Food and MS

by Ideal Nourishment Coach, Lily Calfee

This journey towards health is like putting together puzzle pieces, and discovering what works with your unique body chemistry. This week, we are going to talk about what doesn’t work, and replacing with what does. I encourage you to try something called the elimination diet and find out what makes you feel amazing. While eliminating certain foods, especially dairy and gluten, may seem like taking the fun out of life, explore these diets and find delicious alternatives that you love.

An elimination diet involves completely eliminating dairy, gluten, and refined sugar for at least ten days and noticing and recording which symptoms change. Since food allergies can play a role in the development and exacerbation of MS, we eliminate those foods that might be causing additional symptoms. After ten days, slowly introduce gluten back into your diet. Have toast with breakfast and see how you feel the rest of the day and into the next. As long as none of your symptoms worsen, continue slowly adding wheat products back into the diet while avoiding dairy and refined sugar. After another ten days, if none of your symptoms have been aggravated, you can continue to eat gluten as part of your daily diet. 

Most nutritionists would recommend continuing to food-test by reintroducing dairy at this point. I am a little biased, because I don’t process dairy very well myself. Even if you are not lactose intolerant, there are very few humans who benefit from eating dairy, especially the ultra-pasteurized variety we eat in the United States. If you are very attached to your milk and cheese, continue the elimination diet by slowly reintroducing low fat dairy products. If none of your symptoms are aggravated, then you have my blessing: continue eating dairy. The Swank MS Foundation recommends no more than two cups of 1% dairy per day. But, please be honest with yourself and if it turns out that dairy is not for you, there are lots of delicious alternatives. More on that later…

I recommend that you continue to avoid refined sugars.Even outside of MS, sugar aggravates almost every symptom that human beings experience.  Replacing it can be seen as a tiresome task or an exciting exploration of sweet. When I stopped eating sugar, I was blown away by how many delicious fruits I had been ignoring when I was eating candy and pastries.  Humans have evolved to crave sweets because up until two thousand years ago, the only sweets around was fruit, which are packed with vital minerals and vitamins. Keeping berries and citrus around make kicking your sugar habit a delicious task. Try keeping a bag of frozen organic berries in your freezer, and a bowl of oranges on the kitchen table. When the sugar craving hit, go for the good stuff.

Write down what steps in this article spoke to you, and schedule them into your calendar. Share what has been easy for you, and what is more frustrating, on the Swank Foundation’s Message Board. Remember to get support while you make these changes. Congratulate yourself on every accomplishment. If you need more information, or just someone to hold you accountable, please email me at


Lily Calfee

Lily Calfee attended school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods, and is a member of the International Association of Health Coaches. She is particularly interested in Ayurvedic Medicine, women’s health, and the connection between food and mood. Lily offers tips and insights about creating a completely personalized diet that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.