Some of you who know me personally may have noticed that I've started to follow a very strict diet. This blog post gives you a brief overview of it, with examples and some background.
To improve my conditions and quality of life despite MS I mainly follow the 7 step program of the OMS organisation (https://overcomingms.org), for which I also act as a Co-Ambassador for the Circle in Zurich.
Nutrition is one of the 7 steps.
The nutrition plan of OMS is a plant-based diet, but including fish. This diet gains overall more and more popularity under the name #pescavegan. The particular OMS nutrition includes other small exceptions from being purely vegan such as egg white (but no yolk).
One of the main focus in the OMS nutrition is to reduce/avoid saturated fat, especially from mammalians such as meat and dairy. I’ve already been a no-meat-but-fish-vegetarian for more than 10 years, which my neurologists consider as very beneficial in terms of my disease. And now, over the time since I got diagnosed with MS (including allowing some adjusting time) I became pesca-vegan. Yes, I really did! Before all this research I could that never imagine. Especially the thought of cheese abstinence was very hard at the beginning (remember I am Swiss!). But an interesting experience connected to re-eating cheese after I already stopped consuming it for a few weeks made me stop it completely – it wasn’t related to any MS symptoms but my belly got bloated the two following days, so…ok I thought, my body has spoken, let’s leave cheese to others.
In addition to the OMS diet, I reduce (not completely avoid) gluten from my nutrition plan. Since I got diagnosed I’ve spoken to many doctors, professors and other specialists and attended conferences in relation to MS research to learn as much as possible about this very complex illness. By calling it a very complex illness you can imagine how many opinions, recommendations, studies and controversies do exist. So, some doctors do not agree on the connections between gluten (or nutrition at all, except of the importance of vitamin D supplement) and MS while some others highly recommend to reduce or even avoid gluten. (Important side note; we’re talking here about the possible impact of worsening or improving symptoms of MS, not about the cause of MS – for that, science is still too much in the unknown as that I, as a non-professional in this field, can claim any further statements on this).
After all the education and evaluation I did, I think, at the end of the day, each MS affected person has to make their own decision on their nutrition, based on their own research and validation, and as, in the end, like any other person as well, since we all know nutrition is an ongoing hot topic, trends come and go, new studies overrule old ones, etc.
But back to my decision to reduce gluten; what got me personally convinced was:
a) my neurologist considers gluten in general (also for healthy persons) as not beneficial, if consumed in a high amount (you may now ask what’s considered as a high amount? – the answer was given to me in the next point)
b) two months after I got diagnosed I had a very long conversation with a GP who’s done a lot of research into MS as she and already her mother (a GP as well) have helped/treated a lot of people with MS. There are many available studies that the disease is much wider spread and common across the western/northern hemisphere (note here also the interesting hint / connection to the vitamin D supplement all doctors recommend, mentioned earlier). Compared to the (south-)east we consume a very high amount of food which contains gluten such as bread, pasta and pastries. Some of these long-term studies further show a correlation between the earlier someone from the far-east immigrated to the west the more likely / earlier they were affected by MS. Agian, the causes are unknown, and most-likely an interaction of many complex factors, but for me and in my opinion, such a correlation is at least worth to consider, by reducing gluten.
So, to summarize, my nutrition in a nutshell:
- no meat, no dairy, no cheese
- lots of fish (3-4 times per week (as omega3 fat is considered as very beneficial, generally but especially if suffering from MS, some studies even recommend some additional supplement)
- reducing saturated fat to a minimum (only healthy oils such as cold-pressed olive-, rape- or linseed oil)
- reducing processed and oil-fried food as much as possible
- no convenience and no deep-fried food
- reducing gluten
- lots of fresh fruits and fresh or freshly cooked vegetables
- as well-known for all of us; reducing refined sugar
- sufficient calcium and protein intake through soy milk, seeds, nuts, egg-white and vegetables which contain a high amount of it
- vitamine D supplement
I’m still adapting to this very strict nutrition and it can be – as you can imagine – very challenging, especially when eating out or traveling. However, it’s like often in life; once you made a decision and you’re convinced of it, you’ll find a way :-). Mine is to live a life which includes work, traveling and sport despite MS.
To close this blog post here are two simple and quick recipes to cook accordingly:
Salmon filet (dry fried) with lettuce
Chop fresh garlic, fry them together with the salmon in a grill pan on medium heath, without oil, if you fear that it sticks add a tiny little water, flavour the salmon with salt, pepper and additional spices after yours fancy (e.g. lemon grass or oregano). Arrange the salad and grilled salmon on a plate, add chopped chili on top.
Homemade Vegan Rocket Pesto🌱
Crush pine nuts in a mortar with pestle, add rocket and basil, continue crushing, add garlic and olive oil, salt & pepper - stir over gluten-free spaghetti (made of rice and corn). Alternatively, you can make zucchini spaghetti.
As a snack I recommend e.g. dried mangos (without sulfur!) or buckwheat crackers.
For more info and inspiring recipes: overcomingms.org/recovery-program/diet.
And the add-on? I've lost almost 5 pounds (for those who consider this as a benefit) and support climate protection in respect of not consuming meat and dairy. I do feel guilty for the increased fish consumption - here I must admit that egoism wins, but it's important for me to only buy fish from sustainable fishing. And last but not least all the vegetables and fruits I buy are organic.