“Multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence!”

Around age 10 when the light sensitivity started

Around age 10 when the light sensitivity started

By: Emily

I’ve always had a love for food (who doesn’t?), but my love affair with food really started in junior high when I was old enough that my mom would let me plan and prepare family dinner. My mom is a fabulous cook, and she always fed our family traditional, “healthy” meals: chicken and rice casseroles, lasagna, turkey sandwiches, spaghetti and meatballs, eggs and toast, etc. We ate basically the standard American diet and what every health professional would say is a normal diet. She fed us the healthiest she knew how. We also had a green salad every night, and in the summer we would eat tons of veggies from our garden.

I remember my health issues starting when I was around 6 (that’s about as far as I can remember—I might have had other issues when I was younger, I just don’t remember). I would get strep throat and really bad earaches about 3-4 times a year, and I would get the flu every couple of months. When I was around 10 or 11 I started developing intense sensitivity to light and the back of my eyes would ache, which would turn into massive headaches. I felt like a vampire, always shutting the curtains, never turning on the lights. These episodes weren’t constant. They would come and go, so it wasn’t predictable. They eventually started going away, and I forgot about them.

Around age 15, very thin

Around age 15, very thin

Throughout junior high and high school, I started having fatigue issues and near the end of my senior year in high school, I developed the chronic headaches and sensitivity to light again, but this time they also came with numbness and tingling in my limbs, adrenal fatigue and a few other nasty symptoms. I was in all the school plays and was always dancing and exerting a lot of physical effort so I just blamed these symptoms on being tired.

Looking back on my high school days, I realized that I didn’t eat very much at all. I was very thin. I never really thought about food and just ate when my mom made meals, and I grabbed an apple for lunch. 

After high school, I tried out for our city’s Miss America Organization pageant and won. I started eating “healthy.” I added more greens and fruits, planned my meals, exercised regularly, and made sure I ate enough to give me the energy I needed. I actually started feeling better.

Winning my city pageant, 2008

Winning my city pageant, 2008

The next year I would be competing in the Miss Utah Pageant so I had to be in tip top shape. I went on a low carb, high protein diet and even cut fruit to a minimum (because I was told by the diet industry that fruit can make you gain weight), and I exercised 2-3 hours every day. Towards the end of my diet when the pageant was right around the corner, my symptoms started creeping back. The pageant was at the beginning of the summer and after the pageant I had the whole summer free before going back to college. After the competition was over, I discovered how unsustainable calorie restriction and particularly carbohydrate restriction are. I binged out on total garbage!

That was the WORST summer of my life. My health plummeted! I had to lay on the couch most of the day because my chronic fatigue was so bad. I felt like I weighed 500 lbs and I could barely get out of bed. It took all the strength I had to make myself get up. Every day, all day, was filled with unexplainable exhaustion, headaches, and this horrible weighed down feeling. I relied on green tea caffeine pills to give me energy (which gave me irregular heart beats and other issues).

Singing “La Boheme” at the State pageant, 2009

Singing “La Boheme” at the State pageant, 2009

By my junior year in college, the numbness and chronic fatigue were back with a vengeance. I was losing muscle strength, became more clumsy, was doing badly in my dance classes. (I got a really bad grade in one of my classes because my teacher felt that I wasn’t motivated and wasn’t trying at all.) I didn’t know at the time it was because my health was deteriorating. I was only 20, I should have been in my prime!

One week my headaches were so severe that I started losing vision in my right eye. I went to an optometrist, but he only found a tiny scratch on the surface of my eye. He gave me some drops, but my eyesight continued to deteriorate. I finally went to an ophthalmologist, and he immediately said I needed to get an MRI.

The MRI indicated that I had a lesion in my brain and my optic nerve was severely inflamed, and after some more testing, I had all the signs and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)! I thought the doctors were mistaken. After all, I was healthy (so I thought), and Multiple Sclerosis didn’t even run in my family. My neurologist wanted to put me on medication and steroids immediately!! I felt a lot of pressure, but I declined any treatment; I had a STRONG feeling that I needed to search for options that didn’t have horrible side-effects. MS drugs are designed to just completely shut down your immune system so it isn’t ‘attacking’ you anymore, some of them are even low-dose chemo drugs.

Wedding Day, 2010

Wedding Day, 2010

At the time I was diagnosed, I was engaged to be married in two months. It was awful to have  to tell my fiancé and his family that I had a debilitating, lifelong disease! Luckily, he is amazing person, and he didn’t even bat an eye about it. In fact, he dove headfirst into researching my condition to find a solution! He was going to marry me no matter what!

After my diagnosis, knowing I was refusing medications, my neurologist suggested that I follow the “Swank Diet,” because research shows it helps slow down the disease. Dr. Roy Swank did a 50 year study on persons with MS and found that saturated fat was a major trigger for the disease. He fed his patients a diet low in saturated fat and found that all of them had amazing results. According to Dr. Michael Greger:

“95% [of his patients] were without progression of their disease 34 years after adopting his low saturated fat dietary program. Even patients with initially advanced disease showed significant benefit. To date, no medication or invasive procedure has ever come close to demonstrating such success.” He was able to stop their disease in 95% of cases—no further disability even 34 years later. They “were able to track down 15 of the original patients that stuck to the diet, now in their 70’s and 80’s with multiple sclerosis for over 50 years, and 13 out of 15 were walking around normal in all respects. They were active and unusually youthful looking.” (“Treating Multiple Sclerosis With the Swank MS Diet.”)

Edds, Kevin_How to Live Healthy 100 Yrs and More, 1977I started following the diet (kind of), but I continued researching. One night, about a year and a half after being married, I was at my mother-in-law’s home. My husband was playing a long board game with his brothers, and it was getting very late and I was tired. So I went into the living room to lay down on the couch. I had this really strong feeling to go look in her bookshelves, and I found a tiny, obscure, book, hidden away, titled How to Live a Healthy 100 Years and More by LDS author Kevin Edds. He talks about eating a paradisiacal diet (raw fruits and vegetables) and how this can heal you from disease and prolong your life so you can build God’s kingdom and fulfill your purpose here on earth and not be halted by disease.

The very first page of that book says, “Do you believe that God intended for man to have disease? Are you willing to accept pain from disease as natural and necessary to be endured? . . . Do you believe that modern man has a high capacity for achievement?” The book then quotes George Q, Cannon, “The gospel of life and salvation, which we have received, would be of comparatively little avail to us unless we can prolong our lives and the lives of our children and posterity on the earth. The greatest boon which God has given us, and that upon which every other hinges, is life. With life we need health, the power to carry out the designs of our being here on earth. Without these blessings everyone must perceive that other blessings which we value very highly would be of little or no account.”

This quote is also in the book and it’s from Brigham Young: “The health and power and beauty that once adorned the noble form of man must again be restored to our race; and God designs that we shall engage in this great work of restoration. Then let us not trifle with our mission, by indulging in the use of injurious substances. These lay the foundation of disease and death in the systems of men, and the same are committed to their children, and another generation of feeble human beings is introduced into the world.”

I read the entire book that night! While I was reading it, I had this overwhelming feeling come over me as if someone just covered me in a really warm blanket. I knelt down immediately and poured out my entire soul to Heavenly Father. The minute I addressed Him, tears started flowing, and I felt as if God was right there, kneeling next to me holding me in His arms. I asked Him if what this book was teaching was true, and I got a resounding YES! I thanked Him for leading me and begged Him to help me overcome this disease if I followed His counsel and really changed my diet. I will never forget that night and the most amazing and loving feeling He gave me. He is all knowing, and all loving, and I know He wants His children to be healthy and happy. I know it was the Spirit testifying to my soul that the Lord has determined certain principles and laws of health for our bodies (Word of Wisdom). He wants us to be able to have a happy life and have the energy and vitality to serve His children. Would he rather have us in bed all day or serving, preaching, and building his kingdom?! Why would He want us constantly on pills, potions, and medicines that have grave side effects and little to no ability to actually cure or prevent or reverse diseases? This is why He gave us the Word of Wisdom.

EmilyAfter that experience, I was led to several other books like The China Study, The Starch Solution, Discovering the Word of Wisdom and a documentary called Forks Over Knives that have overwhelming evidence that following a plant-based diet helps resolve many diseases and sicknesses, especially autoimmune disorders like my Multiple Sclerosis. I went completely plant-based (fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, potatoes etc.). It wasn’t an overnight transformation. It took many months and even years, but with consistency in my diet, I am happy to report that ALL my symptoms have completely gone away. Let me repeat that, ALL my symptoms have gone away!! I don’t get sick anymore, my vision came back, my headaches went away, my muscle strength has returned, the numbness and tingling has vanished, the chronic fatigue is gone, the adrenal fatigue is gone, and I’ve never felt better!! Can pills do that? It took about 4 years total on a fully HEALTHY plant-based diet for ALL of the symptoms to completely disappear. My chronic fatigue still came and went until this past year when I cut out ALL processed food (including ALL oils, they are a VERY refined and processed food) and focused on WHOLE plant foods (raw and cooked), started exercising regularly and took Vitamin B12 and D supplements. Now I am bursting with energy, and I have better health than I’ve ever had in my life!

When I was diagnosed, my doctor said I would have another serious ‘episode’ within a year or two and that I needed to come back when that happened. Well it’s been almost 6 years since my first diagnosis, and I haven’t had ANY serious notable episodes or symptoms.

It can be VERY scary to be labeled and diagnosed with something “incurable” and the pressure to jump into treatment can be intense. Let me assure you, THIS IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE! Breathe, take a step back, and evaluate your situation and never get pressured and rushed into making treatment decisions. This is a SLOW progressing disease and you won’t die tomorrow if you say no to treatment. Thousands of people live long lives with this and many other diseases without medical intervention. This is your body, your life, and you can do what you feel is right.

Today-Happy and Healthy

Today-Happy and Healthy

This is a lifelong change for me, and I hope you will also see the benefits of following a plant-based diet as described in the Word of Wisdom, in the Garden of Eden, and in Daniel 1:8-20. I know not everyone wants to go entirely vegan or plant-based. I only hope my experience can help you get healthier by relying more on fruits, vegetables, and whole plant foods. I am so grateful I was allowed to have this trial and challenge so I could come to the knowledge of the truth and see the power in living the Word of Wisdom fully. I know that I was led by Heavenly Father to those books and information so that I would have the ability to heal myself and overcome this trial that I “shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89:20). 

Emily is a Brigham Young University graduate with a BA in Music, Dance and Theatre (MDT). While at BYU she was a performer in The Young Ambassador’s worldwide performing group. She is currently a soloist in the Utah-based cover band “Vinyl Impact” which plays high energy hit songs from the 50’s to now. She and her husband continue to live a low fat, whole foods, plant-based diet and spread the message wherever they can.

Comments

  1. Emily’s story is one of those that you can’t ever forget. Why these things happen to young people, we don’t fully understand. Thank goodness we know something about these chronic conditions! Thanks for sharing your story, Emily. You are a true inspiration.

  2. This is very inspiring; thanks for sharing. I’m happy you listened to the Still, Small Voice, because it is so easy to dismiss or ignore. You were blessed with healing, which not everyone is receptive and trusting enough to accept. In a world full of poisonous substances mascaraded as food, it is so easy to be tricked if we don’t or won’t listen to the Holy Ghost. Those pseudo-foods are mighty tasty to those with little experience with real, whole plants. AND it’s hard to be different.

  3. Way to follow the promptings from the Holy Ghost! Such a hard, trying and beautiful experience! Thanks for sharing your story and your testimony!

  4. Thanks for your very inspiring story, Emily. I am forwarding it to one of my friends whose husband has an auto-immune disease.

  5. Emily, I just read all that you submitted to my daughter, Jane. You surely have already been receiving great blessings because you have been eating in the way the Lord tells us we should eat in His Word of Wisdom, Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 10 through 21.

    As you may recall, in the following verses which you surely have already read, and obeyed, the Lord makes great promises:

    18: And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel, and marrow to their bones;

    19: And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

    20: And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

    21: And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise,that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”

    I now quote something significant which you, Emily included above:

    It is from Brigham Young: “The health and power and beauty that once adorned the noble form of man must again be restored to our race; and God designs that we shall engage in this great work of restoration. Then let us not trifle with our mission, by indulging in the use of injurious substances. These lay the foundation of disease and death in the systems of men, and the same are committed to their children, and another generation of feeble human beings is introduced into the world.”

    Perhaps you and many others (including me) who may be reading this haven’t always realized eating meat (and animal products) is something that the Lord advises us to use only in specific circumstances: ”

    Section 89: 12-13: ‘Yea, flesh also of beasts, and of the fowls of the air, I the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly:And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter or of cold, or famine.’)

    May the Lord continue to bless you Emily and all of the rest of us as we seek to more fully obey the Word of Wisdom.

  6. Emily, I love that you submitted a cornucopia of photos from you life. I know you may not realize it, but I think you are more beautiful in today’s photos than when you were a beauty queen back in college. I wish I had known about this diet 20 years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. I had a good friend there who was diagnosed with MS. She was LDS, too. I remember several years later when I spoke with her daughter about her mom, her daughter, Jessica, told me that her mother was doing very poorly and refused to let anyone visit her. Jennifer had been such a dynamo in her life. The worst part was that she had very y9oung children, too. It makes me so sad to think that if she had just had this information then, she could have reversed her disease, too. Oddly enough, she did have the Word of Wisdom, but so many of us don’t really understand it — so many just look at the “don’ts” and not the ‘do’s”.
    My best friend has rheumatoid arthritis, another debilitating auto-immune disorder. I try to share with her, but she doesn’t want to try it because she doesn’t want to alienate her big cheese and milk drinking family. She is so miserable, but she is more worried about what her family will think than how it might help her. So hard to share this message, despite what others see in your improvement in health and strength. So many take the “that’s good for you, but I could never do it.” Too many need to hear the voice of the Lord directly to them, like you and I both did to be able to have the strength to obey. That’s what it really boils down to — obedience — surrendering our will to the Lord’s.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It was very inspiring to me. The Lord’s words are always inspiring as we open our eyes and hearts to them, aren’t they? And so comforting, too.

  7. Emily … Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. If I only saw the photo and didn’t read the article, I might have divined that you were a WFPB Saint! You glow from the inside out! Again, thanks for your shining example …

  8. Emily, I loved your story and am so happy your health has been restored. We have a dear friend in Australia (the daughter of my husband’s convert while a missionary there) who recently went to Italy to have a treatment for her MS. It was $100,000 for the treatment, plus the expense of flying there and her family had to find room and board to assist her during and after the treatment. It took three months and was a rough experience. It was extremely costly. Fortunately she was cured and returned to Australia a new person. But if she had done what you did, think what she could have been spared in cost and suffering! It is sad that the medical field won’t investigate these wonderful true stories and try to implement these truths into their practice! But after all they are just practicing. As a result many people will go on suffering with MS and other diseases. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Joanne,

      Wow! What a story. That poor (literally) lady. I feel so sad when I hear things like this because I feel it’s so unnecessary but people just don’t know and aren’t aware of other ways to treat disease. I’m glad she is doing well though. I hope in the future the medical industry will be more willing to look in different places for answers. Thank you so much for reading my story!

  9. Wonderful! A question popped up during the Sacrament today. What is your solution for the bread of the Sacrament?

    • Jocelyn,

      Thank you for reading 🙂 So I don’t have any problems eating bread so it’s not an issue for me but I know lots of wards that offer a gluten free option or I’ve even known people who bring their little snack size baggie with their rice crackers or banana slices early so the boys can make sure it’s on the table when they bless it. I hope that helps 🙂

  10. Thank you for sharing your story, Emily. We have a dear sister in our ward with MS who has been avoiding medications for 15 years and has been using reflexology to maintain but still has some symptoms. I am so grateful to have your story to share with her so she can see how to get better completely.

  11. Great story!! I wish my friend with MS would listen to me about being in a whole food plant based diet!!
    Just a quick question : do you do any sugar or desserts?

  12. I feel that the Lord has directed me to read your story this morning Emily. I was diagnosed with MS six years ago and my life has been severely impacted by pain and fatigue. I have been on three different MS Meds and a low dose chemo, and am currently considering HSCT (previously mentioned in another comment-extremely costly and traumatic). I’ve experimented with several MS diets and have not experienced improvement in symptoms and actually felt much worse on a low carb high protein diet, which at the time seemed to conflict with the WoW but I reasoned that food could be used as medicine. Over these last six years I have greatly increased my intake of fruits and veggies, reduced processed foods to little to none, but have only in the past six months reduced my meat intake to almost zero. Reading your story has given me the inspiration to double down on my diet and reconsider the HSCT. Thank you so much for sharing your story!!

  13. Hi Emily,
    I have MS as well and have treated it holistically as well for 25 years. I am interested in your not using any oils, what is your thoughts/findings on unrefined org cold processed coconut oil?

    • Hi Laura:

      I hope you won’t mind if I throw in my two cents here. I’ve collected some good resources that may be helpful here: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) & WFPB.

      You’ll note that in all cases, keeping the diet very low fat is quite important. Ideally this includes eliminating all oils. From this perspective coconut oil (even cold pressed) is eliminated. For more on why coconut oil is not considered healthy, see: Coconut Oil.

      I hope some of this will be useful to you!

      • Doesn’t the body need so much fat every day to function properly? Eliminating all fats from your food sounds pretty radical. I have a friend who suffers with very dry skin and if she didn’t eat some oil in her diet daily she would be in big trouble. If you live in a very dry climate like we do in the west, it seems like at least a tsp of oil a day is what your body and skin requires. I lived in the South Pacific and never even went through one bottle of hand lotion in six years, but living here in Utah requires a lot of lotion, Vaseline, etc. What research is saying our bodies don’t need fat/oil of some kind. Of course, nuts have oil, avacodos have oil, do we get the needed oil from nuts and some vegetables? Maybe I just answered my own question. Though I still have to wonder if a teaspoon of butter on your whole wheat toast would really hurt you.

        • Great questions, Joanne! The answer is we do need fats, but do you know how much is actually required by our bodies? The answer is very, very little and all that we need are found in the natural plant foods we eat (no need to even eat high fat plant foods). This may sound radical to you, but then no other diet has been this powerful to prevent and cure heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases like MS. I hope you’ll take a careful look at this. It goes against what we’ve been taught, but we are not taught a Word of Wisdom diet (which says nothing about a need for oils or high fat plant foods). Here is an article I’ve written about this that has some good references: “Healthy Fats & Vegetable Oils.”. An occasional teaspoon of butter on your toast may not really hurt it, but it would not help you, and if used daily may in fact harm you. There is a better way!

      • Thanks for all this information. It is amazing to me how varied all this information can be! HAve you heard of the Weston Price Foundation? If so what are your thoughts on their pracrices. I have used the book Nurishing Traditions for years. I also make fermented foods and kumbacha with herb tea and would like your thoughts on these things as well.
        I use Coconut oil and make my own ghee. These have been my oils used for cooking, oil pulling (coconut) and for my hair and skin I use almond oil. Help! Confused person here. As much as I would like to say I have been successful (which by standards of relinquishing MS symptoms are amazing) I still suffer from sporadic Fibro myalgia and colds. I want to figure this out 🙂
        All help is appreciated ♡

        • Dear Laura: I’m very acquainted with Weston Price. They do some good things, and I believe they recommend a diet that can be much better than what most people eat and a good stepping stone to an even better diet. But the diet they recommend has never been proven to have anything like the power of a healthy whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. If you take a careful look at the evidence for what can happen on a WFPB diet, I think you’ll find, like many of us have, what the Lord is trying to tell us in the Word of Wisdom. The Lord has prepared for us a more excellent way. I have some more thoughts on your questions, but I will email them to you!

  14. This is such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing! I have witnessed firsthand the healing benefits of a plant based diet (though I am also Vegan for the animals and the planet as well as my health) and I do fervently believe it’s what Jesus would want us to do.

  15. Dear Emily,

    Thank you for your exciting testimony and for mentioning your experience with messages of the book named “How to Live a Healthy 100 Years and More” by LDS author Kevin Edds. We quote you as follows (note: we have not been able to get access to a copy of his book ourselves yet): “He talks about eating a paradisiacal diet (raw fruits and vegetables) … I read the entire book that night! While I was reading it, I had this overwhelming feeling come over me as if someone just covered me in a really warm blanket. I knelt down immediately and poured out my entire soul to Heavenly Father. The minute I addressed Him, tears started flowing, and I felt as if God was right there, kneeling next to me holding me in His arms. I asked Him if what this book was teaching was true, and I got a resounding YES!”

    Your experience is very special to us as, for the past eight months, we have been trying to learn what it means to eat a WFPB no-processed raw-food diet, since, after diverse experiences and much study and prayer, feeling that we were guided by the Spirit into that direction in various ways and at multiple times.

    We feel very blessed by being able to learn more and more about the possibilities for and consequences of a raw WFPB diet in our day and time (given the current fallen state of our world, etc.). The term “paradisiacal diet” as used by author Kevin Edds sounds very special to us, especially when we think about what we may know about life in the Garden of Eden and in the Millenium, as well as about the teachings in the Word of Wisdom and related scriptures.

    Thanks again for your fascinating report!

    Our best wishes,
    Markus and Caroline

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