I am currently very interested in the connections between diet and disease, and how the best research in this field is being disseminated to the public.. It is a rich problem, and I'm glad to see it addressed here. It is not specific to MS (though it is mentioned, along with other autoimmune diseases), and it's not my intent to offend or impose on anyone, but I'd like to recommend others interested in this topic to check out the book described through this link:
I look forward to seeing if others have ideas or other suggested reading.
I have been interested in the connection of diet and disease for many years. When I was blown off 4 years ago by the medical community for my symptoms, I began to research it in earnest. My mother has used a diet similar to the Swank Diet for 50 years. I've mentioned her before. She's 92. So, I read all that I could about Dr. Swank and anything to do with how diet affects inflammation in the body. Honestly, it all made sense to me. I know that the MS Society and others do not put much stock in Dr Swank. They think there wasn't a scientific study done. However, if any of you are interested in his approach go to http://swankmsdiet.org. I'll share what happened to me. Four years ago I was falling down several times a week, ached everywhere, was horribly fatigued almost all the time (especially in weather extremes), was depressed, dizzy, constant ringing in ears, etc. I started the diet because no one in the medical community was paying attention to me and mostly thought I was 'nuts'.
Within 3 months of getting rid of transfats and other unhealthy oils, eating only cold pressed olive oil, eliminating almost all dairy, increasing whole grains, etc., I had reduced my pain level by 80%. Miracle! I stopped falling so much, was not walking into walls, and my cognitive problems began to clear up. I also read Andrew Weil's information on inflammation and adjusted my diet with some of his recommendations. What they are basically saying is that some foods, and some ingredients in foods cause the body to become inflamed. And that all inflammatory diseases can be helped by restricting and eliminating these harmful substances.
Did it eliminate all my symptoms, no. And sometimes they flair up, but not as bad as they were 4 years ago. Several times, I really wondered if it was the diet, or had I just gone into some sort of remission, so, I started eating as I had before. All of the dreadful symptoms came back and when I went back on the diet-they went away. There is a bonus to this way of eating. I have been really overweight all my life. I think I was born with a Hershey bar in my mouth. Without trying to 'diet' I lost 45 pounds and It has not come back. I don't count calories. I stay away from sugar, white flour products, eat more whole grains, and watch the amount of fat that I eat. (about 45 grams/day)
I'm not sure how the MS Society can ask us to avoid saturated fats. They exist in a lot of very healthy foods. Dr Swank says to avoid saturated fats from dark meats and skin and limit the others. His book is really interesting and his research in the 40's concerning transfats is the same as has been in the news during the last year or so. He says the body recognizes transfats as a foreign substance and so the immune system starts to attack all fats, myelin sheath included. So to reduce the cause of the immune system's attack would be to remove what was causing it-transfats etc. When he started to study people with MS he found them living in clusters all over the world and the thing that they had in common was their diet. (high in transfats and hydrogenated oils) Made sense to me.
I am not a Dr. Swank groupie and am not saying it works for everyone. I don't know that it does or would. I 'think' it has helped me. If anyone had told me I had to give up ice cream and cookies a few years ago, I probably would have thrown a nutty. It's important, I think to find healthy substitutes for the comfy food that we all need. They are out there.
I really hope that it will slow down the progression of my Limboland Disease. Next week I see my new doc again and she is supposed to be finding me a new neuro and scheduling me for another MRI. I have such mixed feelings about doing all of this again. Charley
I have been on the Swank diet for over a year. Almost all my symptoms have vanished or been drastically reduced.
The diet is not a cure. Dr. Swank says that over and over. I don't know where people get that idea. However, his research does show that for a majority of people who start it and stick to it religiously, that it does reduce the progresson of the disease...THE PROGRESSION--it doesn't make it go away, it simply lets you live your life at it's best for as long as possible.
It doesn't cost anything, so it's not sexy and no one make any money off of it. It requires you to have a great deal of self control and to learn whole new ways of eating that differ from what most folks in America eat here and now.
But, ironically, it does make you eat a health diet. In fact, what JenSeq mentions at the top of this post is essentially the Swank diet.
Go to the Swank site and read all the data for yourself. You don't have anything to lose, it's a totally heart-healthy diet that anyone would recommend to those having the self will to stick with it.
My husband has joined me on the diet for the past year and loves it. We would not go back to eating sat fat and junk food. We both feel so much better!
Any diet that is nutritious and makes one feel better is a good thing. But, it is true that in studies looking at diet, there was no improvement in progression of disease. BUT, many subjects report an improvement in their overall sense of well-being. This cannot be undervalued! And I agree wholeheartedly with Heartshome that no one has anything to lose by trying the Swank diet.
I am only offering the following to make the point that no change in diet alone has been shown to truly affect the course of MS.
With scientific regard to the Swank diet, his 40 year "experiement" was seriously flawed in terms of proving what he claims that it proves.
1) Dr. Swank made a basic assumption about the diet consumed by people who developed MS. As global information about the disease became available in the most recent decades it is clear that his assumption was wrong. The defects in diet that he cited are only true in a minority of people with MS. Many people who are athletes and who follow a diet very similar to what he recommends develop MS.
2) He followed a large number of people for 40+years on his diet. (Something like 141) However, this was a "study" that did not include any controls. That is people with MS with similar initial disease courses matched for things like age, gender, type of symptoms (sensory versus motor), lifestyle, etc. So he reports that these people that stayed with his diet had minimal progression of their disease. What we don't know is whether controls who were not on the diet would have fared better or worse or the same.
3) People with a benign course are more likely to adhere to such a thing as this diet, believing that they were being helped by it, and seeing that others with the same disease were becoming progressively worse. The ones that had continuation of relapses and accumulation of disability might likely have decided the rigors of the diet were not worth it and dropped the plan early. So, the very nature of a person's underlying disease, might well caused the patients to select out themselves giving Dr. Swank a very skewed group of patients whose disease followed a benign course. Without controls on a "free diet" we have no way of knowing. We would also need to follow all the people who started his diet, but did not continue it.
Remember that a person who has a benign course throughout their illness, may start out with a relapse or two of significant symptoms, which then resolve.
NOW, all that is well and good, but it does not undo the fact that people on a diet that is low in high-glycemic foods are going to be healthier and feel better. Just interms of the quality of carbohydrates alone, we know that the less insulin is stimulated, the more stable the blood sugar, and the better one feels. For this very reason, I can see promoting such a diet for every one.
My only problem is when people believe that such a diet IS an effective "treatment" for a very serious disease and they reject other things that are known to really have a chance to slow it down. It's absolutely fine for people to reject the DMD's, but they should know BOTH sides of the alternative therapies they have chosen. That's the only reason I wrote this.
Thanks for this excellent analysis. Very well said, as always!
A little basic science here. The immune system attacks ONLY proteins, not fats or carbohydrates. Yes, myelin is a "fatty" tissue, but it also contains some complex proteins, such as myelin basic protein (MBP) and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG). These are two of the targets of the immune system with regard to MS and the immune reaction. The fatty components of myelin are not targetted by the immune system in any thing I've ever read.
Can you point me to any data that shows that trans fats are immunogenic - that is they stimulate the immune system? I would really like to see the evidence that the body "sees" trans fats as foreign. I have never seen anything about this.
There are some trans fats that occur naturally in red meat and in dairy products. This may be the source of Dr. Swank's advice to eliminate this foods. It appears that natural trans fats are not harmful to the cardiovascular system. The Harvard Health Letter stated this last winter based on two studies (albeit funded by the dairy industry) comparing ingestion of natural trans fats versus man-made trans fats.
It is true that trans fats stimulate inflammation, but not all inflammation comes from actions of the immune system. "Trans" fats are "trans"formed." This is done by bombarding them under heat and pressure with hydrogen ions. In chemical terms this "reduces" them, by adding many hydrogen atoms to the basic molecule. The two, and opposite, chemicial reactions here are "reduction" and "oxidation," in which the added hydrogen molecules really "want" (have an affinity for) to combine with oxygen. Everything that is highly reduced is just ready and willing to be oxidized. One of the most potent stimulants of inflammation is the free radicals (little time bombs to the DNA) formed by oxidation. This effect on cells is called "oxidative stress."
Trans fats that are incorporated into the fat of the body are easily oxidized, one of the primary chemical reactions of aging. As they oxidize they become much larger, create toxic by-products, and cause inflammation of the surrounding tissue. That is how transfats do their damage, especially with regard to the cardiovascular system. I do not believe trans fats have been shown to stimulate the immune system to attack the body. I will look this up.
So, although your argument seems to flow from one thought to the other, it doesn't make sense with regard to what actually happens in the cells.
Again, I'm not trying to argue against eating healthily. I just don't see the connection to how the diet could have caused the problem at hand. And, again, I have never seen anything but supposition and theorizing (that is, making a good-sounding, but unproved argument) that diet can reverse such things as MS or autoimmunity.
> And, again, I have never seen anything but supposition and theorizing (that is, making a good-sounding, but unproved argument) that diet can reverse such things as MS or autoimmunity.
That was my goal in posting this article. There's no actual research that proves that a change in diet will change progression. Until there is research that backs up the Swank and MS Recovery diet claims, I'm not going to jump on any sort of bandwagon.
It's true that changing your diet will help you feel better. It's a simple matter of how your body uses energy to digest food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are better, because that energy gets into your body sooner. It takes energy for your body to digest meat, saturated fat, and complex proteins.
If there is any diet you should follow, it's to eat lots of leaves. Leaves have a lower calorie content than seeds (nuts, grains, corn, etc.) so we spend more energy eating the leaves, then digesting them. Seeds are little powerhouses of calories, and take work to collect and extract from their casings. Early humans didn't have access to a lot of seeds - they ate a lot of leaves, instead, and stayed healthy. This is why modern man has such a problem with obesity.
> He says the body recognizes transfats as a foreign substance and so the immune system starts to attack all fats, myelin sheath included.
This is an interesting theory, but it's just a theory. Like you, Charley, I find it hard to believe. Especially considering that I have vitiligo, which is the immune system attacking my melanin cells. Why did it start attacking the melanin? It wasn't like I was eating trans-melanin, and confusing my immune system!
Thanks for your comments Quix. I'll look up the info that I have, but it will have to wait until Monday or so. My daughter is here and I haven't seen her since the winter. She's moving to Maine and will be here for about a year. I'm thrilled! Charley