Chew on This

Food-based therapies becoming mainstream

Morning television can educate and infuriate.

I experienced all emotions watching a piece on pop singer Chad Vaccarino revealing his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Feeling worse after traditional treatment, Vaccarino researched other interventions. He found and followed Dr. Terry Wahl’s recommendations for a low-carbohydrate, Paleo-style diet and has been feeling well since. Wahl also has MS.

After Vaccarino, the next interview was with an MS specialist who stated “there is no evidence that changing one’s diet will affect the course of MS.” Oh doctor, could you not have included “at this time.”

Evidence for Dr. Wahl is a published clinical trial. I absolutely agree that clinical trials are essential for establishing the safety and efficacy of medical interventions. Food-based and complementary therapies have not had the same institutional support as more mainstream medicine, and although this is slowly changing, there are fewer studies and publications. Wahl published a case study on herself in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2011. She plans on more research.

I am not recommending a diet for MS. My point is that many nutrition therapies have gone from maligned to mainstream in the past 10 years as more is learned about the powerful properties of food and potential issues with additives. The FODMAP diet that eliminates all fermentable carbohydrates, foods that your small intestine cannot absorb, such as grains and some fruits and veggies, was rarely recommended five years ago. Today, it is helping countless people with irritable bowel syndrome.

After reviewing newer and more rigorous research, the editorial board of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2008 stated “the overall findings of the study are clear and even we skeptics who have long doubted parental claims of various foods on behavior admit we might have been wrong.” Space limits more examples.

If one is considering a nutritional intervention for a medical condition, before all the scientific data is in, there are steps that minimize any potential for harm:

•  Discuss your plans with your physician.

• Make an appointment with a registered dietitian so the dietary intervention will be nutritionally adequate, within your budget and pleasing to your taste buds.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.