There’s been quite a huff in the media in the past few days about Multiple Sclerosis and the plight of many patients seeking a myriad of treatment options, some of which are not currently covered by provincial health care plans.
I am, by no means, a medical expert or even very knowledgeable at all about MS. But, I did come across a thought provoking article in the December 2009 issue Vitality Magazine that has stuck with me all this time, in which author, Ann D. Sawyer (herself diagnosed with MS over a decade ago), discusses her own plight with this mysterious disease.
Multiple Sclerosis, as Sawyer writes, is truly a disease of “multiples”:
“In every aspect there are multipes: multiple causal factors, multiple disease processes and pathways, and multiple symptoms. In each case, the combination and relative loading of each factor appears to be unique. No one factor is necessary and/or sufficient to cause the disease to manifest.”
Even searching for a clear definition of MS brings about different answers. It is considered an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, characterized by an autoimmune event in which the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin sheaths surrounding nerves. But while these were once considered the primary causes for symtoms and disability, Sawyer states that the primary cause of MS is now believed to be neurodegeneration – or cell death, which makes MS a neurodegenerative disease like ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Furthermore, in the 1950’s, a Dr. Roy Swank studied MS and characterized it as a vascular disease wherein the body’s inability to properly process saturated fats led to coagulation in the patient’s micro-circulatory system. The resulting pressure against the patient’s thin capillary walls, he believed, led to breaches to the blood-brain barrier. In his studies, he noted that the characteristic lesions observed in MS patients were often found near these very breaches. (This is where the MS blocked veins treatments comes in – these are the treatments that are being discussed widely in media today). With Dr. Swank’s observations, MS can additionally be considered a vascular and digestive disease.
In Sawyer’s book, The MS Recovery Diet, she outlines dietary guidelines that are aimed to stop immune cells from being activated in the bloodstream and stop blood-brain barrier breaches. With these two events under control, the idea is that the body can then heal itself and put a halt to the cascading events leading to MS symptoms.
While each individual is unique in their dietary sensitivities and needs, Sawyer lists these basic culprit foods:
- Saturated fats
- Wheat and gluten
Again, each individual will be different – some may only have to eliminate gluten, while others will have to eliminate all of the above and more.
At the end of the day, winning the battle with MS, as with any other condition – can only be owned by YOU. Inform yourself, consult your doctors and alternative health care practitioners and find out what needs to happen for you to get better. I do know of one person that has been successfully managing his MS symptoms through diet – so I know that, at least for some, this is a solution worth exploring.
Now, actually eliminating these foods from your diet is a whole other story. I struggled with the change for years until I finally was able to incorporate my dietary restrictions into my everyday life by learning how to make successful substitutions to virtually any recipe. If you or someone you love wishes to eliminate gluten, dairy, sugar and other common allergens from your diet, please stay tuned for upcoming public events, and as always please join me at www.GlutenFreeToronto.com, on Twitter (@victoriayeh) and on Facebook.