Mind, Body and Spirit
For the past 17 years, ALS Worldwide has supported thousands of patients, encouraging them to maintain a positive attitude, surround themselves with people who care about them, enjoy life and cultivate and nurture hope. Daily meditation provides a sense of calmness. Weekly massages help activate muscles. Yoga involves breathing which positively affects the diaphragm and Tai Chi helps improve balance. Exercise, in moderation, helps lift the spirit as well as energize the body. Maintaining weight through a healthy, high fat, high protein diet, is essential for body strength.
There are 3 important areas worthy of attention. First, it's important to maintain weight because weight loss contributes to muscle atrophy and weakness. Second, the diaphragm is a voluntary muscle that forces the lungs to inhale and exhale. When the diaphragms weaken, shortness of breath can occur. So it’s important to keep the diaphragm strong by doing a simple breath exercise several times a day. Inhale deeply, hold breath as long as possible, and then exhale fully. Third, it’s important to stay healthy and not contract an infection. Stay away from anyone who is sick. If you have a sore throat or a stuffy nose, remain at home, drink plenty of fluids and if needed, request an antibiotic from your physician.
Many with ALS live, long and fulfilling lives, some for twenty, even thirty years by remaining positive and focusing on exercise, nutritional benefits and emotional well-being.
Bernie Siegel was the first to suggest we have the ability to heal ourselves holistically in his acclaimed book titled, “Peace, Love and Healing”. While this has become something of a catch phrase, it certainly rings true for the ALS patient community. A positive attitude, love from and for someone in your life, friends, family, and a sense of optimism for today and the future – all of these and more make a huge difference in disease progression, quality of life, symptom management.
Exercise is important because it helps keep the body invigorated within moderation. It's important not to become exhausted, sweaty or experience muscle strain. Rather, create a weekly routine of no more than fifteen minutes of exercise at one time. Exercise your hands by squeezing two squishy balls while relaxing. Physical therapy can help keep your muscles strengthened. A pedaler is an excellent investment. It's an inexpensive, small piece of equipment that can be placed on a table or the floor to exercise arms and legs safely.
Range of Motion Exercises are gentle and helps keep the muscles strong if done on a daily basis. Many can be performed without assistance and yet energize the body, raise the sarotonin levels in the brain and create a greater sense of well being.
Meditation on a daily basis can provide a sense of calmness. Weekly massages help activate the muscles. Yoga and Tai Chi are both excellent forms of exercise because many of the poses and movements involve breathing which positively affects the diaphragm and can be adapted to your needs and capabilities.
Weight loss is a pressing issue for many. Therefore, it’s important to maintain and, if needed, gain weight. Maintaining weight is very important because weight loss contributes to muscle atrophy and weakness. So it’s important to stay strong and eat well which includes plenty of protein and fat to nourish muscles. To avoid weight loss, eat smaller amounts 5-6 times a day. A mid-morning and mid-afternoon protein supplement rich shakes can be an effective option.
Dr. Pamela Shaw, renowned neurologist and Director of the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience in Sheffield, England, developed the Nrf2 Diet, which is a collection of common and delicious food sources containing important nutrients.
Being able to communicate with family, colleagues and friends helps maintain independence and positive feelings. Muscle weakness, atrophy and paralysis cause speech to become difficult or impossible for someone living with ALS/MND. However, communication can be continued through other means.