Wellness & Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle, including a well-balanced plant-based diet and regular exercise, may be beneficial to managing an autoimmune disease such as NMO. On this page, we’ll highlight nuggets of information and studies that can help inform incorporation of lifestyle approaches or ‘biohacks’ that may help.
We all know that regular exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle. Intriguingly and importantly to multiple sclerosis, another neurological autoimmune disease that NMO has been misdiagnosed as, more scientific data is emerging showing the benefit of regular exercise on patient quality of life and outcome. Here are some highlights from a 2017 study on "Exercise prescription for patients with MS; potential benefits and practical recommendations."
Are you trying to find a brain-healthy diet? Overwhelmed by all the promotion of different diets? Want to know some of the data that supports a particular diet for overall brain health or prevents brain fog?! Check out this article about The Science Behind the Mental Clarity Diet.
While there’s compelling evidence to suggest that eating does have an impact on the brain, there’s little evidence that extreme diet patterns are better than the other, more low-key methods.,
Martha Clare Morris, an epidemiology professor of Chicago’s Rush Medical Center, concluded this from her research: The MIND diet: "It pulls together foods from the Mediterranean diet, like whole grains, legumes, and fish, and the plant-based low-fat DASH diet, which is designed to combat high blood pressure. Traditionally, both diets are recommended to prevent heart disease."
"Antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins C, E, and B, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, are found to have positive effects on our cognitive capabilities by counteracting two of the factors thought to cause neurodegenerative diseases: oxidative stress and inflammation."
"Meal plans with foods high in antioxidants, like berries, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, as well as nutrient-dense foods like beans and foods packed with omega-3s, like fish, all appear to help the brain."
Eat more whole food, less processed food.
It seems from the available data that you don’t have to follow an extreme diet to increase your brain health!
Listen to How To Read Food Labels, From Free-Range To Fair Trade from Life Kit on Apple Podcasts.https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/life-kit/id1461493560?i=1000467949486
Research is showing the benefit of meditation associated with preservation of brain!
Studies are showing that regular meditation practice is associated with positive changes in the brain, particularly in the area of the brain involved with decision-making and working memory. Although all of us lose brain volume as we age, those in their 50s who regularly meditated had similar brain volumes as individuals in their 20s, suggesting a positive role of meditation in preserving brain. Other studies have shown positive results of just 15 minutes of daily meditation. Check out the review of the science behind meditation and brain volume preservation.
Fatigue & NMOSD
People living with NMOSD experience significant fatigue, and it’s safe to assume this can impact their daily activity and mood too.
A 2015 study of 33 NMOSD patients and 20 healthy-matched controls showed that fatigue was more prevalent and severe in the NMOSD group, and this fatigue was negatively associated with the level of daily activity. Patients with fatigue even scored higher on a scale of depression. (Pan J et al, CNS Neurosci Ther, 2015).
Another study from 2017 divided 35 NMOSD positive for the anti-AQP4 antibody into 2 groups based on the presence of fatigue. The study demonstrated that those with fatigue (25/35) had issues with sleep quality and more severe depression than the group without fatigue (10/35). (Myoung Seok J et al, PLoS One, 2017).
While chronic fatigue is an invisible symptom, there are many living with NMOSD and related disorders who can explain the significant impact it has on their life.
How to help with fatigue issues?
While not specific for NMOSD, it's good for everyone to practice good sleep hygiene (aka good sleeping habits) to make sure you get consistent, restful sleep. Here are some suggestions for sleep hygiene from the CDC:
- Consistency: Get to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. And yes, also on the weekends!
- Make your bedroom at night a sleep haven. Keep it quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature .
- Get rid of any electronic devices from your bedroom . No need to sleep with your phone!
- Don't have any big meals, caffeine, or alcohol before bedtime . Stop consumption a couple hours before you snooze.
- Move! Being physically active/exercising can help you get to sleep each night.
Check the facts at the CDC's website: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html
Are you getting enough Vitamin D (Vit D)? A big natural source of Vitamin D comes from sun exposure! Patients with multiple sclerosis have also been shown to have decreased levels of Vit D, and there are increased incidences of MS in areas farther away from the equator where they get less sunlight. 🌞\ Vitamin D seems to be playing some sort of role in autoimmune disease, including NMOSD and multiple sclerosis. The science of it isn’t fully worked out, but data suggests Vit D helps in some way to regulate the immune system. Some studies in MS have shown Vit D levels negatively correlated with MRI activity and relapses, but results haven’t been causative. Vit D also is important for bone health, which is helpful to keep in mind as NMOSD and MS can increase chance of falls. Too much Vit D can tax the liver, where it’s metabolized, and cause excess calcium in your blood. Balance is key!\ 🌞 ***this is not a recommendation to take Vit D supplements or other supplements. Make sure to consult with your clinician before taking supplements
Temperature Sensitivity and NMOSD
People living with NMOSD and multiple sclerosis can experience sensitivity to temperature, particularly extremely hot or cold temperatures. Heat can make symptoms feel worse, whether it’s from a hot summer day, strenuous activity, a hot shower or sick with a fever. A common example is worsening of vision on a really hot day. This worsening of symptoms under the heat is called Uhthoff’s phenomenon. The ‘hot bath’ test was used many years ago to uncover potential MS-related symptoms. Increased temperatures further reduce the damaged nerve from sending signals. This phenomenon doesn’t cause more disease activity, and is only temporary worsening- going away after the body cools down. 🥵What to do? Embrace A/C! Use a cooling vest/neck wrap & drink plenty of cold fluids. \ You’re not completely safe in the cold either! Some may also find that cold weather may worsen symptoms like spasticity. 🥶 Seems like NMOSD/MS individuals sensitive to temperature may want to avoid extreme hot or cold!