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.