Food for Thought 

Elections huh? I can’t say I have much interest or knowledge to be able to share my opinion on who anyone should have voted for and why. Not a great attitude I know. So I’ve said to myself “Self, you’re going to have to change your attitude and figure out what’s important to you when it comes to matters of politics”. I suppose everyone with an interest has issues they zone in on and vote for the candidate who claims to share their grievances. That’s understandable. So what’s my grievance?

There are regular protests throughout the country which sometimes catch my attention and other times seem to me as unnecessary. None of them have me out on the streets with banners joining in and calling for revolution. That’s just me. But surely one thing at least must matter enough for even me to call for some sort of reform. No government is perfect and from my limited knowledge they, more often than not, get things wrong rather than right. It’s an unenviable job as far as I can tell. Many of the candidates who will be lifted aloft this weekend will inevitably be booed or disgraced at some stage during their tenure. That’s what they’ve signed up for. That’s politics. That’s life.

By the way I did vote on Friday; in case you were wondering 🙂

So what is important to me? Well I’ve had to take into consideration what I’ve been learning over the last year or so; not only about myself but about society as a whole. Obviously nutrition is a big thing for me. But I’ve only started to look after myself better because I have to and even at that I’m not documenting what I eat on a daily basis. I’m just mindful of it. So I wouldn’t be forcing my outlook on diet and exercise on anybody although admittedly I can get a bit preachy at times. I suppose I do have a good reason for that. So what has nutrition got to do with politics? In my opinion, everything!

Ireland has an ageing population. This brings with it many concerns. There’s many googleable (it’s a word) statistics and facts to back this up.  There is an undeniable pensions boom en route. People are getting older and living longer into their retirement. In addition, the demand for nursing homes is increasing rapidly each year. So what can be done about this? To me it’s clear. By educating ourselves we can at the very least have a better understanding of how to look after ourselves better so that we give ourselves the best chance of facing old age with a clean bill of health. The pensionable age is increasing so we need to make sure we are fighting fit as a society to enjoy the pensionable years. And also so we don’t rely on the youth of today and future years to have to dedicate their lives looking after us. It might seem a bit drastic for a guy in his early thirties to be talking about pensions and nursing homes but there is a government document which addresses this also; The National Positive Ageing Strategy.

In this document we are advised that the choices that we make when young and middle aged will determine how healthy we will be in our old age… Many chronic diseases are largely preventable. Lifestyle factors including tobacco and alcohol usage, together with physical inactivity, poor nutrition/diet and obesity are key risk factors, along with high blood pressure and cholesterol. Many of these are also key risk factors for the development of dementia. 


This may not be ground-breaking information but if many diseases are preventable then what is being done about it? There is so much emphasis on finding cures and so much money being spent on research. I understand this is necessary but surely prevention is better than cure. I’m living proof that changing your diet can help you return to health and stay healthy (hopefully). To me the solution is obvious. We need a better understanding of what we are putting into our bodies. We all know certain drugs are bad yet people still take them. We know fast-food is bad yet we love a take-away chinese/chipper/pizza/and such and such. People will do what they want and that’s fair enough. But do we really know what food is good for us and how it can affect not only our health but our mood, information retention and energy levels? I really think that a programme needs to be put in place so that children are thought from early about the affects diet has on them. Not in a negative way but they should know what will give them energy and what will make them tired. What they should eat/drink on a daily basis and what they should eat/drink in moderation. I think nutrition should be thought at a basic level in primary schools and at a more detailed level in secondary schools. I know a lot of schools really encourage healthy eating yet the obesity rates among children is increasing so clearly the message isn’t getting across.

There are always barriers and obstacles in the way. The money that the likes of McDonalds and Burger King can put into their advertising campaigns can be enough to turn anyones head let alone an innocent child. Drug companies also would have a lot to lose if everyone looked after themselves better. Parents would have to change their eating habits if their children knew more about how to read ingredients than they did and I actually think that could be the biggest obstacle. Either way the ageing population is an issue that really needs to be addressed now so that we are prepared for the future. I’d hope that implementing a healthy living solution is something that can unify people and get us working together to make some sort of a better future (whatever that means). So far though it’s not something I’ve heard much mention of. And therein lies my grievance.



Agreeing Terms

A year ago, I met with a neurologist who told me I was going to relapse. It was only a matter of when. This was less than a month after being told that it was evident I had MS. My symptoms hadn’t improved since then so how could I relapse from something I hadn’t even recovered from? But what do I know? He’s the expert, I’m not. So I left the neurologist not knowing when I was going to get back to normal and even at that chances are this is going to happen to me again. Only thing is the next time the recovery wouldn’t be as complete. Each relapse is meant to chip away at you so even once you feel like you’ve recovered the everlasting damage is already there. This is something I found very hard to accept. This is something I still find very hard to accept. This is something I won’t accept. These were the terms of MS, not my terms.

I may appear to be in denial saying I won’t accept what an expert tells me is my fate. But as I have discovered MS is too complex to predict and abide by rules. Each case is unique (MS Snowflakes). I very nearly accepted my fate. I knew no different so what was there to question? Michelle booked me in with a nutritionist and bought a book online by Australian Professor George Jelinek called Overcoming MS. I didn’t think MS could be overcome. I thought Jelinek was just a pure optimist trying to make a few quid. Once I read his story though I knew he was onto something. His mother had died because of MS and then he was diagnosed. Clearly a learned man, he done extensive research altering his diet and upping his exercise levels. He has been relapse free since 1999. This really gave me hope.

I can’t say I’ve read Jelinek’s book thoroughly back to front. A lot of it can be quite in depth and I don’t claim to have the knowledge to understand what he’s talking about some of the time. The basics though are simple; Eat as natural food as possible (if food can go bad it’s likely to be good for you, if it doesn’t then it’s probably bad) and exercise regularly exerting proper bursts of energy. These are very natural ways to look after ourselves regardless of whether or not someone has a continuous illness. I’m currently trying to stick to a routine of preparing my own food for the day and exercising at a pace that suits me. In addition I take the drugs and vitamins prescribed to me. These are my terms and between these terms and the terms of MS we’re going to meet somewhere in the middle.

The Tale of the Three Brothers is a story within the Harry Potter World. Three brothers cheat Death using magic and as a result Death grants each brother a gift. The first brother requests a wand more powerful than any in existence; the Elder Wand. After killing an enemy, the first brother is murdered in his sleep and the wand stolen from him. I see Death as MS and Copaxone (my medication taking 3 times weekly by injecting) as the Elder Wand. A powerful asset but not reliable enough to hide me from MS forever. The second brother is given a resurrection stone to recall loved ones back from the dead. Although, to his devastation, they do not belong to the mortal world and he kills himself to be with them. The resurrection stone to me is exercising. Although extremely rewarding, it’s not something I will be able to rely on for my whole life. There will be times when it may not be an option for me as can happen to most people. There are many people who exercise regularly yet MS still creeps up on them.

The third brother asked for a cloak of invisibility to allow him to hide from Death. For me this represents good nutrition i.e. eating healthy. Exercising and prescription drugs are definitely beneficial but I can’t depend on them to be there in the long-run in the same way I can depend on my diet. Not that I eat extremely healthy day in day out (moderation) but it’s something I’m always going to be mindful of. These are the terms I am willing to agree with MS: “I will maintain a healthy lifestyle; taking the prescribed medication, exercising regularly to the best of my capability and sticking to a diet that I feel is good for me. And in return we will meet one day in the same manner Death meets the third brother.”

Though Death searched for the third brother for many years, he was never able to find him. It was only when he attained a great age that the youngest brother finally took off the Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to his son. And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, as equals.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling



George Jelinek’s response to this blog 👍🏻