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.
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!