I always feel terribly sad when I hear of how someone with MS is struggling with the nasty side effects of medication. The women I have spoken to, report a host of side effects such as sleeplessness, pain, depression, nausea, hair loss and flu-like MS symptoms. Their quality of life is reduced but, to them, it feels like a necessary sacrifice to keep themselves healthy. But are they really feeling healthy? Are they experiencing a boost in energy, a clear mind and stable mood?
Don't get me wrong, the scientific breakthroughs in the development of drugs to treat MS have been nothing short of staggering! MS is now considered to be 'treatable' in the field of medicine. However, most of these disease modifying drugs only offer the hope of reducing relapses by around 30%. So, all that pain for not very much reward. It just doesn't seem worth it if there is another, feasible, alternative.
Using food as medicine hasn't got the mountain of research behind it that medication does but it has started to emerge as an effective way of not only reducing relapses but staying symptom free for years and overcoming the disease itself.
It is about nourishing the cells and tissues and trusting that the body knows how to heal itself and will do so when given the right tools. The journey of allowing the right kinds food to do the healing is finally starting to be taken seriously.
In this post, I would like to explore the benefits and disadvantages of medication and foods as treatments for MS. For those of you who are thinking about coming off your meds and committing 100% to the diet, there are also some tips on how to make the transition.
Medication: Playing It Safe
Inject yourself every day or, with the new MS medications, just pop a pill! Taking medication for your Multiple Sclerosis may seem like the default option, but it doesn't have to be. Many are willing to put up with the annoying side effects that reduce quality of life, make you really feel like you are an MS patient and not just someone with MS, just because thats what they have been told to do.
Taking disease modifying drugs seems to be pretty standard for anyone with MS these days. You get diagnosed and even if your symptoms are few, you are offered the drugs and it is highly recommended that you take them. It is made out to be a 'no brainer', when in fact, careful consideration is actually required. The huge advantage of medication is the reality that your relapses will slow down, as will your disease progression, so I can see why doctors are very insistent to get their patients signed up. Sadly, food as medicine is almost never explored with patients.
While taking medications, it can be reassuring to know that you have some measure of control over your disease - its better than nothing right? However, you need to be willing to live with the side effects, which can often be worse than the actual symptoms. Ask yourself this, is your body really healing itself by taking the medication, or are you simply treating the MS symptoms only, hoping for the best long-term?
I do believe, however, that medication has its place and that it is helping people cope more effectively with their MS. Steroids, for instance, can offer almost immediate relief from acute symptoms. Some are lucky enough not to experience side effects and find it beneficial to change their diet as well as take the medication. If you can get this right then great! It is often these people that develop enough confidence to wean themselves off medication and live a drug free life, relying solely on food to manage their illness.
Food As A Treatment Option
It takes a huge amount of faith and confidence to make the jump into the arena of natural treatments. Nothing is guaranteed and it feels risky! Yet, there is the hope of living a life filled with vibrant health, energy and minimal MS symptoms.
No one gives you the option of trying a diet and lifestyle change first, before you take medication, so it is very common that people with MS have no clue how to change their eating habits. They feel they are safe with the medication and they continue to eat foods that are hurting their bodies and actually speeding up disease progression. This is a huge disadvantage of relying only on meds. You think you can carry on living the same unhealthy lifestyle because have your insurance policy in place. This is faulty thinking and will only lead to a more unhealthy body that is less likely to fix what is going wrong.
Food is the fuel that powers our cells and either helps them work effectively or makes them sluggish, hindering the important job of keeping us alive. This is not new news, it just hasn't been publicised as much as drugs because of the lack of faith the medical community has in all natural treatments. The proof is the in the pudding, however, and there are so many people who are, at present, living symptom and side effect free just from changing their eating habits and lifestyles. By eliminating certain foods and including more of others, they are able to manage their illness with great confidence. You can read more about the full list of foods to avoid and enjoy, as well as further information on why certain foods can cause an inflammatory reaction.
Making the Transition: Some Practical Tips
Are you thinking of following a more natural approach to managing your MS symptoms? Coming off medication can be a pretty scary thing to do. What makes it even more difficult is that people around you will discourage you and try to persuade you not to do it. At the end of the day, you know what is best for your body and you have the power to make this decision for yourself. As we all know, medication does help but it is not a fool proof option. In my opinion, it is the riskier choice. Here are some tips to consider if you feel you would like to make the change:
- Get on board with the MS Diet first and immerse yourself in it. This has to become your new lifestyle and new, healthy habits need to be developed before you take the plunge.
- Chat to your neurologist about your move and prepare him for the change. You can tell him that you haven't taken this decision lightly and that there is enough evidence that your quality of life will be improved for you to try it out.
- Ask your MS nurse to help you to wean yourself off the medication. It may be appropriate to reduce your dosage slowly but surely until you finally stop altogether.
- Do a juice fast a few weeks after you come off the meds to cleanse your system of them. This also allows your body to focus on healing because it doesn't have the huge task of digestion to focus on. 5. Your body will now be cleansed and ready to start this new course of treatment, better known as 'HEALTHY FOOD' [/list]
Summing It Up
If you are currently on medication and are feeling good on it, then please don't feel that you need to change this. What you are taking is obviously working for you! However, you do still need to be careful of what you eat and should be feeding your body what it needs to stay healthy. You will still feel the benefits and it may help to slow down your relapses and disease progression even more.
If you are going to treat your illness with food alone, it is important to keep in mind that this is for life and straying from the diet could result in a return of symptoms. Once cleansed of toxins, your body becomes a lot more sensitive to them and you will notice the difference if you eat something you shouldn't. It does take 100% commitment (or as close to that as possible)!
If you need help and support to take the next step with your lifestyle, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me.
Love and nutrients,