P(MS) Squared - Multiple Sclerosis & The Ladies

You’ve been there. You know how it goes. You go through it monthly. No, not the lady issue! The MS symptoms pseudo-exacerbations. Hormones and multiple sclerosis are tightly packed, that’s why we can call them P(MS) squared: double the symptoms, double the “fun”.

Hormonal fluctuations affect women in many ways: mood, weight, food cravings, sex drive, etc. This is not your ordinary “woman-issues-post”. It is the one where being a woman with MS gets you a bit over the top, in many ways than one.

The Monthly Issue And Its Quirks
It happens every month. By now you are already used to it. It's not the shallow "womanly weakness thing" that sparks question marks all over the male population. It is a normal process through which the female body has  to go through in order for the species to reproduct. 

This issue must be treated with more consideration, as you don't go around punching in the face someone who has a toothache. You show compassion and try to comfort him / her. Same as for "that time of the month" for women. Hormones, cramping and mood fluctuations are enough trouble, thank you! Expect winning, tears and anger, because the body goes to a tough time.

How Does The Cycle Affect You?
The menstrual cycle is an inflammatory state, made up of two parts with specific manifestations:

1. The folicular phase - the endometer (the tissue that gets eliminated) is growing under the influence of estrogen secretion. This ramps up your old MS symptoms and it’s the time you may begin to gradually feel bad;

2. The luteal phase - the tissue becomes strongly vascularized and retains water under the influence of progesterone, preparing the body for an eventual pregnancy. At this stage your moodiness might be at high levels and also possibly having to deal with some of your MS symptoms even more.

Between these two, the ovulation takes place. Your body temperature begins to raise, and it stays like that until the menstruation begins. During the first phase, the estrogen levels are going up faster than the progesterone ones, and thus the endometer is growing. As ovulation is over, progesterone begins to spike up and raises your body core temperature.

Enter Progesterone
Although you might think that raising your temperature might be bad for your MS, progesterone is in fact not that bad for your brain. It helps with neural plasticity, with learning and memory and relieves stress and anxiety. 

During pregnancy, it is produced in large quantities by the ovaries and placenta. It has been said that a pregnancy protects from MS flare-ups, by neutralizing the immune attacks. The body needs to protect the fetus, and the T lymphocites enter a dormant state. 

After the birth, the immunity wakes up and flares can happen. But it’s only a normal process, as the body needs to heal itself from the pregnancy.

How To Deal With It?
Inflammation is really what MS is all about. The swelling of the nerve cells, by retaining water. The changes your body has to go through before, during and after the menstruation makes your MS react, as you go through issues like water retention, micro changes in the brain neurotransmitters and emotional fluctuation that keeps your stress levels high.

It’s not a lovely stage to be in, but this too shall pass. Like all the things you already went through. And by the age of 20, you should be used to the monthly issues by now. Here’s what you can do to ease it up for yourself.

The main goal is to reduce inflammation. Changing your eating habbits helps a great deal.

Water is being retained in your body (brain included) by salt, thus you need to lower salt intake. Use spices, mustard and lemon to flavour your meals. Since we're mentioning it, try to drink moderate amounts of water, as too much of it has the potential to damage the myelin covering by raising edema in the brain. Salt and sugar also contribute to this.

Cut out sugar, white flour and dairy to limit bloating and insulin fluctuations.

Limit / eliminate caffeine. Be it coffee, caffeinated drinks or cocoa. Drink green or herbal tea instead. It contains a light dose og caffeine, just enough to give you energy, but not to much as to amplify your headaches, tension and anxiety.

Avoid chemicals such as aspartame, splenda and sodium monoglutamate. On top of their general excitotoxicity (they affect the brain), they make PMS even worse, and by that your pseudo-exacerbations could flare-up.

Increase intake of vitamin B6. It is involved in the production of myelin and thus helps with brain health. You can find it in spinach, carrots, fish, liver, eggs.

Zinc and magnesium are also good for you during this time of month. They help you cope with stress, fatigue and reducing the inflammatory state. These two help with production and regulation of progesterone, thus making you feel better.

Wraping Things Up!
Nutrition, keeping your minerals and vitamins in check is a good way to help you with PMS and MS symptoms. 

Be sure to also add exercise to the equasion so that you can reap the whole benefits. Moving your body helps you relax, get rid of excess calories and makes the lymphatic system work better, draining your body of all that water retention.

All in all, this might seem like a “ladies-only” topic, but the guys can benefit from it as well. Keeping a healthy body when one has MS is not only a female concern. 

Eat healthy, exercise and find time to relax and destress.

When all things seem to go bad, just smile, breathe and know that this too shall pass.


Question: How are you dealing with these issues on a montly basis? Share your answer on our Facebook, Twitter or in a comment down below. Thak you for visiting!