Anna's MS Regimen

Anna York's MS Health Regimen

I was severely crippled for many years. Up to six MS attacks a year resulted in my using an electric scooter and being unable to stand or sit up straight for more than a few minutes. I was partially paralyzed in my lower left body and the muscles all over my body were atrophied. When walking with a cane, I had a strong orientation down and to the right and threw the left side of my body in order to get it to move forward. At times my hands were so weak I was unable to lift a cup or plate. 

Today I am a very different person. I stand straight and tall and fit into my wedding dress (43 years and 5 babies ago). Recent blood work gives me a clean bill of health all around, with cholesterol at 159, blood pressure at 90/60 and a pulse of 64. Recent bone scan results indicate I have stronger bones than most women my age, good news after having had so many steroids when I was ill. I no longer have many of the MS symptoms that plagued me for years, and I no longer experience the debilitating exacerbations that once crippled me so seriously. I no longer use a scooter or even a cane, walking with a bit of a limp that is getting less noticeable because of my daily exercise (about 1½ hours per day). I have taken no drugs since 1998, and I currently use only herbs and supplements to address any health issues that arise.  While I have some nervous system weaknesses from my years of illness, they do not hinder me from living an active, fulfilling life. I look to the future with hope and joy. 

My approach is multi-dimensional and integrated; all the components are highly inter-related with each other, and I do not feel that any single aspect would have been nearly as effective without the others. This integrated approach includes a strong spiritual practice, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. The longest section in this paper is on diet because it is something tangible I can share that others can immediately put into practice if they choose to do so. You can read other details in my book entitled Rising UP!, which is available on Amazon.com and in most eBook formats through Smashwords.com.

Check with your own physician or healthcare professional

I am not a doctor. The regimen I describe below is my own personal regimen, and I do not claim that it should be used by anyone else. If you feel that some of the information may be useful to you, you should check with your physician or healthcare professional before implementing it in your own life. 

Spirituality

Spiritual practice is a highly personal matter and draws on each person’s own spiritual tradition and experience. Since I am a Protestant Christian, I find strength in my Christian roots and heritage; at the same time, I am open to adapting practices of other traditions when I am able to do so in a way that meets my personal and spiritual needs. I practice quietness and meditation, which is integrated into all aspects of my life, including exercise times as well as traditional prayer/meditation times. I have several styles of meditation available, and I choose among them according to my needs at a particular time. Most of them incorporate breathing and relaxation, and many of them include movement. It is the spiritual practice that has given me the inner courage and spiritual stamina to persevere through so many changes in order to achieve healing. 

Lifestyle

One of the most difficult challenges I face is how to discern and manage the things that are most important in life. I must often make hard choices and let go of activities and relationships that are not healthy for me.  I discipline myself not to overdo. I have changed my lifestyle so that I have a part-time job that I really enjoy and that affords me the time to do the diet, exercise, meditation and other activities that are good for me. 

Diet

Diet is, in a sense, the linchpin of my regimen. Without the diet, none of the other components are effective. It is important to note that effects of dietary changes are not seen in days or weeks but over a period of months as the effects of previous diet are gradually purged from the body.  It is over time that I have seen good effects, but they are very good.  Now that I am on a different diet, only a brief relapse to old habits can have negative repercussions; these are short-lived if I get back on the regimen. My regimen will sound quite radical, but then MS is a radical disease that calls for radical measures.  I actually quite enjoy my diet at this point and find that when I eat appropriate, healthy foods the craving for less healthy foods just goes away.  

 Diet takes time 

I have friends who say they'd rather die than give up their meat and fried foods.  Indeed it's very hard to change lifestyle and food habits, especially if we are not convinced it will really make a difference.  Back in 1982, a friend in Princeton gave me Swank's book to read, and I ignored it.  A few years later some other friends gave me information about candidiasis and I ignored that as well. Using diet to treat MS didn’t make any sense to me because my doctors all told me it had nothing to do with my disease.  Now I know this is not true.   I have experienced that diet is critical to my healing and ongoing health. The diet approach takes time.  One does not see big results in a week or a month or even two or three months.  It takes consistency and patience, but one does begin to see some changes in a short time and big changes over a longer period of time.  Natural remedies take longer than drugs but work at a much deeper level.  

Food changes upset the social fabric of our lives. They affect our emotional well being because most of us eat for comfort and satisfaction as much or more than for nutrition. Food is a part of most social interactions, and food restrictions cause changes not only in our own lives but also in the lives of those around us. Such changes can cause frustration, especially if other people do not see the necessity for it. Helping people close to us understand the reasons for the diet may help. It’s also good to have a supportive community that can recommend tasty foods and restaurants that fit the diet. 

Dietary changes should be implemented gradually

Because diet has such a big impact on our lives, changes should be implemented a little at a time, allowing for a learning curve, for psychological and emotional changes, and for adjustment to new shopping, cooking and social habits. Each person’s adaptation rate is different, so no one needs to feel that everything must be done quickly or in a similar manner to other people. The important thing is to begin thinking about diet and to begin moving toward change as you are able to do so.

Reading on Diet

Books I recommend are: 

  • Roy Laver Swank's The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book. This book offers research on diet for MS patients.  Most of what I read on diet basically agrees with his conclusions, with some variations. 
  • Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods. This book is based on the Chinese system of diagnosis but is 0 pxinterpreted into modern nutritional and medical terms.  This book is extremely helpful, especially references to “dampness.” There are recipes in the back.
  • Stephen Cooter’s Beating Chronic Illness. This book gave me key information about how to metabolize toxins from Candidiasis by using the trace mineral molybdenum—very important to my healing.
  • Jean Marie Martin’s Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook details a three-stage diet that was very helpful for me in purging my body of toxins.

My diet regimen for healing 

 I eat fresh, natural and low on the food chain.

No meat.  For fourteen years I ate no meat of any kind, even in broths.  I started by eliminating red meat for a year, then I went all the way to vegan (no animal products) for eight years.  The only exceptions to the vegan diet were eggs, which I had a couple of times a week, and butter, which I had when I went out to eat. This diet helped me clean out my body and reduce the toxin load that was making me ill.

After fourteen years, my body eventually let me know that I was getting too much fiber (very loose stools), so I added fish back into the diet and eventually also a variety of meats. My body rejoiced! While my basic regimen stays very much the same, I have learned over and over again the necessity of fine-tuning it according to my body's needs.

No dairy products. I use virtually no milk or dairy products. Various research I've read indicates that MS persons often have low level allergies to many things including chemicals and substances such as lactose.  This triggers the immune system, which, as we know, is connected to MS responses.  Molds in cheeses can also trigger the immune system. Milk products produce mucous and exacerbate inflammation, causing muscles and joints to get creaky or lock up.

 No processed sugar. I eat no products with processed sugar in them. I limit fruits mostly to sour fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, blueberries, under-ripe pears and grapefruit. Stevia, a potent natural sweetener with none of the drawbacks of regular sugar, can be used to sweeten tea and other drinks. While there are some brands of health cookies that are sweetened with fruit juice rather than sugar, I use them very sparingly. Rarely I will indulge in some small treat when I go out to eat, but I find that eating sugar tends to make my joints and muscles painful.

Low fat. I have less than 20 grams of saturated fat a day and 20 or more grams of unsaturated fat per day, such as olive oil, flax seed oil, etc, as per the Swank diet.

No alcohol. Alcohol promotes bacteria growth, stresses the liver and depletes glutathione which is important in cellular metabolism.

No caffeine. Caffeine stresses the adrenals. Green tea is an exception because of its many healing properties, but I use it sparingly. I use a variety of herbal teas, often selecting them according to their healing properties for whatever season it is and what is going on in my body. I refer to Paul Pitchford's book for suggestions.

Limited wheat gluten or yeast. I avoid wheat and yeast products, including most breads and pastas, because wheat products provide a congenial environment for growth of yeast and bacteria. They contain empty calories, upping the carbohydrates that can be turned into sugar. I use sprouted-grain breads such as Ezekiel 4-9. I get breads made from other grains such as rice, kamut, amaranth, quinoa and rye from Whole Foods. Whole Foods also has pastas made from these grains. The best non-wheat pastas, in my opinion, are made from rice or spelt, a grain that is much higher in protein than wheat. When I eat out I will sometimes have wheat bread with butter, but I’m better off if I don’t.

Limited soy. For several years I used fairly large quantities of soy in various forms as part of my staple proteins. However, I discovered that soy products often have a similar effect to milk for me, causing inflammation that results in painful muscles and joints.  While there are many faux meat products made of soy on the market that simulate chicken, fish, turkey, lunchmeat and even beef, I personally limit their use and feel better for it, finding that the real meats are healthier for me.

Whole grain, no chemicals. Overall, I limit use of breads. When I use them, I try to use only whole grain breads and pastas with no preservatives--chemicals can trigger the immune system.  Whole grain offers more protein and micronutrients than white breads and pastas. Since I avoid wheat I look for whole grain rye bread (occasional use) and for sprouted grain breads such as Ezekiel 4-9. I sometimes use spelt or rice breads or breads with seeds and nuts. I want to maximize protein from veggie sources and maximize micronutrients. 

Breakfast. For several years I have eaten the following for breakfast:  Whole grains, including millet, quinoa, amaranth. These are available from health or whole food stores.  I eat it with fresh fruit, nuts, and a tablespoon each of bee pollen, lecithin, and flax seed oil.  Grains such as quinoa, millet and amaranth provide almost perfectly balanced protein. They are also good in soups, casseroles, and salads.  Sometimes I throw in some sunflower or pumpkin kernels. Quinoa can be used in any way rice is used. I have poached eggs two or three times a week.

 Lunch. When I was on a vegan diet (fourteen years) I often had a tofu scramble (tofu stir-fried with veggies); soup such as lentil, black bean, or vegetarian chile; or a veggie burger, which can be found in frozen sections of enlightened stores--vegan.  I also ate a lot of salad with emphasis on dark greens.  Now that I eat meat again, I often have vegetable soup or chicken and rice soup. I use baked tortilla chips with organic or low-fat, refried-type beans.  I use healthfood brands because they don’t have additives. 

Snacks:  I eat rice cakes or sprouted bread, such as Ezekiel 4/9 bread, with almond or cashew butter.  I love a variety of nuts and make my own mix of unsalted nuts. When I'm out and don't have my normal food available, I take along nuts or an almond butter sandwich stuffed with whole grapes. There are also several brands of health bars that are really good, but I must exercise care in selection. Many of them have too much sugar for me.  

Supper.  For supper I may have any of the things mentioned above for lunch; in addition I have baked, roasted or steamed veggies, rice, many varieties of beans and lentils, sushi, veggie stir fries, fish; many varieties of rice and veggies or veggie stir fries with various kinds of tofu or tempeh.  I especially find that Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and middle eastern foods are often suitable or very adaptable and also very tasty.  Now that I eat meat, I often have chicken and occasionally some beef.

Candida diet. I went on an even more stringent diet for several months to purge candida albicans from my system; as a result, I now have much less joint pain than I did previously, plus a lot more energy.  I used a basic approach by Jean Marie Martin in her book Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook. Pitchford’s book also helps with understanding diet for candidiasis.

Maintenance diet after healing

After four years of a restricted diet, my body showed signs that I had achieved many of my goals. My constitution changed from cold and damp to a more normal constitution, and I began to enjoy a somewhat wider variety of foods, being careful to add only one at a time to make sure I know the effects. I indulge in a small treat now and then, but I am still very careful to maintain most of the principles of the diet mentioned above. When I lapse, I quickly begin to experience symptoms and am reminded that I have a very serious underlying condition that will be with me for my entire life. I toe the line on all aspects of my regimen because I know I could very quickly revert to my old symptoms--and I do not want that!

 Supplements

I take the following:

  • 400 iu of Vitamins A and D 
  • 500 mg of vitamin C with bioflavonoids twice a day. When I am catching a cold, I take around 3000 mg per day.
  • 400 iu of vitamin E twice a day.
  • 400 iu of vitamin E twice a day.
  • CoQ10, 30 mg twice a day.  
  • Beta carotene.  
  • Cayenne capsule (produces heat, builds stomach acid to digest the minerals)
  • Kelp
  • B-50 vitamins. If you have nerve pain, you may have to cut back on B’s.
  • Chromium picolinate (works with insulin in the metabolism of sugar)
  • Zinc Picolinate (aids a wide variety of body processes)
  • 150 mcg of molybdenum 3 times a day (metabolizes candida toxins)
  • Supergreen (I use Perfect Food by Garden of Life)

Balanced minerals are critical for overall health and in particular for good nerve conduction. Having the right balance can also help calm nerve pain; however, if the minerals are out of balance, I cramp up and my muscles and joints get stiff and painful. For a long time I had a little sign on my office wall that said, "It's the minerals, stupid!" to remind me how vital they are to so many body functions. Since I do not use milk products and am very careful with soy, I supplement to be sure I get enough.

The effectiveness of various mineral formulas varies greatly, and getting the balance right may take a while.  I use Hans Nieper’s Membrane Complex (2AEP-Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium) for a mineral supplement, in addition to Nature’s Way Multi-Minerals. I don't take minerals with a vitamin mixture because I want to know and control exactly how much I am taking. I have found that that the Membrane Complex is highly absorbable, helps significantly with nerve pain and seems to help keep everything else in balance. It may be necessary to work with a doctor to get the right formula, although there is no substitute for learning to read one's own body and making fine adjustments for seasons and times of special needs.

A normal amount is 1500 mg of calcium per day and about the same for magnesium. I take the minerals in at least two doses, one in afternoon and one at night before going to bed.When I have nerve pain or am taking herbs for inflammation, I may take up to twice as much and may take them as many as four times a day. Medications may leach out minerals, so it is necessary to factor that in. If muscles tighten up or cramp, there is a need to take more magnesium, which relaxes the muscles. If there is too much magnesium, stools may get loose.

I know the brands mentioned here have good absorption. Minerals require vitamins A,D and C in order to be absorbed. Squeezing some fresh lemon into water, tea, or other drinks will enhance stomach acid and aid in absorption. I always use capsules instead of tablets because they are much more easily absorbed.

When I have yearly physical exams, I am sure to request levels of minerals in the blood to be sure they are normal. Bone density exams also help me make sure I am staying within the range that is normal for my age.

Oil supplement. I take an oil supplement twice a day that has essential fatty acids, such as omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids.  These are found in flax seed oil (mentioned above, can be used on cereal, in salad dressings, etc. but not in cooking since heat destroys the fatty acids), also in black current seed oil, fish oil and evening primrose oil.  I usually take oil during the day and a gel cap of about 1500 mgs in the evening.  I feel these oils have really made a difference in helping me move better and feel better.  There is a lot of information available about the importance of the essential oils.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Most of my health practices are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. A good practitioner is invaluable in assessing one’s condition and recommending customized approaches to wellness as well as to acute and chronic conditions. 

 I recommend seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner to acquire herbs or other recommended formulas to relieve dampness. A professional evaluation is important to assess each person’s unique constitution and needs. Furthermore, needs change over time and even seasonally, so it is a good idea to have a person you can consult on a regular basis. 

Exercise 

My regimen includes lots of exercise. I lift weights, walk on a treadmill, and do many exercises to rehabilitate my muscles from severe atrophy. I work out about an hour and a half a day. 

Tai chi and Chi Kung (traditional Chinese healing exercise) are especially good for balancing out my whole system, learning to relax, building energy through breathing and opening the “meridians” in the body. The practice of Tai Chi and Chi Kung (Qigong) has been extremely important in my healing. The traditional movements of Chi Kung have nature imagery which I have put into the narrative form of the Genesis Creation story, making these healing movements accessible to a Western, Judeo-Christian audience. See New Creation Tai Chi-Qigong.

Oriental Bodywork

My paralysis, atrophied muscles and lack of balance and coordination have been overcome primarily through the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong, accompanied by regular visits to an expert in Oriental bodywork. This person unparalyzed my lower left side by manipulation and the use of various arts such as Thai bodywork, cranial-sacral therapy, acupressure, and a variety of styles of massage. He has done of lot of straightening on my body and limbs over a period of several years to help me restore normal posture, gait and energy. Other people who do some work like this might be chiropractors (I saw one for over a year) and those who do Shiatsu, Rolfing and other styles of bodywork. You will need to search what kind of services are available in your area, get recommendations, and try out a few practitioners to find a good fit.

Keep Searching--Never Quit

The key is to always keep searching for those healing modalities that address your personal needs. Never, ever, ever stop believing that there will be a cure for this disease and that you will find something that will help you. Hope is a wonderful healer in itself--and that is a proven fact!

I feel it is essential for us to share our stories, so that is what I have done in my book, entitled Rising UP! I encourage you to share your story too so we all may encourage and empower each other to seek healing and live with hope and purpose.

"Rising UP! My Recovery from Multiple Sclerosis, Disability and Despair"

A Story of Triumph over Impossibilities.

Available on Amazon and in many digital formats. 

Click here for Rising UP!

 

Blessings and Peace

Anna

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