LIFE SAVING DIETARY CHANGES
All or nothing
Let's face it, the food we stuff in our mouths has a direct influence on our health and wellbeing. We all know it. Rebecca ate a standard Australian diet for 40 years, then was diagnosed with a potentially debilitating condition and almost lost her eyesight.
Fear is a great motivator for change. It can motivate you to change your diet overnight. Much of the evidence points towards animal products, particularly dairy, as a catalyst in developing a chronic health condition like Multiple Sclerosis.
Roy Swanks work indicated that a low saturated fat diet helped prevent progression of MS, which gives people immense hope that they can take control of the disease. George Jelinek took his work further and developed Overcoming MS (OMS), a total lifestyle approach to managing MS.
There is so much we can do to prevent progression of MS and take steps to recover.
Colour, colour and more colour
Before I knew better I began my journey with a Paleo diet, high in brightly coloured vegetables, fruits and lean meats. Call it Paleo or Keto, it's all the same. I think people with MS do well on this diet despite of the meat, but because they consume higher amounts of nutrient dense foods. Avoiding all dairy is also a must.
Rebecca used her background in science and discovered that a whole food, plant-based diet, low in saturated fat is the best option for healing the body and turning off autoimmunity. She avoids gluten to heal the gut microbiome, dairy to suppress molecular mimicry in the body and all animal products to reduce chronic inflammation.
EXERCISE FOR NEUROPLASTICITY
We need more than we think
Moving our body is imperative to good health and mental wellbeing. It can promote neuroplasticity, meaning it can help to grow new brain cells. The OMS program recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 times per week, moderate meaning breaking a sweat.
Dr. Valter Longo suggests that 150 to 300 minutes of vigorous exercise helps promote health and longevity.
MS made me take up running. I'd never run before but felt compelled to take my fitness to the next level. I have now completed several fun runs and the recent 12K City to Bay run in Adelaide.
I also do strength training, yoga and I ride my bike to work in the city. I'm doing whatever it takes to stay well.
MEDITATION & MINDFULNESS
I felt completely out of my comfort zone when I first mediated. I expected so much to happen, proof that it was doing me good. But instead I couldn't stop fidgeting. That was three years ago and I now know that it's OK to fidget, it's OK for my mind to think about what I'm having for dinner and it's OK to scratch my nose.
My daily mediation practice involves getting up at 5 am and meditating for 30 minutes, which I now look forward to.
What is important in a meditation practice is to be consistent. Coming back to the present moment, focusing on the breath, being mindful of the sounds around you and your body in contact with the earth are simple things we can do to reduce stress in our lives.
How it benefits MS
The Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) was developed by Dr. Valter Longo. Studies in mice have shown fasting to reduce autoimmunity and regenerating oligodendrocytes (remyelination).
He has developed a product called Prolon so that people can safely fast at home. In his book he describes how people with chronic health conditions should do this with supervision from their doctor.
Abstaining from food is not about weight loss, although that is an added benefit. Humans have always fasted, mostly unintentionally. Food didn't always come from a supermarket. In our modern day society we are chronically overfed and undernourished.
Fasting helps to stimulate stem cell regeneration. It allows the body to dispose of unwanted and unhealthy cells and repopulate with fresh new growth.
It's not all good.
There is good evidence to show that some vitamins or supplements are associated with early death.
Some supplements however are beneficial for healing. Vitamin D3, along with sunlight, helps to reduce relapse rates in people with MS. Vitamin D blood levels should be monitored and supplements taken if required.
The one supplement that everyone on a plant-based diet should take is vitamin B12. Naturally found in micro-organisms in the soil, we are not exposed to this vitamin in our sanitised world. It's necessary for red blood cell formation, normal nerve function and for the replication of DNA.
Animals are supplemented with B12, so if these are off the menu (although meat eaters are often B12 deficient) then we need to take a supplement in the form of cyanocobalamin. It's best to have a chewable tablet or spray, at least 2500 milligrams per week.