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Intermittent Fasting with MS

By Matt Cavallo
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Before I take my multiple sclerosis treatment, I have to get labs done. For my most recent labs, the earliest appointment was at 11:30 a.m. While my labs did not require me to fast, I decided to fast that morning just to be safe. Now typically, I would eat a modest breakfast after I walk the dog and then have lunch at 11:30 a.m. Even though the lab appointment was around the time I would usually have my second meal, I wasn’t hungry.

Before I go on, it is just after the holiday season and I am about 25 pounds heavy right now, so my resolution was to try to lose the extra weight. My clothes haven’t been fitting comfortably and I feel the extra weight definitely contributes to my fatigue in a negative way. When you have MS, adding extra fatigue is never a good thing.

So I definitely have the motivation to diet, but selecting the right diet is tough. I have two small children, who are picky eaters. Not as picky as some, but they are carboholics. They love pasta, bread and all the same fatty foods that I do. If we make them something they don’t like, then they won’t eat it. It is difficult work all day and then come home and make two different meals, one for us and one for the kids, although I am sure my wife and I are aligned on eating reducing the carbs. 

Now, I am not blaming my kids for the extra 25 pounds. I’m sure the holiday treats and donuts around the office contribute. I’m also sure MS fatigue and not being as active as I should be contributes. Mainly, I believe it isn’t what I eat, but rather the frequency and volume to which I eat. 

Life works in funny way. So, I am sitting at the lab waiting for my name to be called when I happen upon one of my MS friend’s post in Facebook. They had shared a Dr. Oz video about intermittent fasting and why it was okay to ditch breakfast. That friend posed the question in the post, is it okay for someone with MS to try intermittent fasting? 

My gut reaction was that this person should get advice from their doctor rather than polling the Facebook community about diet options, but that’s a topic for another day. Then, I thought, I don’t know if intermittent fasting was okay for people with MS? All the while I was sitting at the lab in the middle of an unintentional intermittent fast.

The stars seemed to be aligned for me to try something new. However, before I dove into a diet change, I needed to do the research. Diets typically restrict what you eat, whereas intermittent fasting restricts when you eat. I mean I could give up a meal if it means I won’t have to give up all of the foods I love.

In researching intermittent fasting, I learned that there are positives for people living with MS in the areas of inflammation and fatigue. The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study that showed, “Participants who adhered to the diet lost 8 percent of their initial body weight over eight weeks. They also saw a decrease in markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, and improvement of asthma-related symptoms and several quality-of-life indicators.” 

And so it began. If I could lose 8 percent of my body weight over eight weeks, then I would lose 18 of the 25 pounds that I wanted to lose this year. Of course, it isn’t as simple as just skipping breakfast. 

In part two of this article, I will discuss the various intermittent fasting strategies, which one I chose, and share early results.