April 13, 2015

The Whole30 and Multiple Sclerosis: Karen S.’s story


Karen shared a little of her story with us on the Whole30 Instagram feed, and we were so inspired by her commitment to her health and her family that we had to hear more. We are so proud have played a role in her journey back to an active and healthy life despite her Multiple Sclerosis. Here is Karen’s story in her own words.

meet-karenKaren’s Story

I am a 41-year-old mother of 3 and I have been living with MS for the past 7 years. I feel lucky that so far, it has been relatively mild, but this is a disease that can change at any point. I had been noticing more and more daily symptoms that were making my days tougher.  I was struggling with headaches, fatigue, tingling and numbness in many different parts of my body, muscle weakness, and trouble focusing on my work, or even just reading a book.  I wanted to continue living a healthy active life with my family and I was willing to do what it took to makes that happen. In July 2014, I started hearing about the Whole30 and bought the book It Starts With Food. I had heard of Dr. Terry Wahls and her success with a strict paleo style diet and MS, so I knew I had to be on the right track. I read It Starts With Food and started the Whole30 right away.  But going from a S.A.D. (a Standard American Diet) to the Whole30 is not an easy task! I got to day 14 and fell off the wagon. I remember thinking, ‘It’s summer, it’s too hard and this is pointless during camping season.’  However, after just 14 days, I had started to feel some positive benefits with my MS: less numbness in my legs, hands, and face. But within 2 hours falling off the Whole30 wagon and eating a bagel (holy gluten bomb!), I had a screaming headache, my scalp was burning, and all of my MS symptoms came back with a vengeance. It was enough to convince me that I needed to stay away from gluten grains. I then ventured into a general paleo-style diet, until Christmas 2014 came along and I was back to eating all the foods, and back to feeling horrible.

karens-symptomsReturn of the Whole30

Once we got past the holiday madness, I knew that I needed to try doing a full Whole30 again.  Before I started, I wrote down all of my symptoms: I was having trouble falling asleep, my scalp was burning, I had tongue and throat numbness, and parts of my face, left arm, and both of my legs from the knee down were fairly numb.  I had daily headaches and felt tired all of the time, and I was really struggling to focus on anything for any length of time. I leapt head-first into my second attempt and this time, the 30 days sped by.  I had massive headaches the first week, and was super tired and sluggish the second week. By the third week, though, I was feeling better and I just sailing along. In the end, I completed a Whole38 before reintroducing anything! I was just enjoying how good I felt.

Karen’s Whole30 Results

Since completing my Whole38, I have been sticking to the Whole30 template and foods 90% of the time. I am so happy with my results, I have not re-introduced any gluten or grains, nor do I plan to.  I am sleeping better, I can fall asleep faster and feel rested when I wake, I rarely have a headache, and no longer stress about the amount of Advil that is in my desk. I don’t need to snack mid-day to keep me functioning, and my MS symptoms have decreased to only some mild numbness in a few patches of my body. I recently had my annual appointment with my neurologist. At the clinic, they test my dexterity (hand-eye coordination), walking speed, vision, and cognitive ability. I also have to have regular blood work done to check my liver enzymes because of my medication. At this year’s appointment, all of my test results had improved: I can walk faster, my hand-eye coordination is better, I was faster at doing the puzzle test (for cognitive function), and my liver enzymes improved. (The only thing I have stayed the same on is my vision test, and that can be attributed to age.) I had a moment with my doctor while we looked over the test results. He was astounded! He said, “What are you doing?! We don’t expect people to improve at these tests. We hope for people to remain the same, but they rarely improve! Whatever it is you are doing, keep it up!” The Whole30 has given me hope that I can keep my M.S. in check and still be able to go hiking with my family and enjoy living an active life. karen-ms Has the Whole30 helped you manage your medical condition? We want to hear your story! Send it to us at [email protected].