Food factors causing attacks…?

Dietary changes are not the mainstay of traditional treatment for MS. Still, some say dietary changes can make a difference in the course of the disease, says Mary Dan Eades, M.D., director of the Arkansas Center for Health and Weight Control in Little Rock and author of The Doctor’s Guide to Vitamins and Minerals.

Switch fats. Some evidence suggests that trimming saturated fat and increasing intake of two essential fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), can help people with MS, says Dr. Eades.

Doctors who recommend this sort of diet may have their MS patients cut their saturated fat intakes to about 10 percent of calories by eliminating fatty meats, butter, mayonnaise, whole milk and cheeses, according to Dr. Eades. Then to keep fat intake at about 25 to 30 percent of calories, doctors have their patients add supplements of GLA (from evening primrose oil or borage oil) and EPA (from fatty fish), she says.

(Dr. Eades prescribes one part GLA to four parts EPA, a ratio that’s found in a product called EicoPro. EicoPro, manufactured by EicoTech of Marblehead, Massachusetts, is an essential fatty acid product that contains ultrapure sources of GLA and EPA.)

As previously mentioned on this blog, the main proponent of the low-fat diet (in the US…) is Dr. Swank, of the Swank Multiple Sclerosis Clinic in Beaverton, Oregon. Dr. Swank has his patients stick to 10-15 grams of saturated fat and 20 grams of unsaturated oils (such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, olive oil and cod liver oil) daily. He has had 150 patients who have been on this diet for more than 35 years.

“We’ve been following patients for 40 years, and without question, animal fat is the real culprit in this disease,” Dr. Swank contends. “This diet has helped more than 3,000 MS patients worldwide. It helps anyone at any stage of the disease but prevents disability in 95 percent of patients when it’s started before disability has developed.”

Bulk up with bran. To coax the sluggish bowel associated with MS, get plenty of fiber every day, urges Timothy Vollmer, M.D., medical and research director of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center in Englewood, Colorado. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans can all help keep you regular.

Drink plenty of water. Getting lots of water relieves constipation, too. And it can ward off the bladder infections that can plague people with MS, Dr. Vollmer says. (Try cranberry juice for extra infection-fighting power.)

Find your food foes. The idea that food allergies or intolerances can contribute to symptoms of MS remains entirely unproven. Still, some doctors believe that for some people, certain foods can trigger or worsen symptoms.

Two Dutch doctors cite several reports of people whose symptoms worsened. One case report implicates fresh pineapple as the cause of a woman’s muscle weakness and loss of vision. And in the United States and 21 other countries, the incidence of MS correlates most strikingly with milk consumption, according to one survey.

Common sense suggests that if your symptoms seem to worsen after eating a particular food, drop that food from your diet for at least a few weeks to see if you notice improvement.

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