Multiple sclerosis (MS) consists of more than lesions; it also comprises silent inflammation. Lesions seem to get all the attention, as they are photographed and flashy, and the main topic in MS circles. But silent inflammation is what is running the havoc behind the scenes.
The MS Society of Canada describes on its website the correlation between inflammation and MS lesions: “Lesions form as a result of inflammation, which occurs when white blood cells and fluid build up around blood vessels. This inflammation damages the myelin and axons. Wherever tissue is destroyed, a lesion forms and a gradual build-up of scar tissue occurs.”
Recently, an MRI showed I have no enhanced lesions. I was elated! It had been four years since my last MRI, so no new lesions was great news. But my walking abilities have declined lately, and when I asked my doctor about the changes in my gait, she reminded me of the culprit of silent inflammation.
I am familiar with silent inflammation, and I wrote a column about it last year titled, “Calming the Hidden Beast of Silent Inflammation.” It focused on what inflammation can lead to and how we can minimize its effects with our lifestyle choices.
So, why am I devoting another column to this subject? Because I feel it is that important — not just to those of us with MS, but also to anyone who has a chronic disease now or wants to head off getting one in the future.
Fighting inflammation is about making healthy lifestyle choices such as opting for anti-inflammatory foods, being active, and controlling weight.
In the August 2017 article, “Foods that fight inflammation,” the Harvard School of Public Health’s Dr. Frank Hu offered tips on eating an anti-inflammatory diet. The theory is that if we choose the right foods, we may be able to lower our risk of illness. By choosing the wrong foods, we may speed up the process of inflammatory disease.
Some of the foods to avoid are “sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats,” the article said. It should not come as a surprise that foods known to be unhealthy can also contribute to inflammation and chronic disease.
Another typically unwelcome side effect of eating inflammatory foods for many is that they advance weight gain. Being overweight is another contributing factor to inflammation. Add those two issues to a sedentary lifestyle and it sets the course for illness.
However, not all is gloom and doom. The good news is that you can still change course and reduce your inflammation. The Harvard Health article offers some good anti-inflammatory food choices, including “particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.”
By committing to a healthier lifestyle, you are helping to ward off inflammation and future disease, which most likely will improve your MS symptoms.
Please, join us in the MS forums to discuss this issue!
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.