MS and Diet: Swank Diet, McDougall Program, and Taking Control of Multiple Sclerosis

Patient Expert

In last week's post, MS and Diet: Should you eat low-fat to treat your MS?, we discussed the news that a clinical trial will be conducted to determine the impact of a low-fat diet on MS progression, disability, and quality of life.   Below is an introduction to the three most popular diets which take the low-fat approach and each of their corresponding websites.

The Swank MS Diet: _"The Swank MS Foundation is a private charity that provides information and resources on the Swank Low Fat Diet, vitamin supplements, and life-style changes beneficial to patients with Multiple Sclerosis, as well as their families and friends, as pioneered by Roy L. Swank, M.D., Ph.D." _
The website features information regarding the diet itself, the history Dr. Roy L. Swank's research, and a forum where patients can exchange recipes, discuss issues surrounding MS, and share their experience with the diet.

About the Diet - Quick Reference

  • Saturated fat should not exceed 15 grams per day.
  • Unsaturated fat (oils) should be kept to 20-50 grams per day.
  • No red meat for the first year.
  • After the first year, 3 oz. of red meat is allowed once per week.
  • Dairy products must contain 1% or less butterfat unless otherwise noted.
  • No processed foods containing saturated fat.
  • Cod liver oil (1 tsp. or equivalent capsules) and a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement are recommended daily.

The McDougall Program: "Physician and nutrition expert who teaches better health through vegetarian cuisine. John A. McDougall, MD. has been studying, writing and 'speaking out' about the effects of nutrition on disease for over 30 years.   Dr. McDougall believes that people should look, feel great and enjoy optimal health for a lifetime. Unfortunately, many people compromise their health unknowingly through poor dietary habits."
This website has many pages to explore, two of which I was glad to have found - the Free Program Outline, which covers the information of his low-fat, starch-based approach to eating, and Nutritional Foundations: A Lesson in Basic Nutrition.   There is an active forum which is certainly not limited to those living with multiple sclerosis, which contains lively discussion and many recipes.

About the Diet - Quick Reference

  • Diet: A diet of plant foods, including whole grains and whole grain products (such as pasta, tortillas, and whole-grain bread), a wide assortment of vegetables, and fruit
  • Spices: Plenty of spices and usually small amounts of sugar and salt to enhance the flavor of food* ** Exercise:** Exercise as simple as a daily walk* ** No Animal Food:** The exclusion of animal foods, including red meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and fish - all of which provide toxic levels of fat, cholesterol, protein and, very often, infectious agents and harmful chemicals
  • No Oils: The exclusion of ALL oils, including olive oil, safflower oil and corn oil. Oils, which are nothing more than liquid fat, increase body fat stores (obesity), depress immune function, and contribute to most common chronic diseases

Taking Control of Multiple Sclerosis: While a college student, George Jelinek's mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, became wheelchair-bound, and later took her life.   Then in 1998, Professor Jelinek was diagnosed with MS at the age of 45.   His website, Taking Control of Multiple Sclerosis, presents an approach to treating MS which includes diet with emphasis on dietary fats, sunlight and vitamin D, meditation, exercise, supplements, the mind-body connection and medications (such as DMDs and steroids). In addition, there is a forum, a helpful FAQ section, and a recipe section (which requires registration).

About the Diet - Quick Reference

  • Diet: A plant-based wholefood diet plus fish, with no saturated fat (or less than 5g per day).   The diet consists of all vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, seeds, pulses and grains, fish, egg whites, and so on.
  • Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids which make up about 30% of the composition of fish oil and 60% of flaxseed oil: 20g (20mls or 20 capsules) a day (of flaxseed oil or fish oil, or the equivalent amount of fish, concentrating on fish or fish oil when beginning the diet).       * Optional B group vitamins or B12 supplement if needed
  • Vitamin D: Sunlight 15 minutes daily 3-5 times a week as close to all over as practical; Vitamin D3 supplement of 5,000IU daily in winter and in summer if no sun: Aim to keep blood level of vitamin D around 150nmol/L (which may require up to 10,000IU daily)
  • Meditation: 30 minutes daily* ** Exercise:** 20-30 minutes around 5 times a week preferably outdoors
  • Medication: One of the disease-modifying drugs, whichever feels best, beginning as early in the illness as possible.   Steroids for any acute relapse that is distressing.   One of the more potent drugs, such as mitoxantrone, if the disease is rapidly progressive.

The following foods should not be eaten:

  • No Animal Food: Meat, including processed meat, salami, sausages, canned meat; Eggs except for egg whites
  • No Dairy Products: that is, avoid milk, cream, butter, ice cream and cheeses. Low fat milk or yoghurt is not acceptable. Soy products or rice or oat milk are good substitutes.
  • No Bakery/Snack Foods: Any biscuits, pastries, cakes, muffins, doughnuts or shortening, unless fat-free; Commercial baked goods; Prepared mixes; Snacks like chips, corn chips, party foods
  • No Oils: Margarine, shortening, lard, chocolate, coconut and palm oil; Fried and deep fried foods except those fried without oil or with just a dash of olive oil; Most fast foods (burgers, fried chicken, etc.); Other fats and oils

Next week, I'll introduce Ashton Embry, Ph.D. and the Best Bet Diet, DIRECT-MS, and The MS Recovery Diet each of which take a Paleolithic approach to treating MS through nutrition.

Before beginning any specific diet or exercise program, please consult with your physician.