I had the opportunity to interview Shannon Stark, the mother of a 16-year-old with MS who follows the Wahl’s Diet. Many of us here understand multiple sclerosis on a personal level. We either have it ourselves or have a loved one with the disease. MS is a disease with over 200 symptoms including fatigue, walking difficulties, weakness and vision problems. However, MS affects everyone differently.
Traditional MS meds like Tysabri, Avonex and Gilenya often have unpleasant side effects and can be quite expensive. Many traditional treatment methods can also include time consuming infusion cycles and daily injections. This process makes an already complicated diagnosis even more difficult to deal with.
Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a way to treat MS without medication and unpleasant side effects? Do we even know what these drugs are doing to our bodies long term? Even the staunchest believer of traditional treatment methods might see natural and alternative treatment methods as a ray of hope when traditional treatment isn’t working as planned.
Shannon Stark’s now 16 yr old daughter Romy was diagnosed with MS when she was 14. Romy’s mom says that her daughter’s diagnosis came about after she began to struggle at school and Romy had had some strange eye movements. Shannon videotaped the eye movements, and this eventually lead to Romy’s diagnosis.
Both Shannon and Romy knew that they didn’t want to experiment with the neurologist suggested drugs, so they decided to take the risk of the natural healing path instead of the potentially riskier path. They went the way of an unusual diet called the Wahls Dietl, lifestyle and environmental changes that have greatly helped Romy.
The Wahls Diet is a version of the paleo diet. It’s based on the idea that humans should eat more like our ancient ancestors and avoid the foods we started eating in the past several hundred years, like wheat and processed food.
Through my own journey with MS, I have often questioned the traditional treatment methods, yet have been too scared to stray off the usual path. Given the opportunity to interview Shannon, I started this interview skeptical. Now their story gives me hope.
Q: Do you believe it is possible to reverse Romy’s MS with the Wahls Dietl?
A: We believe Wahls Protocol is a key component to reversing Romy’s MS, but it is not the only thing we are doing and I see so many people just changing their diet only and I don’t believe just diet change alone will reverse MS.
Q: Do you and Romy think a reversal would be possible for anyone who followed the diet as strictly as Romy does?
A: Like I said, diet is only one component of the process of reversal. There is gut health, healing co-infections, balancing hormones, detoxifying environmental toxins, stress management, spinal health, vascular health.
Q: How do you feel about a combination of the diet and traditional MS medications?
A: You ‘CAN’ incorporate diet/lifestyle and DMD’s at the same time. You ‘CAN’ also put your foot on the gas pedal and the brake pedal of a car at the same time, but that is a lot of time, energy, money, spent going nowhere. Not something we are interested in doing.
Q: Do you think that is possible that her young age has anything to do with a milder path of disease progression?
A: I think that because I video taped her eyes and didn’t just walk away when the doctors told me she was fine is why she was diagnosed early. So many people we talk to get their first symptoms in their teens, but it is not till their 20’s and 30’s that they are diagnosed. I think because of her age and taking care of her ’causes’ she will be either stay in the milder path, or we will reverse it all together.
Q: I read on public social media posts that Romy still has flares. What do you credit that to?
A: Romy’s first episode happened August 2015 when she was diagnosed. She started Wahls and her healing journey September 2015. Once she started Wahls within two weeks all her symptoms went away. Her next episode happened April 2017. We had flown to Mexico and Romy got a severe sunburn, to the point her face swelled up. Lack of sleep, resort food, and the sunburn had caused some neurological fatigue that caused her to have some tingling in her arm and leg. This didn’t stop her from going up the side of a mountain on a mule, zip lining down the mountain and repelling down cliffs into spring pools. Once she was home the tingling went away. This was her only flare.
Q: How strong do you think the environmental factor is in a diagnosis of MS?
A: Very strong. The food we eat, the metals that were injected into her bloodstream, infections that never really were healed, the air we breath, the water we drink, the stressors of today, and the list goes on.
Q: I’m extremely curious about stress management. Personally, I believe it is a key method of control of any chronic illness. Can you tell me what Romy’s favorite stress relief methods are?
A: She is on a protocol with her R.H.N. that is giving her supplements that help with trauma, and relax her nervous system.We also limit her online use, she goes for bike rides, she loves to draw, sew, be creative in general. Sleep is the most important…she makes sure she is shut down by 9pm so that she is asleep by 10 (a bit harder in the summer months of course) and we let her sleep as long as she needs to. She also likes to have family game night (no technology allowed) and just have a good laugh.
I personally would love to get her into meditation and yoga. But she just shrugs her shoulders at me about that right now. Maybe when she is older she will find some value in that.
Q: Romy has an amazing attitude. What role do you both think positivity has in life with MS?
A: Mindset is another key factor. I have had some health issues in my past that doctors told me I could not heal from and I did. So we know healing is possible, and MS is just a label the doctors have given us. They want us to focus on the pathology and we choose to focus on the physiology and heal.
We leave Sick Kids Hospital and they fill us with dread and that there is no hope…and we choose to not listen to them. We have created a team around Romy, 2 Doctors of Naturopathy, Osteopaths, Registered Holistic Nutritionist who is also doing Functional Medicine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor, all who have Romy’s back and is on the same journey to heal her. They are her cheerleaders and keep raising the bar on her health. They keep us excited, motivated and positive.
Hopefully, this story gives you all the same outlook of optimism and hope it gave me. Please let me know what you think and if you have tried the Wahl’s Diet.
Ellie is a 45-year-old woman living in South Carolina. She works as a cashier, but is always dreaming of more — she’s just not always sure of what “more” is. Her favorite hobbies are reading and reading book reviews. Within the first few minutes of meeting her, you’ll realize her nephews, niece, books and cats are her favorite things.
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