In the book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (link), Professor George Jelinek argues powerfully in favour of lifestyle changes to help those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
He doesn’t suggest that MS can be cured by these changes, but he does talk about recovery – in the sense that relapses can be dramatically reduced, and disability progression can be dramatically slowed. And the evidence seems compelling. Short of a cure, there could be no better news for someone like me. And unlike a cure, too little too late for those who already have the disease – this is a message of real, right-here, right-now hope.
I’m trying not to get all religious about this – but you can understand why somebody might!
So far, I have read only about Step 1 of his seven-step recovery programme. One step at a time. This is the best-known and perhaps most dramatic lifestyle change – a radical change to a radically healthier diet.
To be clear, this is not a quack diet. It is the same diet that is already acknowledged to be incredibly beneficial for many chronic and long-term illnesses plaguing the affluent West (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, you name it) – really low in saturated fat, cut out dairy, plenty of Omega 3 fat, lots of fruit and veg, my body is a temple…
Professor Jelinek has reviewed the evidence to support the benefits of the same diet applied to MS patients, and found it compelling. It is – for reasons that seem mysterious to me – yet to be incorporated into standard NHS care pathways. But there is plenty of evidence to support it, including the 34-year study carried out by Professor Swank beginning in 1949.
The Swank study is particularly impressive – 150 patients were enrolled, at a time when there really was nothing you could do about MS. The idea was that they would all follow a diet ultra-low in saturated fat and Swank would be able to see what happened.
As it turned out, about half the group stuck to the diet really well and consumed under 20 grams of saturated fat per day – while the other half were not quite so good, consuming a low fat diet but in the range of 20g-40g of saturated fat per day so not “ultra-low”. It’s not quite the randomised case-control study we like to see in modern science – but it’s probably the closest thing to it that is possible within the bounds of ethics and practicality. The outcomes for the two groups were startlingly different, and I have no shadow of a doubt which group I want to put my hat in – not just low-fat but ultra low!
So. Step 1. Diet. Given that I was already vegetarian, and already flirting with the idea of veganism, it was a shortish step for me to take. I’m currently doing Vegan plus Quorn – with minimal use of higher-fat stuff like vegan cheese and coconut and, sadly, crisps…
I’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks now. I just need to kick the Quorn once I have enough things to eat in my repertoire that don’t rely on it. (Strictly I don’t need to give up Quorn for OMS but would like to as it’s rather processed and is non-vegan.)
So far it’s going well and not too hard! 🙂
Excuse me while I fetch a rice cake…