News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Steps to Overcoming MS but MS Society warns diet is unproven

Overcoming MS (OMS) is a popular, yet unproven, diet and lifestyle programme for people with MS. And in just under two weeks, on Sunday October 22, you can learn more about it at an OMS conference in Brighton, UK.


Professor George Jelinek (Pic: Overcoming MS).

Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis claims to promote the integration of diet and lifestyle changes into standard medical management to improve the health and lives of people with multiple sclerosis”. Professor George Jelinek, of Melbourne, Australia, developed the OMS Recovery Programme more than 15 years ago. He received a diagnosis of MS in 1999.

OMS started in Australia and New Zealand. It is a non-profit organization and accepts no funding from the pharmaceutical industry. In 2011, it formed a charity in the UK to with the aim of making the OMS programme available worldwide.

omsThe one-day conference is to include a number of presentations These are to focus on the seven steps of the recovery programme: diet, sunlight and vitamin D, exercise, meditation, medication, preventing family members from getting MS, and doing whatever it takes to overcome MS.

Organisers say the event will be of value to anyone, whether newly diagnosed, new to OMS or someone who has already been on the recovery programme for some time.

OMS step by step

So, what’s in the OMS recovery programme? To summarise:

  • Diet and supplements
    • A plant-based wholefood diet plus seafood, with no saturated fat, as far as is practical
    • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements: Take 20-40mls of flaxseed oil daily; fish oil can be used instead if desired
    • 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 at least 5000IU daily, adjusted to blood level
    • Aim to keep blood level of vitamin D high, that is between 150-225nmol/L (may require up to 10,000IU daily)
  • Meditation

    • 30 minutes daily
  • Exercise

    • 20-30 minutes around five times a week, preferably outdoors
  • Medication

    • In consultation with your doctor, if a wait and see approach is not appropriate, take one of the disease-modifying drugs (many may not need a drug, and drug selection should be carefully weighed against side effects)
    • Steroids for any acute relapse that is distressing
    • One of the more potent drugs if the disease is rapidly progressive

The MS Society, on its website, has expressed a note of caution. It says there is no conclusive evidence of the benefits of the proposed diet, a key component of the programme. It warns that the diet may not provide enough protein and may be too low in energy.

omsThe society says: “The OMS diet recommendations are similar to the Swank diet. It advocates cutting out dairy and meat, and reducing fat intake – particularly saturated fat. It also recommends supplementation, particularly with omega 3 (in the form of fish oil or flaxseed oil) and vitamin D if your exposure to sunlight is limited.

“Research into this diet has not provided conclusive evidence of its benefits. However, as with the Swank diet, following the OMS programme is not likely to be considered bad for you.

“You should make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet, through eating plenty of fish, beans or pulses. Likewise, the diet may be low in energy, so it may not be suitable for you if you have high energy needs or you are already underweight,” says the society.

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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.


Can a healthy diet help MS? Yes, but it’s not a cure

Diet? Me? No. we just don’t get along. Try to lose weight, have some minor success, then get disillusioned when the diet continues but the weight plateaus out. Sound familiar? And you end up back where you started or, horror of horrors, even heavier.

And I have never paid much attention to people saying that diet cured them of MS. In fact, it’s nothing short of hogwash. That’s not to say that diet cannot help, just that it is not a cure by itself.

A few weeks ago, this site carried news that Lisa and I were going to start eating a totally healthy and balanced vegetarian diet.  Not one that has been sold to us but one that we decide for ourselves.

Before going further, l must make it quite clear, our decision to go vegetarian was not a desire to lose weight, there were no allergies involved, and we both actually like meat. Our motivation was purely the horrendous way we, as humans, treat other sentient beings with cruelty and contempt.

Hamburgers? No, no meat in these tasty veggie burgers.

Hamburgers? No, no meat in these tasty veggie burgers.

Having said that, how is our veggie adventure going? In short, amazingly well.

Lisa loves cooking and now uses her skills to create the most wonderful tasty meals that are nourishing and have a great balance of protein and everything else we need – minus the animal fats.

Must admit to having misgivings at first, but the dishes that are new to my palate are fantastic. We don’t just eat a plateful of vegetables, there’d be no enjoyment in that. There is so much that can be done in the kitchen, we have not even touched soya yet.

So, have we noticed any differences yet? Well, it’s early days yet but we are both delighted to have lost a bi of weight. Lisa has lost two kilos (almost 4.5lbs) while I am down to 105.8kg (that’s 233.25lbs to my American readers and 16st 9.25lbs to my British ones). Whatever way you say it, that’s my healthiest weight for too many years to remember. A few years ago my weight was more than 120kg (266lbs, 19st). A heart scare prompted my first step, the initial loss, and our new vegetarian way of life is helping me take the second.

What can a diet do for someone with MS? In my opinion, about the same as it can do for someone without the disease; a balanced diet helps to achieve and maintain a healthy level of fitness. But it is not a cure and never can be; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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ian profile50shadesofsun is the personal website of Ian Franks who is Managing Editor of the columns division of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease-specific news and information websites, including MS News Today.

Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, he is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.


Low fat vegetarian diet looks good for MS patients

How eating meat might possibly affect any disease, let alone multiple sclerosis, was the furthest thought from my mind as a child.

My family, as I was growing up, were all meat-eaters and this has continued throughout my journey into adulthood including one long, but ultimately failed, marriage right up to the current day – almost five years into my second attempt.

I enjoy meat and have always laughed off the scare stories about risks to health. From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, I was a rural affairs farming journalist in an area renowned for both quality lamb and beef.

Yes, I visited many farms but was able to keep a clear, albeit false, distinction in my mind between animals in the fields and the food on my plate. Lambs could be cuddled but lamb chops were for eating. I carefully avoided visiting the local abattoir, however.

Well, this is now changing, not because of any desire by me to improve my health but because my wife Lisa has started a new anti-animal abuse website called Please – No More! She has uncovered such abuse in terms of the shameful and disgusting methods used in modern factory farming that we have decided to become vegetarians. It won’t happen overnight as we still have meat in our freezer and it won’t help those animals if we just throw it away.

vegiBut once it has gone, it will be gone – and both of us will hopefully benefit from enjoying a meat-free Spanish Mediterranean healthy diet. Right now, Lisa is honing her vegetarian cooking skills. Indeed, tonight we ate a completely homemade vegan lasagna and were both absolutely stunned by the fantastic taste.

Coincidentally, the potential gains to MS patients of a low-fat vegetarian diet have been a topic of discussion for quite some time but without any firm scientific evidence either way.

Now, however a pilot study seems to be saying that such a diet would be beneficial.

A team led by Dr Vijayshree Yadav, at the Oregon Health & Science University, indicates that a very-low saturated fat, plant-based diet, can be a starting point.

The results were published in the study “Low-fat, plant-based diet in multiple sclerosis: A randomized controlled trial,” in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

I am not going to go into all the details here but if you are that interested in reading the entire report, just click on the link above.

Although the results showed no effect on MS disease activity, neither in MRI nor clinical tests, improvement was found in quality of life, including overall mood and levels of fatigue, the latter being a debilitating problem among Relapsing RMS patients.

“Dietary intervention participants experienced reduction in weight, body mass index (BMI), LDL (“bad” cholesterol), total cholesterol and insulin levels,” the authors wrote. “These improvements would likely enhance their long-term general health if they remained on the diet.

“If maintained, the improved lipid profile and BMI could yield long-term vascular health benefits.”


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Official Advice: ‘Take Vitamin D Supplements’

It is not just those of us with multiple sclerosis, now everyone living in the UK is being recommended to consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter. And this comes from the country’s top public health advisers.

A government-commissioned report has set the recommended levels at 10 micrograms of the vitamin a day, but officials are concerned this may not be achievable through diet alone, particularly when sunlight, which helps in vitamin D production, is as scarce as it is in the UK.

Small amounts of the vitamin can be found in certain foods but most of our vitamin D needs are met by the action of sunlight on our skin. But there is not enough of that owing to the country’s frequently cloudy and depressing weather. Regular readers of this blog may recall that the grey skies were the main reason Lisa and I moved to the south of Spain last year.

vit dNow, an extensive review of the evidence, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests everyone over the age of one needs to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day in order to protect bone and muscle health.

And public health officials say, in winter months, people should consider getting this from 10 microgram supplements, if their diet is unlikely to provide it.

Foods that do contain vitamin D include oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals.

As far as multiple sclerosis is concerned, the US National MS Society says: “Research is increasingly pointing to a reduced level of vitamin D in the blood as a risk factor for developing MS, and studies are underway to determine if vitamin D levels influence MS disease activity. Recent research also points to a possible role for vitamin D in neuroprotection and myelin repair.”

More generally, vitamin D is important because it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are vital for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

However, balance is important because both too high a level of vitamin D is as dangerous as too low a level.

Too little can lead to rickets in children – where the bones become soft, weak and misshapen as they continue to grow. And vitamin D deficiency in adults can lead to osteomalacia – which causes severe bone pain and muscle aches.

On the other hand, too much vitamin D can lead to high levels of calcium in the blood which can cause heart and kidney problems.


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