Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I Poisoned Myself...Again!

I had quite the year - after a 7-year remission from Multiple Sclerosis, I averaged two massive attacks for 2016.

The first attack earlier this year was by far one of my worst attacks, requiring me to take six weeks of medical leave from work.  To learn more about that attack, click here.

To learn about my journey with MS, click here.

My second attack came six months later - just as the last of my lingering symptoms from attack number one were finally clearing.  Then WHAM - I went down again!  This attack wasn't nearly as worse, but it was making life rather difficult.  I was confused; I had been so strict and overly cautious to avoid any animal derived ingredients both in my diet and health & beauty products.

I contacted Dr. John McDougall and wanted to know if a 2.5 year tooth infection could have been the cause of this attack or if it was a continuation from my earlier attack.  (The tooth infection went misdiagnosed/treated incorrectly multiple times and I finally had it removed to avoid any further complications.)  McDougall said he couldn't comment on any of that or diagnose the problem without seeing me, but did give me the clue I needed to determine why this attack happened and what likely made the previous attack so severe.

He sent me the link to his latest opinion on MS, from his August 2016 newsletter.  One little line caught my eye..."The research paper reported excellent adherence to the McDougall Diet with those following the program reducing their fat intake from 40% of calories to 15% of calories, and maintaining this reduction for a year."  

Fat....FAT!  It's was the fat!

When I originally met with McDougall in 2012 to discuss a dietary approach to treating my Multiple Sclerosis, we had a long conversation about how my body was reacting to animal protein and thus causing myelin sheath damage and therefore causing MS attacks.  It made total sense and I have been completely committed to avoiding eating animal protein/products ever since.  What we didn't discuss was the role of fat in MS.

Let's take a step back.

When I was diagnosed in 2009, I immediately implemented Dr. Roy Swank's dietary approach to MS and he advocated a reduction in saturated fats to 15 grams per day and that unsaturated fat (oils) should be kept to 20-50 grams/day.  Being the overachiever that I am, I dutifully documented my daily fat intake and aimed for less than those recommendations.  I did this for many years, but a few years ago, I got complacent - stopped the documentation and started "treating" myself to vegan bakery, vegan cheeses, vegan processed foods and many restaurant outings.  But the "treats" weren't treats at all; they had become weekly and in some cases daily rituals.

When you contact McDougall he has a very unique way of determining if you're adhering to his guidelines, he asks you what you weigh.  No talking your way around that one.  At the time, I hadn't weighed myself in over six months and I told him I was around 160.  It wasn't a total lie, I had been ramping up my exercise since my first attack and my clothes did seem to fit better, but the question got me thinking and I hit the scale....180!!!  What the what?!?

According to McDougall I'm supposed to be at 127, I was going the wrong way!  I was inching my way back to my SAD weight days!

But how could this be?  I was exercising daily, more than I ever had before, eating only vegan foods...

Fat....FAT!  It's was the fat!

McDougall nailed it again.

I know that, "The fat you eat, is the fat you wear." - Dr. John McDougall.  But what does fat have to do with MS?

I thought as long as I avoided animal fat, that aside from my waist line expanding, my MS would remain dormant.

Then I came across this tidbit from the PCRM group (ahem...check out the author):

"One theory holds that the MS attacks are caused by a decreased supply of blood to the sensitive brain tissues. Dietary fat can have this effect. It enters the bloodstream and coats the blood cells. As a result, the cells stick together, forming clumps that slow the flow of blood to vital tissues. The blood does not form clots (as in the case of strokes), but in many blood vessels the clumping becomes so severe that the flow of blood stops and the overall oxygen content of the blood falls.3,4 Tissues deprived of blood and oxygen for long periods of time will die"  

Dietary fat, not animal fat, but rather fat in general.  I did it once again, I poisoned myself or rather had been poisoning myself for quite some time.  

I could say I "experiment" and take one for the team so you guys can avoid my mistakes, but truth is, I'm human, this is a learning process and I clearly don't know everything about this disease.  I share my stories so you can avoid my pit falls. 

Back on track and committed more than ever to the McDougall dietary approach to MS, my first and second attacks have fully resolved, my weight is slowly going in the right direction and I am looking forward to a MS-free 2017!

The moral to this story, to Beat MS - keep it whole-food, plant-based, oil-free, low-fat & starch centric!

Beating MS!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Think I'm Wheat Intolerant

I was thinking I was gluten-intolerant, but then the Internet exploded with articles claiming that "a group of proteins found in wheat can cause symptoms of such inflammatory health conditions as multiple sclerosis (MS), asthma and rheumatoid arthritis to worsen, and may also promote gluten sensitivity."

I don't know how this new revelation is going to play out or what the new name for this condition is going to be, but as far as I'm concerned, I need to stay away from anything containing wheat and/or gluten in order for me to feel my best.

Recently, I decided to eliminate gluten (and therefore wheat) from my diet in an attempt to rid myself of an annoying, not so glamorous symptom that has been plaguing me for years - phlegm.

That's right, every morning upon waking, I gracefully rose and let out a sound of an 80-year-old man trying to clear something dead from his throat. But, it wasn't even just the morning; this phlegm would stick with me throughout the entire day.  Some days were worse than others and I could not figure out what the deal was!

I knew that dairy was a big culprit in phlegm, but I have been vegan for years, so that was out.  I reached out to the holistic community and it was suggested that I might be having an issue with dust mites; so I sealed my mattress and pillows in dust mite covers.  No improvement.

After talking with someone with a confirmed gluten allergy and realizing that we shared some of the same symptoms, I decided to try an elimination diet to see if gluten was in fact the cause of my "issues."

I had done this once before, many years ago and didn't see any changes in my overall health, so I went back to eating gluten like a glutton, because I realized how much better food was with it.  Back then, the gluten-free scene was bad and it was a real challenge to choke down any gluten-free products.  But, that's all changed - now it's hard to tell if something is gluten-free or not - we've come a long way!

After a few days on my elimination diet, I started seeing improvements, but not just with the phlegm, but also with what I thought were unrelated issues.

Adios gas, finally I was flatulent-free! Did not see that one coming!  :)

The little chicken skin bumps on the back of my arms disappeared!  Woo hoo smooth skin!

A reoccurring rash that no doctor could accurately diagnose or treat, vanished!

But, the most eye-opening symptom to resolve was my joint pain.  I had long thought that this was just a perk of the MS, but then suddenly that too disappeared - completely!

Wheat intolerance, gluten sensitivity, wheat protein allergy - I don't care what label you put on it, avoiding wheat and therefore gluten has helped me out tremendously!  Sometimes resolving your issue can be as simple as trying an elimination diet.  If nothing else, it's a good place to start.

Beating MS!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Little Can’t Hurt...

It's the holiday - what's the harm?!?!

It’s very tempting to think that a little bit of ice cream or a little bit of bacon or a little bit of any animal product can’t hurt. Right?

People with multiple sclerosis are allergic to animal protein - period. When ingested, any food derived from an animal causes an auto-immune response that can only be stopped when the food poisoning itself is stopped. While we don’t have an immediate reaction like anaphylactic shock, our reaction is delayed and can come in the form of numbness, loss of vision, muscle weakness, fatigue, etc. much later, in my case months later.

If I were to hand you a glass of crisp, cool, refreshing water with a teaspoon of cyanide in it, would you drink it? It’s just a little bit of cyanide, what’s the problem?

Bottom line, a little can hurt and it can have dire consequences for us.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Four years into this lifestyle, I got a little lax. I started frequenting some restaurants, always doing my due diligence by stating that I had food allergies, etc. Then came time for my yearly MRI, after four straight years of no activity at all, six new mini lesions popped up. They were so small on initial review, my neurologist missed them. When they were found, my neurologist dismissed them. His lack of concern didn’t calm my anger, distress, concern and every other emotion consuming me.

I was so faithful to the diet, what happened - why wasn’t it working?!? Four months later came the attack. By my previous attacks, a very minor attack, but let’s face it, when it comes to MS, an attack is an attack.

Little by little the truth started coming out. The restaurants I had been frequenting were slipping me animal products. Egg wash on veggie dumplings, milk in pizza crust, eel sauce on veggie sushi, etc. No one maliciously slipped me these things. They simply didn’t know how the food was prepared and my due diligence no matter how diligent simply wasn’t enough. So I did what any logical girl would do - I banned the restaurants.

We don’t have the luxury of an attack, any attack could lead to permanent disability.  Now I ask you, do you think a little can’t hurt?

So this holiday season, when well-meaning friend or family member or your brain pushes you to just have a little; remember, that holiday ham or Christmas cookies won’t seem so great when you’re dealing with an attack and loss of some bodily function that you’ve come to rely on.

Keep it legal this holiday season!

Beating MS!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hoff's Savory Stuffed Squash

Hoff's Savory Stuffed Squash
Serves: 2
meat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, oil-free

  • 1 Acorn Squash
  • 2 cups Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous
  • 2 1/2 cups Veggie Broth
  • 1 cartoon sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 cup Shredded Carrots (rough chopped)
  • 1 small-medium Sweet Onion (chopped)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/3 cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 tbsp. Almond Butter
  • 2 tbsp. Braggs
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • Sea Salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Cut Squash in half and remove seeds
  3. Place Squash face down in a baking dish with about an inch of water
  4. Cook until soft for about 40 minutes
  5. Season Squash with Sea Salt & set aside
  6. Meanwhile, bring Broth (Nutritional Yeast added) to a boil, reduce to a simmer, stir in Couscous, cover & cook for 15 minutes (fluff with fork when done)
  7. In a non-stick skillet, sauté Onions, Mushrooms & Carrots in Braggs & Seasonings, adding Garlic during last 30 seconds of cooking
  8. Stir in Almond Butter until melted and well combined
  9. Combine with Couscous & fill each side of Squash

Hoff Thoughts: You will have leftover stuffing, that's a bonus in my book as it's delicious!  But, if you insist on being precise, cut back to 1 cup of Couscous and 1 cup of Broth.