“MS was a new beginning in my life”
Ewout (1983), web coordinator for the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience and the School of Business and Economics
“Since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis four years ago, I eat and live differently. Around the time I was diagnosed, I heard about a woman with MS who followed an MS diet and was still free of symptoms after more than 35 years. When I first heard this, I began searching online and came across the ‘Recovery Program’ from Australian doctor George Jelinek. I decided to give it a chance and cleared out my fridge and pantry. If it didn’t have any effect after a year, I would switch to regular drugs to suppress the complaints I had.
Since then, I eat vegan with fish and avoid saturated, modified fat and milk protein. So I don’t eat milk products anymore, but I do eat fish, fresh vegetables and fruits and also rice and pasta, bread and nuts. In addition, I take 20 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day, in the form of flaxseed oil, plus a vitamin D3 supplement, and sometimes vitamin B12. I also work out a few times a week, and I meditate regularly. According to Jelinek, smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, stress and lack of sunlight are factors that affect the course of MS significantly.”
“Since then, I’ve fully recovered from all the symptoms I had when I was diagnosed with MS. Medications may also partially suppress symptoms, but I never started taking them. I also managed to escape the decline into physical disability, which is considered ‘normal’ in the clinical portrait of MS. MS manifests differently in everyone, but it generally involves a series of lifelong symptoms. I put normal in quotes because for many people the decline is not necessary. The diet doesn’t work for only one in twenty MS patients. But it does work for the others if they’re consistent with it.
This initially requires a lot of self-discipline and inventiveness. In the beginning, I ate bread with lettuce and mustard, because I had no idea what I could do differently. Now I eat humus, and I make olive tapenade or grilled peppers on bread. In social gatherings, it is sometimes difficult, like when pie is served at work, or if there are croquettes at a party for the umpteenth time, or if you need to find out which dishes at a restaurant fit into your diet. You have to stay strong. And I can also imagine that if you’ve had MS for ten years and you’re no longer able to work, and you hear about the diet for the first time, that you’ve already accepted many of the symptoms. But I was immediately very motivated to not end up in a wheelchair.”
“The forerunner of George Jelinek, Prof. Roy Swank, had his research into diet and MS published in The Lancet, but one publication is not enough to achieve a paradigm shift. It also wasn’t as easy as 1-2-3 to convince people that the earth is round and not flat. Pharmacists and physicians are much more interested in research into medicines. When people ask me, ‘If this is true, then why doesn’t my neurologist know about it?’, I don’t have an easy answer. But I don’t have missionary zeal to get every MS patient to try this. I’ve set up a website for people who want more information about it and will soon add more recipes that fit into the diet. But otherwise, I say: ‘It’s your health; you don’t have to do it for me.’
I go running twice a week, at distances of sometimes 16 km. The diagnosis of MS was a new beginning in my life; it spurred me to develop this lifestyle. But I no longer feel like a patient. My girlfriend now eats the same things, which makes it a lot easier. In early January we’re going to start a new life in Barcelona. She is a researcher and I hope to teach English to Spanish professionals. I was ready for something else, and along with a career coach at UM, I found that my love of language and public speaking can be combined into teaching. Spain speaks to me in terms of climate and culture. It’s a big step, but I love the unknown.”
What simple recipe do you regularly serve up at home?
- A cup of almonds
- Half a cup of flaxseeds
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt (to taste)
- Grind the flaxseeds in a food processor until most of the seeds are broken.
- Add the almonds and grind to a fine mixture.
- Press two cloves of garlic. Then add the garlic, along with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the mixture. Add sea salt to taste.
- Leave the food processor running so the mixture binds together and forms a sort of doughy texture. If necessary, add more olive oil.
- Divide into three to four burgers using a mould or your hands.
Serve on a fat-free and milk-free bun with vegetables (i.e. cucumber, tomato, pickle, lettuce) and condiments of your choice (i.e. mustard and ketchup).
Source: Femke Kools / Maastricht University, 2014. Published with consent of the author.