image of four effective ms Diets side by side

The Problem with MS Diets

There are several diets that claim to help multiple sclerosis. Which one is best?

Most people when they are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, want to try a special MS diet. It’s a strong intuitive response and it makes sense.

We know what we eat affects not only our nutrition and energy. But it also affects our genes (though epigenetics), our inflammation, as well as our moods, mental health, hormones, and our gut microbiome. 

Here is a little problem. It’s the word ‘diet’. Most people know a ‘diet’ as something you go on and then go off. It’s temporary.

What we mean by ‘diet’ is a way of eating for life.

A good MS diet isn’t one you go on and then go off. It’s something you stick to for life. It’s a lifestyle.

That means the best MS diet has to be sustainable. For you to continue on it for life, it has to be simple and easy to follow.

It also has to meet all your nutritional needs, as well as be delicious and satisfying. Otherwise, it won’t be sustainable.

It also has to be easily customized for any other condition you may have. Many people with MS also have other conditions like diabetes, obesity, or Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The best diet for MS needs to be able to accommodate these other conditions.

In that sense, it has to be flexible.

What’s the best diet for MS?

But the problem is there is not one recommended diet for MS anywhere in the world. There are lots of them. They can be complicated and restrictive.

I have no criticism of these diets because the truth is, they all work. You just have to stick to them.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Hippocrates of Kos (The Father of Medicine) Circa 460BC

Others say there is no special recommended diet because you don’t need to follow one.

Saying it’s okay to keep eating whatever you want is a real cop-out. It fails to consider just how much impact food has on your entire body, brain and biochemistry.

There are a few MS Diets that have become very famous and popular. They’ve been devised by doctors or people who have MS.

There is a lot of wisdom from each of them. I think each of them has hit the mark with some things.

Here’s my outline of the top MS diets (in no special order).

1. Swank

We start with Professor Roy Swank because he was the pioneer. He studied MS for 50 years so he has the most long-term data. 

He began researching MS epidemiology in Canada in the 1940s. But it was in Norway that he made a crucial discovery. Two very similar populations (a fishing village on the coast) and a meat and dairy-eating population up on higher ground, had starkly different levels of MS. 

He saw a correlation between a high saturated fat diet, therefore, and multiple sclerosis.

The central tenet of Swank is a very low saturated fat diet (less than 15 grams a day). 

He developed a special diet with a dietitician but there was a high dropout rate. Those who stayed on the program from the 1940s through to the 1990s, and didn’t die of old age, walked without canes and were as well or healthier than other people their age. 

It’s fair to say the study received criticism. 

There was no control group and many reputable publications chose to ignore the findings. 

2. The Wahls (pronounced ‘Walls’) Protocol 

Created by Doctor Terry Wahls, who has progressive multiple sclerosis. Her protocol most closely resembles a paleo diet. A paleo diet is meant to mimic what prehistoric humans would have eaten. 

The Wahls organisation has done a lot of comparison studies of late.

Under the Wahls Protocol, you eat lots of meat including organ meat, vegetables, and berries, but no dairy, no eggs, no nightshade vegetables like eggplants and capsicums, and no legumes or beans.

A comparative study was done and found the Wahls Protocol to be as effective as Swank. Wahls is now working on a study to attempt to demonstrate its effectiveness side-by-side with disease-modifying therapies (DMDs).

3. Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS)

Professor George Jelinek’s seminal book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis has spawned a program that includes diet as well as exercise, meditation, supplements, and minimizing stress.

It is well-researched and evidence-backed. I read this book on my 34th birthday in 2010. I immediately began attempting the diet. 
• There is no dairy
• It’s low in saturated fat (as per Professor Swank)
• No animal products including egg yolks
• No junk food or fast food (including no deep-fried food)
• No coconut products, peanuts, and minimal avocadoes
• You don’t cook with oil, but you can add olive oil after the food has been cooked

I tried this between 2010 and 2013. I found it very restrictive, and a bit complicated. I didn’t have a weight problem at the beginning but I unintentionally lost a bit too much weight anyway. 

Having said that, I am grateful to Professor Jelinek’s book for explaining just how much control we have over our MS by focusing on our diets, as well as the importance of movement and meditation.

4. McDougall Diet

McDougall was a protege of Roy Swank. He is also a medical doctor. He does not have multiple sclerosis.

At the age of 18, McDougall had a stroke that resulted in paralysis on the left side of his body for two weeks.

After consulting with several of the best specialists, he was left without any answers. The experience left him thinking how inept the ‘hallowed professional’ was at helping him. It gave him the drive to become a doctor. 

After many years working as a doctor, never running out of pills, he discovered the power of basic nutrition and immersed himself in diet therapy.

McDougall’s diet (in summary) is: no animal products including no dairy, no eggs, no seafood, no meat, restrictive use of fruit, avocados, nuts, and other restrictive protocols. 

Some sugar and treats are okay. 

Why are MS diets so hard to stick to?

All the MS diets are hard to stick to. They exclude things people love to eat. They have rules and it isn’t common practice for doctors to tell people what to put in their pantry.

We also have so much artificial food these days. Every supermarket has aisle after aisle of edible food-like substances. Every cooking show is a lab experiment in chemistry, not a food cookery class.

If you look closely, you’ll find there is one thing they all have in common.

What are the best criteria for judging an MS diet?

In many ways, any of these diets would work. The problem is they are so hard to stick to. I believe it’s because they are so restrictive. The dropout rates are too high. That’s because people think life’s too short to let MS get in the way. They’re right.

 The best diet for MS is the one you sustain. It has to be simple, enjoyable, easy to follow, meet your nutritional requirements, and be delicious and satisfying. You have to like being on it. It has to make you feel good.

You also need to be able to modify it when you need to because there’s always someone else who’ll have some other dietary requirement you’ll have to accommodate.

In that sense, although I respect each of them, I find all of these MS diets too hard to stick to. 

That’s why I decided to do my own research. I boiled it down into five simple rules. That way I could make an MS diet that I could stick to easily.

That way I can eat well, not risk any flare-ups, and feed my two kids and a partner, none of whom have MS, with delicious, satisfying meals.

The best diet for MS is the Food Medicine Diet for MS. It is by far the easiest MS diet to stick to.

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If you are looking for the easiest MS Diet to stick to, you’ve come to the right place. That is the Food Medicine Diet for MS: evidence-based and easy to stick to.

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