Can Special Diets or Vitamin Supplements Ease My MS Symptoms?
Can I survive without dessert? Can I live without ice cream, chocolate, and fruit pies, or with only a small amount of beef when I want a burger?
The other day, my wife decided to start the ketogenic diet to try to lose some weight. I’m a skinny guy, so I don’t need to do that. But after reading about various MS diets over the years, I’ve been thinking about trying to eat a more healthy diet.
The National MS Society agrees that healthier meals should be good for me. It notes that, “Although there’s no special ‘MS diet,’ what and how you eat can make a difference in your energy level, bladder and bowel function, and overall health.”
I found a similar opinion in a 2017 interview with Dr. E.J. Gettings, assistant professor of neurology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Gettings told U.S. News and World Report that, “Poor food choices can lead to inflammatory changes that might worsen MS and also contribute to disabling symptoms such as fatigue, cognitive changes and bowel and bladder function.”
The Wahls and Swank diets
My wife’s keto diet isn’t designed specifically for MS. But a recent study reports that two diets that are, the Wahls elimination diet and the low-fat Swank diet, appear to improve MS fatigue levels. A considerable number of people with MS have tried these diets, and many say they find them helpful.
The Wahls diet concentrates on plant-based foods, as well as beef, lamb, pork, and some fish. Forget about eggs, tomatoes, and potatoes.
The Swank diet focuses on reducing saturated and unsaturated fats. Red meat and pork are off-limits for the first year, while the diet encourages fruits, veggies, some poultry, and white fish, among other foods.
I really enjoy my meat and potatoes, and my eggs, so neither of these diets has what I want on my dinner menu.
What about sugar?
I eat a lot of sugar. I crave chocolate. I scream for ice cream. But in his interview with U.S. News and World Report, Gettings gave these treats a thumbs-down, warning that a diet with lots of processed sugar can cause frequent swings between high and low blood sugar. These swings can worsen MS fatigue.
Two years ago, researchers in the U.S. and Germany linked sugar-sweetened beverages to an increased MS disability level. I think you’ll find a lot of agreement that sweets are sour for our health.
I might be able to cut back on my sweets. I could start by eliminating the doughnut I usually have following my morning bowl of cereal with fruit. I could probably limit my evening bowl of ice cream to only two or three nights a week. But extracting my sweet tooth would be painful.
I’ve taken vitamin D3 every day for years, based on reports warning that low levels of this vitamin might exacerbate my MS. A recent Multiple Sclerosis News Today article reported that supplements containing vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D reduced MS fatigue by 34%, according to a recent study. So, I’ve added a multivitamin to my morning routine. The supplement I’m trying contains those four vitamins plus a lot more, including vitamins E and K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and biotin. It also contains aloe, coriander, artichoke, and palmetto.
Guess what? It sounds crazy, but after only two or three days, I felt like I had less fatigue and more energy. I woke up feeling fresher than I’d felt in years. Now, after taking one of these pills each morning for the past two weeks, I’m convinced that I feel better overall. For the past eight nights, I’ve had between six and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s been ages since I’ve slept that well.
Is this multivitamin magic or just a placebo effect? I don’t care because it’s working for me. It might not work as well as changing my diet, but taking a vitamin pill is something I know I can swallow.
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