What if multiple sclerosis isn’t a disease of the brain’s white matter and rather originates in the gray matter? Scientists at Rutgers University in Newark tried a new approach to look into the gray matter of MS patients and what they found “suggests there are issues happening extremely early in the gray matter that precede myelin loss,” says co-investigator Patricia Coyle, a neurologist at Stony Brook University, S.U.N.Y. Read more.
It’s true, zebras don’t get ulcers. For one thing, they don’t worry about things that are probably not even going to happen. Ever. Humans are the only ones who have that ability, and very often when we worry our body turns on a stress response, flooding it with a number of stress hormones that will promote a series of changes in our organs and our natural balance – heart rate goes up, immune system is suppressed, blood is diverted to muscles or wherever is most needed… Basically we have evolved to turn on a fight-or-flight response like zebras and other animals, however, unlike zebras and other animals, we don’t turn it off as easily – and that’s because most of the time we don’t react to threats, but to perceived threats.
This is one of the basis to chronic stress. And we know that chronic stress can damage our body in many ways. It doesn’t necessarily means chronic stress is the cause to several diseases. It means that chronic stress, by permanently altering the body’s homeostasis, creates an environment in which it becomes impossible for the body to fight other factors, such as genetic predispositions or environmental risks. This is true for autoimmune diseases but also for heart conditions, ulcers, depression and many more.
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is the bible of stress. It’s not a book about a specific disease, it it rather a book about how stress can pave the way to many diseases. Each chapter focuses on a different system: cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, digestive, immune, reproductive… It also includes chapters on sleep, pain, memory, depression and anxiety, and addictions. And it doesn’t leave you with that. It includes insights on stress management, coping styles and how personality and temperament come into play.
The book is rather long and at certain points can become a little technical, but it is also filled with humor, relevant research and even the author’s personal experiences. If you needed further proof that you need to work on all that stress that invades your life uninvited, then this is the book to turn to.
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copyright (c) Stasia Burrington
When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis I felt the need to have a little guide that would sit on my shelf and I could pick up whenever I had doubts about anything or wanted to clarify a specific aspect of the disease. So I found this little book that has served this purpose since I purchased it.
It was released in late September 2012, which means that its information is still relatively up to date (though I expect – and hope – that with more therapies and scientific discoveries emerging it will become outdated it coming years). It’s only 84 pages long so it doesn’t deal with all the subjects with a lot of detail or depth but it gives a very significant overview, in a very accessible language, of everything you may want to look up.
Covered topics include possible causes for ms, the inflammatory process, symptoms, disease progression, diagnosis, social aspects of living with ms, how the immune system works, autoimmunity, treatments available and in development and alternative therapies. It basically covers all relevant topics for people interested in understanding what’s going on and how to manage it all.
One thing that struck me while reading the book was that the authors argue that the immune system of people with ms is normal, contrary to what is usually believed. They point out that brain tissue of people with ms reveals the presence of mild abnormalities and disturbances, and those abnormalities are the ones that call on the immune system cells to attack. This puts the drugs we take in perspective, since they seem to be targeted at the consequence, not the cause. But whatever the causes, I think this book is essential to have a little more understanding of what’s physiologically going on in our bodies.
I saw one of my neurologists today for a routine appointment and for the first time I was prescribed vitamin D supplements. I already take them because I’ve been reading about their benefits ever since I was diagnosed, but this was the first time I had a doctor acknowledge how “the sunshine vitamin” is indeed important and not some kind of conspiracy theory. I guess doctors have been catching up on the latest research.
One of the most frustrating things about living with multiple sclerosis is that most symptoms are invisible and we appear to be well to other people. One day the entire world seems blurred – yet you’ll never know how I am seeing you. The other day I am so tired I can barely stand or listen to people talk – yet you’ll just say I’m not getting enough sleep. And how about those days when my memory took some time off and I can’t remember anything you told me? – you’ll just say I wasn’t paying enough attention, or worse, that I’m a bit dumb. And let’s not talk about those days when my balance is off and I bump into every other object in the room – then I’m just a clumsy little girl.
I feel ashamed of talking about my little handicaps because people will most likely eye me suspiciously and assume that I’m just trying to get away with responsibilities or work. I had a boyfriend who once suggested I was faking symptoms just to get attention and on another occasion he suggested I was using the disease as an excuse to get what I wanted. This kind of response makes ms patients feel isolated, insecure, misunderstood – and that’s hardly breaking news. If you research a little about multiple sclerosis, either online or the old-fashioned ways, you’ll find lots of people wrote about it.
For instance, Sandra Amor and Hans Van Noort wrote in their Multiple Sclerosis – The Facts that “symptoms may range from being almost unnoticeable to severe, and anything in between. In fact, quite a few people with MS do not show any clear signs of their condition at all to untrained eyes. Paradoxically, this in itself can be a cause of problems too. Family members and colleagues may sometimes think that complaints may be exaggerated, or even imaginary. Society can sometimes be quite impatient with people who need special attention but still appear to be largely okay from the outside, especially when they are young.” Allison Shadday adds in her MS and Your Feelings, “Unfortunately, society reinforces a stoic stance. We’re taught that it is better to keep our ‘complaints’ to ourselves. But the price we pay is isolation. Keeping up a good front inevitably makes us feel distant and misunderstood by others, rather than accepted and loved, as we so desire.”
But the truth is, most people don’t care enough to read or research. So when I found out about the Seeing MS project, I thought it was fantastic. The idea is to expose the invisible symptoms, by depicting them in an image. Nine photographers were invited to participate, and anyone else can submit their pictures as well. Where words fail, maybe images can help.
My submissions to the project: http://escharae.wordpress.com/submissions-to-seeing-ms/
The reasons for psychosomatic disorders can be varied, but they are usually linked to an ongoing stressful life situation which, for one reason or another, sufferers cannot (or feel they should not) air. This can be an untenable situation at work where they are required to do jobs which they have not been trained to do, an unpleasant work atmosphere, frequent arguments at work or at home, feeling burdened by great responsibilities without getting recognition, or aggravation over an ongoing situation such as a long-term project at work or problems with difficult children or difficult parents.
It is really surprising how resilient the body is to stress. Emotional upset often needs to go on for a long time before the body’s defences break down or, to put it more precisely, before we notice the body is suffering from the emotional onslaught. The body has an incredibly efficient way of recuperating, so when we find we cannot recover from an illness this indicates we must have run down our resources. This is a warning signal that must be taken seriously or we risk even graver physical problems.
Principles of Hypnotherapy, Vera Peiffer, Singing Dragon, 2013