This is a 3-part series about the effects of Diet, Exercise and Stress on Multiple Sclerois. Today’s article is all about Diet.
Time to tackle my biggest issue in avoiding MS medications: diet. I wasn’t going on a diet, but I believed my whole eating style had to change for good if I wanted any control at all over any future MS symptoms. I grew up eating whatever I wanted. I never wanted vegetables. I ate what I had to in order to be excused from the dinner table, but otherwise, nada. An after school snack consisted of a bowl of ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce, homemade strawberry jam, and peanuts covering it to the point that to the untrained eye, it was not evident there was ice cream underneath it all. Some days the snack was a bowl of potato chips. I used to tell people that I didn’t care for meat all that much, and they would ask if I was a vegetarian. I would tell them I was a potatochipitarian!
As I began to overhaul my diet, I knew I had to get rid of those inflammatory foods that were so prominent in my diet. As soon as my family finished using an “unhealthy” ingredient, I’d replace it with the healthiest version I could find and we could afford. The more I read and learned, the more I knew I needed to eat organic and non-GMO foods. I had to eliminate processed foods. I enjoy baking, but I never liked cooking. I can do it, but I just can’t stand it. Again, that had to change. I started with the P90X diet guide and the Flat Belly Diet cookbooks. I learned to not be so afraid of fats — or at least the right kind of fats. I learned correct portion sizes, stopped eating fast food and learned to shop the perimeter of the store. I shop at three stores per week and created a spreadsheet comparing costs to make sure I kept our food expenditures as low as possible.
Little by little I gathered recipes from whole food blogs and I created a 3-ring binder recipe book. I began making most of our snacks and all of our meals at home. Now, every afternoon when the kids get off the bus, their first question is, “Did you make anything today?” They are knowledgeable about nutrition and ingredients and are capable of making good choices when we are not with them. Over the years I have learned that I needed to cut several ingredients out of my diet due to my own personal digestion issues: gluten, almonds, and nightshade foods. Because of this, I sometimes make foods for the family based on my needs but sometimes I make foods for them knowing I can’t eat it – homemade “Oreos “and fig newtons among others.
In our kitchen, the ingredients now far outweigh the packaged foods. We focus on: non-GMO, organic (as much as we can afford), minimal refined sugars, ingredients I can pronounce, and whole foods. I use real butter, sea salt, honey, pure maple syrup, almond milk, organic extra virgin coconut oil, organic extra virgin olive oil, and organic spices. I never get “low fat” or “fat free” foods. That just means they’re more processed. I do not claim to be a food saint, but given my family’s health history, I do my best with what we’ve got. Diligence with our diet has no doubt been a huge reason for my family’s health improvement and my ability to keep exacerbations and MS symptoms to a minimum and recover to 100% with the few flare ups I have had. I do buy some packaged food, but when I do, I make sure it’s organic, non-GMO and/or has minimal ingredients.
These are some ingredients that I avoid when buying packaged food and eating out:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Palm oil
- Soy protein isolate – This one is in many protein bars, meal replacement bars, cereal etc…
- Aspartame and all other artificial sweeteners
- MSG -Look to the bottom of this page for a list of ingredients that contain MSG.
- GMO ingredients
Throughout my dietary journey I always did the best I could with what I knew at the time. That’s the key. Don’t beat yourself up about what you can’t do or can’t afford. Just focus on what you CAN do and work from there. How does Diet affect your MS?
Andrea is a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom. She has been diagnosed for ten years and has never taken any MS medications (minus a few Copaxone injections). She writes the blog MS Changed My Life.