Honestly, I wanted to check out the program before sharing more research with you all. I really think this is an interesting approach for MS, as it potentially reduces inflammation, boosts cellular rejuvenation, and resets the immune system. This program has had great success for patients with diabetes and cancer, as well. It's beginnings were in anti-aging therapies, and clinical trials in many chronic conditions related to aging are ongoing.
Fasting is not something people with MS should do without a doctor's supervision. I had to get approval from the ProLon nurse (over the phone) before starting the program---and I'm healthy. People with MS will need even further approval from their doctors, which is a really good thing. But it might be worth exploring. You can take the research and links to your doctor and see if this might be right for you. Jeff said he's interested after watching me last week, so we'll clear it with his doctor and do it together later this year.
Here's the science. In 2016, a study at the University of Southern California researched fasting and multiple sclerosis, and found that caloric reduction with a fast mimicking diet (FMD) did all sorts of wonderful things for the body, which specifically helped those with MS.
The USC study in mice with EAE and humans with MS found that a fast mimicking diet (FMD) made the body produce more of the hormone corticosterone, which in turn killed off damaging and inflammatory immune cells, and led to a production of new, healthy stem cells. This study also saw regeneration in myelin producing cells, and reduction of MS symptoms. All amazing stuff! Here's more on his study in layman's terms link Here is the complete paper, which I suggest reading, and sharing with your doctor if you're interested. Cell Reports FMD in MS publication
It's potentially an affordable alternative treatment for MS --so get ready for pharma to try and take it down with their own "trials" ( link to "Pragmatic Trial" of fasting with Tysabri ) You know something is worthwhile when pharma gets involved in debunking.
I'd had some nice back and forth e-mails with Dr. Longo when this research was first published last year. We both share a love of music and medicine. He was a young music student in Italy before coming to the states to study jazz guitar. He became interested in the study of aging, and got his PhD in biochemistry at UCLA, then joined the USC Davis School of Gerontology. He is also Director of the USC Longevity Institute. His focus is on how caloric restriction and fasting kills damaging cells while inducing healthy stem cell production. link to Dr. Longo's story
I had wondered if any of his FMD studies had looked at markers of inflammation related to endothelial improvements. I had found prior research looking at this connection. link He replied that his group wasn't looking at that specific aspect. He felt that the benefit of FMD was more about reduction of damaging autoimmune cells and a rejuvination of stem cells. But I have a hunch the increase in cortisone is also helping strengthen endothelial cells and reduce cell permeability--as well as helping the microbiome. The FMD has been shown to reduce C reactive protein in other studies, so there is a vascular connection. I hope more research will be done on these other aspects of the program.
Since I wanted to remain impartial in my analysis of Dr. Longo's FMD, I didn't ask him for a sample. I purchased the $300 ProLon FMD for myself online. (Still can't believe I shelled out big bucks to starve myself.) I hoped for benefit. I have some pain from a bit of osteoarthritis in two fingers and my neck, and lowering inflammation might help me. Losing weight wasn't my primary objective, but I figured it would be a nice side effect. I'm turning 55 this week, and my vanity continues. Jeff and I already follow the Endothelial Health Program. We eat whole, organic foods, mostly plants and no processed food, no dairy or gluten, so I was already in the right dietary zone. Just had to halve my daily caloric intake. Gulp.
The things I liked about ProLon were that it is a plant based and gluten free diet, shipped in a box right to my front door. It was very easy to follow. Each day had a separate carton, which was clearly labled with nutritional information and instructions. You can learn more about the specifics of this diet here: https://prolonfmd.com The reason it is a five day fast is because it takes that long for the body to reprogram and for cells to rejuvenate. Dr. Longo recommends doing this fast every three to four months. I think I could handle it a few times a year.
I believe it would be pretty easy to hack this program and do it on my own now. I have all of the caloric and nutrient info. But it's nice to have the supplements and energy drink and everything timed and packaged. Makes it easier to follow, and you're less likely to stray, when you think about how much you spent. The food was surprisingly palatable. I loved the kale crackers, and the instant soups were hearty and filling. The breakfast bar was nutty and satisfying to chew. Olives for snacks was fine with me. And the herbal teas were nice. I felt better knowing Dr. Longo is donating the proceeds to charity. He's a good guy. Anyone who studies jazz guitar and wants people healthier without drugs is OK in my book. link
How did I feel after 5 days of eating under 800 calories? It's odd, I wasn't really hungry, except for one day. I was surprisingly energized, and not fatigued. The hardest part of this program was giving up my usual three cups of caffeinated coffee a day. Prolon allows only one caffeinated drink per day, and this left me with a nasty caffeine withdrawal headache after day 1. However, I didn't feel sluggish without the coffee and I guess that must be from the cortisone coursing through my body. I was really hungry on day 3, and wanted to quit, but curiosity kept me going. That, and a bit of pride.
Jeff said he felt guilty eating in front of me. But he got over that and ate just fine! I also had to prepare a big dinner for some friends who happened to be in town on Day 2, and that was pretty hard. Standing over the stove, cooking and serving a delicious meal and then sitting and watching eveyone happily eating while I sipped herbal tea is not something I want to do again.
Now for the good stuff. I slept really well, and am still having very vivid, lucid dreams. I wake up ready to go, not groggy at all. And my skin looks great! It could be the fact I didn't had any alcohol, sugar or animal products for 5 days, but my eye bags are less noticeable and my complexion looks rosy. And my arthritis pain is much, much better. My knuckles are less stiff, and my neck has been feeling great. I was able to keep active, out walking, running errands and doing my normal routine, without feeling faint. I didn't have any recording or performing work during this week, so I could take it relatively easy. And I lost three pounds! Not as much as many others report (average loss is 5 lbs.) but hey, I'll take it.
Final thoughts. What we eat matters. Our bodies are miraculous machines, and it makes sense that the manner in which we fuel ourselves has repercussions on our health. By putting the body in a fasting state, we kick it into survival mode. We were created to withstand periods with limited caloric intake, and our body knows how to utilize our stored sugars and fats reserves. Most of us in the industrialized western nations eat much more than we need, far too many processed foods, too much animal protein and sugar, and not enough plants.
But this isn't to cast blame for being sick! No one gives themselves MS, cancer, osteoarthritis, or Alzheimer's. We don't control our genetic predispositions, and we all will die eventually. Here's Dr. Longo's TedX talk about how "if one disease doesn't get you, another one will!" He shows that it is possible to live longer, healthier lives. link There are things in our control which we can do to feel better, function better, and maybe even heal, including fasting. I believe the future will provide more understanding of our microbiome and brain, and how they are connected via the thousands of miles of lymph and blood vessels which keep our organs protected, nourished and cleansed. And a lot of that depends on food.
Also, as it is the Lenten season, I couldn't help but feel more meaning to the fast. Christians are taught to fast or give up something during Lent, to remind ourselves of Christ's forty days of fasting, praying and temptation in the desert before his eventual arrest and crucifixion. This is practiced, not as an exercise in self-denial, but in order to draw closer and more reliant on God. And for that reminder, I am thankful.