For years I bought into the advice of the established medical community when it came to treating my multiple sclerosis symptoms.  Every couple of years a new drug would come to market with more benefits and supposedly fewer side effects.  Some worked well and others didn’t.  Each time though there was a shock to my system as my body adjusted.

I knew there had to be a better way to live.  That’s when I started doing research into alternative methods of treating MS symptoms.  One thing that immediately popped up was an alternative diet called the Paleo Diet.

Paleo Diet Basics

So what exactly is the Paleo Diet?  Popularly known as the Caveman diet, it is very simple in principle.  It involves eliminating all grains such as wheat, oats, and rice from your diet.  Legumes and dairy are also no no’s.  Finally, processed sugars should be minimized as well.  The logic behind not eating these particular foods is that our bodies are not capable of digesting them properly.

Humans didn’t start eating grains as a significant percentage of their daily caloric intake until roughly 12,000 years ago.  And this was only a small number of people that were inhabitants of modern day Iraq and Iran.  This is where agricultural civilization began.  For some peoples, grains have been a much more recent addition to their diet.

And while 12,000 years might seem like a long time, our bodies have been evolving for millions of years.  Before grains we ate meats, fish, roots, vegetables, berries, nuts and whatever else we could scavenge for.  Over the course of millions of years our bodies became very good at surviving and thriving on these foods.

Then in a very brief time period this changed.  Because of the fact that they can be harvested and stored for long periods of time, grains became a staple in our diets.  This led to a number of diseases and conditions the human race had never experienced before.

So why are grains bad?  First and foremost they attack the stomach lining and digestive tract which is where 40% of our immune system is located.  A grain is a seed.  A seed is designed to protect itself so that it can become a plant or tree.  To help protect itself it contains enzymes that allow it to survive any number of conditions such as being eaten.

When we eat grains these enzymes go to work in our stomachs and intestines.  This can cause a condition known as ‘leaky gut’  Essentially this condition allows undigested food particles to enter directly into the blood stream. This can lead to anything from inflammation to various allergic reactions.  It is also being linked to more serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

By going back to a diet that is more in line with what our bodies are designed to eat we can actually repair a significant amount of the damage that has been caused.

Changes I’ve Noticed Since Starting

Having started on the Paleo diet myself, I have noticed a significant increase in strength and stamina.  While simply walking down the hall used to be somewhat taxing, I am now able to do considerably more.  I feel better than I have in years.  This is allowing me to return to activities I had long since given up on such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, and even going to the mall.  :-)

If you’re interested in learning more about the Paleo diet and MS check out this link.  There’s also a Ted Talk that contains a wealth of information here.

Besides being physically and mentally debilitating, multiple sclerosis is also a significant financial burden.  In years past it was relatively easy to find coverage that helps to offset all of these costs. There were a variety of insurance plans from a number of national providers that were tailored to those with MS.

The Affordable Care Act

But the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) has introduced a whole lot of uncertainty for those fighting this disease.

The idea behind the Affordable Care Act is fairly simple.  Spreading the cost of high care across the healthy and the sick was supposed to lower cost for those in need, while not significantly impacting the cost of care for the healthy.  Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out like this at all.  A large number of the young and healthy are not willing to take part in the available plans.  The cost increases are significant, especially compared with the penalties.

The administration has also drastically changed the rules of the plan since it’s passage.  This has caused not only a great deal of confusion and uncertainty.

The end result is that premiums and co-pays have gone up significantly.  And the entire law hasn’t even taken effect yet.  There’s more to come in November.

These aren’t the only surprises that we’re just finding out about within the ACA.  Many with MS have been using certain prescriptions to help control symptoms of the disease.  The vast majority of these drugs are extremely expensive.  When you go through the process of selecting a plan, you need to make sure that your particular drug is covered by your plan.  There are bronze, gold, and platinum plans from which to choose.  Each plan covers your medical expenses after a certain amount of out of pocket payments.  The better the plan, the lower the out of pocket  you will have to pay.

But some drugs aren’t covered AT ALL by many of the lower priced plans.  This has many in the MS community very concerned about how they will be able to afford to pay for their treatments with no insurance help at all.

Private Insurance

While President Obama has made a lot of political hay by proclaiming that you can keep your plan if you like.  The truth is very different.  Private insurers are having to adapt their plan offerings to be in compliance within the new rules of the ACA.  For many this means their plans now include things they don’t need, or worse yet, don’t include things that they desperately need.  Either way, the vast majority of individual plan premiums have gone up.

The same has been seen with health care provided by employers. If this is your situation, don’t wait until November to find out what your employer will be doing once the Employer Mandate goes into effect.  Start doing your research now into what your options are.  That way when the changes take effect, you know what you’re expenses are going to be.

In the early stages of learning that you have a life threatening disease it can be difficult see beyond the dark cloud that often descends upon us.  The sooner you can break this spell of depression the better your life will be.

One of my biggest passions in life has always been travel.  The feeling of visiting a place for the very first time is something to which I quickly became addicted.

My first experience abroad was to Italy in 1998.  Every day was spent exploring the hilltop towns of Tuscany.  But the best part was waking up early and ‘living’ amongst the locals as they went about their morning routines.

In Montepulciano, I would sneak away from our hotel each morning and walk down to the local cafe.  There was no car traffic in the tiny town.  The cafe would be a bustle of activity as all of the towns inhabitants would briefly stop in for their morning cappuccino on the way to work.  I would sit there for an hour or two and just soak up the language and the ambiance that was so different from anything I’d ever known.

Of course things changed dramatically some years later when I was eventually diagnosed with MS.  Although there were many changes I underwent because of this disease, the immobility brought with it the worst changes of all.  I was often dependent upon others to help me do even the most basic tasks.  Moving from one room to another could be painful and difficult.  The idea of leaving the country again seemed like a far off dream.

That’s not to say that the dream of traveling ever left me though.  Once I had become somewhat acclimated to my condition, it occurred to me that there must be some way to continue traveling.  Surely others must have overcome and found ways to escape their homes and see the world.

I began devouring resources online about what others in my condition had learned and shared about traveling with MS.  One of the first things I came across was cruising.

Now I must admit that cruising had never appealed to me previously because it seemed as though you would be trapped on-board a ship for days and days seeing very little of the world around you.  But I found others with MS had had wonderful experiences in practically every part of the world by utilizing this popular travel method.

The advantages of it are obvious.  Once you moved aboard the boat you no longer have to move your luggage.  For me this includes quite a bit of equipment.

So my husband and I decided to book a cruise to Alaska.  There were a couple of reasons for this particular destination.  For one, we’d never been!  Just as importantly though, most of the sites are best viewed from the boat itself.  If we so chose, we wouldn’t ever have to leave the boat.

It was an amazing experience.  We skirted along the edge of massive glaciers.  I experienced the aurora borealis for the first time.  We had a chance to experience wildlife I never thought I would see including Kodiak bears along rough Alaskan beaches.

But more than anything the experience was eye opening for me.  I don’t have to limit myself to the small world around me.  Everything is within my reach if I just look.