The YOU Diet and Multiple Sclerosis

Elissa Holzman avatar

by Elissa Holzman |

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MS diets

There are lots of so-called “MS diets” out there, each one claiming to ease the difficulties of living with MS. This, despite the fact that neurologists don’t often address nutrition when discussing disease management with their patients. Why is diet so rarely discussed by medical practitioners? And why hasn’t there been more research in this area? These are questions I get asked all the time.

Unfortunately, it’s notoriously difficult to test a diet, for several reasons:

  • Compliance! People forget what they’ve eaten (and sometimes they’re not honest) so it’s difficult to know exactly what’s being tested
  • It would be virtually impossible to confine individuals to a room and have them eat a specific controlled long term diet, to obtain verifiable results
  • Each body is unique, and responds to foods differently

But just because it’s difficult to perform a “diet test” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to how we fuel our bodies.

So let’s take a quick look at three popular diets and examine their differences and similarities and potential health impact.

Swank Diet

  • Restricts red meat in the first year
  • Avoids processed food with saturated fats
  • Includes low fat foods
  • Daily intake of 2 servings of fruits of vegetables
  • Permits white fish, shellfish and lean poultry

Wahls Protocol (Paleolithic Diet)

  • Emphasis on meat
  • Includes plant foods
  • Restricts processed food
  • Avoids dairy

Mediterranean Diet

  • Emphasis on whole grains, olive oil and fish
  • Includes vegetables and legumes
  • Avoids saturated fats, red meat and dairy

As we know, there’s no proven MS diet — nothing that has been tested on a large group of individuals with MS and found to have significant and measurable results. But we do have an understanding of which foods are better and which are worse for most people when it comes to keeping organs healthy and working optimally.

Minimizing processed foods and keeping an eye on your intake of saturated fats are good dietary habits to adopt. While the jury is still out on the harm that saturated fats may do, at this time it makes sense to keep them to a minimum. Including plants in most meals has been shown to promote good health and even contribute to disease prevention.

Remember that your body is different from your neighbor’s body, and will respond to food in its own unique way. We all have our own personal goals when it comes to diet — weight loss, muscle gain, health maintenance, getting an energy boost — and your food choices can help you realize those goals in a way that’s right for you.

Does it really matter which diet is the “best?” Maybe the better question is, “Which diet is best for you?”

Please share your ideas. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

In Health,
Health Coach
Health/E, LLC

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Elissa is a holistic Health Coach and founder of Health/E, LLC. She works with individuals to help them find energy, strength and balance through nutrition, exercise and self-care. Elissa gives workshops throughout the NY area, and runs support groups for the National MS Society, in addition to working one-on-one with clients.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Douglas J Glener avatar

Douglas J Glener

My neurologist, who has had great success in treating people with MS, recommends the following:

1. No gluten
2. Little dairy
3. No processed foods
4. If you don't understand an ingredient on the label, don't eat the food
5. Little use of microwave

Sarah Benelli avatar

Sarah Benelli

My doctor didn't tell me to do that, but that's how I've been eating and it works for me!

Michael Dull avatar

Michael Dull

I'm sorry but MS. Holzman may be a "holistic health coach" whatever "that is" I know one and she got got her credentials from one of those "do it yourself" online programs and her primary job is an insurance agent" Holzman is giving her take on these diets based on what she has heard or what she thinks she has heard. She also makes no mention of the Overcoming MS diest( google which is based on the (Swank diet which is no longer used) but is much more comprehensive and more up to date than Swank and based on scientific studies. I would suspect Holzman is actually referring to the OMS diet but is just taking this off the top of her head. This is not to take anything away from Dr. Swank it is just that Dr. George Jelinek has taken the Swank diet and brought newer studies and info into it. The Swank diet did not restrict red meat for the 1st yr it was indefinite.
The Wahls diets is not "meat based" it is based on free range, organic, "grass" "fed" meats, ("meat based" could very easily mean bacon and hamburgers). and gluten free with a lot of veggies and this is just the short take on Wahls .
I would very strongly suggest MS people look into both the OMS program as well as the Wahls program for themselves and take Holzman's blurb and it's tone with a grain of salt. Also neither of these programs as they are more than just diets would advocate discontinuing mainstream MS medications, actually the OMS program has a section on their website dedicated to the latest info on medications.

mike dull avatar

mike dull

Ellisa Holzman is not qualified to comment on any of these diets. MS people please do your own home work and you will get much better answers. I tried giving a much more concise comment but the computer on this site looks for key words and if it finds any words you have used before assumes you are writing the same thing.

Sarah Benelli avatar

Sarah Benelli

There's no need to be putting the author down here, people. I have MS,and am training to become a health coach right now. I did the Wahls smoothies for a while, but as a vegetarian there was no way I was going full paleo, so I stopped. I am gluten free and mostly dairy free, have discovered MY diet. Every person with MS has a different body and different symptoms, as those of you who have it know, and health coaching emphasizes bio-individuality. You learn about things that may work, try them out, and figure out the best diet for you. That said, I do also take Tysabri. I let the medicine do its thing, but I'm also doing my best to stop this myself.


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