In her latest guest blog Chloe discusses the effects of sugar on multiple sclerosis and the work of Dr Terry Wahls...
I’ve had MS for 16 years now and it’s taken all of those 16 years for me to realise the obvious. Sugar is bad for me and my MS.
Okay okay…I’ve actually always known but have turned a very blind eye to it in the past. I mean sugar is delicious! I have a good diet, don’t get me wrong, but who can resist a sugary treat?! Not me.
The problem with sugar is that the effects are instantaneous with me. If I have something sugary I go tingly. End of story. Even having a yoghurt (pumped full of sugar it seems) would leave me with tingles all down the right side of my face. So the signs that sugar was no good for me were there.
It’s only been recently though that I’ve decided to do something about it. There’s been a lot of research done into the harmful effects of sugar and I couldn’t help but take notice.
There are a lot of websites in particular that talk about the effects sugar has on MS, and how one should avoid it. I found the work of Dr Terry Wahls in particular an interesting read, and was fascinated by her book, The Wahls’ Protocol. The protocol is designed to ‘restore health and vitality to those with MS’, and was created by Dr Wahls after conventional medicine had no effect on the progression of her MS. I, and Dr Wahls, are not suggesting that people with MS shun treatment and go with the diet instead, but purely that it’s an alternative for those who have had no result from treatment. Likewise, it’s a healthy and beneficial diet for all those who have chronic autoimmune conditions, whether they are on treatment or not. I’m on Tysabri which fingers crossed seems to be doing good things so far, but had been failed by 3 treatments before.
Dr Wahls found that changing to a super nutrient Paleo diet transformed her MS. She went from being wheelchair bound to riding a bike and I urge you to look at her work. Though I haven’t managed to stick strictly to the Paleo diet myself (no wheat, barley, dairy, eggs, processed food, sugar, and reduced intake of legumes and potatoes is hard to get your head around when you’re trying to man-handle a 2 year old and living in a predominantly vegetarian household!) the emphasis on sugar was what I really found interesting. To hugely summarise, Dr Wahls’ principle is that care needs to be taken to make sure our body is working as efficiently as possible at a very cellular level. Feeding our body a high-sugar and high-starch diet ‘gum up’ your mitochondria (an important part of our cells) meaning they diminish efficiency. Sugars and starches in particular affect your body detrimentally in two ways. Firstly they are high in calories and fill you up, but provide very little nutritional value. Secondly, they encourage the growth of unfavourable yeasts and bacteria in your gut which can lead to a lot of other problems*.
That evidence, coupled with the fact that I knew full well that it was detrimental to my health (with the instant tingles) it was a no-brainer that I had to cut out sugar from my diet. But my goodness me, it was hard. There is sugar in everything. It’s only when you start looking that you realise the hidden sugars that plague us. I had two weeks of complete detox from sugar (including fruit) and now I am very careful with what I eat, trying to eliminate it as much as possible and not eat more than 10g of sugar a day. I’m no angel though…obviously I still have bad days and slip. But at least I’m aware of the bad effect sugar has on my diet. If I eat some and get tingling and a headache then that’s my own fault and I have no-one else to blame.
6 weeks in and I’m amazed at the effect eating a low sugar diet has had though. Not only have the tingles gone, but I’ve had more energy and more stamina. I just feel brighter. I’ll never know whether it is no-sugar that has done this, or whether it’s coincidence and I’m just in a good remission, but I figured that any changes I can make to my lifestyle to help things along are only a good thing. If you’re stuck in a bit of a fatigue rut, I urge you to give a low-sugar diet a go. What have you got to lose?
*All information can be found in Dr Terry Wahls & Eve Adamson’s book The Wahls’ Protocol (2015), published by Avery.