Julie learned how to control her debilitating symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis ( MS) , which included tingling, numbness and migraines, by finding a whole-foods based Paleo diet.
Growing up in the ‘80s when the mantra was “fat makes you fat,” my diet consisted mostly of carbs and low fat or fat-free processed foods. My childhood nutrition included frozen TV dinners, canned fruit, packaged meals and fast food. From grade school through my teens, I suffered from chronic neck and back pain, acne and severe headaches. I had no idea what it meant to live a healthy lifestyle, and I didn’t know where to begin.
Things escalated soon after the birth of my second child, when I started experiencing weakness in my right hand. I couldn’t open baby food jars or water bottles. My doctor diagnosed me with “tennis elbow” and gave me a brace to wear. In a few months, the strength came back to my hand, and I didn’t think about it again.
In 2008, three years later, I noticed tingling and numbness in my right foot and right hand. Initial MRI scans showed two lesions on my brain, but the doctor was not alarmed when another scan six months later came back unchanged. I knew that I was out of shape and above my goal weight, and I attributed the numbness to a back injury I had gotten during my new exercise routine. In an effort to lose weight, I started a diet program based on pre-portioned, processed frozen food. I lost about 30 pounds, yet I felt worse than ever before.
The numbness, tingling, and electric shock feelings had increased, and I became easily fatigued. My migraines had intensified and were now occurring two to three times per week. I went back for a follow up MRI which found a new abnormal spot. This led to a battery of tests which led to my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in December of 2011.
A year later, overcome by debilitating migraines, anxiety, and extreme fatigue, I was ready to take some dramatic steps to improve my health. I read that others with autoimmune diseases were finding relief by starting a Paleo protocol (eliminating all grains, legumes, dairy, and refined sugars). My first step was going gluten-free in May of 2012, followed by eliminating dairy, and eventually completing the 21-Day Sugar Detox program in May of 2013, which marked the official beginning of my Paleo lifestyle. I started eating grass-fed organic meats and other quality sources of protein. I tried new vegetables. I made bone broth. I stopped eating all processed foods and refined sugars. My efforts were rewarded within a few weeks, when my fatigue had vanished. I began sleeping through the night — something I’d struggled with for years. The numbness and tingling were gone. My migraines were occurring once a month at most, often relieved without medication. It wasn’t always easy, but knowing that I had the power to improve my own health made it all worth it.
Today, I follow a modified Paleo diet. Eating a diet of fresh, local, organic foods whenever possible works best for me. My favorite vegetables are spaghetti squash, spinach, bok choy, zucchini (zoodles), sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts and mushrooms. I limit the amount of fruit I eat, but do enjoy avocados, bananas, blueberries, and apples regularly. I like chia, flax and/or hemp seeds sprinkled on pretty much everything. I also use several coconut products, including coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut aminos, and coconut flour. For protein, I eat eggs, grass fed beef, organic chicken, and fish, along with nuts and nut and seed butters. I drink bone broth regularly, which I make from grass fed beef bones. I can eat limited dairy products (ghee, grass fed butter, and high-quality cheeses) without any symptoms. I also enjoy fermented foods such as sauerkraut and pickles from my local farmers market.
I never eat products containing gluten/wheat or processed soy or corn products. I do eat brown rice about once per week, but other non-gluten grains such as quinoa can trigger symptoms. I also avoid all beans and legumes. While I do occasionally treat myself to something made with refined sugar, I find it can trigger leg cramps as well as muscle weakness and headaches, so I save it for rare occasions and opt for coconut sugar instead. I also steer clear of anything with nitrates or other artificial preservatives as they can trigger migraines as well, along with nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, pepper and eggplant, if eaten in excess.
Beyond following a healthier diet, I manage my symptoms by reducing my stress levels. I exercise regularly, attend weekly yoga classes, and am working on developing a consistent meditation practice. I believe so strongly in the concept of “eat better to feel better,” that I left my corporate job in NYC to pursue a career as a Health Coach. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Certified Coach for the 21-Day Sugar Detox, I work with clients to make step-by-step changes to their diet and lifestyle to reduce their symptoms and improve overall wellness. I was inspired to help others after finding a healthy diet that worked for me. Of course, my MS symptoms will emerge from time to time, but now I am the one in control.
Here are some of my favorite recipes:
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.