MS and Coeliac Disease

This week Helen Farrell talks delicious, nutritious food and current food trends. Read on for her take on MS, gluten and the adjustments she (and her family) have to make so she stays healthy and well. 

“Gluten! Such a poison” said the man at the café till. “How”? In what way” I asked, curious to know his reasoning. “You know, it’s really bad for you, causes so many problems in the body” he said. “Yeah”, I said vaguely, glancing at my gluten-free chocolate muffin loaded with sugar and oil. He looked like he worked out, Instagrammed and used sunbeds. I don’t.  

It made me think a bit about the whole gluten-free (GF) trend. Seems like there are lots of people following the GF diet without truly knowing why; such a lot of hassle when you don’t medically need to. If you ask people their reasons for going GF, some say they feel better without gluten, some MSers think their MS will be alleviated, but the bottom line for many is because they think it’s bad or they’ll lose weight by going GF. As a person with Coeliac disease I can assure you that a GF diet can be very unhealthy if you only live on GF chocolate, crisps and pizza. A normal diet can include plenty of gluten and still be very healthy.   

It was a shock when my husband mentioned that dealing with my Coeliac disease was more hassle than MS. He wasn’t being unkind. In terms of impact on things, he was more aware of Coeliac disease. When we want to stay somewhere, join with family for a meal, for shopping, to even prepare our food and avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen (a crumb will cause immune-damage to a true Coeliac), it’s more present for him. But then I realised that it’s not just him that feels that. Most people make more of an allowance for my Coeliac disease than my MS, which is mostly invisible. 

MS is horribly, constantly present to me, but like an iceberg, the bulk of it unseen by most (but maybe I’m glad it is). MS feels like a relentless Terminator robot, coming for me without cease, trying to annihilate me. Even when I try to escape, it melts down and comes at me afresh. Coeliac disease is merely an irritation. In fact, it seems like the perfect disease; it’s easily fixed – just avoid gluten. 

Now if MS were the same, I’d be a happy woman. There is no diet that is proven to alter the course of MS, at this time. Some people favour the Swank diet, Paleo, Vegan, or “Best Bet” but with no definitive proof of any specific diet helping people with MS, I’m going to keep enjoying my food as it is. Food is such a pleasure! If we follow general dietary principles for good health, it will help us live well with MS. 

Perhaps my Nana was right when she said “a little bit of what you like, does you good” but in my case, not gluten. 

Coeliac Society of Ireland: signs and symptoms

Diet and MS, Pavan Bhargava MD, National Multiple Sclerosis Society (US)