This week it was my great pleasure to interview the man who literally changed my life and helped to empower me on my journey Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis.
If you or someone you know has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Professor George Jelinek (pictured above) and his work on Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) is literally changing lives.
So many people are finding themselves not only recovering from Multiple Sclerosis but discovering they are experiencing better health than ever before.
The research coming out of George’s Holism Study is truly ground breaking.
Ground exploding even.
When I interviewed George I was a bumbling mess of anxious nerves and immediately realised I should have possibly interviewed someone who I held in slightly lower regard, given it was my first interview.
I found George to be warm, thoughtful and completely down to earth in his responses to my questions. He was professional, passionate and so very inspiring and although I hung up feeling like I’d just fallen down the stairs in front of my idol, he did his very best to act as though he didn’t notice.
I attended George’s Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis retreat held at The Gawler Foundation in 2006 and I can honestly say it was the single best thing I have ever done for my health. It was the best money I’ve ever spent. I honestly wish the OMS retreats could be covered by Medicare so that allpeople who recieve a diagnosis of MS could have access to the information and support made available within these retreats and be empowered to begin their own healing journey.
Now for the interview with George
What lead you to begin your work with MS?
My mum had MS and was really seriously disabled with it. She was diagnosed when I was 12 and died when I was 27. She had MS for 15 years and during the last couple of years was bed bound and had to be fed. Difficult background to have when you are diagnosed with MS yourself.
(George was diagnosed in 1999, almost 16 years ago).
I had the usual reactions that most people would have to that, possibly worse due to my mother’s background. I thought that would be my pathway also. I only ever saw people with MS enter the emergency room (George worked as a Professor in Emergency Medicine and was Editor-in-Chief of a major medical journal) who were very unwell as my mother had been and so I felt that this was the only possible outcome.
It was only when I realized I had some control over it (MS), that it became easier.
As I read through the medical literature on MS, which is what I do for a living, I discovered amongst the hundreds of papers; papers on Vitamin D, the Swank diet in Lancet, and papers on the benefits of exercise and omega 3’s. This has kept me well and now I focus on helping other people stay well.
Currently, following the OMS diet, I am very well. Not sick, no symtoms, no blood pressure issues common in people my age.
I’m very fit and well.
Tell us about the Holism Study?
The Holism study surveyed 200 people around the world, measuring in big clinical studies to prove its not just me who is improving, but many people with MS who are benefitting from these lifestyle changes.
It has been running for over 2 years, with participants from 57 different countries. We are analysing data now at 2.5 years, going back to the people to see how things have changed for people who have begun to follow the diet and what the results are.
From our research, the people who attended the retreats are about 20% better 5 years after the retreat.
We have collected all the data from the retreat participants and are waiting to review it further when we have the resources.
What motivates your work?
I was motivated by seeing my mother so sick. I wanted to help prevent others from becoming seriously unwell with MS.
We have a Head Quarters in London, a CEO in London, and 2 major charities in the UK and Australia to which people can donate.
Gradually we are developing a team of researchers who are helping change the perception of MS. Like heart disease, making lifestyle changes can improve the way people with MS live, but with MS it’s much more obvious, the changes that can occur from following the dietary and lifestyle recommentations.
** IF you stick with these changes, people with MS can remain well and dramatically improve their health.
Here we discussed how people (like myself), can be reluctant to completely embrace the OMS recommendations out of fear of breaking away from what they believe makes them ‘normal’. Alongside a fear of doing something outside of what mainstream western medicine recommends for people with MS.
People think – ‘my cigarettes and burgers give me my quality of life’, however the opposite is true. It’s keeping their lives poor.
The real sick person in this, is someone who is taking medication, compared to the person who is running, eating well and meditating.
“If taking drugs for illness is normal, I don’t want to be normal”
I have accepted that the OMS way isn’t for everybody, a lot of people are very happy to leave their health to the hands of modern medicine.
When did Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis begin?
Since then we have held 50 retreats in th yarra valley at The Gawler Foundation and 6 or 7 in New Zealand at the Mana Retreat, 1 in the UK in Leicester, 1 in Austria this year as we take OMS into Europe.
When I was first diagnosed I had no retreats. 4 weeks after my diagnosis and I was on this program. The second I came home with Swank’s paper I didn’t eat meat again. It was so amazing for me to see that I didn’t have to end up like my mother did. As soon as I read about vitamin D I started taking it. I wrote the book almost straight away, I became so passionate about it. I felt I couldn’t be the only one to know about this, everyone had to know about this.
Look at what you can do!
When did you first discover the SWANK Diet?
4 weeks after my diagnosis.
What are the differences between the Overcoming MS lifestyle recommendations and the SWANK Diet recommendations (created by Dr Roy L. Swank in 1948)?
The Swank diet is kind of a compromise diet. Swank felt patients wouldn’t be able to stick to a rigorous diet, so allowed some of the excluded foods back in later. The results of Swank’s findings advised that the people consuming diets lowest in saturated fat had the best outcomes, so why would I consume any saturated fats at all considering Swank patients tended to deteriorate after a while? So I decided to just get rid of it all.
I also got rid of processed foods to ensure people maintained optimal health, reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes, some cancers, heart disease, etc…
From following these recommendations, not only have people with MS not deteriorated slowly, but many of them are getting better.
Now that’s something to really talk about!
How much fat would you recommend people with MS consume each day?
It is unlikely people will overdose on the saturated fats in avocado, olive oil and nuts consumed on a plant based whole foods diet. You will likely be taking in a very small amount and will be ultra healthy without needing to count your fat intake, so we simply recommend being a little bit careful.
**George recommends a small amount of oily fish for Omega 3 and as it is good source of protein and adds variety to the diet. He has also found this to result in better outcomes in the Holism Study however, as I am a vegan I had to ask if he felt eating a vegan diet could yield similar results.
In response to my question, George advised that if you were vegan, you wouldn’t need to eat seafood if you ensured you ate flax (or another Omega 3 rich plant based alternative) along with whole foods such as pulses and grains for protein and a B12 supplement.
Do you advise people with MS avoid caffeine?
I don’t mind if people drink caffeine. We don’t have caffeine at the retreats as we want to model flexibility, for people to try new things and not to be stuck to habits that aren’t necessarily healthy. But there is no research to say caffeine is harmful to people with MS.
I began meditating at 21 and had a period of 3 years prior to being diagnosed with MS when I didn’t meditate. I suspect that this period of high stress with no meditation may have contributed to my diagnosis. Meditation is a big part of the OMS recommendations.
George’s final word:
If you could say one thing to people who have been diagnosed with MS what would it be?
“Adopt OMS as soon as you possibly can and stick with it for life.”
Save up if you need to.
Beg, Borrow (don’t steal) the money to get you to a retreat.
If you can’t get to a retreat, buy the book.
Go to the website.
Follow OMS on facebook.
Adopt the changes and don’t look back.
Your whole body will thank you.
It truly is the greatest gift you can ever give to yourself, to give yourself back your health and vitality.
Personally, I think all people should adopt these changes. MS or not. Plants are good for you, animal fats and processed foods are not.
It’s really that simple.
Now for me to breathe again.
I can’t begin to describe the intense and overwhelming feeling of gratitude I experienced during this interview and in the writing of this piece.
I literally do not know where I would be without George’s work and OMS. I can only imagine chronically depressed, increasingly unwell and alone. This lifestyle helped me to get my energy back after years of constant and unbearable fatigue and pain. My new found energy meant there was finally room for me to begin to treat myself the way I deserved and in learning to love myself, I was then able to receive love from the outside world.
I will be forever extremely grateful to George and the many gifts his work and OMS have given me.
I only hope I can continue to share the OMS message and empower others to find the amazing health and happiness that I have.
Thank you to the Moon George.