Photo credit: Filmmaker Magazine
Matt Embry is an MS advocate and independent filmmaker from Alberta, Canada. His new film Living Proof documents his personal, and somewhat political, journey in living with MS. In his film, Embry seeks to challenge the notion that drugs and medications are the only way to live with MS. Embry seeks to answer questions that plagued him throughout his journey of dealing with MS. If there are no known cures for MS, why are so many drug companies and MS charities selling drugs that they claim "cures" MS? Why doesn’t the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) approve non-pharmaceutical methods of treating MS?
Embry also wonders whether his lifestyle, involving strict dieting and exercise, can help other MS patients deal with the disease and become almost asymptomatic. Embry also seeks to expose Big Pharma (large pharmaceutical companies that are accused of withholding better treatments for better success of their drugs) and the role it plays in keeping MS patients from getting the treatments they need. The following article hits a couple of points that Embry has discussed in an interview about his film, his lifestyle, and the message he wants to send.
Why Make a Movie?
Embry has long been an MS advocate since dealing with his and his families diagnoses related to the disease. He has only recently stepped into the filmmaking realm, and considering he is producing and recording the entire film itself, one may wonder why he wanted to get into filmmaking in the first place.
Embry says one of his main goals in making the film was to give other MS patients hope that they can live a happy and healthy life after their diagnosis. While Embry has fought and battled the disease himself, he also says that he has managed to become almost asymptomatic through a strict diet and exercise. Embry also says he was hesitant to share his story originally, since he felt that patients in their 5th and 10th year weren't taken as seriously in the MS community. Embry has since seen 20 long years of success with his lifestyle, which he feels is enough time to warrant sharing his story.
Is There Any Scientific Backing to His Lifestyle?
In his movie, Embry interviews a host of researchers and scientists, including his father. His father, who has a PhD and is currently working on some clinical trials for new MS treatments, was the original creator of Embry's strict physical regiment. His father used his knowledge of research studies around MS treatments to design a diet and exercise regimen that would help his son cope with MS. His dieting regimen included an avoidance of all dairy and gluten, and a special emphasis on adequate consumption of Vitamin D.
According to Embry, his lifestyle and his father's tips are all based on cold hard data and scientific research, not anecdotal evidence. Embry's father is also currently conducting even more clinical trials to provide evidence for new and improved diet and exercise regimens.
Does This Lifestyle Work for Everyone?
Embry makes it clear that he has never claimed that his lifestyle will work for everyone. However, he claims that everyone he knows who has strictly adhered to his methods has had very positive results in treating their condition. Embry says the biggest problem is that when he talks to many MS patients, he finds out that they are eating foods that are actually very bad for their condition (we will cover this a bit further below).
To watch more on Embry's life and journey, be sure to look out for his documentary that will be premiering online in coming weeks.
How Diet Can Help Your MS
To be clear, we are not advocating foregoing your medication. That should never be done without an extensive discussion with your doctor. However, there are some simple diet and exercise changes that any MS patients can make to reduce their symptoms and make it easier to manage their condition. Below are a few foods you should be avoiding, as well as a few changes to make your diets healthier and more effective in fighting MS.
Foods to Avoid
Saturated Fats - Saturated fats are the types of fats that mainly come from animal products like red meats and full-fat dairy products, and are also found in palm and coconut oils. Saturated fats tend to raise your LDL, or bad cholesterol. The reason people with MS should avoid saturated fats is because they tend to increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke (which MS patients are already more predisposed too due to their condition). Keep in mind that a little saturated fat won't hurt you too much, but you need to be sure that you don’t overconsume them.
Trans Fats - Trans fats are known as the "bad fats". Trans fats are found in hydrogenated oils, which are used in most processed foods like snack cakes, cookies, crackers, and chips. Trans fats increase inflammation inside blood vessels and can increase joint pains, which only adds to the pains that can arise from MS.
Gluten - Many people tend to moan when they hear of gluten-free foods, thinking it is one of the many new dieting fads latched onto by many people. However, for many (including MS patients) gluten does have some very dangerous health consequences. Gluten is mainly problematic for those with celiac disease, but doctors say that removing gluten from your diet could help with MS symptoms as well. Gluten is mainly found in rye and wheat.
Diet Tips to Focus On
Now that we’ve given you a few things to avoid, here are some vitamins and nutrients that you NEED to have in your diet to help with MS:
Vitamin D - One of the most important vitamins for MS patients is Vitamin D. Many people know Vitamin D as the vitamin that promotes calcium absorption to strengthen the bones. While this is a great health benefit, it isn't the reason that it is so important for MS patients. Vitamin D has also been shown to help the immune system by regulating cell growth and differentiation (which stops MS cells from spreading as easily). The problem is that Vitamin D is not found in most foods (especially when you take dairy out of the mix). You can however still find Vitamin D in fatty fishes like salmon and mackerel. If nothing else there are supplements available to boost your Vitamin D levels.
Fruits and Vegetables - It may seem like one of the most basic diet tips there is, but it really works. Fruits and veggies contain a lot of nutrients and vitamins that boost your immune system, provide antioxidants to fight toxins in your body, and will help prevent weight gain that could make MS symptoms worse. A good rule of thumb is you should eat vegetables that are bright in color and dark leafy vegetables. Both of these tend to extremely high in vitamin content.
Embry's film could bring some very interesting viewpoints to the table, but even making small changes to your diet could do wonders in reducing the symptoms that so frequently hurt the lives of those suffering with MS.