesions, scared me enough to up that 60% from an F grade to an A grade. It also just happened to coincide with me traveling in Europe for a month. Thankfully I have access to a small kitchenette, but not my standard base supply for cooking. If I can do it here, I can do it anywhere. The main problem I've had implementing the Wahl's diet is the practicality of it. I am pretty busy, trying to finish my PhD thesis while still writing and dancing on the side, let alone climb some mountains here and there, that getting the diet to be quick and easy has been the hardest part for me. For those who are unfamiliar with the Wahl's diet, check out my diet post and go visit her website and order her book and watch her TEDx talk. She is a doctor with secondary progressive MS who has mostly reversed it with diet. In a nutshell, the Wahl's diet calls for 3 cups of dark leafy greens, 3 cups of sulfur rich veggies, and 3 cups of brightly pigmented fruits or veggies with Omega-3 rich foods, seaweed 1x per week, and organ meat ~12oz per week. First I made a spreadsheet which looks roughly like this where I can total the day's nutrition:
 Date Dark Leafy  Sulfur  Red  Yel/Ora.  Blue/Black  Omega-3s  Seaweed  Organs  100%?
30-Nov 3 3 2 1 100g/8oz? YES!
So what did I eat?

Day one:

Lunch: Large salad of arugula, field greens, red pepper, onion, red beet, with homemade dressing of olive oil, 1/2 squeezed lemon, garlic, pepper, salt and herbs. Dinner: Vegetarian restaurant buffet with a 1/2 plate of cauliflower, and a 1/2 plate of carrots, leeks, and berries. Snacks: A 100g piece of organic salmon, carrots with tahini hummus.

Day two:

Lunch: Large salad of kale, arugula, field greens, red pepper, onion, red beet, with homemade dressing of olive oil, 1/2 squeezed lemon, garlic, pepper, salt and herbs. Dinner: Stir fry of sulfurs: broccoli, sauerkraut, cabbage, mushrooms, onions, garlic and kale with a coconut curry sauce. Snacks: chicken strips, tomato soup, cup of blueberries So if I can do two days while traveling...should be able to do more, right? I hope so. Will update here.

Man of Steel / Soldier of Steel workout with MS

Antje Traue training for Faora on Man of Steel

Antje Traue training for Faora on Man of Steel

I've decided to blog about some diet and exercise changes I am making. I came across this workout shortly after the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, came out. Several of the actors, including the leading female bad-ass villain, Faora played by Antje Traue, and of course Superman himself, Henry Cavill.  
Henry Cavill training for Man of Steel

Henry Cavill training for Man of Steel

You can download the workout plan here: It is offered by the National Guard for free from Gym Jones. Mark Twight, the founder of Gym Jones makes the workouts so that 80% of them do not require any gym or equipment. He is also a world-class mountaineer which piqued my interest. On his website, you can purchase full year plans for specific designs like marathon running or mountaineering etc. This first one offered through the National Guard is free. It is a one month plan, with 6 workouts per week (through really only 3 hard-core workouts per week).   Watch the 4 part video introduction here (part one below, go to youtube to see the rest): This workout is hardcore. It looks deceptively simple. I mean what's a few lunges and squats? But the first day I tried this with my husband, we were barely able to walk. Partly due to not taking adequate rests between sets, but still. I've never felt "muscle confusion" from a workout before. From MS, yes, but not from a work out. I was talking with my MS specialist about MS and working out. Certainly working out is good. We know this objectively with scientific studies, but sometimes it doesn't feel good. My legs will twitch for hours afterward and my muscles will spasm more that night. Is this good? My MS specialist says yes, the positives of working out, though they seem to increase symptoms, outweigh the negatives. But that said, it may be impossible for many of us with MS to do the full workout listed. I am going to give it a good shot, I would love to hear if you decide to do it too. I'll update here at least 2x per week about what I did and what I couldn't/didn't do. I do think with MS, it might be a bit hard to do the full rigor of the workout right off the bat, and perhaps I will take more rest days. The plan currently allows for 1 rest day per week. I think I am going to at least take 2, depending on how my muscles are handling it. I should also note that I started this before, but only ever got through week one. Week 2 kinda scares me. Week 1 was hard enough, so I've gone through that 3 times to kinda build up my base strength. And so without further ado, here is the summary report for Day 1 (I assume you have downloaded the PDF from the link above and thus know any of the acronyms): For the 10 min warm up, I did the ellipticals, my favorite cardio workout. Then I went into the 3 sets of 5 wall squats, 20 air squats, 10 jump squats, and 20 walking lunges. That's tough I will say. But a good sort of tough. Then I went into the series of 4x30/30 Frog Hops, Split Jumps and Burpees. Around the time I got to the split jumps, I was unable to sustain 30 seconds. I would crash around 15 seconds, and barely manage another few split jumps in the last 30 seconds. After the burpee rounds, I just lay on the floor panting for a solid 2 minutes. Before finally taking a walk around the gym and stretched for a solid 15 minutes. I am sure I'll be feeling this tomorrow... Alright, that's it for today! Don't forget to be awesome, S    

The Story of Hilary Freeman

I really like this article, about a woman who has had a relatively benign case of MS for the past 15 years: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2219062/Multiple-sclerosis-For-15-years-Ive-living-limbo.html?ito=feeds-newsxml Here are some points that resonated with me: “It didn’t help that MS is an invisible disease so, outwardly, I looked the same. For at least a year, people would greet me with the words, ‘But you look so well!’ as though they were disappointed that I hadn’t arrived, muscles wasted, in a wheelchair.” All I can say is for anyone with an “invisible” disease who has gotten the “but you don’t look sick” attitude, you need to print out this lol cat and keep it in your back pocket for quick use. “Having MS messed with my head. It may sound contrary but, for a while, being confronted with my own mortality made me feel immortal. I reasoned that now I had MS – the thing that would kill me – I couldn’t possibly get anything else, and must therefore be immune to cancer, heart disease or flu.” I had this exact feeling for the first year. It was like I was already diagnosed with a terrible thing, so that was my thing in life, nothing else would happen. But Ann Romney has MS and had breast cancer so it is important to not let this attitude keep you from staying on top of other prevantitve measures and cancer screenings. “There were positive changes too: I packed in my dull, corporate writing job and went freelance – something I’d always wanted to do – thinking that if I didn’t do it now, I might not be able to in the future. “Having benign MS makes me very lucky. Of course, I’d be luckier if I didn’t have MS at all, but, given the terrible experience of many people with the condition, the fact that I am still mobile and able to live an active life is something for which I am truly grateful.” Yup, I hate MS and I hate that I have it, but I am thankful that I am walking strong, eating and digesting normally, thinking clearly, and living a full and glorious life. “On the other hand, having benign MS is rather a poisoned chalice. I feel as if I am living in limbo, neither ill nor well. I often feel guilty, even a fraud, when I’m among people with more severe MS at charity events.” I definitely struggle with the “am I sick or well?” internal attitude. I don’t consider myself healthy, but objectively I actually am healthier than the average person in this world so I hope to overcome this destructive attitude. “At a party, one woman in a wheelchair watched me walk across the room to a buffet, then questioned whether I really had the condition because I walked ‘so easily’. … But I’m not always quite fit enough to function completely normally in the wider world, or allowed to forget I have MS. “ You can never forget you have MS. That is one of the things that sucks the most. “I live with daily uncertainty – could this niggly new symptom be a relapse or will it disappear in a few hours? I still worry about planning anything too far ahead, or journeying anywhere too remote.” Everytime I have twitch or twingle I freak out. Not the best response. Hoping it will go away someday since it is less than it was when I was diagnosed since many of these symptoms disappear never to return. I forget what it feels like to feel “normal”. Back when something weird would happen to my body but I would just naturally assume it was transient. “I continue to have to deal with the implications of the MS label on insurance (it’s always more expensive), on relationships (there’s always a chance that I may become dependent) and on my employment prospects (I haven’t applied for a job since my diagnosis, as I’m freelance, but know many people with MS who have been discriminated against). For me, having benign MS is a bit like being forced to drag around a heavy, dangerous dog, which might, without warning, one day jump up and bite me.” Yeah…discrimination against people with MS sucks. I understand it, but it still sucks. Don’t be that person about another disease or illness. “I do wish I’d known that MS could follow such a mild course when I was diagnosed. I wish I could have read about the best- instead of the worst-case scenarios. The problem is that people like me don’t engender sympathy or the desire to put your hand in your pocket, so charities tend to ignore us. As a result, the world only sees the most serious cases. And many people with benign MS choose to remain invisible.” Definitely true, most people I know with MS are doing very well. My two favorite quotes are: “MS is some scary shit.” ~ Wheelchair Kamakazi (link to his blog) tempered with, “Being diagnosed with MS today is very different from being diagnosed 10 years ago.” ~ Dr. Lindsay, Neurologist of an acquaintance of mine.