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“If the Swank Diet works, why hasn’t my neurologist told me about it?” (or, why the Man on MSion is not some kind of nut) May 9, 2010

Posted by manonamsion in multiple sclerosis, swank diet.
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 The Swank Diet has been proven to be more effective in preventing disease progression than any drug on the market – or in clinical trials.  Let me repeat that: the Swank Diet has been proven to be more effective in preventing disease progression than any drug on the market – or in clinical trials.  Your probable reaction: “How can that be?  If that was the case, everyone would do it and my neurologist would have told me about it.”  That was my reaction, too.  And that’s why I dug in and looked for secondary sources that back up Dr. Swank.  I found that in Dr. George Jelinek, who explains brilliantly on his website, Taking Control of Multiple Sclerosis, and in his fantastic new book, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, why the medical establishment has disregarded the most effective treatment option for multiple sclerosis.

It isn’t because your neurologist doesn’t care about you or because he is in cahoots with the drug companies.  It is simply that he or she has been trained to look at medical evidence in a certain way, probably has no training at all in nutrition, doesn’t think that patients will follow lifestyle and diet advice, and maybe hasn’t ever even heard of the Swank diet.

Dr. Swank studied a group of his patients over a period of over 34 years and tracked their disease progression.  Those who followed his recommendations, primarily to reduce saturated fat intake to below 20 grams per day, were called “good dieters” and those who violated these recommendations were called “poor dieters.”  It is worth noting that even the poor dieters reduced their saturated fat far below the intake of the average American (which has only gone up over the ensuing decades, by the way): their saturated fat intake averaged 29-32 grams per day, while the average American consumes over 100 grams per day!  So following the Swank diet means following the Swank diet, not dabbling in the Swank diet.  Going for “moderation” simply does not do the trick.

The Swank results?  Stunning.  Disease progression among good dieters was minimal over a 34 year period, while disease progression among poor dieters was, quite frankly, scary.  Those with minimal impairment who followed the diet remained minimally impaired; those who didn’t follow the diet were likely to end in a wheelchair, bedridden or dead.  I’m not going to reproduce all the results here, but I highly recommend you read the page on Dr. Jelinek’s website that provides the detail.  It convinced me, and I haven’t consumed more than 10 grams of saturated fat on any day since I read it.

How does this compare to the CRAB drugs?  Well, you know the statistics there: they generally reduce exacerbations by about a third, and while there seems to be some effect on overall disease progression, it is sketchy.  And the fact is that some of the studies of the interferon drugs are questionable.  (By the way, I do take my Copaxone, every day.  We need all the help we can get, and I’m not anti-drug where I believe the benefits outweigh the side effects.  If you are currently on an interferon drug, however, you should take a look at the concerns being raised about long term impacts of use of interferon drugs.)

 So why isn’t your doctor telling you to follow the Swank diet as if your life and health depended on it (since it does)?  Well, as Dr. Jelinek details, the startling results were buried by criticism of the methodology of Dr. Swank’s research.  This amazing study over decades is not considered good science by many doctors because it was not a double-blind study – both the doctor and the patients knew who was on the diet and who was not following diet.  In the world of drug testing, this is a flaw because of the possibility of both researcher bias and placebo effect on patients, and under this view, the success of the diet is not “proven.”  But ask yourself how on Earth you could ever do a double blind study of such a comprehensive life style change over any time period, much less a 34 year period.  While the scientists may consider this flaw insurmountable, as someone with the disease, stunning results achieved over more than three decades is enough for me!

Your doctor likely also thinks that people won’t make such dramatic lifestyle changes.  I say, prove them wrong.  In any event, they should be offering you the opportunity.

I go to a support group for men with multiple sclerosis that is sponsored by my local chapter of the MS Society.  I’ve made great friends there who are smart, active and accomplished men.  None of them follow the Swank diet.  Many of them tell me that they are impressed with my willpower; a few roll their eyes when I talk about the diet.  Deep down, I think that they consider me a bit of a nut, and I believe that is because they have not examined the amazing results achieved by Dr. Swank.  Or it may be possible that the neurologists are right that people won’t change to prevent disease progression.  And I suppose I understand, because I didn’t change my diet as my weight and cholesterol went up, despite the risks of heart disease and diabetes.  Somehow, the gun to my head that is MS did the trick, once I learned about the Swank results.  That’s why I am writing this blog: in the hope that I will reach at least one person who will look at the data and make the decision to save their own  mobility and life.  I hope that person is you.

I am here to help you.  Post a comment or send me an e-mail (manonamsion@gmail.com) and I will answer your questions, or refer you to where you can get answers.  Please do this for yourself.



1. linda roberts - May 10, 2010

Many doctors will prescribe drugs for M.S because Patients expect it. We live in a “quick fix” society.
When I was Dx in 2008 my G.P. said I had the option of drugs or treating the symptoms as they arose. I chose the latter and did as much research as possible (i bore very easily). That is when I came across the Swank Diet. I have now been on it for 2years. My life and health has improved enormously. But it has not been a “quick fix” just a slow steady one. Enough to be healthy, mobile and loose 10lb!
You have nothing to loose by trying out the diet. At least you won’t be lining the drug company pockets!

2. Julie Calder - May 10, 2010

Well said, Man on a MSion!!
You are right that these neurologists are just not trained to look outside their particular ‘field of expertise’ – I am very lucky that my neurologist will at least consider alternative solutions!
I have been on the Jelinek/Swank diet for over two years now and it has made a huge difference to me. I no longer have eyesight problems, balance issues, taste problems, brain fog etc. etc. and I’m working on the remaining (much reduced) fatigue and bladder problems by trying LDN, with promising results. I have never taken any disease-modifying drugs and I’m happy to stick with this diet for ever!

3. Catriona - May 10, 2010

I *am* a scientist (dx’ed during the 2nd year of my PhD in Biotechnology) and was firmly convinced by Prof Jelinek’s book and the papers he referred to (including Swank’s paper in The Lancet).
Like you, I’ve found that MS has been the gun to my head that convinced me to adopt a healthier lifestyle. I’m also on Tysabri, because after a terrifying series of relapses with no remissions in between I think I need all the help I can get.
Not quite 2 years after being diagnosed, and after months of being unable to write and needing a stick to walk, I’ve danced at my wedding, I’ve finished my PhD, I’m in full time employment, and I’m doing the 10K Great Manchester Run (in aid of the MS Society) next weekend.

4. Heartshome - May 10, 2010

Wonderful to have this information out there. I try to spread the word as much as possible, but I’m afraid people think I’m a nut, or else just pity me for my “denial”. I am still undiagnosed, but my doc thinks I likely have a slow-to-progress MS. Everything else has been ruled out, I am just waiting to see if and when I meet the diagnostic criteria. However, I didn’t want to wait until I lost significant function before doing SOMETHING…so I found the Swank diet and have been on it nearly three years. Most all of my symptoms are gone. After years of numbness, tingling, buzzing, vibrating, balance issues, cognitivie issues, fatigue, etc.

I can’t believe anyone facing an MS diagnosis wouldn’t have the guts to try this diet. I hope your blog saves someone!

5. Courtney Carver - May 11, 2010

Way to go! I was diagnosed with MS in the Summer of 2006 and immediately stopped eating meat (the worst kind of saturated fat in my opinion), I also generally feel much better when I cut dairy altogether. While I do take Tysabri, I know that what I eat directly correlates with how I feel and in slowing my disease progression. The bonus is that while we are fighting MS with our diet, we are also protecting ourselves from higher cancer, heart disease and diabetes risk. Can’t wait to hear more about your progress.

Changing diet is not the easy answer, but it is the answer.

6. Alahnna - May 18, 2010

Thank you for an informative post and introducing a new (to me!) resource, Dr. George Jelinek.

I’m lactose intolerant, and the gun to my head that made me finally decide to eliminate dairy was my MS diagnosis.

As my neurologist did, it’s probably easier for them to shove a stack of pharmaceutical propaganda at you than take the time to educate themselves on nutrition. At this point, I probably know more about it than my neurologist!

7. Julie Calder - May 21, 2010

I am also lactose intolerant – did your doctor or neurologist tell you this or did you discover it yourself? I worked it out myself after I removed dairy from my diet, but continued to have symptoms. Then I looked at my ant-histamine tablets and ibuprofen tablets (which I took occasionally) and discovered that they contain lactose as a filler! Once I stopped them it was plain sailing!

8. Julie Calder - May 21, 2010

You also need to look out for ‘lactic acid’ in some ready prepared foods and sauces!

9. Alahnna - May 21, 2010

Hi Julie!
I’ve known since I was quite young. I don’t know if it was my pediatrician or my Mom who determined I was lactose intolerant. We had acidophilus milk in the house when I was growing up.

I’ve come to learn that all adult humans are lactose intolerant in varying degrees. It just doesn’t make sense for us to consume another mammal’s milk long after we’ve been weaned from human milk. Our bodies aren’t built for it.

Milk products are in so many things in so many different forms. Until I have a better understanding (i.e. whey – is it ok?), I’m steering clear of all dairy as best I can.

Thanks for the heads up on the tablets. I had no idea! I’ll have to stop using ibufrofen too!

10. Ken Bull - June 7, 2010

Dear Man on a MSion .. I much enjoyed reading your blog, which I’ve just discovered. Indeed, we are almost kindred spirits – in that I also put great faith in the works of George Jelinek and Roy Swank (and related others) after what I think was an intelligent and detailed research into what “I” could do to help myself (and on a largely unrelated point, by coincidence I’ve also been, for 20yrs, a senior lawyer in the financial services industry!). All the best, KB

11. Alan - June 25, 2010

I’m the same. I wanted to lose weight and had convinced myself I was healthy because I ate so many fruits and vegetables. Yet I could never radically change my diet. In that sense, most doctors are correct.

But MS is different from high blood pressure or diabetes, which give more warning and are “treatable”. MS is such a profound disease, who wouldn’t be instantly motivated to do whatever is necessary?

I’m not sure the answer to that question. But neurologists should at least give patients with MS the option to hear about it and try for themselves.

Maybe they can talk diet after they tell us “how lucky” we are that MS is now treatable with DMDs:)

12. margaritabythebeach - February 21, 2012

Hi there, I have been diagnosed with MS ten years ago. Been in remission with very few flare ups until last week. My exacerbations are completely bothersome. Slowly symptoms of fatigualbility, muscle aches, memory loss crept on me. My legs feel like jello, I have really bad coordination, I get dizzy with frequent eye pains and headaches. I feel the usual stabbing pain in my back, shoulders, things and arms. If there was such a thing as MH Hus, I have MS squeeze ( I feel this squeezing in fee my left thigh and right arm), just to mention a few!

I started with the Swank diet two weeks ago. I still do not see a continuous improvement in me. I refuse all the other drugs, since I haven’t come across one that will definitely cure me. Everything is just symptomatic.

somebody mentioned immunoglobulin to me. A relative gave me Lamine. What is the update on MS treatment?

Thanks. I come from a country with very few cases of MS with no field of research happening in our area about our disease.

manonamsion - March 4, 2012

Two weeks is a very short time on the diet – I am told that you really can’t expect maximum results until you have been on the diet for a couple of years. I really recommend that you continue and see if it helps.

13. david - April 18, 2012

I have had m.s. for 26 yrs and was told that i am getting worse after an MRI reading that i just had.. I am looking to find some kind of information about what to do or to change my diet. Maybe this will help.I dont know.Im tired of taking Baclifen a perscibed drug.And like one of the other readers was writing.,[ TIRED OF LINING DOCTORS POCKETS }.At least my mind should be settled for now on doing something .Ive read the blogs and am getting a few mixed responses . You are what you eat with all foods and i think we to take a look at what kind of foods have what additives .Hoping that someone can ease my mind a bit.

manonamsion - June 3, 2012

I hope that you are planning to give the Swank diet a try. It is a very healthy diet based around fruits, vegetables, whole grain and lean protein.

14. Claire de Grasse - November 21, 2012

I was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS last month.

However, the possibility of my condition being MS was mentioned by the neurologist twice and my GP once so the confirmation was no surprise. While waiting for a definitive diagnosis, I started doing my research and came across the Swank diet. After digging into diet-related research, I started following the Jelinek recommendations: eliminate saturated fats, increase “good fats”, lots of different vegies and some fruits.

It’s been about 6 weeks now and I have seen improvements. It is encouraging since the neurologist basically focused on the stats (walking with a cane within 5 years, wheelchair, etc….)

Part of the healing that I am feeling is definitely related to taking back control. I was completely unhappy with the medical approach of wait and see…and I was not looking forward to the medications and their sideffects….

I would recommend making the lifestyle changes recommended

15. Susan Casteel - February 7, 2013

I was diagnosed with MS almost 16 years ago. A well informed friend told me about the Swank Diet and I started it right away. My doctor had wanted me to start injections immediately, but I refused. To this day I have not taken any MS medications. I followed the Swank Diet pretty carefully for two years. Then I gradually began eating some of the foods again but in careful moderation.

You would never know that I have MS because I literally have no typical visible problems. Fatigue is my main issue. I would be in total denial if my diagnosis had not included a spinal tap.

I credit Dr. Swank’s diet with the non-progression of my disease. I strongly recommend that any MS patient begin this diet regardless of when they were diagnosed. What have they got to lose?

Sue February 7, 2013

16. What To Eat To Have Energy - March 21, 2013

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17. Why we need to stay ahead of our doctors! | Man on a MSion - December 21, 2013

[…] most popular post I ever wrote was entitled “‘If the Swank Diet works, why hasn’t my neurologist told me about it?’ (or,…; it still get a lot of hits off Google when people search for the Swank Diet.  Why?  Because if […]

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