Diet is not routinely recommended for MS by most medical practitioners. However, 50 years of research by Dr. Roy Swank, formerly head of the University of Oregon Neurology Department, on over 5000 MS patients shows that MS can be stopped by a very low fat diet. His work has been published in some the world’s most prestigious journals, including the Lancet. It shows that if someone in the early stages of MS sticks to a low-fat diet, they have less than a 5% chance of becoming worse over the next 35 years.

         What the science says about diet and MS

Swank RL, Dugan BB. Effect of low saturated fat diet in early and late cases of multiple sclerosis, Lancet, 1990;336(8706):37-9.

Abstract: 144 multiple sclerosis patients took a low-fat diet for 34 years. For each of three categories of neurological disability (minimum, moderate, severe) patients who adhered to the prescribed diet (less than or equal to 20 g fat/day) showed significantly less deterioration and much lower death rates than did those who consumed more fat than prescribed (greater than 20 g fat/day). The greatest benefit was seen in those with minimum disability at the start of the trial; in this group, when those who died from non-MS diseases were excluded from the analysis, 95% survived and remained physically.

See the story of a patient from Dr Swank’s trials, “when I first met Dr. Swank, his words to me were the most healing balm for the soul there was: ‘If you do as I say, Donna, you can live a normal life.’ With those words he gave me back my life. “

         The very low fat vegan diet

Dr John McDougall is a colleague of Dr Swank’s, and one of the leaders of the very low fat vegan diet movement in the USA. He says that prescribed drugs don’t work for MS:

‘People with multiple sclerosis are harmed by false promises from the pharmaceutical industry carried out by their well meaning physicians; and as a result, nearly 50% of MS patients are unable to walk unassisted, bedridden, wheelchair bound or dead within 10 years of diagnosis. The simple, profit-free truth is: a healthy diet can stop this disease. A hard look at the evidence will lead all but the “financially tainted” to the conclusion that the time has long passed to change the way people with MS are treated’.

One of the McDougallers using his diet for MS says:
‘Measurement of my MS activity by MRI showed continued progression of the disease from 1994 to 2000 with an increase in the number of lesions, which looked even more typical for MS (described as “increased conspicuity”). However, after changing to a very low-fat diet the reports changed too. In April of 2002, my MRI report read, “Compared to 3/29/00, the multiple lesions in the brain described above are slightly smaller and do not show any interval increase in size.” My 2004 MRI report showed no interval MS activity – the old lesions were stable and no new ones were forming. See the full article at

More information on the McDougall program

         Does failsafe eating help with MS?

Yes, if people have an intolerance to certain food chemicals (and most people are unaware that they do). Failsafe eating is free of additives, and low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers as recommended by this website for people with food intolerance.  From what failsafers say, it seems that people with both food intolerance and MS do better by combining failsafe eating with the low fat vegan option, including for their MS symptoms such as numbness and temperature perception, see reader stories below.  A vegan diet sounds scary for someone with salicylate sensitivity because most fruit and many vegetables contain salicylates. However, it is not impossible as an increasing number of failsafe vegans are demonstrating. You can see a failsafe version of the very low fat vegan diet (as recommended by Drs Swank and McDougall).

         A dentist writes about the effects of nickel and other heavy metals on MS

Danelle, the owner of the MRI scans above showing complete reversal MS lesions, says that her reversal was due to a vegan diet plus removal of heavy metals such as nickel, titanium due to dental procedures. See what  dentist Dr Robert Gammal has to say about this:

‘Why would I, a dentist be writing about MS. Multiple Sclerosis, we are told, is a disease which has ‘no known cause’ and ‘no known treatment’ and is in the medical rather than dental domain. The answer is that I have been fortunate enough to see a number of spontaneous remissions of this disease following dental intervention . (Note - I am not offering a magic bullet. I have also seen many MS cases that did not resolve.) Each time, the disappearance of the MS symptoms and the lesions (which were visible on MRI), was associated with the removal of a dead  root treated tooth.’

From Multiple sclerosis and other brain diseases by Robert Gammal BDS November 2012

         What MS-affected medical doctors say
  •          Australian Dr George Jelinek
- Was diagnosed with MS in 1999. His mother had died of MS in 1981, totally incapacitated, unable to feed or care for herself. He was determined to avoid her fate, and found that conventional medicine did not have much to offer. Using skills from his career as a Professor in Emergency Medicine and background as Editor-in-Chief of a major medical journal, he searched for the medical literature. ‘The literature is full of answers’ he says. ‘It is clear that remaining well after a diagnosis of MS is more than just a possibility. With commitment to the right lifestyle changes, there is the real probability that many people with MS can live long, healthy lives relatively free of the usual problems associated with the illness.’  Dr Jelinek has gone 14 years without a relapse. The program he recommends emphasises a plant-based wholefood diet plus seafood, avoiding saturated fat, exposure to sunlight, meditation and others, see and the particularly useful overview 
  •          American Dr Terry Wahls
- Is an Assistant Chief of Staff at Iowa City VA Health Care and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa.  For four years, secondary progressive multiple sclerosis confined Dr. Wahls to a tilt-recline wheelchair. Thanks to her recovery program, she has exchanged her wheelchair for a bicycle. Her program emphasises vegetables and fruit, elimination of foods at greatest risk for food allergy, meditation, self massage, progressive exercise and neuromuscular electrical stimulation for rehabilitation of gait and fatigue. See Dr Wahl’s website and TEDX talk

         Reader reports

         [1236] Danelle’s story: MS reversed (October 2013)

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in August 2011 at the age of 30. An MRI scan showed two large lesions in my brain. Prior to diagnosis, I had experienced the following symptoms over a six year period:  numbness in my arms, itchiness of the upper body, fatigue, loss of taste, blurred vision and very scary double vision.  After diagnosis I had some medical treatment with steroids and interferon but decided to stop this treatment due to the numerous side-effects.


Things I did:

Changed to a wholefood diet - 3 plates of vegetables, nuts and fruit per day (no additives, no alcohol, no added sugar, changed soaps for hair and body to natural ones)

  • Eliminated metal I was found to be allergic to (nickel and titanium, :

- my nickel dental bridge and root canal tooth
- titanium dioxide  in my make-up and sunscreen (changed to
- aluminium and fluoride in the town water  (drank only pure spring water)

  • Sunbathed 20 min a day during the cooler months
  • Took supplements
  • Read web pages by others who have recovered from Multiple Sclerosis
  • Researched, researched, and researched.
  • Prayed and praying always.

One year later, the symptoms and brain lesions had gone, see image of brain scans above.  Anyone can contact me via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – thanks to Danelle, who attended the 2013 Albury Fed Up roadshow talk. You can see her full story at

         [1237] An Interview with an MS failsafer (October 2013)

How long have you had MS?

I was diagnosed with MS 13 years ago. In retrospect, I think food intolerances have been with me since childhood: I endured terrible growing pains and had my adenoids taken out at 8 years of age because I supposedly talked through my nose. After years of bowel pains and then my MS diagnosis at 15, I finally decided to eliminate dairy foods four years later and noticed a dramatic improvement in my health.

How does MS affect you?

The MS symptoms I experience day to day are mostly sensory symptoms plus fatigue. The sensory changes mostly relate to feelings of cold particularly in my legs (not cold to touch but I perceive them to feel like ice blocks). This sensation changes from being really noticeable (both my legs feel cold 8 on a scale of 1-10) to not much at all (limited to the smallest spot on one leg but hardly noticeable - 2 out of 10). Early last year I went 100% failsafe after a period of not being so strict and after 4 weeks my cold sensations had reduced dramatically to about 1- 2 out of 10.
I have discussed my experiences with my allergist and he said other people with MS he has treated have had positive changes in their symptoms when following the RPAH elimination diet. I certainly notice a difference in sensation and fatigue when being failsafe. It has taken me years to finally accept this because I, like so many, kept thinking how can a meat and potatoes type diet be good for me? (Comment from Sue: it is possible to do a failsafe very low fat vegan diet)

Have you ever tried the standard MS diet?

All research into MS says to eat heaps of fruit and vegies, follow a low saturated fat diet and supplement with fish oils. After years of eating a mostly vegetarian diet, popping heaps of evening primrose oil and fish oil, I can now say that being failsafe is helping me the most. In fact, I follow failsafe eating principles but make sure my diet is low in saturated fat.

Do you have any opinions on Professor Jelinek's recommendations about sunshine?

I have read Professor Jelinek's book and think there is definitely something in the research about sun, vitamin D and calming an overactive immune system. It is quite interesting that over the last 13 years since my MS diagnosis every relapse I have had occurred in winter or very soon after! I certainly feel more energised in summer and even a few rays streaming through our lounge window see me on the floor soaking up the sunshine in winter.

Any hints for others?

I have noticed that taking bicarb soda in water makes quite a difference to food intolerance symptoms, particularly with facial flushing and itchy skin which is one of my more obvious reactions to salicylates, amines and MSG. How or why failsafe works is a mystery to me but I am happy to benefit from the impact it is making on my day to day health.

         [550] Intolerance to salicylates and fructans combined with MS (May 2007)

I have been aware of the RPAH diet for over 10 years and largely stuck to it during that time to help with symptoms of MS (multiple sclerosis). I have also suffered bowel issues for many years, predominately constipation but sometimes diarrhoea. My symptoms primarily include bloating, constipation and terrible pain. Initially, I thought it was because of my MS (bowel and bladder disturbance can be a problem) so just figured I had to live with it. When my lower bowel pain became quite severe - particularly after eating wheat and despite being failsafe - I decided to consult my GP again. She referred me to a gastroenterologist who proceeded to do a colonoscopy to see if some inflammatory bowel disease was present and an endoscopy so she could take a biopsy and take a definite diagnosis on whether I had coeliac disease or not.

Fortunately, all my results came back clear and the gastro told me that after examination she concluded that I had a 'nice big healthy bowel' (I guess that's a compliment to the gastro fraternity!) As she had eliminated all other possible diseases, she further concluded that I simply had IBS which has no real treatment. She said that dietary modification could help however, and referred me to a bowel dietician.

The dietician explained to me about fructans (a natural sugar) found in the onion family, wheat, chicory and asparagus. Having been failsafe, I knew about the amine and salicylate intolerance I have but thought that eliminating fructans could help considering I found leeks, spring onions and wheat appeared to affect me despite them all being failsafe and despite my not having coeliacs. This all really helped so now I have refined my diet again and have eliminated all the trigger food chemicals (MSG, salicylates, amines) as well as fructans (leeks, spring onions, wheat, asparagus). This has helped my IBS greatly. I am now just trying to give up percolated coffee [moderate in salicylates] every morning as that appears to trigger IBS symptoms. This fructans information may just be another piece of the puzzle for some people who suffer IBS. ­ by email.

         More information
Introduction to food intolerance

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians 

© Sue Dengate update March 2019