Is There Really Anything to Being On an MS Diet? We Think So
Early in discovering how to cope with MS symptoms, the nurse who works in Lynn’s neurologist’s office suggested that he might want to see a registered dietician. Lynn was feeling pretty rough all the time. He had no energy and more than that, he just felt bad. She shared that her husband had been seeing someone who had really made a difference in how he was now feeling. Though her husband did not have MS, she strongly suggested we give it a try; so we did! Two years later, I must say, it’s the best decision we ever made. In fact, Lynn was just saying today that if he had to give up all his doctors/therapist but one, the one he would keep is his nutritionist!
The first step we took when seeing the nutritionist was to keep track of EVERYTHING he ate for a week. This allowed her to see what his eating habits were --what might be good and what might need to change. The first thing she told us that had to change immediately was that he needed to stop eating dairy and become gluten free. Both dairy products and gluten create more inflammation in the body. Her goal was to reduce or eliminate as many foods as possible that would trigger an inflammatory response. The next goal was to increase ingredients into the diet that would support the neurological system. She had attended a conference where the research of Terry Wahl was presented. Dr. Wahl had secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and went from being wheelchair bound and unable to do much of anything to using only a cane, riding horses and returning full time to work. Hearing that; we were hooked on trying it.
The premise of Dr. Wahl’s research is that foods carry essential nutrients that support cell growth and development. They are the fuel for our bodies. Therefore, if part of the body isn’t working well, focusing on providing the body with the specific fuel needed to heal the weakened area might be the solution. In her book, Minding My Mitochondria, Dr. Wahl explains one of the theories associated with why myelin is destroyed. “The cause of the damage to the body of a person with MS has been identified as antibody complexes that destroy myelin, the protective covering surrounding nerves.” The most essential component for nerve cell function is the mitochondria. The mitochondria’s job is to get rid of the poison and other toxins we take into our bodies. Without strong mitochondria, these poisons get stored in our cells and ultimately cause all kinds of damage. By helping the mitochondria to be healthy again, we empower the body to clean out the garbage and work efficiently. …or something like that. Therefore, in trying to help heal her own body, she identified which foods helped the mitochondria the best and focused on consuming as much of them as possible.
Lynn’s nutritionist researched Dr. Wahl’s recommendations as well as looking at other MS research and told us she really felt we should give it a try. Here’s what she recommended based on that research:
Eat the following daily: (1 cup uncooked=1/2 cup cooked)
3 cups green leafy vegetables
3 cups cruciferous vegetables
3 cups bright colored fruits/vegetables (red, orange, purple, dark blue, black)
Animal protein: 4 oz grass fed beef, pastured pork or poultry, grass fed lamb, wild fish.
Add in mushrooms, onion/shallots, garlic, chives (about 1 cup)
No dairy only almond, rice, or coconut milk
No gluten, rye, wheat, barley,
She had some other recommendations, too, but the above are the basics. Lynn started on this diet about two years ago and has progressively gotten better. No, he’s not walking like Dr. Wahl did but he doesn’t feel nearly as bad as he used to. He has more muscle strength and is healthier over all than he has been in years. He also has not had an exacerbation in two years and at his last neurologist appointment, his doctor said, “You’re definitely better and it’s not due to anything I’ve done.” Do I believe that it is all due to this diet—no, I don’t. I think it’s due to diet, his dedication to exercising …and my good care of him; but I absolutely believe it played a significant role. Would it work for you or the person you care for who has MS? Who knows? You can’t tell till you try it because every person is different and MS shows up differently in every person, but if it MIGHT work, why not try it? You have nothing to lose but not being able to indulge in junk food for a while.
There is one down side to this I should mention—it’s expensive unless you grow your own vegetables and raise your own animals for meat. Healthy food is more expensive…go figure. But if you feel better and get stronger, isn’t it worth the extra in the long run?
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?