Written by a practising MD, DR George Jelinek – who himself has MS, ‘Overcoming MS’ is a wealth of information about MS and the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical based approaches and lifestyle changes currently in use in the treatment of MS.
Uniquely George Jelinek is not only a practising doctor; he was also the editor of a leading Australian Medical Journal. When he learnt he had MS, he turned to what he knew – to the world of scientific and medical research to determine what was wrong with him and what he could do to about it. That’s one of the reasons I say this book is important. Because it is written by someone who had both the means and the motivation to find answers.
He is rigorous in his approach and has the background to make sense of the huge amount of data available to medical practitioners. (Approx. 19,000 scientific papers).
But the real reason this book is important is because of the conclusion that it reaches and the truly revolutionary impact it could have for the thousands of people diagnosed with MS. I think the weight of evidence in favour of this conclusion may even have shocked George Jelinek himself. Because,
‘he reached the surprising conclusion that MS is a disease largely determined by lifestyle factors, and that…’ people with MS who modify their diet, exercise habits, and other aspects of lifestyle can stabilise the illness and potentially recover’.
This conclusion isn’t based on his own personal experience, or even on the experience of the thousands of people who are now following his approach, and benefiting hugely from it. It is exclusively based on the scientific research data available at the time he wrote the book.
He doesn’t rule out the use of modern pharmaceuticals, In fact he reviews many of them in detail and concludes most of them should be considered and possibly integrated into a – ‘whatever works for you’ approach to living with MS.
But he comes back time and time again to the facts. According to his analysis, none of the currently available drug treatments can safely deliver the same radical improvements shown to be realisable through lifestyle changes.
Most of us by now accept that the way we live – what we eat, drink, smoke etc – has an effect on our health. But I was very struck by how potent these changes can be in tackling a disease like MS. We are used to thinking medicines are powerful, and many of them are. But to date it seems no medicine can safely (i.e. without side effects) deliver the same life changing improvements.
There are essentially three parts to his program of lifestyle changes: – dietary changes, meditation and exercise and he convincingly describes the evidence for the efficacy of each.
But of the three he devotes the most energy to describing the evidence and science behind his proposed diet. And this is especially useful because of all the changes; it seems as if this one alone can have a radical impact on the progression of the disease.
The sections on meditation and exercise are also useful but are based more on his experience than on scientific research. This may be because there is less research available to back up his findings. But that is changing and I am sure there will be an ever growing body of scientific evidence that supports his conclusion that meditation and exercise can have a beneficial impact on MS.
Recent advances in the study of epigenetics, the mind-body connection, the placebo effect and mindfulness are revealing more and more evidence that lifestyle changes can have a profound effect on our health and on the way illnesses progress.
There also some great sections on supplements, sunlight and new potential breakthroughs in the treatment of MS.
I have to admit some of the more technical sections on fats and the way they act in the body were a little difficult for me to follow – but I really appreciated the level of detail in these sections and I think it is worth our while making the effort to understand as much as we can.
In fact that’s what I like the most about this book. It breaks down barriers between patients and the medical establishment and empowers us through education. I believe the more we know about how our bodies work, how MS works – the greater responsibility we can take for own well-being
This book is a personal testimony, a radical re-assessment of the scientific evidence, a message of hope and a call to action all in one. Nice one George!
Peter Simmons Tuesday, 02 September 2014