Dr. Teri Jaklin, BA,ND, IFMCP
After years of not being taken seriously, even considered out right quackery, nutritional intervention as a cornerstone for recovery and maintenance for people with MS is now center stage, the star of the show. Ironically nutritional recommendations for multiple sclerosis go as far back as the 40s and since then many people have contributed to the body of information that exists today. Swank, McDougall, Jelenik, Best-Bet, and most recently Wahls diet to name a few.
Often people complain of information overload and even contradictory information that just confuses them and so they give up on the concept of food as medicine. It’s important to remember that research in nutrition (like so many other ‘natural’ approaches to health) has exploded over the past 5-10 years. In my practice nutrition and food awareness is the very first “prescription” I give. Yes, yes it can be very confusing. Ultimately, your diet becomes a very personalized thing. Here are three concepts that that I find are key to understanding a good diet.
Reacquainting Ourselves with Saturated Fat
Saturated and altered fats have always being identified as damaging to our health. Roy Swank’s work on saturated fats demonstrated an 80% reduction in the number of relapses in one year with saturated fats kept to less than 16 g per day. I find the 16 g number a very reasonable and achievable one. To give you an example of what this means in the kitchen, one ounce of the skinless, boneless chicken or turkey contains around one gram of saturated fat, one teaspoon of butter around 5 g, an egg approx 3g and one ounce of commercially raised beef anywhere from five to 8 g of saturated fat.
More recently we have come to understand that animals raised purely on a diet of grass (i.e. not ”grain finished”) have a completely different fat profile, one that is much higher in omega three (good) fats and much less in pro–inflammatory saturated fat saturated fat. Wild game is also considered a good lower saturated fat choice.
Plant-based saturated fats like coconut oil are often misunderstood. As a plant-based fat coconut oil consists of medium chain triglycerides which are readily burned by the body for fuel and can be used liberally.
Fruits and Veggies
You simply cannot over-consume vegetables – I double dare you to try! Vegetables provide the micronutrients we need to control inflammation, enhance detoxification and optimize metabolic function. They also contain between 2-4g of protein per serving – and are a great source of fibre and since no level of constipation is OK (and it is often a problem in MS) keep eating. Enjoy them raw, steamed or stewed.
If you eat a Standard American Diet (SAD) you are probably eating way too few veggies, so work up to the optimal “dose.”
Begin with 6 portions (1 portion =1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup leafy) of veggies per day and work up from there. Steamed veggies are best because, steaming improves the availability of the food nutrients and is easier on the digestive process. This amount becomes easy to attain when you include veggies with each meal, and as snacks.
Eat a rainbow of colour. Each color provides different phytonutrients. And always include something green with every meal. How? A kale leaf and piece of avocado in your morning shake, a salad with lunch and steamed greens with dinner!
The best vegetables are grown locally, are organic, and eaten fresh and in season.
Three Problematic Foods to Avoid
- Dairy products: Today’s commercial dairy is simply not worth eating. We lack the enzymes to digest it, which makes it a digestive burden. It triggers the body to produce mucous and more people are intolerant of it than they know. Three components of dairy aggravate human health – whey, lactose and casein. The protein, casein blocks Vitamin D receptors impacting immune function..
- Gluten: Found in grains such as wheat, spelt, rye, barley and kamut and contains lectins which increase inflammatory immune response and contribute to a leaky gut. Gluten has an amazing ability to break down the natural defenses of the intestinal wall and allow toxic chemicals, pathogenic bacteria, parasites, viruses, undigested food proteins etc to get back into the body and prompt an immune response. All this is aggravated by the fact that many people are unaware that they are gluten intolerant.
- Legumes: (including peanut and soy products) contain lectins that often confuse the immune system and cause it to become hyperactive. In the case of MS they can act as molecular mimics to myelin promoting further immune attack. While understood as a protein, legumes are still too high in carbs to be considered a good dietary protein over the long term.
Optimally dietary intervention builds on well understood generalities to provide a diet that is as individual as you are. While this article just scratches the surface of creating a healing diet these three concepts may provide you with a starting point. I strongly advocate for exploring your own food allergies and intolerances whether that be through some manner of testing or a good old fashion elimination diet. While it may seem like an overwhelming amount of work, at the end of the day diet and nutritional change is about healing, not deprivation.
Teri is a Naturopathic Doctor and founded the Waterdown Clinic of Naturopathic Medicine in 2002. She is a skilled general practitioner with a passionate commitment to the foundations of naturopathic medicine, treating people of all ages and health status. Areas of special interest include Multiple Sclerosis and Complex Chronic Illness.
With a diagnosis of her own, Teri has been active in the MS community since the mid 80’s. Today she coaches individuals and groups on living well with MS as well as working with people in private practice to reduce the impact of MS and other chronic illness, on their lives.
Prior to becoming an ND, she spent 10+ years in the frantic world of corporate public relations and communications where she learned first-hand what 70 career hours per week can do to you and your health.
She strongly believes that knowledge of the processes of health and disease is not proprietary and empowers individuals and organizations with programs that make a palpable difference in how we engage and perform in our lives.
Teri is an enthusiastic student of the healing power of nature, and a person’s ability to access their own health potential and communicates this regularly in both clinical practice and in her lecturing and public speaking.
She draws on all aspects of her education and experience to create opportunities that impact the lives of those looking to restore and maintain health. Through her work she reaches medical professionals and students, the general public as well as corporate and private groups.
Achieving and maintaining good health is both complex and dynamic and can be profoundly impacted by some very simple choices. Teri believes that wherever you are on the continuum of health, there is a way to chose a path to improve your overall sense of wellbeing!
Teri completed her undergrad studies at University of Waterloo, and her ND studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine with interim studies at the Universität Mannheim, Ryerson University, University of Guelph, and the Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard University. She is certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine, an organization committed to changing the way modern medicine is practiced.
Her efforts have been recognized by her peers with the New Practitioner of the Year Award (2002) and an OAND Leadership Award (2012).