I read with great interest your article on celiac disease. I was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and was wondering if you have any insight on how diet might contribute to this condition, which is basically an autoimmune disorder that attacks the protecting myelin coating of the nerves.
About 400,000 people have been diagnosed with MS in the US, and its incidence seems to be increasing.My assigned neurologist, who specializes in treating MS patients, used MRI scans to identify "plaques" on my brain and spinal cord. On the MRI images,these appear as light-colored spots of inflammation. These, he says, are the cause of sensory problems in my feet and legs, as well as occasional vision and equilibrium loss when I overheat. He prescribed beta-inferon injections every other day to modulate my immune response. I'm giving myself these injections now. This does not improve my condition, but is supposed to help keep it from getting worse.
Other than to suggest a healthy low-fat diet, the neurologist who diagnosed me was quick to discount any connection with diet when I asked about it. But I have read a number of "fringe" natural health pieces that point tomilk, gluten and other food allergies as potential culprits. No one has suggested I get a test for food allergies, but I'm thinking maybe it would be a good idea. What are your thoughts on this, and how reliable are these food allergy tests? And, why wouldn't my neurologist or GP suggest such an allergy test?
Thanks for writing--first, I'm sorry to hear that you have MS; hopefully your treatment will be as effective as can be expected. Secondly, the source of MS is highly controversial and no one can say definitively what caused yours. Anyone who does make that claim is not truthful. Finally, I am not a doctor, and MS is not my area of expertise; however, after a quick literature review there are a few points of advice I would offer:
1. There may be an association between MS and vitamin D deficiency, as reported in JAMA by researchers at the Harvard school of public health (Munger KL, Levin LI, Hollis BW, Howard NS, Ascherio A (2006). "Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis". JAMA 296 (23): 2832–8).
High sun exposure causes too much damage for your body, but salmon, mackerel and tuna are all good sources of vitamin D. Furthermore, these foods are also naturally high in bio-active omega-3 fats, of which nearly all Americans are not getting sufficient amounts.
2. MS and stress/viral infections are HIGHLY associated. Therefore, it would behoove you to practice a relaxing form of meditation or exercise, such as yoga, consistently (like daily). Also, I would examine your life and eliminate extraneous stressors. Don't try to pack too much into your days; plan ahead to avoid unwanted surprises. Take a nice vacation (even if it's local, just make it care-free)!
Sleep loss induces inflammatory and stress responses in the body; adequate sleep should be a priority for you!
A high intake of high phytochemical/nutrient fruits and vegetables is associated with reduced risk of colds and other viral infections. An antioxidant juice is NOT a substitute for a good diet. The only way to eat a healthy diet is to eat lots and lots of fruit and vegetables. Especially for an MS patient, the bulk of your diet should be leafy greens, berries, broccoli, etc. Frozen is fine; avoid canned produce.
You do not need a special supplement or juice; you need good food in your body ALL the time to enhance immunity.
3. Food allergies are common culprits of bodily discomfort but I cannot say that they are directly linked to chronic disease. Variety (especially of fruits and vegetables) is the key to a healthy diet for all humans. Out of the 100s of grains in our world, the American's idea of variety is a wheat bagel at breakfast, wheat bread for lunch, and wheat pasta at dinner. Furthermore, materials like latex generally evolve into allergies with repeated exposure. It is not surprising to me that many people have a problem with wheat when its consumption is so incredibly pervasive in our society. You may have a problem with wheat; you may not. Wheat is not required for a healthy diet, so go ahead and eliminate it for a while if you feel like it. Remember, in lieu of grains, you will need to get plenty of whole fruit in your diet for adequate carbohydrate intake.
Food allergy testing on the skin, as it is commonly done, has a tendency to OVER-DIAGNOSE people with food allergies. In order to truly identify food allergies, your blood must be tested for certain antibodies. This is quite costly, which is why it is rarely done. Elimination allergy diets should only be done under the care of a physician (MD!) who specializes in allergies, ideally in collaboration with a registered dietitian (RD).
Since there is no scientifically validated and clear association between a particular food allergy and MS, it would not have been prudent for your neurologist to recommend allergy testing. He or she is attempting to maximize the good of your financial resources by focusing on validated medical treatments.
Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.