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Right diet may be the best way to beat multiple sclerosis and sizzle too June 17, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Hoover in Diet - the right diet for MS, what you need to eat.
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Drop dead georgeous from eating right.

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS) or know someone who does, there are many reasons to be optimistic. First, even members of Congress have had MS. Second, as each year passes, doctors and scientists learn more about what is needed to manage MS instead of having MS manage you. You may not be able to cure MS but most likely you can minimize it. Realistically, however, drugs are unlikely to make you well. To be as well as you can be, research shows an ultra healthy diet is needed.

Quite simply, the research shows that eating some foods is associated with the onset of MS and more MS symptoms and disability and other foods seem to help relieve MS symptoms. This is why a good MS diet is part of a modern science-based approach. And this ultra healthy MS diet will  even make you more attractive!

Numerous studies have shown a relationship between diet and MS and point the way to a healthy diet for those with MS. Dr. Roy Swank, for example, a professor and neurologist at a university’s medical school in Oregon, found that eating too much saturated fat helps cause MS and makes MS worse. Other studies have found, MS is more frequent where Vitamin D deficiencies are common, when too much animal fat is consumed and even when too many sweets are eaten. At the same time, one study shows that eating whole grains and fruits and vegetables helps protect against MS.

Most important for those with MS, Dr. Swank studied the impact of diet on MS patients. He found that those who followed a low-fat, ultra healthy diet he planned, often lived normal lives. In fact, he wrote that 95% of patients who started following his diet shortly after diagnosis never became disabled. In contrast, he reported those who did not eat a healthy low-fat diet, often became disabled and died at a relatively young age.

Dr. Swank carefully defined what a low-fat diet is because he was so concerned about the impact of saturated fats on those with MS. His diet prohibits eating of more than 15 grams of saturated fats each day and recommends eating of only 20 to 50 grams of unsaturated fats each day. Of course, Dr. Swank’s diet also prohibits eating of any transfats, monoglycerides and diglycerides because the health problems caused by these are well known.

I believe I have no visible symptoms today because way back in 1990’s, I found information on Swank’s theories about a low-fat, ultra-healthy diet and started following his advice. (I take no drugs.) Best of all, you can try his advice on the Swank MS Diet and for free. You can borrow his classic book from your local library using an interlibrary loan if necessary. Otherwise, you can buy is book at a modest price at Amazon.com. His book is entitled The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book by Roy Laver Swank. This book is so important for anyone with MS that it should be required reading. If you have MS, this is the first book to read. For refinements that update Swank’s work and will help you do even better, see Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: An Evidence-Based Guide to Recovery by George Jelinek, M.D.

If the opportunity for better health is not enough to get you to try Dr. Swank’s diet for a few months, please consider this: his diet will make you look better than you have ever looked. When you start eating the right fats, taking fish oil, taking a few low-cost supplements, and eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you are going to be surprised at the difference in your appearance in a few months. Dr. Swank’s diet is precise, though, so be prepared to be precise when following it. Cheating is not a good idea.

An excellent web site that includes important information, including dietary recommendations prepared by a doctor, is Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, prepared by Dr. George Jelinek who is also a professor of medicine. I love this web site and I highly recommend its use. Dr. Jelinek has MS himself and believes most can minimize MS symptoms with the right life style choices.

I also highly recommend Dr. Jelinek’s book on multiple sclerosis (mentioned above). A new version of this book, however, was published in February 2010 but was initially available only in Australia and New Zealand. Now, it is available in in much of the world. (Most book sellers are no longer stocking his previous book on multiple sclerosis which was called Taking Control of Multiple Sclerosis). His new book is called Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: An Evidence-Based Guide to Recovery and is available on Amazon and other sites. Google books now provides a preview of this important book at: Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: An Evidence-Based Guide to Recovery.

If you want to read Jelinek’s older book on multiple sclerosis, it is probably best to borrow it from your local library. Also, the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis web site is so thorough and informative that it includes the basic information you need.

Of the many books I have read on MS, I most highly recommend those by Dr. Swank and Dr. Jelinek. Please note, though, that the recommendations of Dr. Swank and Dr. Jelinek do differ somewhat. I use combination of ideas from both. For years I tended to follow Dr. Swank’s recommendations on diet and Dr. Jelinek’s recommendations on supplements. Now I lean more towards Jelinek’s recommendations and I primarily eat a whole plant food diet with fish such as salmon and sardines. (Please also note that I do not recommend the web site of the Swank Foundation that was founded by Dr. Swank. Dr. Swank is now deceased and, unfortunately, the web site of the Swank Foundation now includes recommendations that are not well-grounded in science.)

In summary, I’m not the only one who thinks the odds you can beat MS are good if you eat a healthy diet and follow the other advice included here. A couple of professors agree with much of what is included here. So, best wishes in changing your life style. Eat healthy to live healthy and look drop dead gorgeous!

I will include more information on how you can maximize your sizzle in upcoming blogs.

Please let me know if you find my blog helpful. Please add a comment. What did you like? What would you like added? Thanks! Together we can change the way the world views MS. Please also join the Intelligent Guide to MS page on Facebook. I will use that page to make timely posts on new research and other issues likely to be of interest to others.

Is that veggie juice or what?  (Er, I do not think so.)

Is that veggie juice or what? (Er, I do not think so.)

Please remember to consult with your doctors about how to stay as healthy as possible. Nothing here should be interpreted as medical advice. Instead, please use the information you find here in your discussions with your doctor.

Copyright 2010 Rebecca Hoover

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Tags: Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Diet – the right diet for MS, Fatigue, Fish Oil, Food, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Nutrition, Prevent, Rebif, Relapses, Sizzle, Tysabri



1. Merely Me - September 13, 2008

I haven’t tried the Swank diet. I have certainly heard about it though. I am not on any MS drugs (yet). I was just officially diagnosed back in October of last year. I am waiting for my next MRI to make any decisions. While I am not fond of the idea of the MS drugs I am more open to thinking about trying one. I do believe in trying to be as healthy as you can and upping the odds in your favor. I do believe in using natural remedies and treatments but I am not so much a believer in any claims for “beating” any disease or disorder. To imply causation…well…that is a big leap. I do trust science and research to give us a better understanding of what treaments work best.

My MS is not your MS and for that matter everyone is unique in their presentation and symptoms of their disease. What works for one person may not work for another. Some people are going to have a more benign course and you can’t always assume that their “healthy lifestyle” is the cause.

So those are my general thoughts. You do have some great ideas though. I will be back to read more.

2. Rebecca Hoover - September 13, 2008

Merely Me,

You are wise to be skeptical about claims. The disease modifying drugs for MS only produce a reduction of relapses of about 30%. At the same time, do remember that most with MS never end up in a wheel chair.

That said, do remember that, like those coping with almost every other disease, those with MS do better if they take care of themselves. It is vitally important to adopt a healthy life style–to eat right, sleep enough, exercise, avoid heat, etc. The research supports this view as does every major organization serving those with MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society and others all take the time to encourage those with MS to eat right, sleep enough, etc.

Many, many studies document nutritional deficiencies among those with MS. It is very important that those with MS correct nutritional deficiencies. Also, many studies show improved outcomes for those who make life style improvements such as exercising and sleeping enough.

Best wishes. Do remember to eat right, sleep enough, exercise, avoid heat, etc. The best medicines in the world cannot overcome foolish life style choices.

3. Julie Calder - September 20, 2008

I was so pleased to find your website -people like you are an inspiration to the rest of us!
I came across George Jelinek’s book in April this year and I never looked back! It took me a while to totally give up red meat, but I have done so for about 3 months now. I do still allow myself to eat chicken a couple of times a week (Swank version) but I am very strict about avoiding all dairy and saturated fat. I take Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, flax seed oil and omega-3 fish oil. I also take amantadine, which is a Parkinson’s disease drug, which helps some MS patients with fatigue. It has the added bonus of being an anti-viral drug so I don’t tend to catch colds or suffer from infections.
The diet has made a huge difference to my life – the fatigue has been considerably reduced and my balance is much, much better. I am much more ‘with it’ mentally which helps a lot at work! Two things I haven’t managed to get rid of yet are my bladder weakness and the ‘foot drop’. The foot drop has decreased a lot, but if I try to walk further than about 2 miles (or sooner on ‘bad’ days) then it kicks in again and I start tripping up, falling over my own foot! The bladder weakness came with my second relapse and has never gone away. Is it likely to when I have been on the diet a bit longer? There doesn’t seem to be anything about this subject on your website. It usually varies in severity based on the ‘time of the month’ but my consultant just laughed when I told him this.
I would appreciate any advice you may have and congratulations on having created a great website!

Helen - May 8, 2009

I felt some relief reading your story–Thanx. I would like to know what you do eat. I am trying to get starteed with the diet. It is going to require a fairly major change in my buying/cooking habits. I am asking for suggestions if its not too personal.

Again. thank you for sharing your story. It brought me HOPE following my major flare in March 09. You see your message helped even almost a year later.

4. Helen - May 8, 2009

Hello.. I have newly discovered blogging after a recent flare with my MS. My discovery led me to this site even though I have great trouble typing.

I am frustrated with the medical side of MS treatments and have recently made decisons to use some of the diets you have mentioned here. I want to use Dr. Swanks diet. I am not sure how to proceed now as I have never been on a diet before. I guess just start–right?

Basically I would really just like to get some menus….help if you can…thnx

5. ken bull - December 4, 2009

Rebecca – an excellent site full of much useful information thanks. I have been on the Swank diet, as refined by Professor George Jelinek in Australia, for over nine months and have had one of the symptoms mentioned in the comment by Julie Calder (above) all but disappear. I’m doubly heartened by that fact, since the diet is supposed to have no effect under 9 months and full effect only after 3 to 5 years .. so an improvement at this stage is great. Incidentally George Jelinek’s book is being revised and expanded and is coming out in early 2010 – if I’m correct as “Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis” with the publisher Allen & Unwin. I’d very much recommend it, his altruistic work generally and his informative website that you mention, to anyone with MS – the disease is not the terror it once was before the diet studies commenced by Swank and since refined. Congrats on your helpful website .. serendipitously I have recently started a site of my own (www.kensmsrecovery.com) .. best wishes, KB.

Rebecca Hoover - June 21, 2010


Belated thanks for your comments here. I have jaunted over and read your blog a few times. It is interesting that we still do not have Jelinek’s book here in the USA and I guess that it is not expected until September 2010. Ah well, we still have the web site and, with the new design, the web site is super.


6. murbruk - February 17, 2010

I was diagnosed with MS 2003 but I had suffered from severe fatigue since my early teens. I started using interferon but I had to stop after only a month because the side-effects where severe. After that I discovered supplements and with the help of them I quickly improved my health. I had suffered from lack of B-vitamin for many years (B6, B12 or folic acid, don’t know which) but that went away when I started on supplements. My health have gradually improved since I started using supplements and my only symptom is chronic neuropathy in my arms, but that will never go away and I’m forced to use strong painkillers to cope with the pain.

In 2006 I managed to get rid of my fatigue when I found alphalipoinic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine. I took it for a week and my fatigue disappeared almost completely. When I ran out of pills, the fatigue came creeping back within a month, but after starting again it went quickly away.

I try to eat healthy but it is difficult. I eat a lot of fruit and I try to eat more greens. I have cut down on fat and I avoid soda and junk food. Sweets are my weakness and I eat too much of that junk. I try to cut down but it’s like a drug.

I don’t normally use other medicines than painkillers but I used to use LDN until I was too hooked on morphine to be able to use it. I will try to get rid of the morphine so I can use LDN again, because I think it worked for me. Me general well being has gone down a bit since I stopped using it but I haven’t gotten worse otherwise.

I need to find a better way to handle my neuropathy than morphine because I’m forced to take higher doses and it makes me nervous. I’ve tried Neurontin and Lyrica but they don’t do anything. I don’t know of any other painkiller that helps, so I don’t know what to do.

I’ve suffered from mild depression from time to time but the drugs for that didn’t suit me. They made me feel sick and Efexor made me even throw up. I tried 5HTP and that helped me quite a lot without too bad side-effects. Since I started on stronger vitamin D I don’t need that anymore because I seem to be in a more stable mood now.

I use the following supplements regularly or daily.

Vitamin D (5000 UI)
Vitamin C
B12 (methylcobalamin) and all other B-vitamins
Folic Acid
Omega 3
Alphalipoinic acid

I’ve tried a lot of other supplements too, and I’m still trying out new things, MSM for example, but this list consist of the most important ones that I don’t want to stop using because they either makes me feel much better or they are scientifically proven to be useful. I’m a strong advocate for supplements and I don’t think a healthy diet is enough today. Not even for a healthy person if they want optimal health.

However, I’m also a strong advocate for a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet, selected supplements and enough exercise regardless if one is healthy or not. An often forgotten side is the psychological side of life. One need to slow down enough to realize to fine things in life that is worth living for. Many of us are so stressed out that we find problems that are non-existent and we are looking for happiness in all sorts of places when in reality it is in front of us all the time.

Rebecca Hoover - February 17, 2010

Thanks for letting me know how you are doing. I am glad you are concerned about malnutrition because that is a widespread problem in those with MS. Taking 5,000 I.U. of vitamin D3 is important but it is good to have your vitamin D level tested by a doctor to make sure the level is at the high end of the normal range (it is important to take D3 and not D2). Sometimes the doses need to be adjusted a bit to hit this target. Also, taking B12 and fish oil is a great idea in my book.

I am very concerned about your use of so many supplements, however. I think it is not wise to rely on supplements except for a very few such as Vitamin D3, calcium and fish. Some supplements are hazardous–for example, Vitamin E supplements even in small doses were associated with an increase in fatal heart attacks in one study. I think we should take fish oil, and Vitamin D3 and B12 and not much else. Instead of spending money on all of those other supplements, it is better to follow the dietary recommendations or Professor. Roy L. Swank, M.D.

I also am very worried about your sugar consumption. Sweets drive up triglycerides (a cholesterol lipid) and cause blockage of arteries and probably MS related problems too. Sweets are not good for your general heatlh and don’t help a bit with your MS. To address things such as your arm pain, it is important to start eating right, sleeping enough, etc.

Finally, of course, I am concerned about your use of drugs. I encourage you to talk to your doctor about learning to cope without drugs. Once you start eating right, physical therapy can do wonders. Stretching exercises, for example, will make a lot of pain melt away and these exercises can be many times more effective than any medicine.

Good luck. Eating right, limiting use of drugs, exercising, sleep, etc., are the things that bring vibrant health and chic good looks too. Best wishes.


murbruk - February 19, 2010

I don’t rely on supplements as substitute for a healthy diet but I use them because I feel they help me and there is evidence to back this up. I have selected the supplements I use very carefully and the ones that haven’t proven to be useful or have good scientific evidence, I have stopped using. I don’t use vitamin E, or vitamin A for that matter. Well, there are small amounts in a multivitamin I sometimes use and in the fish oil. I don’t think there is any reason to be concerned about this because supplements have changed my life from being constantly sick and out of energy, to be healthy and energetic. I don’t use excessive amounts of them. I don’t want my old life back, I feel so much better now.

I rather use supplements than drugs and so far it’s worked for me and you have to understand that we are all different. Supplements work for me and if eating healthy is enough for you, that’s fine, but it’s not enough for me. Food alone isn’t enough to keep my health optimal and I have suffered from lack of certain vitamins basically all my life. Before I found acethyle-l-carnitine I was going to retire because I couldn’t cope with the work I was doing but after I started using that, I haven’t had any problems coping. This isn’t normal and there seem to be other health issues that force me to use supplements.

My sugar consumption is a worry but on the other hand I don’t drink soda or anything else where you easily get a lot of sugar. I’m however addressing this problem and I will cut back on it. I don’t eat sweets daily and I don’t eat massive amounts but more than I should.

My use of drugs is a concern for me too and I have tried to get another kind of painkiller but there aren’t really any good alternatives. I don’t like to be forced to use morphine but a life without it isn’t really an option. Believe me, I’ve tried. I had to rely on Neurontin for the first 3 years and that was 3 years of hell.

Not even morphine can take away the pain completely and other painkillers don’t really help at all. I life without it would be optimal but eating right, exercise, sleep and all that is not enough. However, it helps. Consider this, put both your arms down to your elbow in boiling water and try cope with the pain by eating right and sleeping enough. I can promise you that it won’t be enough. Sure, you can live with it if you have to, as I had to in the beginning, but it will make you a wreck after a while. I can’t sleep without painkillers and sleeping badly makes the pain even worse. Exercise helps a lot but when the endorphins are gone the pain is back just as before.

Exercise makes me feel a lot better and I exercise a lot but it won’t fix my pain. Nothing will. I’m forced to live with this pain for the rest of my life and that is depressing. I’ve tried acupuncture and many other things but they have only been a waste of money from the point of pain. This isn’t normal MS neuropathy that comes and goes. This is permanent damage to the nerves I my spine because doctors didn’t realize what was wrong with me in time and they started the treatment 8 months too late. By then the damage was already done.

murbruk - February 19, 2010

I forgot to mention that I have measured my level of vitamin D and it is pretty much perfect (as far as anyone can say what level is perfect or not). This vitamin has improved my health a lot and it has also improved my general mood and feeling. This is a very much underrated vitamin and many doctors still warn about using more than the official amount, even though there are plenty of evidence that the recommended amount isn’t enough even for healthy people.

Rebecca Hoover - February 19, 2010

I agree with you 100% on Vitamin D3. I think Vitamin D3 is a great help to those of us with MS and the research supports this view.

I am still concerned about the Vitamin E and Vitamin A supplements. The research I have seem suggest these supplements cause problems.

Best wishes. I hope you think about following the Swank MS Diet or Jelinek’s recommendations relating to diet. I think these are key in an all around healthy life style.

murbruk - February 21, 2010

Well vitamin A is poisonous at high doses, so that’s clear, but the levels found in fish oil and multivitamins are so low that it isn’t of any real concern. Unless ones eats only liver but I’m not about to do that even though I like liver.

Vitamin E isn’t as easy to be sure about since the science isn’t really that clear about it. The are evidence for and against it. The vitamin could possibly be a positive thing from the view of MS but I’m not sure so I don’t use it, except for whats in the fish oil and multivitamin and that’s very low levels, so I don’t think there’s any risk even if the risks was true (and I’m not so convinced).

I am considering the diets or at least using parts of them as it could be a somewhat difficult to follow it precisely when I eat at work for example. I agree completely that a healthy diet is the base for a healthy life but I also think that it isn’t enough for optimal health. However, I don’t think that picking supplements at random from the supermarket is a good choice, but carefully selecting quality supplements that have been shown effective for the problems or areas you want to improve or protect, is a good way to optimize your health.

That’s what I have done and it has worked very well for me. Believe me when I say that I’m a completely new person compared to before and it is all thanks to supplements. I don’t suggest that my list of supplements would work for others, not even for others with MS, but it could be a good reference for finding useful ideas where to start looking.

Most of the supplements I use are basically just food. For example I use a lot of amino acids and they are just the building blocks of the proteins found in food. I have found that it is of benefit to take them, especially acethyle-l-carnitine as it relieves the symptoms indicating McArdles syndrome. I don’t have a diagnosis for it, and I never will since I now have MS, but it would explain a lot that MS really can’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I have MS and nothing will change that, but McArdles, or some other metabolic disorder, would explain a lot of my symptoms and why certain supplements work better for me than for others with MS. I haven’t heard of anybody having as dramatic help from this amino acid as I have had or supplements in general for that matter.

7. Rebecca Hoover - February 21, 2010

There is a lot of research showing that many supplements provide no benefits or are even harmful. For example, as I mentioned, Vitamin E was correlated with an increase in fatal health attacks in one study.

Also, it is very difficult to assess what supplements do work with MS because remissions come and go in MS for reasons that are usually not apparent. Only controlled scientific studies can provide the evidence that is needed to assess the value of an individual supplement.

In the case of MS, Vitamin D3 was shown in a random controlled trial to reduce relapses. A very few other supplements such as fish oil have also been shown by research to be of benefit.

Unfortuately, the supplements company often target their marketing at those with MS because many with MS feel desperate.

I discourage reliance on supplements because of the potential for harm. I make very few exceptions.

I encourage you to also read what Professor George Jelinek, M.D., has to say about supplements. He shares my concerns about them.

8. david morgan - March 6, 2010

Hi Rebecca hope you are well.I just wondered if you could give me any advice on numbness.Have been doing so well then last weekend woke up at 7am with complete numbness down my left side.after resting until 11am it had almost gone! but have since had a kind of dead heavy leg which i am finding it hard to walk at the moment.Taking 10000iu of vit d a day and following still georges recommendations.This has just come all of a sudden and i cant put my finger on why.Also i feel a little unbalanced with dizziness.Any advice would be so helpful many thanks David Morgan.

Rebecca Hoover - March 7, 2010

Hi David, I sent you a personal email with a longer response. But just so everyone knows, I think you need to see a doctor because the symptoms you describe could be caused by something other than MS too. Also, I did send a list of about ten things to think about in a case such as this if the problem really is an MS problem.

I hope you feel better soon.


9. Whitney Ross gray - January 26, 2011

I’m starting a website about nutrition and MS. I admire Dr. Swank but I think he was off base with the fat. After reading about the paleo diet and researching that, i see that swank should have cut out all gluten and them he could have seen the benefit of fat. His basic conviction that diet can control ms was spot on.

Rebecca Hoover - January 27, 2011

Whitney, Thanks for stopping by. I have to disagree with your thinking on saturated fat. Because saturated fat seems to increase the risk of cancers, liver disease, heart disease, etc., in addition to M.S., I certainly can’t agree that saturated fat is healthy. Also, while gluten causes severe problems for a few individuals. studies show that eating whole grains containing gluten actually decreases the risk of getting M.S.

10. Margot - May 20, 2015

Interesting I will look into books. I will come back need to get the name of the author of the diet I have been following

11. Rebecca Babcock - August 16, 2015

Enjoying the e-banter associated with this site. I’m a newbie (3 months on OMS protocol minus the meditation because I don’t do “woo”. I just take a nap instead. Rebecca Hoover, you are one tough cookie.

Rebecca Hoover - August 17, 2015

Thanks, Rebecca B. I don’t meditate either as you know. I just take a walk. Walking relaxes me and that suits me better than meditation. I love the rest of OMS though. Jelinek is the greatest!

12. Usana - October 10, 2015

There is no doubt… diet is the very first thing any person with ms have to change… lets be intelligent for once

13. Paul - March 5, 2016

One word “placebo”.
I was diagnosed 2002. Trouble with speech,vision,numbness all came and went. Hate fruit and vegetables.Work full time,wife 2 kids no meds but plenty of alcohol 🍷

Rebecca Hoover - March 9, 2016

The research shows that on average folks who follow an ultra healthy living program that involves limiting saturated fats, taking vitamin D3, taking flaxseed oil, etc. do better with MS. Eating sensibly is no placebo, my good friend. You mother was right when she said, “Eat your vegetables.”

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