The Incredible Shrinking Brain

Like Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease.

Neurodegeneration is the progressive loss of structure or function of neurons, including death of neurons. Many neurodegenerative diseases – including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease – occur as a result of neurodegenerative processes. Such diseases are incurable, resulting in progressive degeneration and/or death of neuron cells.  As research progresses, many similarities appear that relate these diseases to one another on a sub-cellular level.

First, everyone needs to know that starting at the age of 40, your brain will shrink about 5% every 10 years. This is a normal part of the aging process, just like wrinkles in you skin, gray in your hair our brains show signs of aging. Once a person reaches the age of 60 the atrophy becomes a little quicker.

People with neurodegenerative diseases will experience more atrophy at a faster rate. Atrophy of the brain happens with neuron cell death, and the connections between those neurons.

High Dose Biotin (300mg) has been shown in several studies to help slow down atrophy in MS brains. This B vitamin is considered safe to take at high doses because your body does not store this and just gets rid of any extra. The recommended daily dose is 30mcg for normal, healthy people. It is thought that high dose biotin can help repair the damaged myelin around the damaged neurons. Studies are happening around the world for Primary Progressive and Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and how high dose biotin can possibly slow the progression of the disease and assist with pain, energy, vision and partial paralysis.

In Alzheimer’s patients, low hippocampal volume is the marker before any other symptoms show. In MS patients the atrophy does not stick to one particular area of the brain. Since brain atrophy causes diminished communication between neurons, and myelin break down does the same it’s not really surprising that atrophy is increased in those with MS and causes more disability progression.

A paper published this year regarding a study of healthy individuals and MS patients looked at the lateral ventricular volume and white matter volume in similar age groups. The study showed that in people with MS showed that of the groups, 30-69 year old patients had increased lateral ventricular volume compared to “healthy” people. In addition, MS patients showed decrease in white matter volume for groups between the ages of 20-59 years of age.

Excitingly, there is software now that can automatically take these measurements during the annual MRIs most of us MS patients get. At my local MS Center they use NeuroQuant software and the report is automatically saved on the disc with images when I leave with it the same day. NeuroSTREAM is just on of the other options, there are a couple others and with new technology advances I am excited to see what comes next.

I personally, have the last 4 years of my measurement reports and I keep them in my bullet journal I use to track symptoms, activities, and daily health stats like temp, blood pressure and others.

Not everyone is going to want to have this information and will just let their healthcare professionals give them the information they feel is valid, and that is completely okay. Personally, I love the information, I like having it ready and it gives me time to process the information and form educational questions that I feel are valid.



Need to Know: High-dose Biotin Protocol

High-Dose Biotin May Be an Effective Treatment for Progressive MS

Brain Atrophy in MS Patients May Soon Be More Easily and Routinely Examined


Checking In

I realized a couple of days ago that I am in kind of a slump emotionally. This year has been a whirlwind of one thing after another and most of it has been stressful.

I haven’t felt like blogging, reading, genealogy or anything. Today I had therapy and was discussing how I’m just not feeling it. My mind of course goes first to my anxiety meds, changed over a month ago, do they need to be adjusted?

We discussed all the things that have been happening, my switch to keto which is going fairly well. I mentioned Oak (service dog) had a vet check last week and his public access test yesterday. I went to my second graders class too to discuss Service dogs, the different jobs they do and what you can and should not ask/do.

When she asked me how I felt about all those positive things I had no answer… Fine I guess.

Then I told her about the upcoming MRI on Thursday, the annual check of lesions and atrophy of my brain. I love MRIs, I love looking at the disc of images, how else would you ever get to see your brain?!

With her help I discovered the anxiety that comes with this imaging. Being denied my medication for so long before finally starting a new med that I had a lot of side effects from. There is so much pending this test that consciously I wasn’t noticing.

Did the delay cause more lesions? Did the high dose biotin help reduce the atrophy? When in the previous year there was a huge percentage of atrophy compared to “normal” MS patients.

So while I’m not scared to get in the tube for 45 minutes and I enjoy having information, I am very worried about what the information will be.


Ketogenic Diet, Nutrition & Multiple Sclerosis – Introduction

This is not a post about the “fad diet”, rather information I gathered through research and my attempt to balance my system after a nonstop, downward spiral of MS and other diseases.

The first big nutrition information that came out in regards to MS was Terry Wahl and her Wahl’s Protocol. This was huge! She went from a wheelchair to walking and riding bikes, from her book mostly due to diet changes, which were paleo-ketogenic changes. Now the original book was hardcore, way more than what I was willing to do. When I was diagnosed with MS all I really had going for me was the delicious food I loved.

When I was first diagnosed the neurologist (several actually) pressed upon me a healthy diet. They never explained why though, I am a information and science kind of a girl and I am not going to do something just because you tell me to and say it’s healthy. I mean it wasn’t terribly long ago that people swallowed Radium because they thought it was healthy.

There are posts about Keto and MS on Reddit from more than 6 years ago, definitely before it really hit mainstream. Paleo has also been long thought to help, due to the fact that you are not eating any processed foods, most of which can trigger inflammation in the body. Though it is now known to not be a wholly inflammation disease (neuro-degeneration continues without inflammation) for a substantial portion of it’s history it was believed to be just that. Inflammation is the reason that people who have relapses get steroids, calms it down very quickly.

So what is Ketogenic? It was originally designed in 1921 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic for the treatment of epilepsy in children (this was before anti-convulsant medications). This original diet plan was 90% fat, 6% protein and 4% carbs, ack! There have been four additional versions since Dr. Wilder’s introduction of this diet for treatment of epilepsy. If you want to see that stats and some nifty graphs and charts definitely visit because those are helpful.

The most common version of the diet now is 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbs, this comes close to the “modified keto” which is 70, 15 and 15. “The diet enhances the ability of mitochondria, the power plants of our cells, to deliver our bodies’ energy needs in a manner that reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.” There’s the science I was looking for, turns out mitochondria are a big part of MS.

During the first attacks of MS, immune cells are mistakenly allowed through the blood brain barrier (it’s called a barrier for a reason, nothing is supposed to go through). With each attack the barrier becomes easier and easier to access. Once they realized MS wasn’t a diseased caused by inflammation and they started looking at numerous other things they found a pattern of dysfunctional mitochondria and damaged mtDNA (this is DNA inherited from the mother). I would be interested to know if this is why women are more likely to have MS than men.

“A ketogenic diet causes your body to burn off fat rather than carbohydrates. Glucose is the body’s preferred fuel, but a change in metabolism occurs when you restrict your intake of carbohydrates. Your liver starts producing bodies called ketones. These ketones appear to protect the cells of the nervous system, the site of damage in MS. ”

Interestingly, ketones reduce toxic effects of glutamate acid, which is a byproduct of injury to the brain and keytones are an alternative energy source during metabolic stress. The key to this diet change is eating good, healthy fats (avocados, coconut, olive oil, fish and nuts) and not heavy in the not as healthy fats mostly bacon and cutting out all processed foods and complex carbs. Ketogenic diet also helps decrease cancer/cancer cells, which thrive on glucose and insulin, can increase your HDL levels which will help lower your overall cholesterol levels.

The Ketogenic diet, which has been around for 95 years has been looked at for helping Multiple Sclerosis patients for at least the last 3 years. The book Wahl’s Protocol came out in 2014, so 5 years if you count that. There a multiple considerations when deciding if you are going to try Keto though, you should always talk to your doctor first, especially if you have more than one health concern.