May 01 2014

Can Diet Cure MS?

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10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Can Diet Cure MS?”

  1. MikeLewinskion 01 May 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve seen the work of Dr. Wahls used to blame the patient, by moralizing in effect that “If you ate better you wouldn’t be sick and wouldn’t need disability”. Every dietary choice was hyper-scrutinized and wheat was deemed the ultimate evil and cause of all auto-immune dysfunction.

    Needless to say the moralism didn’t result in changing diet, but did drive a wedge in that relationship.

  2. jblumenfeldon 01 May 2014 at 1:37 pm

    The idea of curing things purely with diet and exercise is oh, so seductive. For example, my own type II diabetes recently progressed to where I need to take a dose of insulin once a day. I was pretty dismayed by this and blamed my own lack of management for it. I was so sure that once I got back on track diet-wise I’d be able to get off the insulin. My GP/endocrinologist was sympathetic, but he basically said “it CAN happen, but don’t count on it. If I had to guess, you’ll be taking MORE not LESS insulin as time goes by.”

    This is not because I’m a bad person – it’s because that’s the way diabetes usually works.

    We all want to think we can manage our cholesterol, blood pressure, MS, whatever through pure force of will – and taking care of diet and exercise is of course very important. But the fact is there are all kinds of aspects to these diseases and some very physically fit people are just going to have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. It is not an admission of defeat to take medication for these things! It is a benefit that we get from modern medicine and we should be happy we live in modern times.

  3. nwkeiseron 01 May 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Steve, thanks so much for posting about this, I’ve been interested in your take on the MS/nutrition thing for a while. I am a researcher at the University of Iowa, where Dr. Terry Wahls works, and I have had the opportunity to see her speak locally on several occasions about her diet (amazingly called the Wahls Diet) and the clinical trial she is conducting. Although I’m glad she is conducting a clinical trial (, and the movies she showed at her talk showed patients’ gaits improving, the trial used a ton of different dietary changes, supplementation, plus electrical stimulation all at once (mainly to see if the patients could actually adhere to the strict regimen). She herself stated several times that the way the NIH would like her to proceed is to pursue one treatment at a time, but she seemed really resistant to that (despite the fact that it would help us see which treatment was actually working). When I asked her after the seminar to comment on her decision to include all these treatment regimens instead of just one or two, she kind of bristled, and then said, “You know, we’re just trying to help people.” Although I don’t doubt that she may really want to help these patients, she clearly has a huge conflict of interest in this case (to sell her books and diet plans), and furthermore, she has made many statements in the past, and in the article you linked to, that suggest that she sees herself as battling the medical establishment, as if her diet program is the “cure THEY don’t want you to know about.” This type of conspiratorial thinking moves her into quack territory, and seriously calls her philosophy into question. Although I think it would truly be useful to know if aspects of the diet can improve outcome for MS patients, it should be done in a proper, controlled, SCIENTIFIC manner.

  4. norsecloneon 01 May 2014 at 3:19 pm

    I sent Dr. Novella an email about Dr. Wahls about three years ago after she actually gave a lecture to my classmates and I during our first year of medical school. I’m so glad to see she’s finally ended up on his radar. The University of Iowa has actually done very well in staying away from the recent trend across the country of ‘quackademic medicine.’ But they love Dr. Wahls, and so does a large portion of the Iowa City community. She is a hero and paragon of the local alt med community. There is actually a Dr. Wahls salad in the salad bar area at the local Co-Op.

    Dr. Novella, on a more personal note, if you have time, I would love to see a more thorough takedown of some of her rhetoric. I think she’s actually doing some harm in my community and it seems like she is gaining more and more traction in more national alt med groups and discussions. I’m afraid she may be about to ‘break out,’ as it were. Thanks again for all you do.

  5. Bill Openthalton 02 May 2014 at 3:29 am

    jblumenfeld –

    The sense of personal failure in case of health issues is, as far as I can tell, widespread. I have personal knowledge of people who refused even glasses because they saw their visual problems as a personal fault. Maybe this comes from religion — if you are a bad person, you are punished by your god in your health, fortune and friendships; maybe it is profoundly human and is exploited by religions to bind their followers.

    To a degree, it is also empowering to think you have the possibility to fix whatever ails you. Some people seem to prefer the belief in their own powers combined with the observable failure to use them (which could be explained as a choice) over the realisation they might have been dealt a bad hand in life’s game of chance. Come to think of it, it is probably easier to motivate oneself through an illusion of personal power and control, than through the mere observation one has not been as fortunate as most others.

  6. SimonWon 02 May 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Just seen someone asking in patient support group about supplements after describing a diet that clearly has sufficient everything, and seeing “homeopathic doctor” who recommended a load of supplements (at least one of which might aggravate the condition). Argh…..

    I’m probably a bad example, having read the scientific evidence on diet, and exercise, I made a conscious decision to eat more foods that I like, worry less about what is good to eat, and to exercise more. Yes, I’m overweight, in fact slap bang in the bit of the body mass index associated with optimum life expectancy. My food isn’t going to kill me, and it isn’t going to cure me.

    Sure coronary heart disease might get me, but with low cholesterol, low blood pressure, no diabetes or smoking, it’ll be from complications of my existing medical condition. With very little cancer in the family (2 grandparents had it in their late 80′s after 60 years of smoking like chimneys), it is probably a leading contender but not the bogey man it might be. If I was a betting man I’d put my money on medical mistake, try not to make it too soon Doc.

  7. BillyJoe7on 03 May 2014 at 1:46 am


    “With very little cancer in the family”

    That actually doesn’t help much. Most people with a cancer do not have a family history of that particular type of cancer. And those with a first degree relative with a particular type of cancer are mostly no more likely to develop that cancer than anyone else. There are exceptions of course.

    (Note: there is really no such thing as cancer. There are cancers. Pleural. There will never be a “cure for cancer”, but there may one day be “cures for all cancers”. At least that is the position with our present state of knowledge)

    “If I was a betting man I’d put my money on medical mistake”

    You will likely lose your bet…unless you include mistakes made after the medical profession has prolonged your life by diagnosing and treating a potentially lethal condition.

  8. BaSon 03 May 2014 at 12:45 pm

    > Treatment literally decreases time to wheelchair

    I assume this is a typo and should read something like “delays time to wheelchair”. Decreases here seems to indicate they get debilitated faster.

  9. BillyJoe7on 04 May 2014 at 3:51 am


    I missed that completely.

    I’ll blame my dislike for the phrase “time to wheelchair”.
    I’m not sure anyone with MS wants to be reminded that they are heading for a wheelchair. Besides which, that’s not even true. Many with MS will never end up in a wheelchair, even if they live a normal lifespan. For example, my older sister was diagnosed about 15 years ago and she has no obvious impairment. She is fully employed and walks 10km a few times a week.

  10. Kathleen Mon 09 May 2014 at 9:12 am

    Dr Wahls seems to hit on one of my personal pet peeves. If something comes from “pharma” it is merely suppressing symptoms and cannot ever in any way be a cure, especially if you must take it every day. If something can be perceived as “natural” it is always in every case by definition curing the underlying cause of the disease, even if you have to adhere to that treatment plan daily for the rest of your life.

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