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Why we need to stay ahead of our doctors! December 21, 2013

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The most popular post I ever wrote was entitled “‘If the Swank Diet works, why hasn’t my neurologist told me about it?’ (or, Why the Man on a MSion is not some kind of nut)”; it still get a lot of hits off Google when people search for the Swank Diet.  Why?  Because if you are new to MS, it’s likely that you haven’t yet learned that while our doctors want to help us, the nature of medical education and research sometimes gets in the way.  I was put in mind of that fact when I read a great blog post on the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis website by my very wise friend Rebecca Hoover.  In her post, entitled “Suddenly patients are ahead of their doctors!”, Rebecca explains both the very minimal training that doctors receive on nutrition, and the stunning 17 years it takes, on average, for new discoveries to become part of medical practice.  As pointed out in one of the comments on the post, Dr. Swank started his study over 63 years ago and published his findings decades ago.  We don’t have decades to waste – we need to be healthy now!  This is why resources such as Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis and Rebecca’s fabulous and informative blog are so important.  So I want to thank Dr. Jelenik and everyone at OMS, and folks like Rebecca, for getting the word out.  It would be a terrible thing to learn about the Swank Diet and OMS program in 17 years . . . while sitting in a wheelchair!

New York Meet-up!!! Saturday, July 13, 2013 July 7, 2013

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I’m very excited to share that a fellow fan of Dr. Jelinek’s Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis program has organized a meet-up luncheon in New York!  Sorry about the last minute notice, but it is taking place this upcoming Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 12:00 Noon at the fabulous Candle 79 (http://www.candle79.com/), New York’s premiere vegan restaurant on the Upper East Side.

Our organizer needs to get a final count to the restaurant, so if you are interested in meeting fellow Swank dieters (including the Man on a MSion, who will share his real name!), please send an e-mail directly to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. (Name protected, since the event is now past.)

This is a great opportunity to share ideas, support each other and maybe even help develop an OMS chapter here in the U.S.  I hope that some of you can reorganize your schedules and get to New York on Saturday (but please RSVP).

POSTSCRIPT:

Well, there were only a few of us, but we had a nice lunch, and it was good to meet others following the program.  Hopefully, we’ll do it again sometime and I’ll be certain to alert you all!

 

Science, Cavemen and the Best Diet for MS April 15, 2012

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I am often asked how I got started on the Swank Diet and why I chose the Swank Diet over the other diets out there that are promoted as “cures” for multiples sclerosis.  The short answer is that the Swank Diet is proven effective for keeping MS patients healthy.  Dr. Swank’s amazing long-term study of his patients, best described by Dr. Jelinek, proves that adherence to a diet ultra-low in saturated fats helps keep MS at bay.  There is strong science behind the Swank Diet.  For me, scientific proof beats scientific theory any day of the week.

I know that other diets of the Paleo variety are all the rage right now, whether called the Paleo diet, the cave-man diet or the best bet diet.  And while these diets may be effective for some people with undiagnosed allergies to certain types of food, like gluten and legumes, they are not proven effective for MS, and, indeed, allow foods like red meat and organ meat that are not permitted under the Swank Diet and are unhealthy in many other regards.  My friend Rebecca has laid this out very nicely on her excellent blog, and rather than repeat it all here, I urge you to read her posting on the science of the Swank/Jelinek program and on the risks of the Paleo diet specifically.

The biggest difference between the Swank diet and these other diets is that they allow red meat and organ meat (and therefore allow you to eat too much saturated fat) and they prohibit grains and legumes.  By all means, if you have a sensitivity to grains or legumes, you should cut them out of your diet.  However, for the vast majority of the population that do not have these sensitivities, whole grains and legumes are good for you and an important part of a healthy diet.  Please remember that Dr. Swank did not limit his patients’ intake of grains and legumes, and he had spectacular results!  (If you want to give up grains and legumes, however, go ahead, but don’t increase your intake of saturated fats!)

The idea that our bodies are designed to eat like cavemen has some appeal, especially as auto-immune disease becomes more prevalent and we search for answers as to why.  But not everyone gets MS, and I’m willing to accept that something has gone awry in my body that requires me to take unusual action not required of the general population.  I’m already older than most cavemen lived to be, so I need a program that focuses on keeping people like me – middle aged with MS – healthy long into old age.  For me, that’s the Swank Diet – proven effective over decades of study.

Start a New Year with a Resolution – Any Day of the Year! December 31, 2011

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We all know that it’s common for people to make New Year’s resolutions, and as we enter 2012, I hope that if you have multiple sclerosis and you are not following the Swank Diet, you will make it your New Year’s resolution to learn more about it and start following it.  There can be no greater favor you can do for yourself – and for the people who love and depend on you – than resolving to be as healthy as you can.

But if you are reading this and it isn’t New Year’s Day, remember that you can start a new year of your life any day of the year.  For the Man on a MSion, September 1 is what I c all my “Swankiversary” – the day I started (2 1/2 years ago now) on the path to greater health with the Swank Diet.  As my regular readers know, I am way fitter than I was that September day in 2009, I have had no relapses and my MRI shows no progression of the disease.   (Yes, I also take Copaxone, and I can’t know for sure what is keeping the MS at bay.  But I am generally more healthy and fit, and don’t we need all the weapons in our arsenal to overcome MS?  We can’t afford to ignore Dr. Swank’s stunning results over 35 years!)

So as I get ready to go out for New Year’s Eve on the town (yes, I’ll be giving the kitchen my special order, as always!) with my wife and my dearest friends, I wish you all the best of health in 2012.   And if I can help give you a boost on your climb to better health and help you start a new year, any day of the year, please e-mail me any time – manonamsion@gmail.com.

Sex and the Single Guy . . . with MS October 30, 2011

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I recently received an e-mail from MS Mingle, a single European guy with MS, asking if he could guest blog here at Man on a MSion about life as a single guy with MS who isn’t letting MS slow him down.  As you know, the Man on a MSion is a middle aged, happily married guy with a couple of kids, and I’ve never faced the dating scene with MS.  I agreed that some perspective from MS Mingle would be of interest, so without further ado, here’s what MS Mingle would like to share.  (By the way, MS Mingle has his own blog – for those of you who speak Dutch!)

Dating science meets multiple sclerosis
 
As you know Man on a MSion is happily married. Not all men have had that luck, yet. For starters myself, I am a single guy and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about a year ago. As you might imagine, having MS doesn’t really benefit your love life. But it could. It turns out that improving your chances with the opposite sex, also heals your MS.
 
Whether you want to improve your chances in romance or stop your MS from progressing, you will have to dedicate yourself to a healthy lifestyle (physically and mentally): eat healthy, exercise and rest and/or  meditate. My biggest challenge was to deal with the anxiety that comes with MS. Thoughts constantly ran through my head. Thoughts like ‘will the diet work’ and ‘am I having an attack right now’, and to stay on topic: will MS affect my chances of having a girlfriend? 
 
And this is where dating science and doctor Jelinek’s knowledge converge. Jelinek states that when you want to overcome MS you should amongst others ‘commit to an ongoing process of exploring and resolving emotional and spiritual ‘dis-ease’ and resolving unfinished business’. This process is what dating science calls working on one’s inner game. The term stands for the continuing ability to feel self secure, non needy and at ease with yourself. And I feel this is the key to both beating MS and improving your dating life as you go.
 
I finally covered my inner game after nine months on the Jelinek diet. It was when I realized that the diet wasn’t just some unproven treatment like my neurologist said, but that it had actually started to take effect. I noticed that my periodical attacks remained absent, which really made me feel reassured: my efforts had paid of. This feeling took the heat of  having MS. And allowed me feel assured in my dealings with women.
 
As I stated at the beginning of my post, having MS could be beneficial to you love life. If you decide to start eating ultra healthy, exercise and take your rest, your chances with women will improve dramatically. Beating MS changes your outlook on life to a positive one, and the diet and exercise will have a positive effect on your physique. You will become a fit guy who is totally at ease with himself. And you don’t have to know dating science in order to understand what effect that will have on women.
 
MS Mingle is a 28 years old man from the Netherlands with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. He blogs about his dating life and multiple sclerosis.

A thank you to Dr. George Jelinek on my Swankiversary . . . October 17, 2010

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Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may have been asking  yourselves whether the Man on MSion is still on a mission . . ..  My apologies for my absence for the last couple of months.  One of the things about having a chronic condition is that it is always there and sometimes you just want a break from thinking about it.  I took that break and now I’m back!

I’ve now been on the Swank/Jelinek program for over 1 year.  Now that I’m used to healthy eating and exercise, and feeling good because of it, I don’t really think about why I’m doing it anymore – it has become second nature.  And that allows me to not think about having MS when I don’t want to.  That’s a good feeling (but I’ll try not to let it lead me to abandon my blog again!)

It’s also a good feeling to have gone for over a year without any exacerbations or new symptoms.  I just had my annual MRI and saw my neurologist, and it was good to hear that not only do I have no new lesions, but some the existing ones have “slightly decreased conspicuity.”  That’s doctor-speak for them being less significant!!!

I’m looking forward to many good annual check-ups in the future and I’m happy to feel like I’ve taken control.  I’m honestly not sure that I would have ever even tried the Swank Diet if I hadn’t found the secondary support for the program on Dr. George Jelinek’s website.  So I want to take this opportunity on my “Swankiversary” to thank Dr. Jelinek for inspiring me to change my diet and lifestyle, and for all he has done for all of us looking for a way to take control and overcome multiple sclerosis.

If you are reading this and haven’t read Dr. Jelinek’s website, please do yourself a favor and do so now.  Also, for my fellow Americans, Dr. Jelinek’s fantastic, indispensable book is finally available on the Barnes & Noble website and on the Amazon.com website.  It is a couple of bucks cheaper from Amazon, but Barnes & Noble is shipping immediately, while Amazon takes 1-3 months.  Spend the money and get the book RIGHT NOW!  (It is still way cheaper than having it shipped from Australia, as I did!)

Guest Blogging on OvercomingMultipleSclerosis.org: Who decided that eating right is “alternative” medicine? July 9, 2010

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I’m honored to be  guest blogging this week on www.overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org, Dr. Jelinek’s fantastic resource for people ready to take control of their multiple sclerosis.  Here’s what I had to say:

For some reason, it is the accepted wisdom that “conventional” medicine consists of pills, injections, infusions and even surgery, while adhering to a restricted diet, exercising and meditation are “alternative” medicine.  It’s funny that we are all attuned to the risks of “chemicals” on our bodies (bpa in plastic bottles, alar on apples, radon in our basements, radiation from our cell phones), but give virtually no thought to the vast majority of substances we put into our bodies every day – our food.  Shouldn’t the most conventional medicine of all be paying attention to what we put into our bodies as food?

I will admit that I never paid attention to what I was putting into my body until I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and learned about the Swank Diet.  And the more I learned  from Dr. Jelinek’s website about the importance of Vitamin D, omega 3s and saturated fat, the more convinced I became that MS is tied to our lifestyle choices, and for those of us who have not lost function due to MS, we have the choice to arrest the progression of the disease.  (This also got me thinking – and reading about other impacts of our diet on disease, and why I recommend The China Study so highly.)

Now, I believe in so-called conventional medicine too, and I take my Copaxone shot every day.  But I’m less excited about undergoing the knife for liberation therapy (based on the unproven CCSVI theory) when there is a healthy, natural way to stay well.

I have been on the Swank/Jelinek program for about 10 months now, and I am more fit than I have been in years.  In addition to having lost 35 pounds and taken 4 inches off my waist, I exercise regularly and my cholesterol is under 160 – without the statins I used to take.  As I’ve said to my wife, being diagnosed with MS may be the best thing to ever happen for my health.  If I can stave off my MS symptoms while avoiding diabetes, heart disease and stroke, what could be better?  Certainly not something high in saturated fat!

CCSVI, liberation treatment and what you need to do to treat your MS NOW May 1, 2010

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It is human nature to want a quick solution to our problems – the silver bullet that will make it better.  The recent excitement around chronic cerebrospinal venus insufficiency (CCSVI) and “liberation treatment” put me in mind of that fact of life.  The reality is that this is a theory and a treatment in the early stages of research, and you need to put your multiple sclerosis into remission NOW.

It has been widely reported – in sometimes breathless, overstated terms – that Dr. Paolo Zamboni of Italy has discovered the cause – and cure – for multiple sclerosis.  If only either were true.  As well reported by Canada’s National Post, this very preliminary research has been totally blown out of proportion.  And if people living with MS line up for unproven surgery, rather than doing what we know we can RIGHT NOW to treat our MS, the results can be harmful.

It is true that Dr. Zamboni has found some support for a hypothesis of a connection between restrictions of cerebral blood flow and multiple sclerosis. And the limited data indicates that there may indeed be a correlation.  But  it isn’t clear to me whether what he has discovered is a cause of MS, as opposed to be yet another symptom, and this doesn’t point to the silver bullet treatment that many media reports have suggested.

As Dr. Jelinek explains well, this finding isn’t even all that new and in fact was written about by Dr. Swank many years ago in his book.  And Dr. Swank’s work, confirmed by Dr. Jelinek, has already given us a treatment plan, albeit not a silver bullet.

The fact is that for us folks with multiple sclerosis, staying well is within our control, but, sorry folks, it takes discipline and a life-long dedication to changing our lifestyle, starting with our diet.  Controlling what is put into our bodies is the key to controlling our bodies. 

Does that sound like a silver bullet?  No, I suppose not.  But step back and think about it for a minute.  Do you really think surgery (as suggested by Zamboni) is a preferable solution to eating healthy?  I suppose there are many who wait for the heart attack and then have angioplasty or stents (or bypass) instead of eating right, but I sure wouldn’t choose that.

And I know that Dr. Swank and Dr. Jelinek’s recommendations sound difficult, if not impossible, when most of us first read them.  Take it from me, a man who had no discipline (75 lbs. overweight), it is daunting at the outset.  But after 8 months of living on the plan, I feel great, have lost almost 30 lbs. (and counting) and, most importantly, I have learned to love this healthy lifestyle and will never go back.

Do yourself a favor: if you are not a Swanker, commit to trying the plan for 2 months.  Really stick with it, see how you feel and see if you really want to go back.  The worst that will happen is that you will have a healthy diet for a couple of months.  The best that will happen is you will become committed and live a longer, healthier life, with less disease progression.  You’ll even help ward off cancer and heart disease (isn’t MS enough for you?)!

It’s not just for rickets anymore . . . The Vitamin D Link April 23, 2010

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The evidence continues to mount that maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels helps to both prevent multiple sclerosis and protect the health of those of us who already have the disease.  When you consider that Vitamin D is something our bodies manufacture from sunshine, it surely fits with the demographic data that shows that multiple sclerosis is more common the further a region is from the Equator.  For those of us who are office workers with very limited sun exposure, it is very important to get your vitamin levels tested and take supplements as necessary.  I urge you to read Dr. Jelinek’s recommendations on this.

While taking Vitamin D3 can help, I am also committed to allowing myself to catch some rays as we get closer to summer.  While it is important to protect your skin against the ravages of the sun and the risks of skin cancer, Dr. Jelinek tells us that 15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) is all that is necessary for our bodies to produce the maximum amount of Vitamin D.  Perhaps with the exception of the fairest among us or those with existing skin conditions, waiting 15 minutes to slather on the sunscreen shouldn’t harm us.

Because the children of MS sufferers are more likely to contract the disease (and the children of men with ms more likely than the children of women), I’ve had both my teenagers tested for Vitamin D levels.  They are now taking D3 supplements to get their levels up as well. 

With the weekend fast upon us, think about starting your gardening before slathering on the sunscreen.

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Real men eat vegan . . . plus seafood April 21, 2010

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It wasn’t too long ago that I thought a meal meant meat.  While that didn’t always mean red meat, it frequently did.  Kind of like that old commercial from the beef industry: “Beef, it’s whats for dinner.”  Although I could have added “and lunch too.”  I didn’t think that vegetables and grains were a complete meal. 

That all changed when I learned about the Swank diet, as modified by Dr. Jelinek.  I haven’t had a steak, hamburger, lamb chop or piece of bacon since that day last September.  And to be honest, I don’t miss them at all!  Once you learn to eat a wide variety of vegetables and whole grains, you’ll wonder how you ate that other stuff.  I also gave up all dairy, based on Dr. Jelinek’s recommendations.  He is right that once you’ve had pizza without cheese, you’ll wonder how you ate that glop in the first place.  (For those of you with access to a Pepe’s Pizza in Connecticut or Yonkers, NY, get the clam pie without any cheese – tell them to even hold the sprinkle of romano – you won’t believe how good it is.) 

I still eat some white meat chicken occasionally; generally when there isn’t a reasonable alternative.  But you will be amazed how accommodating your friends and family will be – they may learn that they enjoy eating better, too.  And the health benefits of eating less animal protein are extraordinary – not just for people with MS, but to prevent cancer and heart disease, too.  Take a look at the terrific book, The China Study.  Read the book, and  you’ll be passing it along to friends and family.  (Yes, I suppose I do risk annoying my friends and family . . . )   

My family enjoys eating out frequently, and I often need to eat out on business.  Here are some tips: 

  • If you get to choose the place, sushi is a great choice.
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  • Chinese restaurants will happily steam your food (shrimp plus you choice of veges) and serve the sauce on the side. Go with the brown rice, too.
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  • At Italian restaurants, I usually get the zuppa de pesce – a great selection of seafood in a red sauce.   Italian restaurants cook primarily with olive oil and can cook for you without butter, just remember to ask.  And watch out for cheese!
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  • Salads are a great choice – just watch the cheese and be careful with your choice of dressing.
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  • Better restaurants will accommodate you.  Just speak up.  I always start by telling my server that I don’t eat dairy, including butter, or red meat.  They are generally very accommodating.
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  • Remember that dining out is about the atmosphere, service and the company, not just the food.
  • Learning to cook differently at home is important, too.  There are great vegan cookbooks out there; I highly recommend those by Dreena Burton.  Try a few recipes on her blog – and see how great vegan food can be.  Her vegan caeser dressing is so amazing that we serve it at parties and people ask for the recipe.  I also bake my own almost fat-free biscotti; I’ll post the recipe sometime (people ask for that all the time, too). 

    Give it a try; you’ve got nothing to lose and your health to gain.  Nothing tastes as good as knowing you will be able to keep on walking feels!
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