Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.  Angela Nickel suffers from MS and came to Sensible Fitness to improve her quality of life.  This is her story…

“I began showing symptoms of relapsing-remitting MS when I was in my teens – odd pins and needles sensations down my arms, face and body, ‘brain fog’, intense headaches, and occasional burning sensations in my legs after exposure to heat.

The fatigue hit in my early twenties. MS fatigue is indescribable. I would wake up full of energy, and without any warning I could feel the energy draining out of me and my body would crash. MS fatigue is not something you can will yourself through – when it hits badly enough, you have to rest and sometimes I would have to rest for weeks. People at work would look at my eyes (heavy eyes, as I call them now) and tell me how sick I looked. When I was having an exacerbation, normal day to day stress made it worse. Junk food made it worse. At the time I was trying to go to college and work my way through; there were a few times I had to leave a job, or barely finished a semester, when the fatigue episodes happened. The oddest thing to me was, these exacerbations could last a day, or weeks, then disappear as if nothing had ever been wrong. I knew something was not right in my body but no one could explain what was going on, so I learned to cope the best I knew how. This pattern continued for years.

May 0f 2011 was the life-changer for me, when the MS switched to the progressive phase. While eating lunch, the communication between my brain and swallowing/breathing muscles went awry. I was taken to the ER, given a steroid shot thinking it was food related, and went on my way.

The episodes escalated. I developed extreme hypersensitivity to touch, food, smells, and sound. A light breeze touching my skin was painful. The smell of my own shampoo, or certain foods, chemicals or perfumes I had been around for years caused a ‘flare’ of breathing and swallowing issues, as well as nausea, headaches and light-headedness. I couldn’t drive for a month – my brain was unable to react to the stimulation that quickly. I couldn’t take the heat, or extreme cold. Cognitive issues began to hit, and at times I went from being able to multitask to barely being able to balance a checkbook.  If I tried to work out, I would experience swallowing and breathing issues that could last a few minutes to an hour, which made staying active difficult. After seeing a few doctors, I made an appointment to see a neurologist. The MRI showed lesions on the brain that seemed to correlate to the symptoms I was having. It would be another two years and many tests, however, before I received a diagnosis.

In October 2014, I had an exacerbation that caused me to leave my job. For three months I could barely get out of bed and needed assistance with basic daily tasks. It was at this time I started to seriously research nutrition (Dr. Terry Wahl’s book, ‘The Wahl’s Protocol’, was a game changer). Since then, I’ve cut out most gluten, dairy and sugar, increased my intake of fruits and vegetables, focused on better stress management, and tried to be active every day. Unfortunately, there is not a magic pill that I can take to make it all better. It is a process, and it was a difficult transition, but there’s definite improvement.

Many processed foods simply do not feed our bodies at the cellular level the way our bodies need. I am a firm believer in the healing power of food and the need for a healthy lifestyle.

I am so grateful to Doug and the team here at Sensible Fitness who have helped me on this journey. When I started training in July, the first session I could only work out for 15 minutes and I had to rest for 2 days. Now, I am able to go twice a week (most of the time) and work out the entire hour.  I just walked a mile in my first 5K.”