A Diet to Fight MS
by Amanda Box, N.D.
Multiple sclerosis is a thief. It slowly steals a person’s mobility, eyesight and ability to think clearly. It is an unrelenting disease that is progressive and deemed incurable. This devastating disease is diagnosed in thousands of Americans each year. These victims are often left with minimal options for help and little hope for recovery.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs twice as often in women as in men. It is also more common among Caucasians than any other ethnic group. MS slowly deteriorates the protective myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves in our brain and spinal column. This leads to:
- Muscle weakness
- Vision loss
- Numbness and tingling
- Problems thinking clearly
Once diagnosed, MS may steadily worsen. Or, acute attacks may occur followed by remission of MS symptoms. The protective myelin is damaged in multiple sclerosis due to its autoimmune destruction. The specific cause of MS is not known, but exposure to and accumulation of heavy metals and other toxic compounds can induce MS.
The good news is that there is hope for those diagnosed with MS! Dietary changes and proper nutrition can dramatically improve MS symptoms. In some cases, MS symptoms can be eliminated completely! The body has the innate capacity to heal itself when given what it needs.
When addressing MS, it is also important to stop habits that disrupt and damage the immune system. Don’t forget that your body is made from natural materials and incorporates a system that needs natural products such as food to constantly build and heal.
Many of our modern day foods contain artificial ingredients that aren’t safe for human consumption. Some of these ingredients alter the normal activity of your nervous system, resulting in disease. So, it is important to understand the dangers and side effects of these artificial additives.
The Dark Side of Diet Soda
Many people with good intentions forego sugar-laden sodas and desserts in favor of their sugar-free counterparts. However, artificial sweeteners have a dark side. Aspartame in particular, the primary sweetener used in diet soda, has a distinct connection to MS.
Aspartame is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Aspartic acid raises the levels of both aspartate and glutamate in the blood. Once these compounds reach the brain, they can cause an influx of calcium into the brains cells. This influx excites the cells to the point of their death! This is why aspartate and glutamate are often referred to as excitotoxins. If you suffer from MS, these excitotoxins can freely enter the site of injury, magnifying the damage produced from MS.
Aspartame can also rapidly break down into methanol, which can easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Once methanol reaches the brain, it converts to formaldehyde and begins to break down the protective myelin sheath that surrounds our brain cells. This demyelination can lead to MS symptoms and other diseases such as:
Several other processed foods are also high in methanol and should be avoided. Some of the most common include:
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Smoked foods
- Overly ripe fruits and vegetables
- Tomato sauce
Always read labels and be on the look out for aspartame and other artificial ingredients. These chemical additives cannot only cause symptoms of MS, but other diseases and chronic health problems as well. The damage caused by chemical preservatives and sweeteners can be catastrophic to the human body. These man made ingredients trigger a chain reaction of unnatural responses in the body, which ultimately lead to disease. MS is one of many diseases that can result from putting unnatural substances into our natural bodies! None of us would think of drinking formaldehyde, wood alcohol or other toxic substances. And yet, when we consume diet sodas or other processed foods that contain toxic chemicals, it’s like drinking poison!
MS and Leaky Gut Syndrome
Though rarely talked about, there is an intimate connection between the intestinal tract and autoimmune disease. A disorder called Leaky Gut Syndrome can play a role in the occurrence of MS.
Leaky gut syndrome occurs when the intestinal tract becomes permeable due to inflammatory damage and destruction from the overgrowth of microbes and yeast. This permeability allows toxins and microbes that your body would normally eliminate, leak from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream! Once these toxic substances begin to circulate in your system, inflammation can occur in other areas of the body. This can lead to autoimmune reactions, like MS, where the body attacks itself. This self attack mode is set off by the presence of toxins that would not be present if the intestinal tract was not leaking.
A recent study found a connection with leaky gut syndrome and MS. The study found that mice infected with an MS-like disease not only had leaky gut, but had intestinal inflammation before they even showed symptoms of MS! Dr. Terry Wahls, former MS victim and author of the Wahls Protocol stated, “More studies are finding that increased intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut’ has a role in the development of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders.”
The good news is you can prevent leaky gut, as well as cure it! Following specific dietary recommendations can heal the digestive tract, and halt inflammation system-wide! This can actually resolve MS symptoms and help those with MS regain a normal, active life!
A Diet to Fight MS
Dr. Terry Wahls was diagnosed with MS in 2000. A medical doctor herself, she sought out the best care and took the latest and most effective drugs on the market. However, her attempts at managing her disease failed and her MS worsened in 2003. She then completed the recommended chemotherapy, but became bound to a wheelchair. Soon after chemotherapy, she became bedridden.
This is when Dr. Wahl began to take her health into her own hands. She started researching nutrients that would feed her brain and halt the progression of her disease. She noted that in MS there was shrinkage of the brain due to poorly functioning mitochondria. Mitochondria are our cell’s energy source. They need specific nutrients to function at optimal capacity. Through her research, Dr. Wahl identified 3 specific nutrients that are essential for mitochondrial function:
- Omega 3 fatty acids (from fish)
- Coenzyme Q10
She then began to research the proper nutrients needed to prevent damage to the myelin sheath, the primary cause of MS. She discovered the following were important in the maintenance and proper function of myelin:
- Omega 3 fatty acids (from fish)
Dr. Wahl also went on to discover the nutrients essential for neurotransmitter functioning. Our neurotransmitters are chemical messengers, which send information between nerve cells. The two most important nutrients for our neurotransmitters are:
Much of the typical American diet is totally lacking in nutrition. Instead of consuming nutrient dense food, most op for processed and fast foods that are void of nutrients, but rich in artificial based preservatives and additives. It’s really no wonder that our health is declining and obesity rates are skyrocketing.
Dr. Wahls recommends following a paleo style diet that is high in essential nutrition for mitochondria and myelin sheath function. This diet includes:
- Unlimited green vegetables – these are high in B vitamins and minerals
- Onions and garlic – rich in sulfur
- Fatty fish – contains omega 3 fatty acids
- Grass-fed meat – rich in creatine and healthy protein
- Organ meat (liver, heart, etc.) – a source of CoQ10 and protein
- Colorful fruits and vegetables – contain a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Seaweed – a source of essential iodine
The Wahls protocol also recommends avoiding:
- Starchy vegetables (corn and potatoes)
- Grains (gluten in particular)
- All processed foods
Once Dr. Wahls began to follow this dietary protocol, her MS symptoms began to improve. Within a matter of months, she went from being bedridden to walking again! She is now symptom free and travels the globe spreading the good news of how proper diet can reverse MS!
Interestingly, this diet not only feeds the brain, but heals the gut as well! The principles outlined in the GAPS protocol, which is a diet designed to heal leaky gut syndrome, are nearly identical to the foods recommended in the Wahls protocol! A diet that addresses leaky gut syndrome is a powerful ally in the fight against any autoimmune disease.
Following these dietary recommendations allows you to heal the brain, but also heal your inflamed leaky gastrointestinal tract, the possible source of MS!! This will help end the source of inflammation and put an end to autoimmune reactions throughout the body.
In addition to the Wahls protocol diet, I recommend adding a powerful, multi-strain probiotic such as Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora. Supplementing with a probiotic helps balance the intestinal tract by boosting beneficial bacteria and crowding out damaging microbes.
A great rule of thumb when boosting nutrition is to add a lot of color to your daily meals. Colorful fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants which are essential in the health and integrity of our nerve cells. The following recipe incorporates the Wahls protocol by including grass-fed protein, green vegetables, sulfur rich onions and other colorful veggies. This recipe is so tasty you won’t even notice that it is grain free!
Tex Mex Paleo Stir-Fry
- 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
- 2 red bell peppers, diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 8 oz white or baby portabella mushrooms, diced
- 2 limes
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp cumin
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (optional for extra heat and flavor)
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
- 1 cups baby kale, chopped
- 2 tbs coconut oil
- 12 grape tomatoes, diced
- Brown ground beef with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Next, sauté peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic in coconut oil.
- Once these veggies are browned, add salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and paprika.
- Place chopped spinach, kale and half the cilantro in a food processor with grape tomatoes and carefully process by pulsing on and off and stirring if necessary until finely chopped.
- Stir browned beef into the pepper mixture, and then stir in the greens and tomatoes until greens are slightly wilted.
- Add the juice of two limes freshly squeezed and add sea salt to taste. Garnish with the second half of the cilantro, finely chopped.
Green smoothies have become all the rage, and rightly so! What an easy and convenient way to condense lots of nutrition into a single easy-to-consume drink! The problem that most people run into, however, is making a green smoothie that tastes good. Many times people will try and hide the “grassy” taste of a green smoothie with high sugar fruit juices. The added sugar in fruit juices defeats the purpose and increases your risk of diabetes and weight gain.
This smoothie recipe not only incorporates healthy greens and vitamin rich fruits, but also has the addition of lemon flavored fish oil. Don’t worry…this oil doesn’t taste fishy! Rather, it gives the smoothie a slight lemony kick that is also packed with brain boosting omega 3 fatty acids!
Omega 3 Green Smoothie
- 1 1/2 cups coconut water
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 tsp Carlson’s or Nordic Naturals lemon flavored fish oil
- Juice of one small lemon
- 1/2 apple (roughly chopped, seeds and core removed) OR 1 pear (roughly chopped, seeds removed)
- 1/2 orange (peeled, roughly chopped)
- 3 stalks of celery (roughly chopped)
- 4 large kale leaves (ribs removed)
- 6 romaine lettuce leaves
- Add all ingredients to the blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Serve over ice.
Those of you who are battling MS, you don’t need to lose hope! This is a battle you can win with the proper dietary choices and nutrition.
- Begin by eliminating artificial additives and sweeteners, including diet soda.
- Then fill your diet with nutrient dense foods that nourish your brain cells and help to prevent any further deterioration.
- Also, add probiotics to your daily regimen to help promote a healthy gut and quell system wide inflammation.
A healthy, rejuvenated life free of MS symptoms can be your future! Give your body what it needs and watch your life transform!
If you like this article, then you’ll love these:
- 10 Top Tips for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Repair Your Immune System to Heal Lupus
- Aspartame and Donald Rumsfeld Disease
Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.com/ for contact info.