Everybody has a cure.  There are, in fact, cures galore.  Never mind that the first thing you learn when you get the diagnosis is that multiple sclerosis is “a disease with no known cause and no known cure”.

When Don was first diagnosed I looked up MS on the web, naturally.  And the ABC Catalyst program had coincidentally just repeated a story on George Jelinek and his apparently highly successful strategy for managing MS.  Not exactly a cure, but something that he insisted would hold the MS at bay and stop further progression.  Jelinek believed a strict diet, meditation, and lots of sunshine were the key to arresting MS in its tracks.  http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1048944.htm

I sent off for George Jelinek’s book immediately and followed his rigorous diet to the letter.  It is a drastic diet indeed!  Eliminating saturated fats is the key, and that means no red meat and no dairy foods.  He also believes gluten, ie wheat products, should be avoided.  Add the fact that Don is also diabetic and so we have already excluded sugar.  For us it became not a matter of what he couldn’t eat, but what he could eat.  Well it was not easy, I can tell you.  It drove me to some imaginative cooking and got me right out of my comfort zone in the kitchen.  Because if you cut out all the stuff I mentioned you are basically left with fish, legumes, fruit and vegetables.  It is more do-able than you probably think.  Just replace regular bread and flour with gluten-free bread and soy flour, replace the milk with soy milk – you do get used to it, quite quickly – and find a book of vegetarian meals.

I realise that as visitors we were a nightmare to feed.  Some dear friends bravely came to the party by extending their repertoire to make whole meals that were Jelinek-approved.  My sister Ruth came up with this when we visited:

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Vegetable Goulash with Herbed Dumplings

Ingredients:
20 g (1 oz) butter                                                      2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 onions, chopped,                                                   2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed                                               1 1/2 cups water, extra
2 tablespoons soy flour                                             2 zucchini, sliced
1/2 cup water                                                            400 g (1 lb) new potatoes, halved
1 carrot, sliced                                                            200 g (1/2 lb) broccoli, chopped
440 g (1 lb) tin tomatoes                                            1/2 cup soy cream
1 stock cube, crumbled

Method:
Heat butter in pan, add onions and garlic, stir over heat until onions are soft.  Stir in flour, stir over heat for 1 minute.  Remove from heat Gradually stir in water.  Stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens.

Combine onion mixture with potatoes, carrot, undrained crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, combined stock cube and extra water in a 3-litre (6 pint) capacity ovenproof dish.  Bake in moderate oven for 45 minutes.  Stir in zucchine and broccoli, bake for another 15 minutes or until vegetables are just soft.  Stir in cream.

Place heaped teaspoons of dumpling mixture around the edge of the casserole.  Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until dumpl8ings are cooked through.

Herbed dumplings:
Sift 1 cup self-raising soy flour, rub in 20 g (1 oz) butter, then stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley.  Stir in 2 tablespoons soy milk and enough water to mix to a soft dough.

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We were straight onto the Jelinek regime after getting the diagnosis.  The neurologist told Don in June 2005 that he almost certainly had MS.  Within a fortnight we were on the Jelinek diet and lifestyle.  We persevered with great diligence for three months.  But then we visited the MS Clinic in Sydney, where that first tentative diagnosis was confirmed by Professor Pollard, the head of the MS Clinic at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.  We asked him about the Jelinek programme.

His response was, “Yes, I’ve heard of Jelinek and his claims.  There is no evidence for his theories whatsoever.  My advice is to eat what you like, and enjoy your life.”

So that was the end of the fat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free diet regime and the  long periods in the sun.

Deep down, I have to admit I think we were wrong to give up so readily.  I think diet may be really, really important in managing MS.  After all, lack of evidence might not mean anything.  It might just mean, “lack of evidence so far”.  And Jelinek does quote some pretty impressive anecdotal figures gathered by a guy called Dr Swank starting more than 50 years ago.  Swank put his MS patients on a very strict diet (similar to Jelinek’s, I think ) but it was so strict that only about half his patients were able to keep to it in the long term.  The impressive thing is, that after 34 years (yes, that is thirty-four years!) those who had stuck to the diet were by and large still managing, and even though their condition had continued to deteriorate it had done so at a very slow pace, while those who had not stuck to the diet were either dead or bed-bound.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swank_Multiple_Sclerosis_Diet

I will look up some more links to Swank and more info about Jelinek next time I post.  But for now I have to dash — time to visit the hospital, and see how Don spent the night.

And by the way, Ruth’s recipe was really tasty — I still make it occasionally.