I don’t know about you, but there is so much information out there about diets, especially ones for those with auto-immune diseases and I am beyond confused! As you know, I have been fiddling around with different eating plans and figuring out how to live my best life while battling through with my Multiple Sclerosis. Yes, I need to lose weight but my bigger concern is eating to help heal my body. I want to do my best to heal myself or at the very least support my health with my food choices, but there are so many differing opinions out there and I am finding it overwhelming on where to go with it. I’ve asked my Neurologist for years if there was a certain eating plan that I should follow and all I get is that I should eat a regular healthy diet. Wtf does that even mean these days? Through the years that I have been battling MS, the “healthy diet” has gone through multiple changes. Some say low fat high fibre, some say high fat and moderate protein, some say unprocessed, some say all vegetables others say only certain vegetables, some say no meat, others say yes to meat, but only white meat and only on Tuesday and Thursday. Some say oils, others say no oils and don’t even think about eating fruit because the sugar content is too high, but is it? Well, 2019 is the year for me to figure this out, based on what is right for my body, how my body reacts and how I feel with certain foods, but this is a big commitment and requires a lot of reflection including keeping a diary & being more proactive about my health, in other words, it’s going to be hard work, a big job, am I up for the task? It’s like my Neurologist says, “Managing your disease in order to have your best quality of life needs to be your full time job”. So, yes, I am up for the task, I need to be up for the task.
I’m slowly wrapping my head around how to do it, so be patient with me. I always thought I knew good nutrition and I believe I eat fairly healthy, but like I said in my last post, I need to do better. My mobility depends on it. My brain depends on it. I depend on it.
If you know anything about MS, you know that it is unpredictable and can cause a huge variety of symptoms, many of which I struggle with daily. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it (or so they say). I’m not holding my breath that a cure will be found in my lifetime, but I sure hope it happens for those diagnosed in the future so for now I am left to manage it the best way I can.
While trying to figure this out, I decided to go to sources I trust the most. Sources such as The MS Society, Web MD, Everyday Health, Mayo Clinic, Health line, etc. have a ton of great information both for people newly diagnosed and for old hats like me!
I’ve tried Keto which is high fat, moderate protein and low carb (under 20 grams) and it made me feel awesome, but I don’t know that it is really going to suit me for the long run and I am a bit leary about the lack of vegetables and fruit you can eat as well as no healthy grains. I will come back to Keto occasionally though because if I need to lose some weight quickly, it is my go-to. Not to mention that I feel great eating this way!
So, what do I do now? There are a lot of options out there which are recommended for those with MS. Let’s see if you can make sense about what I should do.
** Paleo – The Paleo diet recommends ingesting greens, sulfur-containing vegetables and fresh meats while eliminating gluten, processed foods, dairy and eggs from your diet. The Paleo diet claims its advantage lies in its “caveman-based” style of eating, favoring the foods that were available in prehistoric times. Scientific evidence regarding the effect of the Paleo diet in MS is lacking, with most information stemming from personal accounts. In 2014, a small uncontrolled pilot study examined the effects of a Paleo diet in combination with strengthening exercises, as well as meditation and massage. Results found a significant improvement in reported fatigue in individuals who adhered to the program although exercise could have contributed to their success. While it is encouraging, the study was limited by the small sample size and lack of a control group. Overall, the scientific evidence available is unable to conclusively determine the impact of a Paleo diet in MS (source:mssociety.ca)
** Then we have the Wahls Protocal (developed by Dr Terry Wahls to help manage her own Multiple Sclerosis symptoms), which is a Paleo diet alternative based on the idea that we should eat more like our ancient ancestors and avoid the foods we started eating in the past several hundred years like wheat and processed foods. You would eat lots of meat and fish (now we are talking), veggies especially green leafy ones, brightly coloured fruit like berries, fat from animal and plant sources especially omega-3 fatty acids. What you don’t eat is Dairy products and eggs, Grains (including wheat, rice, and oatmeal, legumes (beans and lentils), nightshade veggies (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers), and sugar. While Wahls says her diet helped her go from using a wheelchair to biking miles at a time, there isn’t a lot of research that shows it works for other people who have MS. (Source: webmd.com)
** Next is the Swank diet Developed by Dr. Roy Swank in the 1940’s, this diet centres on limiting the intake of fats, especially saturated fat, to 15g or less per day. The diet also recommends taking cod liver oil supplementation a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies examining the Swank diet have discovered benefits in MS progression in those who adhered to the diet. But Researchers have found fault with these studies, citing methodological cancer can including the lack of a control group for comparison (Source: mssociety.ca) I think this one begs a closer look. Specifics for the Swank diet are:
- No processed foods containing saturated fat and/or hydrogenated oils.
- Saturated fat should not exceed 15 grams per day. Unsaturated fat (oils) should be kept to 20-50 grams/day.
- Fruits and vegetables are permissible in any amount.
- No red meat for the first year, including pork. After the first year, 3 oz. of red meat is allowed once per week. (Ya, about that………, I love my beef so this would be really hard).
- White-meat poultry (skinless) and white fish are permissible, but avoid dark-meat poultry and limit fatty fish to 50 grams (1.75 oz)/day.
- Dairy products must contain 1% or less butterfat unless otherwise noted. Use egg whites only, no yolks.
- Cod liver oil (1 tsp. or equivalent capsules) and a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement are recommended daily.
- Whole-grain breads, rice, and pastas are encouraged.
- Daily snacks of nuts & seeds are good sources of natural oil, and help maintain a good energy level.
Hey, I think I can do this one………maybe….except for the red meat part, that will be a challenge. I could maybe cut it down to only once a week though to start with?
** Then there is the Gluten free way of eating – as they say, Gluten is one of the bodies biggest enemies. There is a lot of they’s so there must be something to it! Dr. Amy Myers says that if you have an autoimmune disease gluten sparked the flame of your disease and continuing to eat it is simply adding fuel to the fire. She believes that the only way to give your immune system the break it needs to regain its precision so that it can stop mistakenly attacking you, is to remove gluten entirely. That last word, entirely, is important because recent research has shown that eating gluten can elevate your gluten antibodies for up to three months, meaning that even if you only ate gluten four times a year, you would be in a state of inflammation year-round.
** Overcoming MS Diet – Similar to the Swank diet, the Overcoming MS Diet – developed by George Jelinek in 1999 – advocates avoiding saturated fat intake along with eliminating dairy and meat. (Source: mssociety.ca)
** Best Bet Diet – This diet was developed by Ashton Embry and focuses on excluding dairy, grains and legumes from the diet. Although some anecdotal evidence supports an improvement of symptoms in those adhering to the Best Bet Diet, no published results have supported the efficacy of this model. (Source: mssociety.ca)
The only real thing that I can find regarding diet is that some research suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids may benefit people with MS. But these results haven’t been confirmed by large-scale studies. However, it’s recommended that people with MS limit animal-based fats. Instead, opt for fish and nut-based fat sources such as olive oil, avocado oil and almond butter, which are rich in omega-3s. (Source: mayoclinic.org)
What is clear to me is that none of these ways of eating talk about popcorn and Haagen Daz so I know that some changes need to be made, so change I will do. I need to maximize the benefits of the nutrients I am putting in my body but how do I do that and what is the best “stuff” to feed my bod? The question still remains, should I mix these diets or try one and stick to it and see what happens? Some things are apparent to me so I think I at least have a place to start:
- Low Saturated fat
- Omega 3’s
- Reducing red meat and increasing fish and nut base fat sources
- Avoid sugar
- Eliminate processed foods
- Limit dairy
- Increase vegetable and fruit consumption
- Opt for whole grains
- Look into foods that support a healthy gut
I’d also love to start juicing but unsure whether I should. They say that juicing can reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, help remove toxins from your body, aid digestion and help you lose weight. However, I am worried about boosting my immune system when I am taking an immunosuppressant to slow the progression of my MS. Would juicing be contradictory? Just another thing for me to be confused about. With this brain fog, it doesn’t take much. I will keep you all posted as I work through this with the hopes that someone will be able to relate and possibly get some ideas for supporting their own health!
For those of you who have a chronic illness, Do you follow a specific eating plan? If so, care to share?
Until Next Time
PS, I promise next post will have at least one awesome recipe! One that can be made while camping………