Liskula Cohen discusses the dietary changes she’s had to make as a result of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
On April 10th of this year, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
This may seem like an unorthodox subject for a men’s website – after all, MS impacts two to three times more women than men. That said, there are many male patients with the disease, and what’s more, there are many men who have wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends with the condition. 80% of people who have MS have RRMS (or Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis)… which is what I have. It’s sort of the “first stage” of MS – the mildest form, and one that a large percentage of people never move out of. It is not a death sentence, and many have it their whole lives without being debilitated or wheelchair-bound. Initially after my diagnosis, however, I was terrified – my ability to walk and see properly were heavily affected. So I spent weeks stuck in a hospital room with lousy food and an IV drip in my arm. Although there were only a couple days when I couldn’t walk without support, for a while my vision, balance, and gait were severely off-kilter.
That’s why I’ve decided to write articles like this one for The Good Men Project: To spread awareness about the little details that make a difference when you’re living with MS.
We can start with one of the small changes that has had a really big impact on me thus far: My diet.
Before I was diagnosed, I ate everything. I loved ice cream, yogurt, chocolate milk… anything that was dairy and sweet. I didn’t love meat, but I definitely liked it. I never had to watch what I ate, as I was naturally thin.
Once my MS symptoms began to set in, though, those foods left me with a heavy, tired feeling. Before I was diagnosed, I assumed this was a reaction to the food itself – that maybe my poor eating habits were catching up with me after all. My neurologist told me, however, that from now on I had to eat a vegan, gluten free diet (later I found out that I didn’t actually have to give up gluten, for which I’m very grateful).
Although there is no proof that is widely accepted by the medical community that dietary changes can help treat MS, it’s hard to dismiss the experiences of so many who have felt better after making nutritional changes. Among other things, patients with MS are advised to choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, and limit their intake of sugar, salt, and caffeine.
Of course, these guidelines are just as helpful to people who aren’t suffering from MS as those who are; much of it is common sense. That said, whether the changes are helpful due to some as-yet-undiscovered specific effect on MS or simply because they’re good ideas in general, the end result is that they often work. Isn’t that enough?
Now that I’ve changed my diet, I have much more energy. The bloated, heavy feeling that I had before is also gone, as were the stomach pains. Once I got home I also started exercising, which helped me feel stronger and healthier. Among other things, it turns out that MS teaches you that the old expression is true:
You are what you eat.