Eat Like a Caveman to Protect Your Brain From Shrinking
January 07, 2012
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By Dr. Mercola
Multiple sclerosis (MS) drugs are some of the most toxic drugs used in the field of medicine, and while it is my strong recommendation not to use them, conventional physicians often offer them as a first-line treatment.
This is especially tragic because there are other options for fighting MS, namely nutrition to support and heal your brain and central nervous system, which I'll explain shortly.
Unfortunately, many MS patients take drugs because they are not aware that alternatives exist, and this can be a deadly decision.
In fact, a 59-year-old multiple sclerosis patient died last month within 24 hours of taking Gilenya, which is the first oral drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce relapses and delay disability progression in patients with relapsing forms of MS.
While the FDA is still evaluating the case to determine if, in fact, the drug resulted in the patient's death, it's already known the drug can cause serious side effects, to the extent that all patients must be monitored for slow heart rate for six hours after they first take the drug.
Multiple Sclerosis Drugs Can be Deadly
When you take drugs for multiple sclerosis, you may very well be trading MS for another set of potentially deadly drug-related symptoms. In the case of Gilenya, which is one of the newer MS drugs approved in September 2010, the FDA states:
"Gilenya may cause serious side effects, such as slow heart rate (bradycardia), which may be related to slowed conduction of electrical impulses from the upper chambers of the heart to the lower chambers of the heart. These effects usually do not cause symptoms, but they can cause dizziness, fatigue, and palpitations."
Other serious risks, as noted by the drug's manufacturer Web site, include:
- Increased risk of serious infections, as the drug lowers the number of white blood cells in your blood. Two patients died who took higher-dose Gilenya, which increases the risk of infection
- Macular edema, a vision problem that can cause some of the same vision symptoms as an MS attack
- Breathing problems
- Liver problems and increases in blood pressure
- Harm to a woman's unborn baby, and therefore contraindicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding
Brain Infection, Immune System Problems and More
An older MS drug, Tysabri, was slated to be the "miracle" drug for MS when it hit the market in 2004 because the results from the first year of clinical trials showed that MS patients who took Tysabri for one year had a 66 percent reduction in relapses compared to those who took a placebo.
Tysabri is a type of drug known as a monoclonal antibody, meaning it is derived from a mouse antibody that has been genetically engineered to mirror a human antibody (antibodies are proteins that help your body fight infection). Unlike Gilenya, which is taken orally, Tysabri is given every four weeks by infusion directly into a vein, where the antibodies bind to immune system cells, inhibiting them from crossing over from the bloodstream to the brain.
However, if destructive immune system cells break free of the bloodstream, they can reach your brain, gastrointestinal tract and joints and cause severe damage, including progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a rare brain infection that results in death or severe disablement. The drug was pulled from the market after just three months because of this deadly risk – but years later the FDA allowed it to return!
Other toxic MS medications include:
- Prednisone, a steroid hormone that can significantly impair your immune system, and cause diseases like osteoporosis and cataracts
- Interferon. This drug is quite deceptive, because even though it's a natural substance, it's typically given in a dose that shuts down your body's natural feedback loop. As a result, it tends to do more harm than good
So what, then, are your options other than drugs if you're struggling with MS? Many conventional physicians would have you believe there are none, but they obviously have not heard Dr. Terry Wahls' inspiring story of how she reversed her multiple sclerosis by switching to a Paleo-style diet focused on fresh raw foods, high in specific nutrients needed for proper function of myelin and mitochondria.
The Power of Proper Nutrition for MS
In the video above, Dr. Terry Wahls explains how she reversed multiple sclerosis after seven years of deterioration on the best conventional treatments available -- simply by changing her diet!
She began to notice significant improvement in just three months, and at the nine-month mark of her new diet, she was able to go on an 18-mile bike ride! This is astounding when you consider that over the past seven years her condition had deteriorated to the point that she had to sit in a reclined zero-gravity chair and could only walk short distances using two canes.
What was the diet? Well, Dr. Wahls looked into a number of diseases that cause brain shrinkage, including not only MS but also Huntington's, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. One common denominator in these conditions is poorly functioning mitochondria, and Dr. Wahls discovered that three nutrients in particular are essential for proper mitochondrial function:
- Animal-based omega-3 fat
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), or better yet, the reduced version known as Ubiquinol
Just by adding those three to her diet, her decline began to slow. But it wasn't until she adjusted her diet for optimal mitochondrial-, myelin-, and neurotransmitter function that she began to improve. She also eliminated processed foods, grains, and starches (which includes potatoes and corn), and within a matter of months experienced astounding improvements.
In short, she altered her diet to reflect the Paleo-style diet of the hunter-gatherers of old as follows:
- 3 cups daily (equal to one dinner plate, piled high) of green leaves, such as kale, which are high in vitamins in the B group, A, C, K, and minerals
- 3 cups daily of sulfur-rich vegetables from the cabbage- and onion- families, mushrooms and asparagus
- 3 cups daily of brightly colored vegetables, fruits and/or berries, which are a good source of antioxidants
- Wild fish for animal-based omega-3's
- Grass-fed meat
- Organ meats for vitamins, minerals and CoQ10
- Seaweed for iodine and selenium
You Don't Have to Risk Your Life to Recover from MS
If you are diagnosed with MS, you need to understand that taking potentially deadly drugs is not your only option -- and that optimizing your diet can have truly profound implications for your health. Dr. Wahls is a poster-child for the complete lack of benefit gleaned from such drug treatments, and the profound healing that can be achieved using nutrition, and her dietary recommendations are spot-on.
I'd like to add a few other strategies as well, and below is a summary of my lifestyle recommendations for MS. Many are identical to the general-health principles I've been teaching for years, but a few stand out as being specifically applicable to the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as MS.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels – This is an essential step, as there are well over a dozen studies showing a link between MS and vitamin D deficiency. While the optimal level for general health lies between 50-70 ng/ml, when treating diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or autoimmune diseases, your level should ideally be somewhere between 70-100 ng/ml. The preferred method to raise (and maintain) your vitamin D levels is by regularly exposing large amounts of your skin to sunshine, or by using a safe tanning bed. If neither is available, you can use an oral supplement of vitamin D3.
As a general guideline, vitamin D experts recommend 8,000 IU's per day for adults, and about 35 IU's per pound for children, but you should take as much as is necessary to elevate and maintain your blood levels within the optimal range.
- Get plenty of animal-based omega-3 fats – Secondly, make sure you're getting a good supply of animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. You also need to avoid damaged, processed fats found in most all processed foods. Especially damaging are the omega-6 fats found in soy-, canola-, and corn oil. These are usually highly oxidized and also contain trans fats and cyclic fats that imbed themselves into your cell membranes, distorting the cellular functions.
Even when organic and cold-pressed, the over consumption of these omega-6 rich oils can ignite an inflammatory cascade within our bodies, as the American diet generally contains 20-40 times more omega-6 fatty acids (relative to omega-3 fatty acids) than our bodies are designed to handle; this omega-6/omega-3 imbalance results in the formation of excessive arachidonic acid – the very fuel upon which enzymes like Cox-2 feed, resulting in uncontrollable inflammation. Also, the majority of these three oils are also genetically engineered, which can have its own set of health ramifications.
- Eliminate sugar, particularly fructose – Another crucial element is to eliminate as much sugar and fructose as possible from your diet. Cutting out processed foods and sweetened beverages will go a long way to reduce excess fructose, in addition to eliminating the majority of damaging fats in your diet. You simply must keep your daily total fructose intake below 25 grams.
If you haven't yet grasped the toxic nature and profound health dangers of fructose, now's the time to get with it. Sugar can contribute to the development of a number of autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis. It also increases uric acid levels, which leads to chronic, low-level inflammation, which has far-reaching consequences for your health.
- Eliminate pasteurized milk and dairy—This is another critical element. Studies have shown that cow's milk consumption is correlated with MS prevalence (Neuroepidemiology 1992;11:304-12 and Neuroepidemiology 1993;12:15-27). In fact, a specific antibody cross-reactivity between myelin oligodendrocyte (a component of neurological tissue) and the cow’s milk protein butyrophillin was identified in 2004, likely contributing to the immune system of MS patients losing self-tolerance and attacking their own nervous system.
- Avoid aspartame and commercial fruit juices. Aspartame rapidly metabolizes to methanol, a potent neurotoxin. Additionally fruits and vegetables are also loaded with methanol but when they are consumed fresh it is bound to pectin and your body does not have the enzymes to break it down. However when fruits and vegetables are processed and put into glass jars or cans the methanol dissociates and can be liberated in high quantities.
- Eat plenty of raw food. This is an important principle for optimal health that I normally recommend for everyone. However, I've found that for people with severe autoimmune disease, it's even more important. Some of the most dramatic improvements we've seen in patients using nutritional changes have come about as the result of eating a majority of their food raw instead of cooked.
- Fermented Vegetables. Optimizing your gut bacteria may be one of the most profound ways to improve your health. In the near future I will be doing a large number of interviews with Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride that go into great detail on how to implement these valuable foods and many other details of recovery.
- Check your iron levels. Excess iron can cause damage to the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels as well as create massive amounts of free radicals. It can also damage your DNA. Therefore, if you have MS it is very important to check your blood for iron overload, a process that is easily done through a simple blood test called a serum ferritin test. The healthy range of serum ferritin lies between 20 and 80 ng/ml. Below 20, you are iron deficient, and above 80, you have an iron surplus. Ferritin levels can go really high. I've seen levels over 1,000, but anything over 80 is likely going to be a problem. The ideal range is between 40-60 ng/ml.
If you find that your iron levels are high, simply donate your blood. Normally a person would require 1-3 blood draws per year, up to as many as one per month if your system can tolerate it, until your ferritin levels have been sufficiently lowered.
- Low-dose Naltrexone and alpha lipoic acid. One of the newer treatment strategies for MS is low dose Naltrexone (LDN), along with alpha lipoic acid. Naltrexone (generic name) is a pharmacologically active opioid antagonist, conventionally used to treat drug- and alcohol addiction – normally at doses of 50mg to 300mg. As such, it's been an FDA-approved drug for over two decades.
However, at very low dosages (3 to 4.5 mg), naltrexone has immunomodulating properties that may be able to successfully treat cancer malignancies and a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis. As explained on the informative website www.lowdosenaltrexone.org, when you take LDN at bedtime -- which blocks your opioid receptors for a few hours in the middle of the night -- it is believed to up-regulate vital elements of your immune system by increasing your body's production of metenkephalin and endorphins (your natural opioids), hence improving immune function.
Dr. Bert Berkson is an expert on this regimen. For more information about his findings and successes using this combination, please review this previous article.
- Mercury detox. Mercury is clearly a neurotoxic poison that should be avoided, so avoiding fish and refusing or removing mercury dental amalgams are also important aspects. Certain supplements can also help eliminate mercury from your system, such as chlorella.
- Explore natural alternatives. There are actually a wide range of natural substances that may provide safe and effective alternatives to the current drugs on the market used to treat MS. To explore the research further you can visit GreenMedInfo.com’s MS page to access the published research.
- Address early childhood emotional traumas. Last but certainly not least, in my experience with MS patients, there is nearly always a precipitating traumatic emotional event that causes your immune system to crash, leading to the disease. Just as vitamin D deficiency seems to be present in most cases of autoimmune disease, there is also typically an emotional element involved. More often than not, some form of hidden emotional wound can be found in patients suffering with autoimmune diseases like MS.
Typically, this wounding occurred at a very young age, almost always before the age of 7, and often before the age of 5. Issues related to this event need to be addressed by using an effective energy psychology tool like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but only with the help of an experienced practitioner.