The strategies of coping with multiple sclerosis


Back in the early 1950s, Idateda young lacy with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). At that time, the diagnosis of M.S. was like a "death knoll."

Although I knew this young lady (let's call her Betty) for only a year, it was understood that she would never become serious with anyone as it was only a matter of time before she would be gone from this world.

Although bright, attractive, and very healthy looking, her condition noticeably deteriorated in the year I knew her. She dragged her left foot more and more (occasionally, she tripped as she walked). Her right leg was very often numb. Sometimes her walk was unstable and she staggered as though she had had too much to drink, even though she didn't drink.

The muscle wasting became increasingly more evident. Her speech sometimes slurred, her vision often blurred, causing her to see double. Although she was always happy on the outside, there was a constant atmosphere of impending doom.

In those days, there were no known champions for the M.S. patient (like Dr. Roy Swank or Dr. John McDougall). No knights in shining armor mounted on white horses to fight the relentless dragons of neuromuscular deterioration, pain, despair, and the failure-ridden, drug-centered medical power structure. No doctor seemed willing to risk his career to seek an alternative to the dead-end drug approach in fighting this dreaded disease.

Betty's only therapy was daily drugs. Her only promise - despair and death. It was Betty's never ending faith in God that kept her going.

Eventually, I transferred to another school. Betty and I lost touch. But I have always wondered what happened to her.

What if you are diagnosed with M.S.? Luckily, therapy choices have improved and you need not receive a death sentence similar to Betty's. After the initial shock and fear have passed, you ask, "What is M.S. and what can I do about it?"

The nerves of the Central Nervous System (the brain and spinal cord) are covered with an insulation, called myelin. For unknown reasons, in M.S., the myelin breaks down, interrupting signals which normally travel between adjacent nerve fibers.

Why does this happen? Nobody knows for sure, though there are many theories. The "virus" theory, guesses that for some unknown reason, a virus lying dormant in the body suddenly activates, damaging the myelin. Other theories include: the auto-immune theory (for an unknown reason, the body attacks its own myelin); the chemical theory (some M.S. patients have a chemical, Encepholitogenic antibodies, in their systems - but it is unknown which came first - the chemical or the disease); the genetic predisposition theory (perhaps some genetic error increases an individual's risk of developing M.S.); Dr. Swank's theory that capillaries feeding the myelin cells become plugged because of sticky blood platelets possibly a reaction to mar-utilization of fats; Dr. David Horrobin's theory of prostaglandin imbalance; and the theory that an emotional shock precedes the onset of many cases of MS.

One interesting note, M.S. occurs more often in temperate climates (between 40 and 60 degrees north and south latitudes - similar to wide belts circling the globe). The closer an area to the equator, the fewer the cases of M.S.

Whatever the cause, unfortunately, M.S. is neither preventable nor curable, however treatment can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Two-thirds of M.S. patients remain functional after 20 years, and 75% may never need a wheelchair, according to the M.S. Foundation.

Multiple Sclerosis is a devastatingly insidious monster which affects between 250,000 to 500,000 inhabitants of our great country. Each year, over 8,000 Americans are struck down (according to the M.S. Foundation, Inc.).

Women are twice as susceptible as men, occurring predominantly within the white race. M.S. becomes most apparent between 30 and 50 years of age, but seldom strikes those under 15 or over 50.

According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, only one drug has been approved by the F.D.A. for use against M.S. This is ACTH, which can shorten and modify attacks for some patients. Many patients, however, choose to treat their disease with holistic therapy, following a specific diet, taking supplements, exercising, and avoiding fatigue and stress. Some turn to acupuncture, chiropractic, hydrotherapy, herbalism, applied kinesiology, massage, and reflexology for relief.

In his book, New Hope, Real Help For Those Who Have Multiple Sclerosis, John Pageler describes how he found himself struck down with this devastating disease. This courageous man's fight for survival is an inspiration for us all. John feels that strict adherence to his diet is a major factor in his successful M.S. program. He says you must avoid hard fats and sweets with equal determination and develop new eating habits, including supplementation.

John believes supplements are necessary to rebuild the damaged area of myelin or to possibly construct new pathways around the damaged areas. His supplement program includes a high potency multiple vitamin, natural vitamin E, octocosanol (wheat germ oil concentrate), vitamin C with bio-flavonoids, calcium orotate, vitamin B-6, multiple minerals, niacinamide (vitamin B-3), lecithin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and liver (or cod liver oil - as recommended by Dr. Swank).

He feels you must be strong enough to look your favorite aunt in the eye and say, "I can't eat the meal you have planned for a week, and spent two days preparing, because it doesn't conform to my diet."

John also believes the M.S. patient can't expect immediate improvement in his or her health condition. "We didn't get sick with M.S. in a few months, and we won't improve our situation in a few months either," he says. "But, as a patient living day to day with your disabilities, you will know when the first improvement happens." In John's case, it took him six years to go from typical M.S. functional blindness, numbness of the left side extremities, slurring of speech, cane and leg braces, plus lack of bladder control, to feeling normal enough to play tennis and able to return to a job as a radio announcer.

Dr. Roy Swank (Oregon Health Sciences University) has had success with his low fat/high polyunsaturated fat diet, which he has named, "The Swank Diet." In The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book, Dr. Swank describes the diet, gives insights into the disease, identifies the dos and don'ts of the diet, and discusses his theories on why it is successful in changing the course of M.S. The book is loaded with recipes for everything from apple pie to zucchini. The diet severely restricts "hard fats" (such as highly saturated fats from meat and butter, as well as man-made fats, including margarine and shortening). In fact, the basic diet allows only six teaspoons of hard fat per day, from all sources. It also calls for the addition of extra oil or "soft fat." During the first year on the Swank Diet, patients should avoid all red meat in favor of white fish and chicken. Only in the second year may red meats be introduced in moderation.

The intake of fish, meats, and foul should be restricted (the skin should be removed from foul before cooking). Usually, the darker the meat, the higher the hard fat content. For instance, the dark meat on a turkey has more hard fat than the white meat. Eating fried foods will add even more fat to your diet, so boil, broil, or bake instead.

Read labels and avoid the following terms: hardened, or partially hardened coconut oil, hydrogenated, fractionated palm kernel oil, or any mention of natural meat or chicken flavoring on a packaged dry product.

Remember, a lot of foods contain fats: gravies, sauces, casseroles, meats, milk, cheese, sour cream, cream, peanut butter, etc. Skim milk and non-fat yogurt, however, are allowed. All sausages and luncheon meats are chock full of hard fats.

From reviewing a number of M.S. programs, it seems that everyone stresses a low "hard fat", high complex carbohydrate diet.

Man has been cooking his food for only a few thousand years. He evolved in an environment of raw fruits, vegetables and grains (and little meat). His metabolism has genetically accepted or adapted to this natural course of events over several million years. Freezing, preserving, and/or chemically tampering with food, and the general denaturalization of food production on a mass scale (the food processing industry) has been a recent phenomenon.

The cooking, canning, freezing, and then preserving of foods virtually eliminates their active enzymes as well as removing many of their nutrients.

Some foods, such as white bread, are almost entirely devoid of nutrition. even though they provide bulk to create the illusion of satisfying hunger. Food processing removes much of the nutrition from food.

Much of the Western world is addicted to a high animal protein diet, which is difficult to digest. We are also addicted to refined carbohydrates, particularly refined sugar (in its various forms in food and drink). In addition, man's overuse of salt is connected to certain disease conditions.

Caffeine (in coffee, tea, and soft drinks) helps provoke and exacerbate hypoglycemia and has other negative physiological effects; combined with sugars (as in cola drinks), it can be lethal in terms of metabolically managing degenerative disease, such as Multiple Sclerosis.

Some chemicals used in food processing are toxic and may induce degenerative disorders.

Further, stress (both physical and emotional) will exacerbate the patient's symptoms. The reduction of all forms of stress is essential in the rehabilitation of the M.S. patient.

It is important to change eating habits to eliminate or vastly reduce the intake of animal proteins, refined carbohydrates, and stimulants; to eliminate or vastly reduce the ingestion of refined, canned, frozen, or otherwise processed food and drink; and to rely on natural, whole fruits, vegetables and grains, in as raw, natural, and sprouting a stage as possible.

In addition to dietary control, recent research in Germany has found that M.S. can be held in check and in some instances, improved, through the use of enzyme therapy, in conjunction with vitamin A.

It appears that an effective M.S. diet is a modified "metabolic diet" where the emphasis is on controlling one's environment, both external and internal. This includes detoxification, the elimination of all food additives, preservatives, refined carbohydrates, as well as a severe reduction in "hard fats." Nutritional supplementation (including enzymes) and elimination of stress will be helpful.

The information presented in this article is not intended to replace the services of a well-trained health care practitioner.

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Typical patterns of Multiple Sclerosis as shown. Periventicular white matter lesions, circular lesions in the Corpus callosum and the oval shaped lesions.


By Anthony J. Cichoke, M.A., D.C., D.A.C.B.N.

Dr. Cichoke will be happy to send readers a list of publications and a bibliography on M.S., please send a SASE to: Dr. Anthony J. Cichoke, P. O. Box 16189, Portland, OR 97216

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