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Tag: multiple sclerosis diet

A Fight MS with Food Case Study: Cyndi C.

An update from the Fight MS with Food project:

Case study of Cyndi C.

Cyndi is a 42-year old married mother diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. When she joined the Fight MS with Food project, her main symptom was extreme pain and itchiness on her upper right arm and shoulder. The skin there was constantly red and angry, inflamed and bumpy, giving her a lot of discomfort. She also complained of acid reflux/heartburn along with bloating, though she was more concerned about the pain in the arm that the doctors had definitively linked to her MS.

7/7/2011 We started Cyndi off with a gentle herbal parasite cleanse because a hidden parasitic infection may be at the root of many chronic inflammatory disorders. Short and simple: if you have parasites, you’ll never be fully well until you kill off the parasites.

8/19/2011 With the parasites gone, Cyndi took the state-of-the-art Mediator Release Test (MRT) that looked at how her blood responds to 150 common foods and chemicals. Although Cyndi had been a “healthy” eater before, she was still experiencing irrational inflammation manifesting in symptoms of MS, indicating some hidden sensitivities. After extensive interpretation and analysis of the blood test results together with professional dietary counseling, Cyndi altered her diet to include only the foods shown to cause the least amount of inflammatory response in her blood. She was off and ready to take charge of her health!

9/1/2011 The first weeks were the hardest. Limited to about 25 foods, it was a struggle to be creative and maintain interest in her allowed foods, even though she had come up with some delicious creations like a hard corn tostada shell topped with avocado together with scallops sauteed in sesame oil. After two weeks, the pain was receding and the itching was starting to feel better. She was identifying her personal care products that contained ingredients she now knew were irritating her body and was replacing them with safe alternatives. We added more foods to her allowed list, asking her to try them one at a time so that she could see if they made her react.

10/12/11 Today Cyndi said, “I found it so hard to believe that healthy things could do this to you, but everything has changed now.”  The pain and itching in her arm are gone so long as she sticks to her safe foods. She is actively adding new foods and now knows that if she is going to react to a new food, her arm will start hurting within 1-2 days. What is really amazing is that the pain will clear up within just a few hours if she has been back on safe foods since the the new food trial.

She has noticed a marked change in her energy level. Where she used to poop out in the afternoons at work, to the point of having her head down on her desk many days, now she doesn’t even feel tired later in the day. She no longer has heartburn or bloating. She has noticed that 15 extra pounds disappeared from her body as she released inflammation. Her hands look visibly less puffy than they used to.

Conclusions: After only three months, indications of a reduction of chronic MS symptoms are visible. Since the client began the treatment protocols outlined in the Fight MS with Food project, she no longer lives with pain, has more energy, and a renewed vitality for life. There is every indication that the disease is moving into remission.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is in bringing Cyndi to a safe, stable state where she is able to track symptoms to their triggers, and giving her a road map to return to that safe place whenever she needs to stabilize her body. Even though she has flare-ups when she discovers a new food sensitivity, the duration and intensity have reduced to where they are gone by the following day. As time goes on, and she identifies more and more foods she can tolerate, she will be able to avoid the triggers and avoid the flare-ups completely. Since the damage done by MS is marked by inflammatory activity, her progress could indicate a pause in the progress of the disease. Regardless, she can now enjoy a happier, pain-free life.

*Additional note: As an unexpected bonus, her teenage daughter is feeling healthier, too, now that she is eating the foods that her mom does!

Glorious One-Pot Meals on KVOR radio

On September 15th, I’ll be heading south to Colorado Springs to offer a program called “Healthy and Easy Cooking to Manage MS.” This weekend, the food editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, Teresa Farney, interviewed me on KVOR radio about the upcoming talk and cooking demonstration – listen to the 7-minute interview here.

If you are interested in joining us at the event, contact the Colorado Springs, Colorado, office of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at 1-719-634-298. You can also call 1-800-FIGHT-MS or go to to register.

Due to space limitations, this program is limited to those struggling with MS and those who care for them. Hope to see you there!

Multiple Sclerosis and Diet

Today I thought I’d share some questions about MS and diet submitted by Jennifer F. of Kansas City. Please feel free to submit your own questions about healthy eating, multiple sclerosis, or natural living for you’d like to see addressed! From time to time I’ll share reader questions that are submitted to me that might be of interest to others.

With so many “MS diets” available, how did you decide/know that your whole foods approach would be best for you?

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, there weren’t so many “MS diets”. In fact, most MS doctors I encountered did not mention diet at all when discussing disease management. The only diet advice around that I could find was published in the late 1950s by Dr. Swank in The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book. He advocated a diet high in unsaturated fats (omega 3s, 6s, etc. found in fish, avocados, seeds, nuts, olives/olive oil, etc.) and no saturated fats (no red meat, at least until you stabilized).

I found his approach fascinating and valid, but it seemed to be dismissed by the scientific community because it wasn’t a phase-3, double-blind trial. Dr. Swank had felt morally obligated  to apply this diet to all of his patients (around 80, I think) and not deny anyone the opportunity to improve by giving some a placebo, as is required for a phase-3 trial. As I have come to believe, the “scientific method” as our modern society has come to define it, has some drawbacks when it comes to the individuality of humans and the miracle of the human body, not to mention the ethics involved by denying some participants life-saving treatment in the name of science.

The Swank book is still in print, and although I found it in some ways more rigid than suited me, particularly because it addressed the typical 1950s mostly-meat-and-potatoes-with-a-smattering-of-canned,-smothered,-or-overcooked-vegetables-diet rather than the vegetarian-leaning,-dairy-free-diet that I already partially subscribed to, I realized that it was similar to how I already ate. I just really needed to up my unsaturated fat intake, which I significantly did by changing my 1980s-era mind-set that believed that all fats were bad (I remember virtually living on bagels because they were a “no-fat” food!).

Unsaturated fats, I learned, are essential for everything from expanding the neural pathways during the early years of life to maintenance and repair of the nervous system from the ravages of afflictions from degeneration due to aging to visible myelin sheath damage, as we see with MS. Not to mention the role of plant-based fats in cushioning internal organs and providing moisture to skin and hair.

What Swank did not address was the role of organic vs. conventional foods as this was not on the general radar at the time.

I’m curious how you learned about whole foods.  The reason I ask is that it has been difficult to find much information about it.

Yes. Western doctors sometimes seem to be hesitant to offer advice that doesn’t make money for the drug companies!  🙂

Did I just say that? Maybe I shouldn’t have, but sometimes I wonder…

I educated myself about whole foods because I was determined to avoid a debilitated future. At the time I was diagnosed, I was planning my wedding, had just finished graduate school, had just purchased a Victorian fixer-upper, and wanted to have kids some day (I was 29 then). I have a journalistic background and dove into researching how I could best be proactive about my future with this disease. The more I learned, the more I became interested in nutrition and the link between diet and health, and picked up more certifications and other advanced courses of study.

My studies led me to conclude that the best thing you can do for ANY body, healthy or otherwise, is to eat a healthy diet. As I delved more deeply, I became convinced that a healthy diet is made up of a variety of whole foods. It was the quality of “wholeness” of the food that was more important than the quantity of the foods. To make it more applicable to fighting my MS, I emphasized unsaturated fats over saturated fats, which actually make this way of eating healthier for everyone, not only MS patients.

I have come to believe that MS and many other diseases (cancers, heart disease, diabetes…) are a result of the denaturization of the food we eat through processing, chemicals, and other tinkering, combined with the environmental toxins we are exposed to through the air we breathe, the water we drink and bathe in, the cleaning products we use, our skin care and body care products, etc. We each have a unique tolerance threshold for these things, and some of us are more sensitive than others.

In short, I believe these diseases are products of the modern age. If you study the history of these ailments, like MS, most were relatively rare before the industrial revolution in the mid-to-late 1800s. MS was almost unseen before the late 1800s, for example. Heart disease didn’t rise to prominence as a popular killer until the second half of the twentieth century, along with tv dinners, canned foods, fast food, and other “modern convenience foods.”

Did you try other MS diets first?

No. I do a lot of research and study and piece together the important parts to find what works for me. As I said above, when I was diagnosed there weren’t any other MS diets out there besides Swank, and he was barely talked about and pretty much discredited. Recently published, The MS Recovery Diet book follows a philosophy similar to mine and has seen astounding results.

Also, do you recommend certain supplements for MS patients?

It’s never a bad idea to load up on Omega-3s in the form of fish oil or flax seeds/flax seed oil. My buddies at the Rocky Mountain MS Center believe that you can’t get enough omega-3s through diet alone, and if you’re only going to take one supplement, it should be fish oil/flax seeds. I like to sprinkle ground flax seeds on my salads, yogurt, etc.

The other supplement that has shown great promise for MS is vitamin D. I prefer to get my vitamin D from sunshine on non-sunscreened skin, but supplements from a quality supplement company are probably not a bad idea.

Other than that, supplements are usually taken to bring the body into balance and treat specific symptoms, i.e., evening primrose for sleep problems. However, as a naturapath-in-training, I’m a bigger believer in using supplements to nourish weakness in the body, which is not necessarily the same as treating symptoms. You’d really need to talk to a naturapath to get a better idea of what specific remedies would be helpful for you in alleviating other imbalances.

Read more about my philosophy of nutrition at Glorious One-Pot Meals.