Written by: Mim Haigh
It’s a simple story. I was diagnosed with MS at 35 and within 4 years I had gone from being a healthy active mum with a toddler to being riddled with spasticity my limbs twisted up on themselves to the point where no function was possible. I couldn’t walk, feed myself or clean my own teeth. The muscles tightened around my chest cavity to the point where I was struggling to breath, my swallowing was failing and I was choking on my own saliva. I had to stay in a nursing home until I could resolve appropriate care for myself. I was on the verge of losing my son, my home, all my savings and certainly any independence. For the larger part of my life I have been a competitive athlete and I always believed that exercise was crucial to health. I maintained the best exercise regime I could as my abilities deteriorated. I tried every drug that was recommended to me. I tried every natural alternative, emotional and spiritual solution that I could find. I tried the Gawler foundation DIET recommended for cancer survivors. I tried the Swank DIET for MS. Nothing made an impact on the disease progression.
Approximately every three months I was hospitalised experiencing a relapse, deterioration and loss of abilities. I would be given a massive dose of steroids to try and calm the inflammation. In hospital they referred to it as the industrial dose. It was just one element of a drug cocktail – monthly immune suppressants, and daily thirteen muscle relaxants to relieve the symptomatic spasticity.
I was lucky enough to begin therapy with an Exercise Physiologist who eats Paleo and is a keen follower of your website. He worked through my objections to diet being a contributing factor to my health and spoke of the benefits that he and his family had experienced and encouraged me to try.
Within four weeks nobody was more surprised than me when my symptoms began to subside. It began with my hands. I had been experiencing a halo sensation around my hands. The halos and the buzzing stopped. Then the spasticity began to resolve. As it disappeared I noticed that I would become over medicated – when you take muscle relaxants this feels like going floppy, so I would have to reduce my medication until I had enough stability to function. I must have made this cut to my medications 20 times or more until there was no medication left. I still have a lot of spasticity and the process of it reducing, exposing weak and unused muscles is still ongoing.
I started the diet two years ago and the process of recovery has been slow and steady since then. I haven’t relapsed, no trips to hospital, just a steady march towards recovery.
Throughout the process I have maintained my maximum levels of exercise – with weights in the pool and stretching. I find that each element plays a really vital role in my recovery. The more movement that my body permits the more therapy I do. I’ve recently set up a therapy room at home. Currently I do two sessions a week in the pool, three weights and four stretching. I still meditate and try to be very mindful of my physical and emotional state.
I am eternally grateful for the Paleo diet and to everyone who has played a part in bringing it into my life. It has given me back my life. I believe I am on the way to a full recovery. My specialists held no hope for me. My prognoses was MS causing quadriplegia.
I have included some photos of my everyday life. They are a snapshot in time. In terms of recovery I am a work in progress. I’m not walking yet. My limbs have little independent movement and I am still largely bound up by spasticity. But I know that I can talk to all of my toes and 8 out of ten of my fingers. I know there is function under the spasticity. I just have to be patient as diet and exercise create the environment for my body to recover. http://www.mimhaigh.blogspot.
Thank you again.
Wow! This made me all weepy, especially the parts about your son. Congratulations!
wow one of the most inspirational stories I have ever read. There is definitely a link between MS and diet as this was similar to the story by Dr Terry Wahls. Amazing and great positivity.
I’ve heard great things about paleo revering MS! Does it only work for relapsing-remitting, or also for progressive?
It seems to work with progressive MS too, like Terry Wahls for example http://www.terrywahls.com/
This is nothing short of a miracle of proper nutrition … as well as a sobering example of how far awry things can go without it.
Thank you for sharing this very uplifting story of your experiences! And congratulations on your recovery so far! May you continue to recover… and cause your doctors’ jaws to drop open in disbelief at the supposed “anomaly” you represent. Hopefully their eyes will be opened to the simplicity of good food and how profoundly it nourishes us!
Awesome! Thanks for sharing. Your faith and preseverance in eating real food is healing you!
Mim, in addition to eating paleo, you should take a look at low dose naltrexone (LDN) for MS, if you haven’t already. A lot of people have had success with using it to treat MS (along with cancer and a whole host of other autoimmune diseases). It’s a very cheap, safe and effective treatment. I think that diet is a HUGE piece of the health puzzle, but for some people it’s not enough (it hasn’t been for me). My best wishes for your continued progress!!
yes, take LDN! We have three of us here with autoimmune disease (including autoimmune brain disease) and it has been a lifesaver. My oldest with PANDAS, autism and lyme disease can now swim laps in the pool, has friends, has decent muscle tone for the first time in his life (also taking NAC to build glutathione which I would also recommend, and the autism is going away more and more with every month he takes it. Also look into minocycline for autoimmune disease. It helps my oldest a lot, and is neuroprotective. It works well for treating autoimmune diseases.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, and I send you my best wishes for continuing recovery. I am so glad we all found Paleo.
Nina L. says
Robb, Your story is so inspiring! That reminds me of my husband – after a breakdown at work the doctor told him to change his eating habits. Consequently we BOTH transformed into 2 paleo fanatics with great improvements in life quality 🙂 We started out by following a fix meal plan for 8 weeks (hope you don’t mind sharing: http://timreviews.com/paleo-recipe) and now we’re still eating 100% paleo.
All the best for you,
I was diagnosed in 1998 with RRMS with mild symptoms, or looking back I see now that they were mild, they worried me enough at the time though that I was seeking a diagnosis. I have since transitioned in secondary progressive. Ar the time of my diagnosis I was doing high impact Jazzercize 4 days a week. I was able to continue that for about 3 years before I started having more problems than benefits from the workouts. I then was able to do Curves for about a year and a half. Now I try to ride our recumbent bike a couple of times a week. I miss Jazzercize so much because I love to dance. Since I can no longer exercise regularly I have gained 25 pounds! Physically my left leg is severely spastic and I have foot drop, that is helped some with a Bioness unit that stimulates my nerves to pick my toes up. I use a cane to walk, I have weakness in my left arm and hand, and pain in my neck and left shoulder that is caused by lesions on my spinal cord. I have started the pale o diet but I am having a hard time following the autoimmune protocol. The real problem being things sneaking in ingredients where I haven’t noticed that the very last thing listed is some wheat, corn or soy item. I then get very frustrated because I feel that this one missed items has screwed up the whole day. Another major problem is that to follow this diet you must do your own cooking because there isn’t a lot out there that is pale o diet friendly. I love to cook but it takes me a long time to do even simple preps, by the time the meal is ready I am exhausted. I keep telling myself that if I can get through the first four weeks I will see an improvement in my fatigue and motor skills and therefore cooking will be easier. Is there an type of support system out there because I get easily frustrated and when I get frustrated I want to eat! I know right now my cheats are too many fruits, at the moment clementines. I shall now stop this rambling post and look forward to any suggestions. I have a son getting married in July. I had resigned myself that I wouldn’t be able to do any dancing beyond swaying to the music as I cling to my husband in hopes of keeping my balance. Lately though my symptoms are accelerating and I just want to NOT be in a wheelchair. So I look forward to any encouragement or suggestions,out there.
Sherry, I think the key is to not purchase things with ingredients. Eat fresh fruits and veggies and meats only. That way there’s no reading labels required. I do eat a few dried fruits but I make sure it contains only the fruit and no sulfur, sugar etc. Shopping is easier on Paleo because you only go to 2 depts. ….. the produce and meat section. Hope this helps.
Sherry, I understand you completely. I was doing well on paleo before I got TN and then it sort of unraveled. I’m getting back to it now though and am finding ways to be prepared ahead of time. The things that have helped me a lot are my crock pot and steamer along with realizing all the foods I can eat raw. When I do make something in the crock pot, I put away 6 or 7 meals for later and have a decent amount of go-to meals ready for a quick and easy meal.
Another more pricey option for those in the US is http://premadepaleo.com/ I am envious that we don’t have anything like that here in the Euro zone, but I’ve heard that these meals are pretty good.
All the best to you,
paleo diet, vitamin D, glutathione/SOD cream or glutathione cofactors, test for MTHFR genetic mutation (causes autoimmune diseases), low dose naltrexone or immunovir if viral issues. Test for lyme and tick-borne infections, strep, mycoplasma, EBV, HHV-6 and other herpes viruses, coxsackie virus, West Nile virus. These are all common pathogens in autoimmune diseases, especially neurological ones. Test for immune deficiencies.
My son also has autism, PANDAS and celiac. I am curious about some of your autoimmune recommendations. Can you write me privately?
Pat Cobb says
This is a real story that inspires and a great proof that Paleo Diet really works. The determination of an individual is really important. It is nice that you shared this story because it can change the lives of many people who are in a similar situation.
Norcal Mike says
What a wonderful story, thank you for sharing and best of luck toward a full recovery. It pains me to know that this diet might have helped my uncle who endured an inexorable decline due to MS in the 1980s; going from cane to crutches to wheelchair to bedridden into the 90s when he finally succumbed. It was a tragedy, but now heartening to know that others might avoid the same fate.
Keep on fighting!
Truly an inspiring story!
Mim Haigh says
Recovery – what does it feel like
In my story above I talk about recovering from a state of complete spasticity. This process was initiated by going palaeo. I describe the process as a cycle where a degree of spasticity disappears, exposing weak muscles particularly in my core and my neck within a couple of days these are back to stable. While this process is going on I feel slightly euphoric and very giggly (I’ve been told seratonin is produced in the gut) this too levels out within a couple of days. The net result of each cycle is that I move a little more freely and am more upbeat and balanced.
Additionally, I also experience a strange sensation in my limbs which precedes a return of function. The gains are small but they are becoming increasingly frequent. I will describe them.
The Funny Bone Feeling.
When I went Palaeo little feelings began in my forearms. I can only describe them as faint funny bone feelings. The feelings have slowly worked down to my hands and my shins and ankles.
The feelings are increased and strengthened by doing a weight session. But there are oddities. For example a really good upper body and arms workout resulted in strong funny bone feelings in both wrists. But, the same workout can also produce the presence of the feeling in my left ankle.
My body seems to be working down nerve pathways on this little repair process.
The Funny Bone Feeling Proceeds A Return Of Function.
For example I had the feeling in both heels. Then I went floppy for a couple of days. Then about a week later it was like I was getting the message to turn both heels outwards (which I couldn’t previously do). The message hammered over and over for about half an hour. My body tried to do it every time. The muscles kind of wouldn’t allow it and I felt extremely agitated. A week or two later I could do the movement every time I tried. The function has remained.
My body seems to have its own little repair projects, lately it’s been my left heel and the feelings have just spread to the top of my foot.
Lifting free weights seems to work much better than theraband style set ups.
There seems to be both a local and a systemic response to the weights
Alana H. says
You are a true definition of a survivor. I love your gratitude and the fact that you don’t take anything for granted. A lot of us walk around whining about our fictitious problems, not realizing how lucky we have it. I just wanted to add that Yoga is a great way to promote elasticity and get your nerves working as they should again. Check out Esther Eckart’s Yoga channel on YouTube for classes. To your continued success!
wow i hope you continue to improve! i also suffer from an autoimmune condition and it’s always a battle. unless people have one themselves, they will never understand the pain we experience and go through every day. i pray that you are able to walk again on your own and keep staying positive. tell your body you love it every day. i do that to try and have a better relationship with my body even though i am thinking “why is my body attacking me like this? what did i ever do to it?” we need to get our bodies in line!
Trent Black says
For you to have have MS, something has to break the blood brain barrier. That is not an easy feat. All of you with MS will find you food allergies, and the reaction to the food allergy can break the skin. Breaks can happen on the back of the thumb, legs, back, swollen lips, and on and on.
A food allergy is mostly a reaction to a food PROTEIN in the blood stream. Ok, here is the most important part. THAT FOOD PROTEIN WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE BLOOD STREAM. NEVER EVER. It was supposed to be digested into amino acids in the digestive tract. So how and why did it get into the blood stream? And why do scientist consider it normal and try to alter the immune system instead of stopping the leak of proteins into the blood stream?
The leak occurs because there is a yeast infection in the digestive tract, making a leak to the blood stream by putting holes in the filter. It takes 30 days to get rid of the yeast infection, which requires a sugar free diet. Yeast loves sugar.
After the yeast in the digestive tract goes away, constipation goes away, food allergies go away, and for those with RRMS, it goes away. But actually, more goes away. If you have asthma, it goes away. Asthma is just the food protein settling near the airways and getting what you call an auto-immune response (actually, it is a normal immune system response to a foreign protien.)
I have seen each of these work over 20 times, flawlessly. I would have liked more, but it is actually very hard to get people off sugar diets and on to pure fat diets.
My name is Louise and have been recently working with Mim as her Exercise Physiologist, it has been a great experience and she is an amazing person!
When we were completing a session a couple of weeks ago we started discussing why weights might work better than things like therabands.
As we started chatting I came to think about the process that occurs after completing such training – the muscles get little tears in them and then repair, this is how the muscles become stronger and bigger.
This got us to thinking that maybe the body doesn’t just repair the ‘damaged’ muscles following exercise but also other ‘damaged’areas of the body at the same time???
I hope my train of thought makes some sense to everyone and if you have any thoughts please share 🙂
Robb Wolf says
Interesting. Makes sense.
Weights are heavy because of gravity. Each tiny change of a weight’s position requires a response from the body of the lifter. Touch, proprioception, and probably vestibular systems are all activated while muscle is working in a graded fashion. A theraband, on the other hand, communicates with the body in a much simpler manner. The resistance of the theraband is not due to gravity but due to its attachment point and internal stretch. The lifter’s body is not syncing with the weight via gravity; the theraband is attached at a random point relative to the lifter’s nervous system. The movement grading is not as rich because any movement perpendicular to the band doesn’t need much control, among other things. And there can be no subtle joint compression from the actual weight being held. The nerve recovery is still going to happen but with the theraband you’re giving the brain a subway map only; with a free weight you’re giving the brain Google Map view 🙂
Awesome story. You are such a courageous fighter. You helped yourself recover because you managed to coordinate with the exercise physiologist. You are such an inspiration! Keep it up!
Hi I REALLY REALLY need some help please. My cousin has had MS for more than 10 years. I finally saw how many people have had benefits with the Paleo diet and she started it about 3-4 weeks ago. She was in a pretty bad situation when she started and got a little better but now she’s in VERY bad shape. I once saw that someone had some reactions at first because it was a huge change for the body so it’s not an easy transition for someone affected by MS. Does anyone know if that is common or if it has happened to other people? Is it just a phase and then they get better? If ANYONE has ANY tips or ideas or information or anything I would REALLY appreciate it. Thank you so much
Has she tried the autoimmune protocol? Scroll to Autoimmunity here http://robbwolf.com/what-is-the-paleo-diet/, and Paleo For Autoimmunity here http://robbwolf.com/what-is-the-paleo-diet/meal-plans-shopping-guides/.
If she wants some specific help, Amy would be a good person to work with http://robbwolf.com/about/team/amy-kubal/
Thank you for the quick response. Yes she has and the thing is that she does not live in the US. Does Amy have other information related to MS that I might be able to download? OR any other resources that might help? Thank you very much Christopher
Amy Kubal says
I don’t have anything online for download but I would be happy to help her with a meal plan. I do email and distance consults though!
Could you send me your email please? Thank you!
Amy Kubal says
Sure! It’s [email protected]
Inspiring story. I feel that Paleo is the most natural diet one can follow. It our ancestors basically HAD to do it in order to survive, then it has proved it’s effectiveness. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for their Paleo Diet being as effective as it was to survive in their harsh environment. We are just spoilt these days with too much choice. Back to basics!
Luis Daniel Gutierrez says
Thank you for a very good article. It sounds like you have the right additude for healing. I have been diagnosed with Relapsing/remittting MS for twenty years now. I too am on a paleo type diet. I eat alot of Greens and haven’t quite cut out sugar and wheat. Anyway, about the spasticity. I have found that diet cuts alot of the spasticity . It takes some time to build back the muscles.I am a medical marijuana patient and I have had great success with Large doses of Marijuana before I sleep. When I wake up, my spasticity is greatly reduced. I have been getting medicated cakes from the dispensary. I will take like three doses before I sleep so I wont be conscious when the drug takes affect. So far, Its taken away a shake or nod that I have had for years. I was taking muscle relaxants to try and stop it. I was on those for ten years. The Marijuana took three days at the high dose to stop it. I wish you continued healing.
Luis Daniel gutierrez
This is really inspirational. I was just recently diagnosed with RRMS. I have yet to start treatments. I have only done a Solu-Medrol infusion to try to calm things down. Is it recommended to try the Paleo Diet before I start treatments?
i can recommend the wahlsprotocol from terry wahls. its also based on paleo but also based on curing the symptoms of ms (wahls plus dieet). a lot of information what you can do.
Good luck, janniek
Way to go Mim! Sending healing thoughts your way. I truly believe the connection between the body and brain are crucial to complete healing. The best diet of choice, has been very hard for me. I have MS and I still find it very confusing regarding what diet to chose. There are years of study suggesting that the Swank Diet is the best way to go with MS but newer emerging stories suggest that Paleo might be key. My concern is there are people online who claim to have lived decades following the Swank protocol and I can’t find the same proof paleo will sustain and MSer for decades. Any information to support this would be great.
I am wondering the same Amber. I have been using diet to control my MS for 10 years now. Started with the Swank (couple months) then Best Bet Diet for almost 8 years then Paleo (which just cut out rice and quinoa from what I had already been doing) Then suddenly I relapsed with entire left side going numb (pins and needles) and extreme muscle tightness through entire left side of body. It has remained like this for over 2 months now. I am now worried that the higher fat (vs Swank’s low fat) isn’t good over the long haul.