When a doctor preaches a plant based, Swank diet, I listen

(Original blog post from 4/12/17)

This week I had the pleasure of attending the Maine Nutrition Council conference. I actually came across this event due to an article posted by the Portland Press Herald talking about the keynote speaker, Dr. Saray Stancic. All I knew was that she has MS and that she manages it through a plant based diet, and I was sold. My husband and I were talking about going, but then my mom offered to come with me. As much as it would have meant to me to have my husband there, I believed my mom needed to hear it more. My husband and I live this every day – we went vegan. I knew my mom could benefit from hearing the same things that my husband and I preach all of the time.

When I say I could listen to Dr. Stancic talk all day, I truly mean it. I was wrapped up in everything she was saying because I had never heard the things that I believe said out loud right in front of me. She was diagnosed with MS in 1994 and was immediately put on a slew of medicines, and it never disrupted her progression of the disease. In 2003 she started looking for scientific links between diet and MS. What she found was staggering. She noted several scientific studies in her speech, including Dr. Swank. She went plant based and had her health bounce back so significantly, that she eventually left her cane behind her and completed a half marathon. I mean, wow is an understatement.

Dr. Stancic started her career as an Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease doctor. However, after her diagnosis and the positive affect her plant based diet had on her, she left that practice and started her own Lifestyle Medicine practice. She is actually in the midst of filming a documentary called, Code Blue. Taken directly from the website: “Code blue is a feature length documentary that reveals insufficiencies in the current state of medicine and provides a common sense solution by featuring the practice of lifestyle medicine to prevent, manage, and reverse disease.” It is set to release in 2018.

I got to chat with Dr. Stancic for a few minutes outside of the conference, and she was so warm and welcoming. She truly was interested in how I got diagnosed and why I went plant based and how I found Swank. I told her I was diagnosed in March of 2016 and that in June of 2016 my husband came home from work one day and said he wants to go vegan. So we both did for moral reasons at that point. In August of 2016 I googled, “vegans with MS,” and Swank popped up as one of the first results. I went on about how much he supports me, and she asked thoughtful questions about him. I got emotional when I told her, “He may have even saved my life,” because it’s true. I don’t know how this disease may have progressed otherwise, and I’m so glad I won’t ever know. I hope this lifestyle keeps me healthy for the rest of my life.

Before I parted ways with her, I asked her if she ever gets routine MRIs done at this point. She said that she hadn’t gotten one in over ten years until recently when her videographer for her documentary asked her to get one for the film. So she did. She went back to that same Oregon hospital that Dr. Swank preached his low saturated fat diet, and her scans came back clean. All of her prior lesions were gone. This really sunk into me, because I got rescanned about ten months into my diagnosis, about five months after I went vegan, and three months after I started Swank. All of my previous lesions had disappeared on my second set of images. I had one “new” one, but it was very faint. Which leads me to theorize that perhaps it came along prior to, or in the very beginning stages, of me changing my diet. What’s crazy is that my neurologist wasn’t even excited about my result. He actually asked me if I wanted to go on medication. What? No.

My neurologist is a really nice man. I like that he lets me speak, and he isn’t really pressuring me to go on medications, but I can tell he doesn’t believe that my diet is the positive influence on my disease. That’s fine though, because all of the proof I need is in how I feel when I’m following the diet correctly. I find strength in hearing other people’s stories, like Dr. Stancic’s. I know I will never be cured of MS until research figures out what exactly causes it and can treat it. So for now, I will continue to listen to my body… and my gut.