How a Plant-Based Diet Made a Recovery from Multiple Sclerosis Possible

How a Plant-Based Diet Made a Recovery from Multiple Sclerosis Possible


I remember the day I got my first symptoms vividly. It was the morning after my 41st birthday and I had over-indulged the night before. I attributed the strange sensations I was experiencing to a hangover. When these sensations continued, I went and saw my GP who vaguely mentioned that MS can have strange presentations, but I did not take that on board as I was more concerned about some sort of vitamin deficiency. His concern though took me to a Neurologist who recommended an MRI.

2 MRIs, 3 months and 2 more Neurologists later I received the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. For a while my whole word shut down. Initially the struggles were just about coming to terms with the diagnosis. As a single mum with 5 year old twins my main fears were about becoming a burden with such young children. I was also struggling with the disease modifying drugs that were prescribed to me. To say that the side-effects were severe would be an understatement. It got to the stage quite early on, that I knew that my life would be a constant struggle if I had to continue with that treatment.

18 months later and I realised a lot of things needed to change though this was not a simple process and it had been a very long and difficult journey.

With the help and inspiration of a programme called Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis which was designed by a doctor who had himself been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I started to take control of my life again and through this process I was able to regain my health.

I completed changed my diet to that of a plant-based whole food diet. One of the important components of the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Programme is the devastating affect of the high amounts of saturated fats contained in animal products on our bodies. I made the choice to go completely vegan after doing much research on seafood, how and where it is sourced and the possible toxins that can be ingested as a result. Going vegan, I truly believe, was simply giving myself the best chance. What is amazing too, is that the support of a plant-based diet in managing many of our modern-day illnesses such as auto-immune diseases, is both overwhelming and evidence based.

A big key for me was changing my mindset and not looking at this as a diet of deprivation and to stop focussing on the things I was missing out on. Rather I chose to embrace this process as a healthy lifestyle change that was going to be better for me and I was determined that it was going to taste great. At the same time, I started creating recipes. The pursuit of taste and flavour became an obsession. I have learned so much about food and realised how it can nourish our bodies as well as feeding our souls. I love food that looks beautiful, tastes delicious and is so appealing that everyone wants to eat it. I had my twins Archie and Rissie who were the most honest taste testers you could get. If it tasted ‘vegan’, it was just not going to be eaten! I love creating and eating food that is good for you and that I know is healing my body at the same time.

As part of the programme, I made other changes to my life as well to ensure that I was on the road to recovery from this awful illness. Amazing what can be achieved with nutrition and positive lifestyle changes. I made sure that I exercised daily, and it has become my religion. For someone who had been told that my body was going to stop, the whole act of moving is now something of a celebration. I live in the country and I love being outdoors, so the kids and I walk in rain, mist, fog (and the occasional snow fall) every day for at least an hour. I have incorporated meditation into our lives. For me that was a huge challenge but with the help of the Headspace app we now do daily guided meditations. It is incredible what a positive impact this has had on the kids, as well as me in terms of relaxation and managing stress.

I take regular Vitamin D supplementation as Vitamin D deficiency has been commonly linked to Multiple Sclerosis. Despite being fair skinned, I also try to get as much sunshine as I can, avoiding the harsh sunlight between about 11 and 2. I stopped believing anything apart from the fact that I was going to recover. My last MRI some 2 ½ years after my original diagnosis showed some activity in the brain which one would assume is normal for an ‘incurable’ degenerative illness. What you would not expect though is the fact that the lesions on my spine were reducing in intensity and size. One lesion was no longer discernible. The summation of the MRI report was that the volume of spinal disease was reducing.

When you are diagnosed with a debilitating illness like MS it is difficult to find hope. It took me a while, but I found hope. I found hope in plant-based nutrition, diet, exercise, sunlight & meditation. My life has changed in so many ways and I truly believe you can take control of your own health and that there is always hope. I am living proof.

Lara Flanagan is a plant-based food creator, who shares her recipes on her blog My Notes from New England and is passionate about the idea that life should be a delicious and healthy feast.


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