When I was first diagnosed, I went to one of the MS society’s newly diagnosed courses. It was there, that I first came across the Swank Diet , it was mentioned by a recovered MS patient Dermot O’Connor (author of the Healing Code). What follows below is detail regarding it, it maybe a little tedious but I believe a very important step, an MS patient should take, to try and slow disease progression and minimise relapses.
Website – http://www.swankmsdiet.org/
“After considerable research, I developed a plan for the treatment of multiple sclerosis that absolutely anyone can do. A lifestyle change will have to take place, which may be a challenge for you, but the challenges of living with a disability are much greater.
“My 50 years of research and working with approximately 5,000 people, just like you, have proven that this protocol works to slow progression of the disease as well as benefit overall health.”
— Roy L. Swank M.D., Ph.D
A bit of background….
Professor Swank’s interest in the fat hypothesis started with his publication in 1950 about the way MS distribution around the world seemed to follow the consumption patterns of saturated fats, countries that had a high saturated fat consumption, had a high percentage of people with MS, countries with the low consumption didn’t.
Professor Swank has shown that people who follow a low saturated fat diet have less relapses and a slower progression (he followed 144 patients over 34 years). Swank recommends aiming to consume less than 20g of saturated fat per day and less than 45g of unsaturated fat per day.
I began following the Swank Diet when I first heard about in 2004. It is not easy to do and I ended up breaking it (I had to have chocolate) after 9 months, what followed was a period where I tried to stick to it 100% but was unable to. I suppose it is hard to stick to something when you don’t see any major difference in your symptoms or you don’t feel unwell, after eating forbidden food. During this time, I went through a relationship breakup and the death of my mother and I used food to comfort me (more on that later).
This continued until Sept 2009 when I read Professor Jelinek’s updated book – Overcoming MS (original book was called Taking Control of MS). I have now not have chocolate in 16 months (so proud of myself). I am not sure how well it is working but my last 3 MRI scans have shown no disease progression and no active or new legions, so it appears that my MS is stable. This does not mean that I have no symptoms, I do and I have to find a way to manage them and not let them bring me down too much, it is impossible not to have a bad day but aiming not to have one everyday is something that I strive to do.
The diet is a dairy free, meat free, processed food free one. When you make the mental decision to go on it and stick to it, it is not soo hard. I think/ know from experience that you need to be in the right place mentally for it to work for you, it is like going on a weight loss diet but not being successful because your heart is not in it. I suppose you need to believe in it to be succesful in sticking to it. I wish you the best of luck.
Note – Professor Jelinek recommends avoiding saturated fat altogether and this is probably easier than counting grams. There is a little in bread and other food that we are allowed so you end up having a certain amount through eating allowed foods. You will get more detail from his book or from Professor Swanks book.
Foods that should not be eaten
- Meat, including processed meat, salami, sausages, canned meat
- Eggs except for egg whites
- Dairy products; that is, avoid milk, cream, butter, ice cream and cheeses. Low fat milk or yoghurt is not acceptable. Cow’s milk and dairy products are best avoided altogether as the protein is likely to be as much of a problem as the saturated fat, given recent evidence. Soy products or rice or oat milk are good substitutes.
- Any biscuits, pastries, cakes, muffins, doughnuts or shortening, unless fat-free
- Commercial baked goods
- Prepared mixes
- Snacks like chips, corn chips, party foods
- Margarine, shortening, lard, chocolate, coconut and palm oil. There is some debate about chocolate as it does have some good antioxidants, but most chocolate is also loaded with saturated fat, so it should be avoided. Cocoa, however, is a natural vegetable product with only a little saturated fat, and the occasional teaspoon in a glass of soy milk for example, as hot chocolate, is fine.
- Fried and deep-fried foods except those fried without oil or with just a dash of olive oil. It is important not to heat oils if possible, and if you want to use just a little extra virgin olive oil, the most stable of the oils, it is a good idea to put a little water in with it when frying to keep its temperature down. Things like fish and chips deep-fried in, say, sunflower oil, are bad, in that the oil changes its chemical structure when heated in this way, and tends to be left in the vat for days, with all sorts of unpredictable chemical changes happening to the fats.
- Most fast foods (burgers, fried chicken, etc.)
- Other fats and oils