What To Take If You Have Multiple Sclerosis
Welcome back to our focus on Multiple Sclerosis. In the previous article, I wrote primarily about the suspected causes of MS. In Part 2, the focus will be primarily on what to eat, what not to eat and what to nutritional supplementation to take. As I mentioned in Part 1
, I have added my clinical experiences of treating MS patients, as well as having researched the latest MS treatment regimes recommended by various experts in the field such as Drs. Klenner, Jelinek, Gaby and Dr. Roy Swank.
Those without MS haven’t got a clue
Generally speaking, those who have not got MS, have literally no idea what the MS patient goes through mentally, emotionally or physically. Even though I don’t have MS personally, I have had the clinical experience of witnessing first hand just how aggressive MS can be to a person emotionally and physically. One 49yr MS patient who came into our clinic for help a few months ago, was accused of “being drunk” at work, months before her diagnosis. Another said that her mother had MS, and was in a wheelchair within 3 years, she has just been diagnosed herself. Dr Krissansen, Associate Professor of the Auckland University says that when damage to the nerve fibres has already occurred, there is very little in current medicine that can be done to help. Damage is generally permanent. What I learned from reading Dr. Jelinek’s book entitled “Taking Control of MS” is that the first step you must do is to try to stop the damage from occurring.
Correct management early is the key
Unfortunately, some MS patients weaken at the prospect and find it all a bit too hard –undoing habits created over a lifetime – such as changing their diet for the better, starting to exercise and meditate daily, or perhaps having regular nutritional supplements – imagine if you were not proactive in trying to stop the damage occurring to your nervous system. Some people accept the diagnosis, and truly believe that the rest of their life is a downhill slide. How wrong! Imagine just how difficult it could be, if you were one of the MS patients who may decline rapidly, you couldn’t walk properly, had rely on a wheelchair, or you couldn’t pass urine or even eat properly. Just imagine that for one moment, then try to take heed of some of the following advice – it just may help your body in delaying the onset or reducing the damage, giving you more quality of life. I do not want to build false hope in MS patients out there, and I never said we can “cure” MS. It is possible however, if correct management is begun early, that correct diet and lifestyle changes will in many cases achieve near-complete relief of symptoms, according to Dr. Parris Kidd, a research scientist who has spent many years thoroughly researching chronic complex neurological disorders such as MS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease .
Western medicine does offer some hope in terms of preventing relapses. Some of the newer drugs such as interferon should reduce the number of relapses particularly with the very aggressive forms of MS. The problem with drug therapy always has been the side-effects, and MS patients are on the lookout for treatments which do work and have few side effects.
Multiple Sclerosis Specific Recommendations
Now, let’s have a look at my specific MS recommendations, based on the work of several experts. You may find some of these dietary or lifestyle views extreme, but excuse me, isn’t MS an extreme disease? I’ve always believed that the bigger the problem, the bigger the hammer. All I am asking you is to try these recommendations for six months and make up your own mind, and let me know how you go. What have you got to lose?
1. Drop the saturated fat
Both Dr. Swank and Dr. Jelinek both insist that you cut out saturated fats from your diet. While Dr. Swank recommends a restriction, he mentions that MS patients who fare the best are those who consume between 5 – 10 gr. of saturated fats per day, and recommends at aiming for less than 20g/day. Jelinek believes that for the best results possible, the most important thing you can do in your diet, is to exclude ALL saturated fats entirely. Dr. Swank got confused with his recommendations of saturated fats, and recommended that certain oils were ok, but forgot to understand that most all oils are a blend of mono unsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Likewise, Swank said to eat as much bread as you want, forgetting that a lot of commercial breads actually contain saturated fats, and then probably the cheaper saturated palm oil. Look for breads like the pitta breads, or those containing olive oil. Jelinek says that the crux of the matter is to cut out all animal fats, dairy products and the ‘hidden’ saturated fats in apparently vegetarian products like cakes, pastries, potato chips, etc. It is important to remember, that ‘foods’ like potato chips are up to 1/3 by weight of saturated fat (look at your greasy hands when you eat them) compared to say a piece of chicken breast with a little bit of the skin on it.
To arrest the progression of nerve damage, you have to make a drastic change with fats here. What does this mean to you? Well, for starters, no more ‘full-English fry-ups’ on a Sunday morning for one! If you have MS, you simply have to learn to live without saturated fats as much as possible. Be very careful of trans fatty acids, food manufacturers try to pass these off as healthy vegetable oils, but in fact they are modified and heated oils which have been made to preserve foods like biscuits, muesli bars, etc, allowing them to sit longer on supermarket shelves. Avoid them like the plague, they are bad for you in too many ways to mention. These modified fats compete with essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and 6, and affect the way your cell membranes (cell walls) function. Trans fatty acids and saturated fats makes cell walls more rigid and less pliable, preventing your cells from communicating effectively.
2. Stop these foods!
It has been said that with MS patients, it is not a matter of what you should eat, more a matter of pointing out the things that you shouldn’t.
- Meat – Avoid all red meats and pork – Particularly during your first year on the diet. This includes all processed meats (essentially anything from the “deli” section of your supermarket) like salami, sausages, canned meats, corned beef, silverside, ALL red meats (even the ‘premium’ beef mince contains fat).
- Eggs – egg whites are acceptable. Avoid yolks, an egg yolk contains up to 5 grams of saturated fats.
- Dairy products – totally avoid milk, cream, butter, all cheeses, cottage cheese, yoghurt, etc. MS nutrition experts believe that all dairy products are best avoided altogether, because the proteins in dairy products challenge the immune system, and the fats affect cell membranes.
- Commercially baked foods – biscuits, pastries, cakes, muffins, doughnuts, baked goods containing any fats (most supermarket baked goods).
- Prepared or packet mixes – It is best that you don’t rely on sauces in packets, or boxed, packaged, canned, preserved foods. Fresh really is the best, cook, bake and make ALL your own foods.
- Snack foods – muesli bars, corn or potato chips, party foods.
- Chocolate – While it is a fact the chocolate does contain appreciable levels of antioxidants, most chocolate bars are loaded with saturated fats and are best avoided. Cocoa, however, is a natural product containing only tiny traces of saturated fats, and the occasional teaspoon in a glass of rice or soy milk should be fine.
- Margarine, palm oil, coconut oil. – these are all forms of saturated fats – stay away!
- Fried or deep fried foods – Keep away from the fish and chip shop. It is important to try to keep away from any heated oils or fats as much as you can. When you cook at home, heat the olive oil as little as possible. Heating oils like sunflower or canola (toxic!) oil tends to break down the unsaturated bonds, making these oils saturated.
- Take away foods – avoid burgers, nuggets, thick shakes and fast foods in general. Eat at home!
3. Well, what can I eat then?
Please don’t feel that your diet has to be boring, just because we have excluded saturated fats, dairy products and red meats necessarily. Your diet can be most appealing, and you still have plenty of choices left.
- Fish and chicken – are acceptable in any amounts. But, watch out for the skin of the chicken, the stuff we all tend to like. Animal skins contain a high amount of saturated fat. And don’t the chicken take-away places know all about this! – they know that people essentially like three things – fat, sugar, and salt.
- Oils – sunflower, olive, safflower, sesame seed, linseed (flaxseed), peanut. Use small amounts of oil, never reuse oil when cooking. Always refrigerate oil after opening to avoid rancidity (except olive oil). Keep olive oil in a cool, dark place (but do not refrigerate). Never heat any oil to the smoking point.
- Fresh fruit – Recommended amount is two pieces of fruit daily. All fruits are permissible in any amount. Probably best to avoid avocado – high fat content. Kiwifruit and apples or pears are good choices.
- Vegetables – Recommended amount is 2 – 3 cups daily. 1 cup = 1 serving. Fresh vegetables provide your body with vitamins and minerals and contain essential fatty acids. You are encouraged to include a wide variety of vegetables in your daily diet. Eat yellow, orange, red and green vegetables daily.
- Nuts and seeds – Nuts and seeds are good sources of natural oils as well as essential fatty acids. Commercial nut butters that are not hydrogenated or that you grind yourself at home or at the health food store, also contain good sources of oil. Daily snacks of these foods help to maintain a good energy level.
- Pasta and rice – Refined pastas and rice are permissible, but whole grain pasta and brown rice are preferred.
- Alcohol. – Most MS patients tend to be sensitive to alcoholic beverages. A glass of wine occasionally is permissible, but caution! In my experience, one glass usually leads to two, and also don’t drink alcohol daily, your liver will not like this too much. Keep it to a few times per week.
- Condiments – With the exception of mayonnaise, condiments such as mustard, ketchup, relish, barbeque sauces, taco sauces, sweet & sour sauces, herbs and spices are permissible in very small amounts. Probably best to enjoy foods without these sauces, I only have Tamari (organic soy-sauce) or Tabasco sauce personally. Celtic or Himalayan sea salt, used sparingly are ok.
- Grains and cereals. – You are encouraged to use high quality whole-grain products as much as possible. Refined, un-enriched products provide very little, if any, vitamin source. The best breads are whole wheat bread, pitta and sourdough bread – check for saturated fat content. Natural grains provide bulk in the diet and aid in elimination. Although these products may contain a tiny amount of saturated fat, it has been accounted for in the body of the diet. Avoid commercially baked items such as muffins, which contain undesirable oils.
4. What supplements or herbs do I take?
According to the experts, there is a range of supplements which ought to form part of your daily intake as well. But as usual, please get your diet sorted first! So what are the most important things to take?
- Vitamin B12 – By far the most important vitamin for the MS patient. The first thing I do is improve the digestion of the MS patient, which will allow a more efficient uptake of B12. Also, it is important to bear in mind that if you are cutting red meat from the diet, the richest source of B12, you need supplemental B12. The methylcobalamin form of B12 appears to be the best in MS. Take 25 – 30 micrograms daily orally.
- Flaxseed oil – take 2 dessertspoons per day; forget the evening primrose oil, no advantage with MS.
- Omega-3 Fish oil – take 1 teaspoon twice daily, or one capsule of 1000mg three times daily with meals.
- Vitamin D 3 – take 4000iu of this vitamin daily on really overcast days, or when you miss out on sun altogether. Dr. Klenner recommends that you keep your Vitamin D level between 100 – 140 nmol/L. Get your doctor to do this blood test. Try to get all over sun (bathing suit) for 15 minutes 3-5 times per week.
- Multivitamin – Only buy the BEST, and take 1 capsule or tablet twice per day with meals.
- B-Complex – Folate in particular is involved in normal nerve cell development. Take two each day.
- Herbs – Kerry Bone, one of the world’s leading herbalists says that the best herbs for MS are Echinacea, St John’s Wort, Rehmannia, Hemidesmus, Bupleurum, Korean Ginseng and Ashwaganda. See your qualified herbalist.
- Individualised prescription: To get the most benefit, it is best to get expert help to tailor your nutritional prescription to suit your particular needs. Consult with your health-care professional, particularly somebody who has MS experience. Just ask!
Eric’s 12-Phase MS Management Program.
1. Establish firm diagnosis using MRI and neural function disability testing. You may not have MS!
2. Identify your toxic load through testing: mercury and other heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, etc. Detoxification as required. Support liver function with nutrients such as glutathione, antioxidants, special detoxification nutrients. (Seek expert help here!)
3. Get onto the right diet, avoid saturated fats, eat the right fats. (Start on this right away). Implement a no sugar, no fat anti-inflammatory diet. Don’t muck around here, just do it!
4. Get checked for food allergies. I would recommend an IgE and IgG food allergy blood test.
5. Assess digestive enzyme production, you may well need digestive enzyme support.Get this assessed by us. Many MS patients require upper or lower digestive support.
6. Dietary supplements, See above. Apart from your diet, take the right oils and supplements daily. Have a Hair Analysis to check out if you have deficiencies or toxicities. Again, seek professional help.
7. Get checked for viruses, and a candidia and parasites overgrowth. Treat aggressively as required, re-colonise your digestive system with the right bacteria.
8. Get started with the right rehabilitation and exercise program. To rest is to rust, use it or…lose it! I have found that aqua-aerobics suits many MS patients. Find the right mobility program for you and stick with it. Tai Chi seems to be another great one, it helps you to maintain your balance.
9. Stay focused and maintain a positive attitude. You can get on top of things, in spite of things getting on top of you! You can improve your health no matter what condition you are in. In my experience, MS patients who stick with a similar MS management program to this one, are the ones who notice the best results long term.
10. Meditation for 30 minutes daily can make the world of difference. Dr. Ian Gawler believes that meditation is THE most important part of your MS healing package.
11. Allow at least 6 months for your condition to become more stabilised. Get re-assessed regularly for lesion stabilisation or lesion progression as well as your measures of disability. This will give you some understanding of which way you are progressing, or declining. If you are stable, stay on this program. If not, then consider hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Clinics are available in NZ that specialise in this.
12. Pharmaceutical options. Only if the disease progression is evident and if you find that HBOT therapy fails to halt progression, consider drugs, but continue with the options as listed above, according to Dr Kidd.
I have noticed that when MS patients take control, starting with diet and lifestyle modifications, they feel an enormous sense of inner strength and achievement that it brings. Don’t despair, now that you are armed with some excellent choices, you should be able to make a difference. According to the experts like Dr. Jelinek, MS is now a treatable condition, regardless of type or severity.
- Taking Control of Multiple Sclerosis: Natural and Medical Therapies to Prevent Its Progression (Paperback)by Dr. George Jelinek Fleetfoot Books (March 2005).
- The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book: A Low-fat Diet for the Treatment of MS. by Dr. Roy Laver Swank, Barbara Brewer Dugan. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group (April 1987)
- Coping with Multiple Sclerosis by Richard Reynolds and Cynthia Benz. Publisher: Vermilion (May 2005)
- Multiple Sclerosis, An Autoimmune Inflammatory Disease: Prospects for its Integrative Management, By Dr. Parris Kidd PhD. Alternative Medicine Review 2001; 6 (6): pages 540 – 566.
- Dr Klenner’s MS protocol: From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients May 2003