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Nutrition and Multiple Sclerosis - Part 4

Updated on December 22, 2007

Multiple Sclerosis and Specific Diets

Complete diets

There are three specific diets which I have come across that are suggested for use with multiple sclerosis. These all incorporate many of the above supplements and factors.

Swank Diet

One very long standing diet for multiple sclerosis is the Swank Diet (Swank and Brewer Dugan, 1987). It is a very low saturated fat and high unsaturated fat diet which was first introduced in 1948, since then there have been some minor modifications and the basic recommendations are as follows:

No red meat for the first year, including the dark meat on chicken and turkey;

After this, three ounces of red meat is allowed once a week, occasionally;

No dairy products that contain more that 1% butter fat;

No processed food containing saturated fats;

The daily saturated fat intake must be no more than 15g (3 teaspoons);

The daily unsaturated fat intake must be at least 20g (4 teaspoons);

A daily dose of cod liver oil of 1 teaspoon or 4 capsules and a good multi vitamin and mineral supplement.

The theory behind this method is that a high saturated fat diet is a relatively recent development and it corresponds with the increase in occurrence of multiple sclerosis. Swank noticed that the meat eating Norwegians in the centre of the country had two to three times the rate of multiple sclerosis of those by the coast with a high fish diet (Swank et al, 1952). There was research in the 1970s and 1980s to support this, saying that there is also a strong correlation between animal fats and multiple sclerosis (Alter et al, 1974; Bates et al, 1978; Bates et al 1978; Bates et al, 1989). Research by Swank himself on 150 people (Swank, 1950; Swank, 1954; Bourdillon, 1960; Swank, 1970; Swank, 1988; Swank and, Swank, 1990; Swank MS Foundation, 2006) which lasted 40 years, says that in most people who follow this diet the multiple sclerosis does not get any worse, although it does not usually improve. According to Sinclair (1956) in his research the important factor of the Swank Diet was the increased intake of essential fatty acids and an improvement in their utilisation which lead to their improvement. If the fats were not processed correctly it would cause the membranes to deteriorate and myelin is one of these membranes.

This is basically an old fashioned diet, eating the way that people used to eat before the advent of processed food. It is essential to be able to differentiate between saturated fats and unsaturated fats. It is interesting to note the dates on all this research and the fact that although considerable improvement has been noted, very little has been done about it for some time. Also, as long ago as 1948, the decrease in the quality of our diet was noticed, and now it is generally more processed and contains more synthetic chemicals.

Best Bet Diet

More recently is the Best Bet Diet which was designed by Ashton Embry (Direct-MS, 2006; Iams, 2006) whose son developed multiple sclerosis. He looked into all the available research on the matter and came up the following diet:

Avoid all dairy products (Cohen, 2006);

Avoid all wheat, rye and barley (Connie et al, 2004; Di Marco, 2004);

Avoid all beans, peas and pulses, especially soya;

Avoid refined sugar;

Limit eggs and yeast.

He says that the foods listed have a similar molecular structure to myelin and as a result they can initiate an autoimmunity process and cause the body to attack the myelin as molecular mimicry. The foods that can lead to this reaction can vary from individual to individual, but tend to be those listed. The diet followed consists mainly of chicken and turkey breast, fish, game and beef from cattle that have only been fed on grass. This also gives a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which is not normally the case in modern diets.

Embry also recommends the following supplements:

Products to slow down the immune system - 4000IU vitamin D3, 800mg - 1200mg calcium, 400mg - 600mg magnesium, fish oil and vitamin E;

Products to help repair the gut - acidophilus, grape seed extract, fish oil and enzymes;

Products to strengthen and heal the blood brain barrier - gingko biloba, grape seed extract, pycnogenol and coenzyme Q10.

There is plenty of research and case studies which help support this diet (Multiple Sclerosis Research Centre, 2006) and as he says, a change in diet is essentially free, although the supplements do cost money.

Embry says that the development of multiple sclerosis and many other conditions such as heart disease and can cancer can be explained by The Genetic Discordance Theory which was published in 1985. It says that many diseases are caused by biochemical malfunctions generated in our bodies by non-living substances with which an individual's genes are not compatible. It is well established that our genes are essentially the same as those which existed in our species 40,000 years ago. Due to the massive scientific development over the last century, most new substances have been added within the last 150 years. This includes foods, chemicals and other changes in the world. The result is the immune system being attacked, in this case, by the central nervous system

Jan de Vries and Roger MacDougall

Jan de Vries has written a book together with Roger MacDougall about the nutritional treatment of multiple sclerosis (de Vries, 2002). Roger MacDougall was a playright, film writer, composer, lyricist and musician and at the time of being involved with this book he was 82 years old. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his 40s and became wheelchair bound and nearly blind. He decided that the condition was probably due to a chemical imbalance and he would treat it as such and so would follow a traditional hunter gatherer type diet avoiding all chemicals in food. This diet lead to a complete and permanent disappearance of all his symptoms. The diet he used was as follows:

No gluten (Connie et al, 2004; Di Marco, 2004);

Low sugars;

Low animal fats (Cohen, 2006);

High unsaturated fats (Field and Shenton, 1975; Pradip et al, 1991; Shumin et al, 2000; Weinstock-Guttman et al, 2003; van Meeteren, 2005; Nordvik et al, 2005,);

Adjustment of any vitamin and mineral deficiency by the use of supplements.

His recommendations are antioxidants, vitamin A to help the immune system, vitamin E to prevent oxidation of the unsaturated fats, evening primrose oil as a good source of gamma linoleic acid, cod liver oil, and zinc for the mental aspects of the condition. He has suggested this diet to other people who have found similar relief. There is plenty of research to support individual aspects of the diet, but not much on the total diet.


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    • RichR profile image


      10 years ago from Nottingham, UK

      I came to this Hub as my wife has Primary Progressive MS. I started to write a comment but it was getting so long, I decided to make it into another Hub.

      Thank You for your work. I would be interested to hear more on this subject.


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