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Singer uses ketogenic version of Paleo low carb diet for multiple sclerosis

Learn how this diet helps with MS.

One of the biggest hits from "A Great Big World” band is entitled "Say Something." Now one of the singers in that band is ready to "say something" about how he eased his multiple sclerosis symptoms by using a high fat low carb ketogenic Paleo diet, reported ABC News on Tuesday.

Singer Chad Vaccarino made the decision to talk about his condition only after years of struggling with it. He was initially diagnosed in 2007.

"It’s just a big thing to put out there into the universe, into the world," Vaccarino reflected. "This is just the start of the conversation."

To deal with the symptoms such as vertigo and tingling in his arms and legs, Vaccarino used medications that made him sick and caused seizures. Then he came across a TedXTalk by Dr. Terry Wahls.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Wahls, author of "The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine," told me that she had been a vegetarian for 20 years. But when her neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic referred her to Dr. Ashton Embry's Direct MS, which was dedicated to supporting research and education in the area of diet and multiple sclerosis, she began exploring the potential of the Paleo diet.

"This led me to the work of Dr. Loren Cordain and his advocacy of the Paleo Diet as a means of treating autoimmune conditions and improving health," recalled Dr. Wahls. Author of "The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young," Dr. Cordain has become known as a pioneer in the grain-free, dairy-free, low carb Paleo diet movement .

"I read through the scientific studies and decided that the Paleo Diet as an intervention had merit," Dr. Wahls told me. "I added meat back to my diet and removed grain, dairy and legumes."

Despite those preliminary changes, Dr. Wahls continued to decline and received a second diagnosis of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. "I took the recommended chemotherapy; I got the tilt/recline wheelchair and even took Tysabri, but continued to slowly decline," she now says.

Pursuing the potential in using food and supplements to slow her decline, Dr. Wahls initially took supplements that helped somewhat. But it wasn't until she vowed to get the nutrients she needed directly from food based on the Paleo diet that "the magic began to happen." Her low carb high fat (LCHF) ketogenic version of the traditional Paleo diet proved powerful.

It took only three months for her intense fatigue to vanish. "Within six months I could walk throughout the hospital without a cane and my neurologist agreed that I could taper and discontinue my disease-modifying drugs," says Dr. Wahls.

And one year after being confined to a wheelchair, "I was able to do an 18-mile bike tour with my family." Now she recognizes that food "is the most powerful driver of epigenetics," which refers to "how the environment speaks to our genes, turning some genes on making them active, and others off, making them silent."

Impressed by those results, Vaccarino followed Dr. Wahls’ advice. The ketogenic version of the Paleo diet that she prescribes means consuming only foods that can be hunted and gathered. It eliminates dairy and processed foods.

And his experience paralleled Dr. Wahls' remission. “They went away completely,” said the singer.

In addition to helping with multiple sclerosis, a growing number of physicians have turned to high fat low carb ketogenic diets to treat conditions such as epilepsy. Now a new study has shown these food plans, which also are used for weight loss, are particularly helpful in managing Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), reported Epilepsy Research UK on Tuesday.

LGS is difficult to treat with medication. However, when researchers evaluated the use of a ketogenic diet for the condition, they found that its benefits ranged from complete freedom from seizures to notably lower numbers of episodes.

"The KD is an effective and well-tolerated treatment option for patients with LGS, not only for those with cryptogenic, but also for those with structural LGS. The diet should be considered early in the course of this syndrome," concluded the researchers.

In an exclusive interview, Eric H. W. Kossoff, M.D., who is the Medical Director of the Ketogenic Diet Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital as well as the director of the pediatric neurology residency program, told me that he became interested in the potential of high fat low carb diets "while I was a child neurology trainee." He was impressed by "the amazing and often sudden effect on seizures that the classic ketogenic diet could have for children."

Co-author of "Ketogenic Diets," Dr. Kossoff told me that these diets have existed for 100 years. "They fell out of favor in the 1940s and 1950s when anticonvulsant drugs emerged on the market."

However, beginning in 1990, the use of LCHF ketogenic diets for epilepsy grew. "The ketogenic diet and modified Atkins diet are typically used when children have not responded to two drugs," he noted.

But implementing the ketogenic diet as the first "prescription" has become increasingly popular. "In recent years, our center and others have started to use it first (for infantile spasms), for adults with severe epilepsy (not just children), and even as a rescue medication for status epilepticus in intensive care units," said Dr. Kossoff.

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