Needless Tragedy: Multiple Sclerosis and Jacqueline du Pré

The movie Hilary and Jack­ie tells the trag­ic sto­ry of a lit­tle girl (Jacque­line du Pré) who grew up to be one of the world’s great­est cel­lists, only to have her musi­cal career and then her life cut short by mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. The tru­ly sick­en­ing part of the sto­ry is that the impor­tance of diet in arrest­ing the devel­op­ment of that debil­i­tat­ing and some­times fatal dis­ease had been pub­lished long before du Pré start­ed hav­ing symp­toms of the dis­ease. Trag­i­cal­ly, the med­ical pro­fes­sion is still large­ly ignor­ing the role of a strict, low-fat diet in arrest­ing mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Pho­to by amadeusrecord

Scleroderma: Is Food the Cause?

An acquain­tance of mine has scle­ro­der­ma, and she asked me whether scle­ro­der­ma has any­thing to do with diet. The answer to that ques­tion seems to depend on whom you ask.

Peo­ple who haven’t both­ered to study the sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture on nutri­tion insist that food has noth­ing to do with scle­ro­der­ma. Such idiots deserve to be swat­ted on the snout with a rolled-up med­ical jour­nal, because they are spread­ing dan­ger­ous non­sense. On the oth­er hand, the sci­en­tists who have ded­i­cat­ed their sci­en­tif­ic careers to study­ing the rela­tion­ship between food and diet say that the autoim­mune dis­eases, includ­ing scle­ro­der­ma, are strong­ly relat­ed to diet.

The rules for avoid­ing autoim­mune dis­ease are sim­ple: don’t eat your rel­a­tives, don’t eat too much fat, and make sure you get plen­ty of vit­a­min D. If you get an autoim­mune dis­ease any­way, get test­ed for celi­ac dis­ease and ask a reg­is­tered dietit­ian to help you plan an exclu­sion diet to see if some­thing you are eat­ing is trig­ger­ing your prob­lem.

Like oth­er autoim­mune dis­eases, scle­ro­der­ma is com­mon in the same pop­u­la­tions that eat a lot of ani­mal-based foods, which means a lot of ani­mal pro­tein and a lot of fat. On the oth­er hand, autoim­mune dis­eases are rare in pop­u­la­tions that eat a low-fat, plant-based diet. Autoim­mune dis­eases are also less com­mon in sun­ny cli­mates, which sug­gests that vit­a­min D (the “sun­shine vit­a­min”) plays a role in pre­vent­ing them. A diet-relat­ed ill­ness called celi­ac dis­ease seems to increase the risk of oth­er autoim­mune dis­eases, prob­a­bly because it caus­es “leaky gut.”

Why do I say “don’t eat your rel­a­tives”? Why does eat­ing ani­mal pro­tein pose such a risk of autoim­mune dis­ease? It all has to do with a sim­ple fact about DNA. The more close­ly relat­ed two species are, the more alike their DNA is, and the more alike their pro­teins are. The more alike two pro­teins are, the more eas­i­ly they can be mis­tak­en for each oth­er by the immune sys­tem.

Let’s imag­ine that you eat some meat and some pota­toes. Ordi­nar­i­ly, the pro­teins from the meat and the pro­teins from the pota­toes would get bro­ken apart into indi­vid­ual amino acids in your diges­tive sys­tem, and from there the indi­vid­ual amino acids get absorbed into your blood­stream. But let’s imag­ine that you have a prob­lem with your intes­tine. It leaks a lit­tle, so some frag­ments of pro­tein from the meat and from the pota­toes make their way into your blood­stream before they are com­plete­ly bro­ken down. The immune sys­tem may mis­take these pro­teins for a for­eign invad­er and make anti­bod­ies against them. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the pro­teins from the meat look a lot like your body’s own pro­teins, so the anti­bod­ies against them end up attack­ing some of your own tis­sue. The pro­teins from the pota­to have no “fam­i­ly resem­blance” to any­thing in your body, so any anti­bod­ies that you pro­duce against them will prob­a­bly not attack your own body. So don’t eat your rel­a­tives! Eat plants, instead. How­ev­er, you may have to be a lit­tle picky about which plants you eat.

In peo­ple with celi­ac dis­ease, a pro­tein from wheat (or from rye or bar­ley, both of which are close­ly relat­ed to wheat) trig­gers the immune sys­tem to attack the intes­tine. Celi­ac dis­ease can cause a wide range of prob­lems, rang­ing from mal­ab­sorp­tion to “leaky gut.” So you’d expect peo­ple with celi­ac dis­ease to be at par­tic­u­lar­ly high risk for an autoim­mune dis­ease like scle­ro­der­ma. As a mat­ter of fact, they are!

Fat in the diet can also be a prob­lem in autoim­mune dis­ease. Roy Swank was warn­ing peo­ple about this prob­lem this start­ing in the late 1940s, but he was large­ly ignored, even though he pub­lished his results the world’s most pres­ti­gious med­ical jour­nals. The role of a high-fat diet in caus­ing mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis has recent­ly been “dis­cov­ered” again. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, no one can make a for­tune from this dis­cov­ery, so I’m afraid that it will fall back through the “mem­o­ry hole” yet again.

If you want to put out a fire, the first thing to do is to stop pour­ing gaso­line on it. Like­wise, when you get a diag­no­sis of a dis­ease that is known to be relat­ed to diet, stop eat­ing the foods that are known to pro­voke that dis­ease! In gen­er­al, a low-fat, plant-based diet has been asso­ci­at­ed with a low risk of autoim­mune dis­ease. How­ev­er, a few peo­ple may have trou­ble with wheat or some oth­er plant-based food. Con­se­quent­ly, they should con­sult a reg­is­tered dietit­ian for advice about an exclu­sion diet. Peo­ple with autoim­mune dis­ease should also ask their doc­tor, physi­cian assis­tant, or nurse prac­ti­tion­er to mon­i­tor their vit­a­min D lev­els and test them for celi­ac dis­ease.

What People Can Achieve by Eating a Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet

If you have any chron­ic health prob­lem, I don’t care what it is, con­sid­er mak­ing a change in your diet. Often, a sim­ple exclu­sion diet pro­to­col can help you cure dev­as­tat­ing dis­eases like type 2 dia­betes or rheuma­toid arthri­tis. It can also make you heart-attack-proof and reduce your risk of can­cer. A change to a low-fat, plant-based diet is sim­ple and cheap and has no side effects. If you have any seri­ous health prob­lem, talk to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian (look for the “RD” after their name) as well as your doc­tor before mak­ing a change in diet.

Lose Weight

The secret to effort­less weight loss is to go ape and eat plants. Switch to a high-fiber, low-fat diet based on unre­fined starch­es and lots of veg­eta­bles. Eat as much of these foods as you can hold, and you’ll be less tempt­ed to snack on high-calo­rie junk food.

Stop Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Roy Swank showed that you can stop the pro­gres­sion of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis just by tak­ing the ani­mal prod­ucts and fat out of the diet. Dr. John McDougall is car­ry­ing on this research.

Become Heart-Attack-Proof

Dr. Cald­well Essel­styn took a bunch of patients with advanced coro­nary artery dis­ease and made them “heart-attack-proof” just by teach­ing them to eat the right kinds of food.

Cure Type 2 Diabetes

Dr. Neal Barnard proved that a low-fat, plant-based diet is bet­ter than the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Association’s stan­dard dietary rec­om­men­da­tions for con­trol­ling type 2 dia­betes. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s patients with type 2 dia­betes become “undi­a­bet­ic” with­in a mat­ter of weeks if they eat that way.

Dramatically Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

T. Col­in Camp­bell, PhD, a world-famous nutri­tion­al bio­chemist and nutri­tion­al epi­demi­ol­o­gist, has shown that the more ani­mal-based foods peo­ple eat, the high­er their risk of can­cer. In ani­mal mod­els, sci­en­tists could turn the devel­op­ment of tumors on and off just by increas­ing or decreas­ing the amount of ani­mal pro­tein in the diet.

Fight Arthritis

Arthri­tis is not an inevitable con­se­quence of age. It is com­par­a­tive­ly rare in soci­eties where peo­ple eat a low-fat, plant-based diet. About 70% of peo­ple with the most com­mon form of inflam­ma­to­ry arthri­tis, rheuma­toid arthri­tis, can expect dra­mat­ic ben­e­fits, and often a cure, in less than 4 weeks of diet change. The diet must be fol­lowed strictly—medications are reduced and stopped as improve­ments occur.

Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteo­poro­sis is reversible, if you eat a plant-based diet, get rea­son­able expo­sure to sun­shine, and get some exer­cise. Believe it or not, dairy prod­ucts actu­al­ly make osteo­poro­sis worse.

Relieve Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­eases occur almost exclu­sive­ly in parts of the world where the diet is high in meat and dairy foods, and are rare in coun­tries where peo­ple still con­sume starch-based, almost entire­ly veg­e­tar­i­an meals.

Avoid Surgery for Gallstones

Gall­stones are usu­al­ly made of cho­les­terol, and they result when peo­ple over­load their sys­tem with fat­ty, high-cho­les­terol foods.

Prevent Varicose Veins, Hemorrhoids, Hiatal Hernia, Uterine Prolapse

All of those dis­or­ders result from con­sti­pa­tion. When peo­ple strain to move their bow­els, the abnor­mal­ly high pres­sure in the bel­ly can dam­age the valves in the veins and push var­i­ous organs out of their nor­mal posi­tions.

Appendicitis and Diverticulosis

The high-pro­tein, low-fiber West­ern diet is the cause of appen­dici­tis and diver­tic­u­lo­sis.

The List Goes On and On

Many oth­er dis­eases have been shown to be the result of the rich, fat­ty, low-fiber stan­dard Amer­i­can diet. I should also have list­ed acne, bad breath, body odor, and erec­tile dys­func­tion, along with kid­ney and liv­er dis­ease. The sad thing is that many peo­ple unwit­ting­ly sub­ject them­selves to these dis­eases in their attempt to avoid “pro­tein defi­cien­cy,” even though pro­tein defi­cien­cy isn’t a real prob­lem in human beings. After all, where do goril­las get their pro­tein?