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!