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An Interview With Dr. George Jelinek on Overcoming MS (And a Book Giveaway!)

When you live with a chronic disease you never stop searching for ways to improve your quality of life. When I learned that Dr. George Jelinek, the author of “Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: An Evidence Based Guide to Recovery” and “Recovering from Multiple Sclerosis: Real Life Stories of Hope and Inspiration” was interested in being interviewed, I looked forward to the opportunity to speak with him.

Dr. Jelinek’s personal story is a bit unique. His mother developed MS while he was studying medicine at The University of Western Australia. Deep in the throes of his studies, he was unable to help his mother while her disease quickly progressed. By the time he became qualified in medicine, she was wheelchair bound.

A few years later she took her own life.

Dr. Jelinek became a specialist in Emergency Medicine in Australia, and was an Editor-in-Chief at a major medical journal, providing him with the right tools to sift through and synthesize available medical research on MS.

But, the age of 45, he began to experience undeniable symptoms that ultimately led to a diagnosis of MS.

Being a man of science, Dr. Jelinek saw his diagnosis as a challenge. He felt a calling to discover ways of living a life of quality despite having MS. Terrified of becoming dependent on his young family, he turned his devastation into hope and set about to discover how to live a long and healthy life.

During our conversation, he often spoke about the need to return hope to people who lost theirs, wanting to find a way to help them feel they are still in charge of their health and their future. Through evidence-based analysis, reviewing (and initiating) medical research and leading a global study, Dr. Jelinek found that if people adopt a few lifestyle changes – a diet low in saturated fat, high in fruit and vegetables, an appropriate amount of grains, nuts, seeds, flaxseed oil and fish, an appropriate amount of sunshine (or taking a Vitamin D supplement) and beginning the practice of meditation and mindfulness – it can change the paradigm of MS from a life of disease and relapse to ultimate recovery.

The doctor supports his own findings by following them himself. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Since his diagnosis in 1999 he has had no relapses, and finds no need for any medication.

Recently, Dr. Jelinek led a global study called HOLISM (an independent research funded by philanthropic institutions and individuals, which takes on an epidemiological approach) that included 2,500 MS patients from 57 countries. The patients who followed his prescribed diet reached a lower level of disability and a better quality of life.

That is something worth thinking about.

“This is the first time that the dietary habits of a large international sample of people with MS have been correlated with a range of health outcomes. This is significant because with relatively small changes in diet we find dramatic reductions in disability for those with MS. With every 10% improvement in how you eat, we found a 30% reduced risk of more serious disability.” ~Dr. George Jelinek

His latest findings can soon be found in the publication Nutritional Neuroscience.

I asked Dr. Jelinek about the difference between his diet and the popular Swank Diet. The Swank Diet is also low in saturated fat and polyunsaturated oils, and also claims to help MS patients live a healthy and productive life.

Dr. Jelinek found it encouraging that half of the people who stayed on The Swank Diet stuck to it over a long amount of time because they became less disabled, yet he found that a small percentage were still deteriorating. In his words, “We can do better than that.”

He studied The Swank Diet and found “it was clear that people who were counting under 20 grams of saturated fat had a good outcome but were still disabled.” He wanted to become more vigilant than Dr. Swank, and with his study of 2,500 people, he found that it was a “snapshot across the world that people do better if they don’t eat meat or dairy. People who have better fat intakes, less saturated fat and mostly essential fatty acids are less disabled and have a better quality of life.”

On the retreats he leads in Australia, Dr. Jelinek has witnessed many incredible stories. He recalls one man arriving in a wheelchair, yet at the end of the retreat he had profound improvement, mainly due to the removal of depression.

“Depression exacerbates the disease. If you can alleviate the depression it helps with less relapses. If you’ve been to our retreats you’re less likely to be depressed. Your life begins to look different after you learn that you can actively participate in improving your health. This empowers a patient.”

To learn more about Dr. Jelinek, his work, and to find support on following his program, please visit his website Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis.

GIVEAWAY: Dr. Jelinek has generously donated a copy of his books, “Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis” and “Recovering From Multiple Sclerosis” for one lucky winner. To enter, please leave a comment after this post. Two winners will be randomly selected from the comments below. The deadline to enter is June 30,2014!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Judy
    5 years ago

    Yes, I was really having some wacko days (if you will) and I had them it seemed like everyday for ten years. And finally after all that stuff going to many different doctors and many kinds of medicines I was finally told I had MS. Actually I felt relieved they finally put a name with all of this weird stuff going on with my body. Now after 29 years I am on tefedera and having much prayer I am doing wonderful. I praise God everyday for this.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your personal story, Judy. Here’s to continued wellness.

    Cathy

  • Lovee
    5 years ago

    Hi, I have had MS since 1976 and have been fairly lucky. Lot of relapses in the beginning, but was able to work full time as a Registered Nurse almost 30 years. Lately I have begun to deteriorate, falls, poor balance, extreme fatigue. Due to fatigue I am now obese. I tried low carb (Atkins), but it made me dizzier. I would love to read this book and see if this is something that could help me. I am in my sixties and would like to think that I had more to life than what I have now.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Lovee, I am sorry that you are experiencing such issues with your MS, and that you find some answers to help you toward wellness.

    I am sorry that the contest is over, but I hope you take a look at this book, and others, that offer ways to have a good and sensible diet.

    Best to you always, Lovee.

  • VISHNU
    5 years ago

    This is truly inspiring. I wish I could get to know this Dr. and find a cure for my sister. She lost all her hope. I want to help her.. May be this diet would help her.. I hope for the best..

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    I am sorry she has lost all hope, Vishnu. She is blessed to have a brother like you who cares about her so much. Please keep searching for answers until you find something that may help her as much as possible.

    Best to you both,
    Cathy

  • Renee
    5 years ago

    I have been diagnosed since February 2012. Prior to my diagnosis I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity (I rather say fat). Trying to cope with fatigue and depression, raising a family of 3 and working full time and putting on my super mom cap at home and teaching. I realize I used carbohydrates for quick fuel, anxiety, and depression. I have taken off the super cap but having 3 relapse since diagnosed and still working and raising my family I would love to try these habits on my overweight family, and children which are vitamin D deficiency. I see my early symptoms in them and if I can prevent them from hearing “Sorry, You have MS” This struggle will be worth it. ♡

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Congratulations on winning the books, Renee! I hope you enjoy them. Please let us know your thoughts.

    Best to you always~
    Cathy

  • MultipleSclerosis.net
    5 years ago

    Hi Renee, Lucky #3 was our winner for the book giveaway – that’s you! Can you please send your mailing address to contact@health-union.com so we can send those out to you asap? Thanks so much, The MultipleSclerosis.Net Team

  • kathyslc
    5 years ago

    This diet certainly sounds like it’s worth a try. (Although having been overweight and on diets most of my life I hate diets!) Maybe with the motivation of reading these books, I would be encouraged to try again!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    It’s always helpful to find encouragement in anything, kathyslc. I am glad you found some here. Good luck with the contest!

    Cathy

  • Chrisite
    5 years ago

    This is very encouraging to me because finally the role of diet in MS may be taken more seriously. I’m convinced my MS was triggered if not caused (at least in part) by environmental factors, not the least of which is the rapid decline in the quality and safety of our food. This article also confirms something I noted while researching the available drugs when I had to stop taking my previous therapy. I was using PubMed and there were quite a few forums where people were using diet and lifestyle changes instead of medication. I tried to follow Swank when first diagnosed but I quickly became too disabled to cook and too broke to buy food. Now I get Meals On Wheels and I’m grateful to even have food but I know it’s probably not ideal. Still it’s likely better than before when I’d go so long between meals I couldn’t remember what day I last ate. I’m sure that’s not healthy either. I’d love to have the book and see if it’s something I might be able to do. Thanks for the link to the website!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    You are more than welcome, Chrisite. I wish you a better journey now, and hope that your Meals on Wheels provides you with healthy food to continue your healthy eating – it sounds like they are, so that’s great.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and good luck!
    Cathy

  • Denise
    5 years ago

    I believe diet plays a significant role. Living on a fixed income, at times, prevents me from getting the quality of food needed. In addition, being a senior and getting Meals on Wheels does not follow the right kind of diet. It would be good to have these programs specify some dietary needs for those with MS. Also, wouldn’t it be grand if someone started a business that provided meals tailor for those with MS.

  • Dianna lyn
    5 years ago

    Denise, I agree..i even grow my own healthy vegs which is the best thing to do!..also no way am I going to stop drinking my vitamin D milk ..i love it. Gives me energy along with my cheeseburgers..so there you go!..i have to have iron and vitamin D..i am deficient in both…and I weigh about 132..so far, Lord willing, still walking!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Ah, yes it would be wonderful Denise. My wish for you is that it happens, and that you can find ways to get the healthy foods you need and deserve.

    Best always~
    Cathy

  • loree hart
    5 years ago

    Thanks so much for bringing attention to diet for those with MS Cathy. My 22 yr. old son was diagnosed 3 years ago and is unable to tolerate any meds. the ONLY medication he takes is Low-dose Naltrexone. He does take supplements of course. He’s completely into the all natural methods of controlling his health and eats a 100% clean diet – which for him means no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no processed food, and no preservatives or artificial ingredients – in anything. He only eats organic raw vegetables – except starchy and most night-shade, organic fruit, wild caught deep sea fish and some organic, grass fed meats on occasion. That’s it. Absolutely NO fast food EVER and very very rarely is he willing to eat at a restaurant unless it’s FULLY vetted by him! 😉 We’re convinced this is what has kept him out of a wheel chair as he’s clearly had MS most of his life even though it was only diagnosed recently. We are what we eat! Thanks to people like you for offering hope by educating the masses. We’ll all be healthier and lead better quality lives.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    So great of you to share that here, Loree. What a wonderful diet your son is on and so good to know it is working for him. I hope he continues his path of wellness for many years to come.

  • Kris
    5 years ago

    I was diagnosed with MS in 2012. I was unable to tolerate/ absorb any injectable treatment and began GILENYA, but I’ve recently switched to tecfidera. My sister lives in south Florida, and read about a woman there, who with the help of her husband has been diagnosed for over ten years and has never taken any needs, nor has she had a relapse. She instead chose to eat cleanly to treat her MS. Her belief appears to be the same as this: all natural, mostly vegan, fish, fruits and vegetables. I have adopted this lifestyle, much to the chagrin of everyone around me. I don’t believe it’s a penance to eat as I do, I think of it as taking care of myself. When I was diagnosed, I felt so out of control – my body was attacking itself! By eating cleanly and healthy (with a dose of yoga and exercise) I feel like I am back in control! It’s so refreshing to read about how to take back that control!

  • Angela
    5 years ago

    Hi Kris,

    Are you referring to Ivy Larson and her husband, Dr. Andrew Larson? If so, then you’re right! I got her book and she has some terrific ideas on how to take control of what we can control, which includes what we put into and on our bodies, and how we move them.

    Would love to know what you think of her book if you’ve had an opportunity to read it!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    How wonderful for you, Kris, to live such a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. Very disciplined which is paying you off with good results. Thank you so much for sharing your story here. It is an important one, and we appreciate it.

    Best,~
    Cathy

  • George Jelinek
    5 years ago

    Hi everyone

    Great to see how much interest Cathy’s article has generated. Just to respond to a couple of common questions… People sometimes talk about my theories. Actually, I just stick to the evidence. The book has over 700 references from the major medical journals. The OMS approach is actually all about using the best available evidence to get the best possible outcome from MS. It’s really not about theories at all, just old-fashioned science. As a medical professor who has lived most of my life around MS (Mum died due to the illness in 1981), to be diagnosed myself in 1999 was of course a huge shock. But the diagnosis really provided me with an opportunity to explore what is possible, and I quickly came to the conclusion that deterioration isn’t the only possible outcome from MS if one applies the best preventive medicine approach, reducing the risk of progression by modifying lifestyle factors that cause people to deteriorate. These are actually well known: a high saturated fat diet, low levels of omega 3 in the diet, low vitamin D levels and lack of sun exposure, stress, and so on. To embark on a complete makeover of your life can be daunting…. but 15 years on I remain fit and well, running or swimming every day, and never fitter! It certainly is possible, and our research confirms that. Have a look at http://www.overcomingms.org to see all the details.

    Overcoming MS is possible! Thanks Cathy for bringing this to a wider audience….

    Be well

    George

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thank you, Dr. Jelinek, for addressing some of our readers questions. I am glad you had a chance to take a look and respond, and I again thank you for taking the time to speak with me, and also for donating two of your books for our giveaway.

    Stay well,
    Cathy

  • Angela
    5 years ago

    I’ve been living with #MS for some time, and diagnosed a dozen years ago. In that time, I’ve had a number of people give me information on how to effect a “cure” for #MS through the use of a variety of things, including diet. I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic when it comes to these, because the nature of the disease as it presents most often is that there are periods of relapse and periods of remission. What’s to say that those who use these methods are not just in a remission period?

    That said, over the past 2.5 years, I’ve made a concerted effort to take control of my health through eating foods as close to nature (unprocessed) as possible; exercising regularly in both an aerobic and anaerobic capacity, including strength training; and working daily to push myself to find the limits for that day and to press right up against them. In this time, I’ve shed 174 lbs, and have been able to extend my ability to walk for miles at a time (half marathon levels!)–neither of which was possible prior to undertaking these changes. So, I understand the role that diet, exercise, and attention to wellness can play in helping to mitigate life with #MS.

    I’ve had no clinical return of pre-disability functionality, but I am creating a new normal that does not look like what disability has been for me previously.

    So, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what this book holds and learning more from Dr. Jelinek on how to continue along this path and to decrease or eliminate the chances of further disability. Thank you for the opportunity!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your personal story with us, Angela. You’ve been on the right track! I hope you continue your wonderful story of wellness for many years to come.

    Best always~
    Cathy

  • NikkiL
    5 years ago

    I would love to win this book.. I have been trying to find a way to improve my diet and eating habits to help with my MS.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Good luck to you, Nikki!

    Best to you always~
    Cathy

  • Liz
    5 years ago

    I have had MS for over 10 years. I too am a full time teacher. I have also been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome. My joints are constantly in pain, so now they are testing me for RA and lupus. My plate is full. I can definetely stand to lose about 20-30 pounds. This book sounds good. I would love the opportunity to read it! Thanks!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    I am sorry you are having so many health issues, Liz, and I will keep you in my prayers for better health. I thank you for sharing your story with us, and good luck on winning the book.

    Best~
    Cathy

  • itasara
    5 years ago

    I read a lot of articles about MS. The article in the email before this talked about diet and basically said “Not a single MS Diet, to my knowledge, has stood the test of legitimate scrutiny based on science” and you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. However, I think eating what Dr. Jelinek suggests is generally a good idea for everyone. I myself try to stay away from carbs and have lossed a lot of weight doing so. However the so far-non progressivenss of my MS I believe is more genetic than anything-maybe luck and maybe the D3 and other suppliments I take! My daughter who is 35 years younger than I was dx before me and she too is doing very well I would like more specifics from his book, but unless I get a copy I’m not going to spring for it.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Well then good luck to you, itasara. I hope you and your daughter a good quality of life, and thank you so much for sharing your personal story.

    Best always!
    Cathy

  • jbain510
    5 years ago

    Funny that this topic is here today. I just ordered Dr. Wahl’s book. Officially diagnosed with MS in 1989, I have resisted changing my diet for MS. As a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I have always felt I eat healthy. Now I’m wondering if I could and should so better.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Weight Watchers, in my opinion, is an excellent way of life, jbain510. Healthy eating is important with MS, so you are already ahead of the game!

    Best to you always~
    Cathy

  • Artie
    5 years ago

    I find the role of diet to be very interesting – based on Jelinek’s theories and Wahls, I have modified my diet even though I felt that I was relatively a healthy eater all along. I have always believed in the power of exercise/movement to have a positive impact on MS. I was diagnosed in 1980 and am now in a wheelchair. Diet modification and exercise continue to allow me to have a high quality of life – count me as a believer

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    I am so glad you are a believer! That is extremely important and helpful. I hope you continue to keep that positive spirit that you have, LD Artman.

    Best always~
    Cathy

  • Laurie
    5 years ago

    Hmm… This is very interesting. I would love to win his book and read more into this. I currently am using the Swank diet, so it would be interesting to see what changes I need to add for this. I am certainly open to trying anything to overcome my MS.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    So if you begin on Dr. Jelinek’s Diet you can compare notes!

    Thank you for sharing your story, Laurie.

    Best always~
    Cathy

  • Lasangela
    5 years ago

    Interesting. I eat whole, healthy food as well as take probiotics. I had a horrible infection last summer and was hospitalized for a month with multiple surgeries. No MS flare up. Pretty amazing. Even off medication for 2 months, still no flare up. Something was working for me!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Here’s to continuing wellness to you, Lasangela. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Best~
    Cathy

  • Tiffany
    5 years ago

    I would love a copy of thebooks

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    I wish I had more to give away, Tiffany. Best of luck!

    Cathy

  • Outdoorslover
    5 years ago

    Food is medicine Dr. Jelinek has paved a path for us to follow if we choose to get better.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Exactly right, Outdoorslover!

  • Rachel77
    5 years ago

    Hi – I have been following Professor Jelinek’s programme for just over a year and I am already feeling the benefits. My symptoms are gradually lessening and fatigue is a thing of the past. We have a wonderful, supportive and positive community on the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis site. I can highly recommend it!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Oh, that is wonderful to hear Rachel77! Thank you for sharing your story with us. We are so happy to have you join this conversation!

  • Tori
    5 years ago

    I was diagnosed with MS in 1996. I’ve tried Avonex, didn’t agree with me. I had minor symptoms over the years, but haven’t had anything that I think is too bad since I was pregnant with my only child in 2004. I am very careful with handling my sleep needs and stress levels, in spite of teaching full time and raising my son alone. I do not want to go back on any MS meds if I can help it. This might be a solution that would really benefit me and others; I’m willing to try it, even if I end up purchasing the book!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thank you for your comment, Tori. You sound like a strong woman raising a son and working full-time while living with MS. Many people also try alternative routes to help them, including special diets. Since MS is different in everyone, what works for one person may or may not work for the other. Keep exploring what works for you, and good luck with this contest!

    Best,
    Cathy

  • celena
    5 years ago

    I would love to win this so my other half who has MS can read it – and so will I!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    What a wonderful caregiver you are, celena. Thanks for stopping by and reading my post! Good luck.

    Cathy

  • kitminden
    5 years ago

    Have you been able to figure out the differences between this diet and Dr Wahls’s diet?

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Kit,

    No, Kit. He really didn’t get into it. He only said Dr. Wahl’s diet is a good one, but he does not believe coconut oil (which I believe you asked about and Dr. Wahl likes) is very healthy.

    I guess we’ll have to read up on it a bit more.

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