Stopping MS with diet
About a dozen years ago or so, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I had watched my sister eventually die of the disease, after many years of increasingly debilitating flares, and a wide range of drug therapies that often affected her more negatively than the disease did. When I was diagnosed, my very first instinct was to find another way to at least slow down the process, so I immediately began researching alternatives to chemotherapy.
One of the first things I found was relating to gluten sensitivity, so I had an DNA test done that looked for gene markers for a small number of genetic food sensitivities. All the other markers were normal, but the test revealed that I didn’t have all the genes responsible for digesting gluten. I tried supplementing with enzymes that claimed to digest gluten, but they didn’t work for me. That was disappointing, because bread was something I truly loved, and it was hard to give up. But I did, and that made a measurable difference, but not enough.
Like many on a similar path, I eventually discovered the Paleo diet, and found that helped even more. After a few years on that diet, my symptoms had stabilized, but I still had problems with my digestion (gas, bloating, diarrhea) and still had constant pain in my hands. I was still sensitive to overheating easily, and would have problems with fatigue that would last for days if I “overdid” it with physical activity. In other words, not everything was better, but a few things got better, and nothing got worse.
In the midst of a work-related transfer to another city, and all the stress and changes that entailed, I fell off the wagon on my diet, and I suffered for it. I gained a fair amount of weight, my blood pressure went up, my blood work wasn’t great, and many of my MS symptoms returned – such as overall joint pain and more frequent and profound fatigue. By December of last year, I knew I had to get serious about cleaning up my diet again.
After a fair amount of research, I went on a ketogenic diet. I felt I was “doing it right,” but the urine test strips kept telling me I wasn’t in ketosis. I bought a blood ketone meter, and happily found that the strips were wrong. I was in ketosis, and the weight started gradually melting away. My blood pressure fell in line with the weight, as did my blood glucose. I never had glucose high enough to be a real problem, but the previous average was around 110 or so. Keto made it drop below 100. My bouts of crippling fatigue went away, though sometimes I’d still get tired midday, and need to take a nap for an hour or so to recover. My joint pain went away, except for the long-standing arthritic pain in my hands.
I knew I was on the right path, but I truly felt there was more that could be done. If changing my diet got me this far in my battle with inflammation, maybe I could do more somehow.
Along the way, I found that I was getting better at separating what my body was telling me from what my brain tried to talk me into. I realized that my body had been trying to tell me things my whole life that might have spared me from the MS altogether, if I had only listened to it instead of the nutrition “experts”. I had always preferred red meat to any other food, even as a small child. I despised almost all vegetables. Fruit tasted good, but I never could really eat very much of it without feeling “off”. My only disconnect was with bread. I never really got the message that it was hurting me, until much later in life.
It really wasn’t planned, but while on the keto diet, I found myself just naturally eating more meat over time, and less of the keto-approved vegetables. They always seemed to give me more gas and bloating, and those didn’t seem like a positive sign to me. The fairly heavy reliance on the cheeses as substitute ingredients in keto baking also didn’t sit well with my body.
I instinctively began eating only meat at least 95% of the time, if not more. After considering what my body would need to repair myelin, I started incorporating more collagen-rich meats, and eating the connective tissues that I used avoid. I learned my body wanted that nutrient, because the connective tissues no longer seemed “gross” to eat, and I found that I actually enjoyed both the flavor and consistency of them.
My weight loss, which had stalled a few months into keto, picked back up again. My blood ketone meter said I was even deeper in ketosis than I was before. My blood pressure continued to drop into a completely normal range. My blood sugar dropped to an average of 75. In addition to that, my fatigue has completely gone. I only take a nap if it’s the weekend and everyone else is napping. It’s a choice, not a necessity. The residual joint pain in my hands has disappeared, unless I use them extensively, and even then, they recover quickly. I am no longer sensitive to heat or getting exhausted quickly. I have more energy than I’ve had in decades, and my endurance has increased dramatically.
As my diet has become increasingly more carnivore, I’ve found that my body has expressed preferences in meats as well. I like the taste of pork, but it makes me feel sluggish and generally “off”. So I’ve cut that out of my diet. I like chicken as well, and it doesn’t make me feel bad, but it also doesn’t make me feel satiated. Even when I eat the skin and dark meat, I’m hungry again within a couple of hours, no matter how much I ate. I’ve tried adding fats, but I sense that the problem isn’t the fats, but simply the fact that it’s less nutrient dense than the red meats are. I believe my body wants and needs the denser nutrients in red meat, and it won’t be satisfied with anything else. I also like seafood, but not fish. I can tolerate the relatively flavorless white fish, but I cannot stand fish that tastes like fish. Even if I force myself to eat it, it doesn’t sit well on my stomach, and I’m hungry again in no time as well. Again, I’ve listened to my body and happily deleted it from my diet. Even when I do choose to eat non-fish seafood, it’s in addition to red meat, not in place of it.
But things aren’t perfect yet, and I’m still tweaking my diet. The main issue is that my digestive system is still not where it needs to be. I still have diarrhea for most bowel movements, though I almost never have gas anymore, and never feel bloated. Whether I ate fiber, as before, or don’t eat it, doesn’t seem to matter. My colon just seems to refuse to extract the extra water. Most of the time, I just accept it. When it’s really too inconvenient, I take loperamide to make it stop, though I generally try to avoid medications.
I’m still not 100% carnivore, in that I drink coffee in the morning, and iced tea during the day. I will probably eventually stop those to see if there is any improvement, but I’m not about to beat myself up for not doing it yet. This is a process, and I believe in progress, not expectations of immediate perfection. Expecting perfection has always preceded a total failure for me. If I can’t do it “right”, why bother? Well, better is still better, even if it’s not perfect … yet. Some people do better keeping their sights firmly on their ultimate goal, but I do better by putting one foot in front of the other, and just concentrating on my next best step, only occasionally looking at the final goal to ensure I’m still going the right direction.
What’s my next step? Eating more of my ruminants at least closer to a raw state. I’ve always been a fan of extremely rare red meat, and I think that was another of my body’s unheard messages. I’ve begun only lightly searing or grilling the exterior of my meat, to kill any pathogens that might be lurking there from how it was handled prior to me buying it, but the inside is still completely raw. I’m sure I’ll become more confident over time, especially if I settle on a really good source of meat I trust, and will begin eating more of it completely raw. If it helps, that will be my new normal.
When people ask me how I can eat such a “restrictive” diet, I tell them that MS is much more restrictive. Eating food is just a small proportion of my time, and I don’t depend on it to bring joy into my life. Living with MS would take 100% of my time, and I guarantee there is no joy in any of it. Considering that I’m eating the food I’ve always preferred anyway, this doesn’t seem like a difficult choice. It’s a no-brainer, really. Even if the naysayers are right, and this eventually gives me heart disease or cancer, I’m still better off in the meantime. Everyone dies of something – usually heart disease or cancer. My goal is to feel the best I can until that day comes, and eating carnivore has given me my life back more completely than any other way of eating.