In July 2015, two MRIs led to a diagnosis of Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis for me. I had a follow up MRI done in December 2015, while I was travelling. After being back in the United States, I met with my neurologist to have the MRIs compared. I was hoping for some insight into the rate at which the disease was progressing. For the most part, everything I’ve ever read about MS tells me it’s a progressive condition. Except for a body of research dating back to 1948, pioneered by Roy L. Swank, M.D., Ph.D. His research spans over 50 years, and was published in The Lancet in 1990. He prescribes an extremely low saturated fat intake to combat MS. Towards the end of his study he found that patients who stayed on the diet, experienced minimal disability and remained active with a death rate of 31%. The other group of patients that didn’t adhere to the low fat diet, had a death rate of 80%. Read more about it here http://www.swankmsdiet.org/
This research has been taken further by George Jelinek M.D., whose book ‘Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis’ and website www.overcomingms.org contains a host of information on lifestyle changes that can help anyone who has MS, live a healthy life.
I altered my eating habits within days of being diagnosed. I turned down prescription medicine. While that may seem extreme, I cannot see the sense in ingesting harsh chemicals whose side effects probably create worse symptoms than the disease I have. I read through the possible side effects of the drugs that my neurologist suggested, and felt ill just thinking about going through any of it.
Besides, I believe that the pharmaceutical industry is rather questionable. Do you think their concern is the health and well being of humanity? I believe it is the dollar. It is 100% profit driven. They profit from people being sick, not from people being healthy. The pharmaceutical industry monitors and controls much of what is taught in medical schools; and they fund most of what is researched in medical institutions.
Did you know that Aspirin kills 20,000 Americans a year? A common misconception is that over the counter medications are insignificant or benign when actually their chronic use is linked to serious and potentially fatal gastrointestinal injury and bleeding.
I am not anti medicine or anti doctors. I respect doctors and nurses that operate on accident victims, transplant organs, and do us a great service. Medication has it’s place, just not as the quick fix that it’s become. We live in a time of ‘instant gratification’. Did you know that between 1994 and 2005, prescription drug sales in the United States went up 70% when the population only grew by 9%?
According to Mike Adams, author of Natural Health Solutions, “In America people are concerned about terrorism and threats from abroad. Those threats pale in comparison to the threat that is posed by our own Congress working in conspiracy with the pharmaceutical industry to deny us access to real health, to real truthful information about natural remedies and cures that can turn our health around and save our nation from a medical bankruptcy. “
Let me now get to the point. The MRI comparison post 5 months of lifestyle change showed no new lesions. My neurologist told me that the old lesions are fading and shrinking, which means they’re healing.
Some people have difficult relapses and require drug intervention. I know others who combine drug therapy with lifestyle changes to stay healthy. My choice was to go drug free. It was more than a gut feeling. I grew up around ayurveda and homeopathy. Allopathic medicine was always the last resort.
Some may say that I speak too soon. I am only 8 months into my MS diagnosis. But I sure can say that I proved my neurologist wrong more than once. They were sure I’d relapse last year. They were surprised I still fly airplanes. They were surprised I had no new lesions.
So what is it that is helping create this wonderful change? First and foremost is the OMS diet, which is a plant based diet with sea food. The focus is on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, oily fish and egg whites. Meat and dairy are not consumed. Oil is limited to extra virgin olive oil and flax oil. No processed food and no bakery items.
On most days I follow this diet. I end up cooking almost every day. Before I started the diet I thought it was going to be incredibly hard. I imagined it’ll be difficult to give up dairy and chocolate! I haven’t eaten chocolate in 8 months, literally. I never thought that could be possible. The strange truth is that I don’t miss either of those. Not even cheese. I don’t remember where I read this, but it couldn’t be more apt, “Nothing tastes as good as walking feels.”
I’ve felt utterly frustrated with the diet at times, I have to be honest. And this happens when I have to eat out. Around Boston I’ve found some vegan restaurants that are great. Mind you, not all vegan restaurants serve healthful food. If I need something on the go, Whole Foods does some good sushi options.
While travelling I always keep Homemade Granola with me in a ziplock, and some fruit, so I don’t end up munching on something I will regret.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is not just about following a ‘diet’. It’s a lifestyle change. When you’re new, start slow, and start small.
My morning starts with a glass of warm water. Ayurveda tells us to sip water slowly, to let it mix with our saliva before it goes into the digestive system.
Next I drink a glass of fresh juice. This is an easy add to my day. It helps me up my intake of different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants since I keep rotating the vegetables & fruits I juice. Juicing only fruits in my opinion is not a good idea, as fruit juices can get very high in sugar. Research tells us that vegetables are more nutritious than fruits. Besides I like to juice vegetables like celery, cucumbers or collard greens, which I don’t always like to eat. Fruits are easier to eat whole, aren’t they!
Once I have emptied my bowels, I spend forty minutes doing Pranayama. Pranayama, when done correctly, can heal the body of any disease. This is a consequence of increased exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the cells. Forty minutes can be hard to put aside on some mornings, and so I end up doing this between 2 to 4 days a week. Pranayama needs to be done on an empty stomach, so it can be done in between meals too. However I find that opinion on how many hours post meals constitutes as an empty stomach, varies. I eat every two hours so I think the best time for me is in the morning.
Vitamin D supplementation for MS patients is under research, and has had very promising effects. I take 10,000 IU a day in the winter.
Exercise is something many of us don’t like, and some of us have a love hate relationship with. When I first began making exercise a daily part of my life, I started with walking. Walking is 100% the best place to start if you’re new to this. The key is to keep it fun, and I did that by switching to other things as I got bored. So I’ve had phases where I was obsessed with running; and then I moved on to moving weights & strength training, yoga, biking, and crossfit. I personally go through phases where I am not motivated and I will not exercise for more than 2 days a week. That tells me it’s time for a change.
There is a link between exercise and improved MS symptoms. Any form of repetitive movement, such as sets (of weights, body weight, endurance training) help your nerves to ‘conduct’ better. Research tells us that aerobic exercise (or cadio) is what benefits our central nervous system the most. Exercise boosts new brain cells and leads to better cognition.
For some inspiration check out one man’s incredible journey: http://www.crossfitkop.com/downloads/multiple.pdf
Meditation. This can be a tough cookie. I can tell you about my experience with various forms of meditation. I first began meditating in 2003. However I cannot call myself an expert of any kind on the matter. 🙂 I started with guided mediation, which is a recording that one listens to and it lets you focus on different parts of your body. It can be deeply relaxing. I think it’s a great place to start if you’re new to this.
I moved on to several other meditations/teachers, over the years, as I felt I hadn’t quite found what I was looking for. The sad reality is that today, meditation and spirituality has become very commercial. If you’re out there looking for a teacher, I would say, follow your gut. If something feels off, trust yourself and go find someone else.
In 2014, I attended a 10 day residential Vipassana meditation course in India. It is a 2500 year old meditation that Lord Buddha practised. I truly believe this is one of the most authentic practices out there. With this, my search came to an end. The great irony is that my mother practices Vipassana, so I always knew about it. I feared I wasn’t ready for it, and held myself back from the initial 10 day course until I was pushed into it, under some circumstances.
With any meditation, the benefits can be felt when it’s practised daily. I still fail to do this consistently. What I have noticed is when I go through phases of regular meditation, my life flows smoother.
There are seven chakras in the human body and they are in fact congregations of nerves and major organs of the body. Regular meditation where one is systematically focusing on each part of the body, energises, balances and ‘opens’ these energy centers.
Read this article about a diabetic who would go into a coma twice a month, to know more about mind body connections.
Resolving difficult emotional issues/relationships cannot be undermined. Relationships are our greatest source of joy, and can also hurt us in many ways. Often times we are angry at a parent/ a sibling or a spouse. We literally hold onto resentment, anger, fear. strong emotions create physical changes in the body. Have you ever noticed how your body reacts when you’re angry? I feel hot, at times sweaty, and my heart races. Emotions play a bigger role in our health, than we know.
I love this quote by the Buddha.
However, I know it’s much easier said than done. It’s too simplistic being told to let go of anger. My MS diagnosis pushed me into confronting my anger issues. I feared that if I didn’t, I would either go off into a fit of anger or hold it in, and relapse in either of those scenarios. I sought professional help to understand life which can honestly sometimes feel like this:
I do think that once we take the decision to do something, the answers begin to show up. Here is a great article on How to Improve Strained Relationships.
All of these changes can seem overwhelming. They still seem so to me, at times. However, my quality of life has changed for the better. I can honestly say I have never been this healthy. I have a lot of energy! I don’t worry about gaining weight anymore. I dropped about 10 lbs, and am at my ideal weight now. The lack of lesions on my MRI has really fired me up to stick with these changes.
I wish you good health, and it is the only reason I write this blog.
If you are someone who is struggling to make changes, reach out, there is a community to help you. Drop me an email, I don’t bite! 😉
* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.