jump to navigation

Some versions of the Paleo diet may make your multiple sclerosis worse April 9, 2012

Posted by Rebecca Hoover in Uncategorized.

Diets being called Paleo diets today are very different from the diets actually consumed during the Paleolithic Age. Merely grass feeding domesticated animals does not create the wild game that was actually consumed by those in the Paleolithic Age.

Different individuals who say they follow a Paleo diet can follow very different diet plans. Some eat grass fed red and organ meats regularly, some include fish as their only meats, and some eat only free range chicken for meat. Still others are vegan. Because, however, some versions of a Paleo diet may make your multiple sclerosis (MS) worse, it is important to understand the basic issues involved in the helpfulness of various diet plans to MS. And, if your Paleo diet includes red and organ meats or even red meat from poultry, research suggests the diet may be doing more harm than good. Likewise, any use of coconut or palm oil may be doing more harm than good and excluding healthy legumes (lentils and beans) and whole grains is probably hurting you. This article discusses some of the evidence relating to red meat, legumes, whole grains, and various oils and MS.

Before discussing more detailed issues involved with various diets claiming to be Paleo diets, it is important to mention that very few humans living today can eat food similar to what was consumed during the Paleolithic Age (also called the Stone Age). At that time, there was no agriculture and animals had not been domesticated. Instead, those living during the Stone Age ate wild game that was most likely very lean compared to meats available for consumption today. Herds of domesticated grass fed beef animals did not exist during the Paleolithic Age—accordingly those living in the Paleolithic Age probably consumed far less animal fat than most Western diets include today–even when animals are grass fed.

At the same time, it is important to understand that there is no ideal research on diet and MS. Even so, the research provides plenty of signals that there are serious problems with what some are calling a Paleo diet for those with MS and probably for most. It is important to consider the evidence about the impacts of red meat, legumes, complex carbohydrates, and saturated fats.

Red Meat Probably Helps Cause and Worsen MS While Fish Protects Against MS

While so-called Paleo diets often encourage eating of domesticated grass fed red meat, studies suggest that red meat helps cause MS and is relatively unhealthy for everyone. Consider the study Nutritional factors in the aetiology of multiple sclerosis: a case-control study in Montreal, Canada. Published by the International Edidemiological Association in 1998, this study reported that eating of animal fat almost doubles the risk for MS. Eating pork increases the risk for MS by about 25 percent. Eating beef also appeared to increase the risk of acquiring MS but the result was not statistically significant. In contrast, this study showed fish has protective effect. Fish consumption actually resulted in a 10% reduced risk of acquiring MS.

Moreover, evidence is increasingly showing that red meat is problematic for everyone. One study report entitled Efficacy of Dietary BehaviorModification for Preserving Cardiovascular Health and Longevity by Moira McAllister Pryde and William Bernard Kannel indicates that red meat increases mortality by 31% in men and 35% in women. Red meat increases the risk of cancer mortality by 27% in men and 50% in women.

Another study Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies reports an overall increase in mortality of 12% from eating only one serving of red meat each day as well as increases in mortality up to 50% from cancer and heart disease in women who eat red meat.

Those who follow a Paleo diet claim that grass fed red meat is healthier than most red meat. It is important to remember, however, that if this were true MS should not have been so common in Europe when most ate only grass fed red meat. Also, it is important to remember that those living in the Paleolithic Age ate game and not domesticated grass fed animals.

Saturated fats in red meat, dairy products and coconut and palm oils seem to worsen MS

Here, the most important evidence comes from the studies performed by Professor, Roy L. Swank M.D. In one article entitled “Multiple sclerosis: fat-oil relationship, Dr. Swank reported “With a daily [saturated] fat consumption less than 20.1 g/day (av 17 g/day), 31% died, and average deterioration was slight. A daily intake greater than 20 g/day (av 25 or 41 g/day) was attended by serious disability and the deaths of 79 and 81%, respectively. Oil intake bore an indirect relationship to fat consumption. Minimally disabled patients who followed Swank’s diet recommendations deteriorated little if at all, and only 5% failed to survive the 34 year period of the study, whereas 80% who failed to follow diet recommendations did not survive the study period.” Note that Swank’s diet recommendations required avoiding red meat for one year and then allowed eating only three ounces of lean red meat per week.

Amazingly, Swank seemed to be ahead of his time–this very limited amount of red meat consumption is what scientists are now finding is needed for optimal health.

More recently a study report Serum lipid profiles are associated with disability and MRI outcomes in multiple sclerosis indicates that higher levels of overall cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) are associated with more disability in MS and more MS lesions. Red meat, of course, elevates overall cholesterol and LDL.

Fish May Help Prevent and Treat MS

At the same time, red meat is very problematic for those with MS, fish seems helpful for those not only with MS but for everyone. In Effects of dietary intervention on MRI activity, de- and remyelination in the cuprizone model for demyelinationm scientists from Norway showed eating salmon but not use of cod liver oil actually resulted in fewer MS lesions on MRIs.

Indeed, fish seems to be helpful to the brain and neurological systems of those with MS in other ways. In Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases”, scientists report that two out of three studies of omega-3 supplements showed these supplements actually reduced MS related disability. In other words, those who took omega-3 supplements (fish oils contain omega-3s), had improvements in their MS symptoms!

In yet another study Effect of dietary advice and n-3 supplementation in newly diagnosed MS patients, scientists reported improved outcomes for newly diagnosed MS patients who receive fish oil and other nutritional supplements

Legumes Are Included in the Diets of Those Who Live the Longest and May Be Key to Good Health

Another important issue is that Paleo diets usually exclude foods that studies have found to be protective against MS and that are appear to be most helpful in living long and healthy lives. Also, while Paleo diets ban legumes (lentils and beans) and whole grains, studies suggest these are helpful for those with MS. Here are a few related studies:

In Nutritional factors in the aetiology of multiple sclerosis: a case-control study in Montreal, Canada discussed previously, scientists reported that vegetable protein decreases the risk for MS by more than 50% while cereal fibers decrease the risk of MS by more than 40%. Instead of excluding legumes and whole grains from the diets of those with MS, it seems wise to include them. (Of course, if any allergies are present, these must be taken into account.)

Overall, excluding vegetable protein from legumes and whole grains for almost everyone may shorten life. In Protein and coronary heart disease: the role of different protein sources, scientists reported that low carbohydrate diets high in vegetable protein extend life by about 20% while low carbohydrate diets high in animal protein increase morality by about 23%.

Likewise in Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities scientists report that contrary to the claims of proponents of Paleo diets, legumes (lentils and beans) actually help ensure overall health and are part of the diets of those who live the longest everywhere in the world. At the same time, there is not even one study showing that legumes are harmful in anyway to those with MS. In fact, the studies suggest that legumes help protect against MS and against the inflammation that can worsen MS.

The eating of whole grains often discouraged by Paleo diets is also usually helpful. In Factor analysis in the identification of dietary patterns and their predictive role in morbid and fatal events, scientists reported the consumption of bread, cereals (pasta), potatoes, vegetables, fish and oil lowers the overall mortality rate from cardiovascular disease.

In summary, the studies seem to show that the same ultra healthy diet that extends life also protects against and helps those with MS. This ultra healthy diet includes fish, whole grains, legumes, nuts and generous amounts of vegetables with some fruit. We also need to keep in mind that anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence. Stories of individual recoveries attributed to a Paleo diet may be the results of other factors just as the many individuals who claimed MS cures from bee strings were later very disappointed.

We do owe our Paleo fan friends a debt of gratitude though. They have rightly encouraged eating more vegetables! If your definition of a Paleo diet includes the components of the diets being found to be ultra healthy by scientists today, the diet is probably A-OK and will probably keep you looking great and feeling great for a long, long time. Woo hoo! If on the other hand your diet includes more than miniscule amounts of red meat or coconut or palm oil and excludes legumes and whole grains, some revisions seem to be in order. Some who have tried some versions of Paleo diets are now expressing regrets because they believe the diet they tried made their MS worse.

Unfortunately, some very unhealthy diets are being promoted these days for those with MS under the Paleo name and these are based on wishful thinking and some unfortunate nostalgic longing for a perfect past that never really existed. Scientific research supports the view a whole plant food diet with fish is just about the healthiest diet out there and that those with MS do best when following such a diet. Interestingly, a whole plant food diet combined with fish probably comes closest to what those in the Paleolithic Age actually age.

Merely grass feeding domesticated beef animals does not create the wild animals actually consumed by those who lived during the Paleolithic Age.

As always, have fun eating healthy! There are lots of great recipes out there and you can look and feel great and keep your taste buds dancing with joy! Being drop dead gorgeous from eating right can always be fun. Being scientific about all of this can be fun too because it keeps you confident that you are moving in the right direction.

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.

Please remember to consult your with 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 2012 Rebecca Hoover

Add to    Technorati Favorites



1. Valorie - April 9, 2012

As someone who has been fighting MS for over 16 years now, I so appreciate your research and affirmation of the findings and recommendations of Dr. Roy Swank, the doctor who helped me feel better and be stronger. So many neurologists have told me that diet has nothing to do with MS, and at times those words became depressing. But I know I feel better and stronger and have no relapses when I eat according to Dr. Swanks’s plan (and get appropriate rest as well.) But affirmation helps so much, especially in the face of negativity from the current medical establishment. There is much interesting and good information on your blog, and I thank you for posting!

2. Rebecca Hoover - April 9, 2012

Valorie, Thanks so much for your nice comments! I am always happy when this site encourages other to live ultra healthy — that’s good for the individual, their friends and family and the whole wide world. The little choices we make each day add up to big, big changes. Thanks again.–Rebecca

3. cbittles - April 9, 2012

Hello – Rebecca – thank you again for taking the time and effort to research and put this all together. I am grateful for my email alert and just read your article over a cup of tea and made notes! I am concentrating so much on the fantastic OMS programme – recently introducing myself to meditating – very new to me! Your article has made me remember Dr Swank and his amazing discoveries and I am going to re visit legumes – I have been missing them out!
Have you tried this recipe? We ate it last night – I, of course, swapped butter for water.

4. cath3r1n3 - April 9, 2012
Rebecca Hoover - April 9, 2012

Wow, that is one awesome looking recipe. I love Indian food. But please remember all, do not use the butter. That’s a no no for us.

5. Julie - April 9, 2012

Rebecca, Here is a riddle I would love for you to solve…. What foods are MS Friendly and included in all of
the following diets.. Swank, Jellenick, Paleo, McDougal, Hallelujah Acres, BBD?

I am so FRUSTRATED by all of the conflicting science. Everyone has a theory that is backed up by study after study and none of them seem to have any common ground. If I ate only the foods that were studied to be beneficial to MS I would be living on broccoli all day. My chiro is convinced that gluten intolerance is a huge contributor to MS symptoms, yet Swank has recipes for waffles and pancakes loaded with gluten in his books. Despite my chiro and his convincing beliefs, people have done well on Swank. On the flip side, I’ve also talked to people who were 100% compliant with a Swank diet and deteriorated nonetheless.
Which is why I wanted to also ask you what you know about Metabolic Typing diets. I haven’t tried their diet yet but it is appealing to me the more and more conflicting these studies seem to get. What if certain people do better on a combination of animal protein and carbs while others do better on a primarily vegan diet? Wouldn’t that explain why some thrive on Swank and others thrive on a Paleo?
I would love to hear your opinion on these maddening nutritional questions that I have.

Rebecca Hoover - April 9, 2012

Hi Julie,

Thanks for sharing your frustration. I think the evidence seems so conflicting because there are various types of scientific evidence and some types are better than other types of evidence. At the same time, two different studies on the same topic can produce different results just because of random variation.

To make things even worse, a lot of folks writing about MS confuse theory with actual evidence. The fact that some theory seems to make sense does not make it true. This seems to be what is happening with the hubbub around Paleo diets. The Paleo theory is attractive but there really is no evidence that the diets are ideal. Likewise, the Best Bet Diet which excludes legumes does so for theoretical reasons rather reasons based in scientific research.

When all is said and done, I think that Professor George Jelinek and Professor Swank have done the best job of developing dietary recommendations for those with MS based on actual scientific evidence. Professor Swank did his work a number of years ago and this work has been updated by Professor Jelinek.

All in all, I trust Jelinek at this time.


William Gelvin - January 22, 2014

There is a tie between cieliac disease (gluten intolerance) and MS. I have both. The best thing to do is see who funded any research, who conducted the research, and if they make claims or provide evidence to support their claims. many times the results are skewed or misinterpreted for the sake of an agenda or sales of a product. MS is unpredictable in its nature. Even the medication taken to reduce legions is difficult to determine how effective it is without using a margin of error or probability. I am suspect of any study that finds certain foods to lower legions. It is too difficult to tell if it was due to the foods, or other factors within the persons biology. Personally I avoid beans, milk, and grains. I do it because I literally feel sick after I eat them, and they cause an inflamation response in me. My body’s reaction to these foods is the only thing I need as evidence as they are poison to SOME. that’s the main thing. Everybody’s chemistry is slightly different, and you have to figure out what is best for you.

6. Cynthia Fairfield - April 9, 2012

Hi Rebecca-I have had MS for at least 20 years and have been a vegetarian for longer. I think I instinctively knew what was better for me and I am still mobile. Your info reinforces my choices. Thank you so much! My family thinks it’s weird but now I can show them I know what I am doing.

Rebecca Hoover - April 11, 2012


It is great to hear you are still doing well after 20 years with MS. For me, it is now almost 21 years. When first diagnosed with MS, I would not have believed it would be possible to live such a full and vigorous life as mine has been. I am so grateful to Swank and Jelinek! And I am so grateful to the often nameless resarchers who do some rather tedious work that is so helpful in teaching us how to live ultra healthy.

Keep up the good work!


7. Chris - April 10, 2012

Hi Rebecca,

like an article as fast to my question;)

Your opinion coincides with mine. Although I must admit that I have brought pondering the pages of Robb Wolf, the report by Terry choice to something and I was somewhat intrigued by the theories. But if you look at what is scientifically proven to effect in MS remains at the Paleos not much left. On the other hand, there are swank and Jelinek, who can prove wisschenschadtlich. Especially in terms Swank, one can not argue away. That is black and white. And when Swank was not only the omega-3 ratio of O6 but explicitly the saturated fats, like my friend (biochemist) said. Had it been only the relationship, then it would not have this negative effect in more than 20 grams a day may be saturated, because then there were also more omega 6 are present.

I also see it as you that the Stone Age if it was meat for times that it was rather meager because of wild animals. I like your point of view that one can not compare grass-fed meat as easy of grazing animals to the wild animals from the Stone Age. Yes, and where the recommendation comes to coconut oil, I would like to know. Also very unlikely that we in the stone age every day at several coconuts and this approach would scoop out.

What do you write for beans covered, however not with Embrys statements. He says do not eat so, because similar to gluten proteins. But well, you say it is not a single study that could prove it. I said a few days ago a Professor, that you should refer to information that is scientifically or where there is proof. I’ll still currently still soy.

Please excused my bad English!


Rebecca Hoover - April 11, 2012


Thanks for weighing in. Two minds are always better than one. Also, I am glad you are reading information on the research and helping spread reliable information. We can all help and make a big, big difference in the lives of others!


8. cath3r1n3 - April 10, 2012

I’ve read lots that you have posted on different sites Rebecca – and to be fair, you don’t just trust Jelinek – you think he is God – lol. And so do I!

Rebecca Hoover - April 11, 2012

I do like Jelinek a lot but I do disagree with him on some small points. First, I don’t think flaxseed oil is a good substitute for fish oil. Second, I don’t think calcium supplements need to be avoided (although I do think having calcium blood levels tested is wise). Third, I am no fan of meditation. I mention these things because we don’t want Jelinek to get a big ego. LOL

Katie - April 11, 2012

haha! and I’m sure he’d have a good laugh at that last point too!

9. Diana - April 10, 2012

Hi Rebecca, Thanks for your article trying to unravel some of the problems/questions on the various different diets. You mention ‘red meat from poultry’. I thought poultry was white meat and therefore acceptable in small amounts. Is this incorrect? I strictly avoid what I class as red meats (beef, pork, lamb etc) eating plently of salmon, mackerel and other seafood, but also have recently added organic chicken breast approx every fortnight – perhaps I should not have! Legumes are another item I have tried to avoid, but have wondered about the wisdom of this for some time, as they seem such a good, healthy food choice. Thank you for explaining about legumes – with supporting research evidence. Gluten and dairy are no good for me and unfortunately I believe some of the gluten-free options are highly processed and probably not good either! Luckily I love vegetables and fruit and eat large and varied amounts of these. I have had ms for over 20 years and am still active and working, but have only in the last year or so, since having read Dr Jelinek’s book, cut all sources saturated fat out of my diet. I am so thankful for people such as yourself (and the internet in general) for how they have enabled us to help, inform and encourage each other. I just wish that all those newly diagnosed with ms were given the information that we have gleaned to give them hope and the best chance of a healthy life.

Rebecca Hoover - April 11, 2012

Hi Diana,

Like you, I think we all need to pay attention to allergies and food sensitivites. For example, I no longer eat diary or gluten myself because they started giving me abdominal cramps a few years ago. I did eat them, however, for many years with no apparent ill effects. Then things changed — humm, maybe it was aging — who knows?

Not all poultry meat is white meat — the breast is white meat but the thighs and drumsticks are red meat.

Fish seems to be about the healthiest of all meats.

Thanks for stopping by. I think so many of us are doing so well because of Swank and Jelinek! What great guys!

10. Julie - April 10, 2012

Thank you Rebecca. I have no doubt that Jelinek’s diet has worked wonders for you but what of people who were compliant with the diet and still worsened? Aren’t there success stories from both camps? Isn’t it possible that some people might respond better to more fats in their diet (obviously not trans fats). Certain naturopaths like coconut because they argue that it has a certain type of good saturated fat. I can’t remember if it is a long chained or a medium chained fat but the one that they believe has health benefits.
The other conundrum is gluten. My nutritionist says that there were studies done on gluten and MS involving MRI’s and other scans to show the effects of gluten on enhancing lesions. He is convinced that gluten is universally bad for anyone with an autoimmune condition. Yet it doesn’t seem to be an issue for some people who ate it while following Swank’s plan.
I have lived and loved living on a SAD diet all my life. It is hard to reverse those habits, but I have come to the realization that I must change my lifestyle, but change it how? If I am cutting out foods I love, foods that make me happy, then I need to make sure that I am sacrificing for naught. Reading this I realize I sound like one of my kids having a tantrum.
I would love to get Professor Jelinek, Professor Swank, Dr. Wahls, Dr. William Campbell, and my nutritionist in a round table discussion about this very topic. Let them hash it out. That would be interesting.

Rebecca Hoover - April 11, 2012


Thanks for comment. Your naturopath may be onto some about gluten for some people but not all. Apparently some have antibodies to gluten that may cause problems in MS. You might want to read the study at: Gluten sensitivity in multiple sclerosis: experimental myth or clinical truth?

One thing I do know, if you are allergic or sensitive something, that something is best avoided!

Personally, I do think some diet plans are unwise. I like Swank and the later improvements by Jelinek because they are well-ground in science.


11. Chris - April 11, 2012

Hi Rebecca,

Meditation seems to be nothing for me. I’ve tried it several times and have never left it.

Sure, there are certainly people with MS who also have the Paleodiät success. Maybe that is then to avoid milk, gluten, eggs, etc. lead to back. Because when one should indeed follow Paleodiät with MS, the so-called autoimmune protocol. There, all legumes, gluten, eggs, and nightshade plants are omitted.

I think that red meat is not the main reason for the successes have been of swank, but mainly the omission of saturated fats and their limitations.


12. K - April 11, 2012

I wonder about true game meat ie not grass-fed beef but non-domesticated animals, like venison? Have you seenany research on this, Rebecca? (not that I’m planning to start eating it, just curious)

13. Catriona - April 11, 2012

oops Katie is me, and so is K, posted accidentally while trying to change name (Katie is what my family call me) – always make typos when I use the iPad 😉

14. Lisa - April 12, 2012

I am a danish 58-year old woman. Have had MS for 10-15 years. Wheelchair bound. I have since November 2011 followed Terry Wahl’s diet, no cheating. Glutenfree, dairyfree, sugarfree.It has so far made no diffence. I am getting a little frustrated. I wonder what I am doing wrong? I only eat chicken and fish. Love fish!
Are you saying, that gluten is OK? Legumes are OK? I use coconut oil for frying.
I find it very very frustrating with all this contratictory information. What ever point one wants to prove – there is always a study somewhere that proves ones point.
What is true and what is not? I feel helpless!! Frustrated!! I am willing to do anything and all to get better from this damned disease, but where to find the truth???

15. Rebecca Hoover - April 12, 2012

Lisa, I think the best and most reliable information, without any hype, is available from http://www.overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org. The books by Roy L. Swank and George Jelinek and also must-read books. I use a very scientific approach and encourage others to do the same. I have not seen others who fall for gimmicks such as many so-called Paleo diets make much progress in beating MS. Good luck! It takes some time to get healthier but it is worth the effort.

I think both gluten and legumes and OK if they do not bother you. I personally eat lentils about two times a day. I get stomach cramps from gluten, myself, and so cannot eat it anymore. I definitely think you need to stop frying food and using coconut oil.

Lisa, good luck! I am glad summer in on the way in your part of the world. Getting sunshine helps too.


16. cath3r1n3 - April 12, 2012

Good luck Lisa – there’s a fantastic support network on the website that Rebecca has mentioned also.

17. Chris - April 12, 2012

Hi Lisa.

You can not expect MS to have 15 years and then felt even after 5 months of improvement. Patience, patience and patience again! It may take up to 5 years until you can feel the true success. For me it took a determined 1 year.

Roger MacDougall, also said that the MS has developed slowly and the body is also very very slow to regenerate.

I know it is very difficult but it’s worth the patience to apply. Swank also said it similarly. Yes, and you think primarily of Swank and at what Rebecca writes, is that studies using scientifically proven!

Good luck!

18. Ingeborg - April 13, 2012

Hi Rebecca,

Thank you for your publication! I am much confused with all these contradicting MS diets. The truth, however, is certain dietary regiments actually halt the progression of MS. The challenge is – which diet?

Dr. Swank and Dr. Jelinek, who are quite popular, do not differ much in their recommendations for low fat diet.

But there was Dr. Joseph Evers in Germany around 1940 who helped enormous amount of people with MS with raw food diet. He has treated nearly 1,000 cases of multiple sclerosis with diets which included no refined foods but which were composed chiefly of raw vegetables, raw fruits, raw nuts, raw honey, raw grain sprouts, uncooked coarse rolled oats, whole meal bread, raw ham, raw bacon and raw chopped beef.

There are Dr. Gerson and Dr. Im who preach raw food vegan diet with accent on juices, and with no proteins from legumes and beans, no seeds and nuts, no mushrooms.

I do not know what really works and I am experimenting. So far the results are quite encouraging.

In regards to the Paleo diet, I do not eat cows. I do not know what I would have been doing in the Stone Age…who knows… I might have chased the herds of wild caws (since all these grass eating animals always lived in herds). 🙂

p.s. Please excuse the fact that English is not my first language

Rebecca Hoover - April 13, 2012


Please be careful with your experimenting. A lot of folks with MS experiment with various fad diets rather than sticking with the science. Things generally do not turn out so well for these folks.

There have been a lot of “miracle diets” for MS but the reality is that the best diets improve outcomes a lot but do not provide a cure. What improves outcomes in MS is the same ultra healthy diet that improves health for most and reduces heart disease and cancer. Nothing beats an all around healthy diet based on whole plant food and fish. This diet includes seeds, nuts and plenty of plant protein (from legumes when tolerated). I am sorry to see extreme diets that are having such a negative impact on many with MS.


19. Rae Jackman - April 14, 2012

I’m enjoying following this discussion and am always very interested in reading your comments and reports Rebecca. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

We’ve been fine-tuning my husband’s diet since his PPMS diagnosis last October. We started following Swank recommendations then moved to take in the more detailed advice of Jelinek in January 2012 (still eating organic chicken breast occasionally though) We also took on board Wahls advice re fruit/veg intake.

In this time we’ve has ups and downs BUT, the one thing which convinced us that the dietary approach was worth pursuing, was after removing additional Omega 6 from his diet (he was taking additional Evening Primrose and combined Omega 3/6 supplements) Honestly could not believe the change in a number of symptoms in less than a week. These symptoms have never reappeared (fingers crossed)

Always scared to think we’ve got this under control but it was enough of a success to boost our confidence in the healing effects of food.


20. Linda Grace Cox - April 14, 2012

I also started my MS journey on the Swank Diet, unfortunately it didn’t help my MS experience, but I it was the beginning of my taking control of my eating! Now I benefit from tons of greens!

Rebecca Hoover - April 14, 2012

I am glad eatin more vegetables helps. Swank said that was important too.

Chris - April 15, 2012

Hi. What you eat lots of vegetables in addition to now? Even more fat and saturated fat? How long have you tried Swank?

21. Science, Cavemen and the Best Diet for MS « Man on a MSion - April 15, 2012

[…] I know that other diets of the Paleo variety are all the rage right now, whether called the Paleo diet, the cave-man diet or the best bet diet.  And while these diets may be effective for some people with undiagnosed allergies to certain types of food, like gluten and legumes, they are not proven effective for MS, and, indeed, allow foods like red meat and organ meat that are not permitted under the Swank Diet and are unhealthy in many other regards.  My friend Rebecca has laid this out very nicely on her excellent blog, and rather than repeat it all here, I urge you to read her posting on the science of the Swank/Jelinek program and on the risks of the Paleo diet specifically. […]

22. Rebecca Hoover - April 15, 2012


It is always good to hear from you especially since I know that you are doing A-OK on a Swank diet–no relapses, working full-time, and brilliant as ever. ! So many of us have had great luck with that diet, I am thrilled to say. When push comes to shove, I trust Swank and the followup work by Jelinek.

23. john - April 18, 2012

I’ve been on the Swank diet for 4.5 years. I’ve also been taking the dmds. But during this time I’ve had no significant relapses or deterioration. But I must admit, I am intrigued and tempted by the Wahls and Embry stories. I was just about to go out and buy some liver until I read this blog. I know MS is a yo-yo disease, so one story cannot prove a therapy. Swank’s strengths, in that regard, are that he backed up his theories with decades of research. But his results of halting progress are not as sexy or appealing as the thought of reversing damage. It is frustrating to see people doing the opposite things and getting great results. Though, I read that Wahls did believe in a low fat approach at first, and now has reportedly changed that position. I am still on the fence about gluten (seems like studies go in both directions, as do the anecdotes), coconut oil (which Swank lumped in with other saturated fats. I think early studies were mistaken about it’s effect on lipid profiles and they used hydrogenated oil instead of virgin oil. With the brain fog I have, and the remarkable results coconut oil is showing in Alzheimers, it temps me). I do think that uneducated cave-dwellers likely preferred high fat foods considering all the uneducated cavemen today do so (ever look at a menu in a bar?) Without fat, food tastes like, well, grass or cardboard. So, I’m betting those Geico guys were eating as much fat as they could find. I’m not convinced an ultra low saturated fat diet is really healthy, but perhaps is necessary for those of us with M.S. I know when I was eating full fat, my brain worked better, my appetite was less, I was leaner. Now, on a starch diet, my body fat has increased. But like I said, the relapses have decreased. If only I could repair this damage.

Rebecca Hoover - April 18, 2012


Thanks for the great comment. I am glad you did not buy the liver. It is interesting that liver has a lot of cholesterol and the higher the level of cholesterol in those with MS, the worse the MS. I think Wahls is well-intentioned but misguided. I have talked to a lot of folks who have tried her approach and it either did not help or seemed to make matters worse.

In any event, have you tried exercise for the brain fog? The research shows that both weight bearing and aerobic exercise improves cognitive skills in MS. Hence, I lift weights (huff, puff), run intervals, etc. I think you would find that exercise can give you quite a boost. That might help with any weight gain too.

Also, are you getting enough protein and healthy oils. Remember, Swank found that getting enough healthy oils improves outcomes and decreases fatigue. There is other research on this as well.

Thanks again for commenting. I always love hearing of cases like yours. It sounds like you are doing well!!


24. Annie - July 15, 2012

Regarding your comment that liver has high cholesterol and the higher the cholesterol in Ms the worse people fare, I thought science is now saying high cholesterol foods don’t translate in to increasing cholesterol in the body? Many thanks

Rebecca Hoover - July 16, 2012

In general cholesterol in the diet comes from dairy products and meats. And eating these foods can cause elevated cholesterol levels if they contain more than a minimal amount of saturated fats. It is a bit more complicated than this, however. There are three types of cholesterol HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (usually problematic) and triglycerides (ususally problematic). Eating dairy and meats with saturated fats seem to cause reductions in HDL but increases in LDL and triglycerides. Eating fish with omega-3s will reduce triglycerides. All in all, eating red meat lowers life expectancy.

25. Maggie Gup - August 15, 2012

I’m intrigued by the first study you posted – the “meat” group associated with a slight increase in incidence of MS was thusly described in the study: “The meat group, consisting of pork, ham, luncheon meat, hot dogs, sausages or other processed meats”. Beef was in its own category and had no notes about increased incidence.
The meats in their “meat group” tend to have chemicals and processing aftereffects that are not good in anyone.
Reading the study further they are pretty quick to say that the results are in no way strong or indicative of anything cause and effect (because the questionnaire given asked the 300 participants to remember what they ate over the last year): “However there are some inherent limitations in the assessment
of past diet. Not only are there inaccuracies in recall of past diet
by any method but there are large intra-individual variations in
diet which make the process of characterizing typical diet for an
individual rather difficult. In addition, the presence of disease
before its diagnosis may have altered dietary preference among
Thoughts? Thanks!

Rebecca Hoover - August 15, 2012

Thanks for the comments. It is important not to ignore the forest for the trees. The evidence shows that eating even more than minimal amounts of red meat, whether processed or unprocessed, decreases life expectancy and causes a host of health problems. It is difficult to imagine that red meat could be so problematic and yet not also cause neurological problems.

Also, some of the methodological issues raised are, of course, the issues raised in any introductory research methodology course. It is important to remember that survey research has allowed identification of many health issues including the problems associated with cigarette smoking and Legionnaire’s disease.

26. LG - January 15, 2013

I think your blog is brilliant. Its intelligent and informative and actually seems to have some common sense in approaching ms! Thank you

27. meandmyrrms - April 26, 2013

Rebecca, thank you so much for the amount of research. RRMS is one of my autoimmune conditions. My Graves’ disease and pernicious anemia are in remission since going gluten free 7 years ago. But I still don’t absorb iron. I am scared to give up red meat, and certainly it would be against dietician and GP advice. They have suggested kangaroo meat and only lean cuts with no marbling and all visible fat removed. What are your thoughts? If my only sat fat comes from red meat? I don’t want to end up in a wheelchair, but when my iron crashes, I can barely get out of bed.

Rebecca Hoover - December 29, 2013


I am so sorry, that I just noticed your post Annette. I would avoid all red meat if I were you. There are lots of sources of iron including black beans, kidney beans, etc., etc. I think if you google this you will find that meat is not necessary at all. Best wishes. Please let us know how you are doing.


28. Dawn Henke - November 26, 2013

I live below poverty level I sure do hope I can afford to eat this way.

Rebecca Hoover - November 26, 2013


If you have a below the poverty level income, I think you are probably eligible for food assistance. And yes, it is possible to eat for very little. In fact, those who must be on very small food budgets often are healthier than those who eat lots of expensive but unhealthy stuff. The key is to get protein from a combination of beans and whole grains. For example, I eat a lot of black beans or pinto beans combined with corn tortillas or quinoa. For seafood, canned sockeye salmon is a great buy. Eating healthy involves cooking for yourself which is less expensive in any case. You can live like a billionaire on very little.


Chris - November 27, 2013

Hi Rebecca,

very interesting. Do you have ideas for breakfast? What are you eat for breakfast?

Thank you & Regards Chris

Rebecca Hoover - December 2, 2013

Hi Chris,

Sorry to be a bit late responding to your email. Yes, I do have ideas for breakfast. You can eat the healthiest, most fun, and sexiest food for breakfast merely by changing your view of breakfast. Instead of thinking breakfast, think ‘brunch’. Most brunch menus including many items and your bunch menu can too. For example, for your brunch menu can include pinto beans, brown rice and hot sauce as a protein source. Many Mexicans include such a dish for breakfast and we can too. Most important, never ever, view healthy eating as a sacrifice. It isn’t. It is all about being creating and having more fun with food than you’ve ever had in the past.

29. Chris - December 2, 2013

Thank you Rebecca. No, I do not see it as a sacrifice to be able to ausprobiren different things rather as an interesting possibility. I’m going to rummage among the Mexicans;-)


Rebecca Hoover - December 5, 2013


You will love Mexican food. Some of it is the greatest. (Some is not my cup of eat at all, however.) Even so, great stuff overall.

30. juliet3309 - December 28, 2013

Rebecca and friends,
I have also found that I am sensitive to gluten – I gave it up a year and a half ago and I feel much better for it! Like Rebecca, gluten gives me stomach cramps. This did not happen in the past, but I seem to have become more sensitive with age I am now 48 and I have been on a low saturated fat diet since 2008, with great results.

Rebecca Hoover - December 29, 2013


It is very interesting that gluten started bothering you too. The same thing happened to me and one of my sisters (she does not have MS).

Where I am from, there are some foods that are given to given to children but that were not used by adults when I was a child. For example, adults usually did not drink milk. Interestingly, these adults also rarely got MS while MS is far more common in the current generations.


31. Charlie Aguero - February 2, 2017


Thanks so much, you’ve covered just about everything I’ve read over the past 2 years since my diagnosis. Like others on here you’ve reinforced that we’re on right path. Swank was a God send, as far as I’m concerned. The last piece of the puzzle for me has been processed sugar. I finally got of it for a month now, and it’s reduced my tactule Allodynia symptoms quite a bit. Looks like its been awhile since anyone commeted on this article, nevertheless hope you get this and Keep up the good works.


Rebecca Hoover - February 2, 2017

Thanks for your nice comment Charlie. Here’s a little more information on processed sugar for you. Refined carbohydrates and fructose can help drive up triglycerides (a type of cholesterol) and, of course, this is problematic. Since disability and problems with MS are correlated with cholesterol level, we want to keep our cholesterol as low as possible. That’s another good reason to avoid processed sugar.


32. mslabrat - May 19, 2017

Thank you so much for your well researched article! I needed to read this right now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: