19 March 2012

MS – can you believe this?

This is truly amazing and very important news for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). New research shows MS can be reversed by lifestyle changes. Everyone needs to know this.

Over the 5 years following diagnosis, the average person with MS who is having the best of current medical care is expected to deteriorate by an average of 10%. Research has just been published showing that people who attended a lifestyle program that  was based upon the cancer programs I established, actually improved by 20%. Instead of the expected deterioration after 5 years, these people were markedly better!

Can you believe it? This is really wonderful news and warrants being passed on to all you know. 

How did it happen?

In 2002, Prof George Jelinek (a Professor of Emergency Medicine) and I, along with my wife Dr Ruth Gawler and other staff at the Gawler Foundation, established a new concept for people with MS. Attend a residential program, change your lifestyle and improve your health. 

Having seen quite a few people with MS regain their mobility and improve their state of mind dramatically after attending similar groups I had been conducting for people with cancer since 1981, I was fairly confident. 

George was a little more circumspect. Having been diagnosed with MS himself a couple of years earlier and having thoroughly researched the medical literature on the subject, George had written the groundbreaking and wonderfully useful book with the relatively conservative title “Taking Control of MS”.

In fairness to George he started those early groups convinced participants could stabilize their MS at the level they began, but he baulked a bit when I told the groups that I believed if they were diligent with the lifestyle changes, they could reverse it and get better as their years went on.

To George’s credit, when he did a major rewrite of that great book in 2009, he had seen enough direct evidence to rename it “Overcoming MS”.

Now the really exciting news. MS as a disease is a lot easier to research than cancer and Prof Jelinek is a world-class researcher. Happily, right at the beginning, we established a research program to monitor any changes in our participants. The results are truly stunning.

Here I hand over to Professor George Jelinek and thank him for contributing to “Out on a Limb”:

The news is so positive and so affirming, we really need to blow the trumpets! 

Where else in all the MS literature will you find an intervention that is shown to result in improvements in mental and physical health and overall quality of life that continue to grow over at least five years? 

Surely this would be a new wonder drug that would be heading every TV station’s evening news? Or some new surgical procedure, like stem cell transplantation, where the great outcomes outweighed the serious risk of the procedure? Isn’t it remarkable that our new research, published in the international journal Neurological Sciences (download the paper below), shows that actually, such an outcome comes from a one-week live-in retreat where people with MS (PwMS) learn how to live well? No drug, no surgery, no risk. Just mainstream good health from an optimal diet free of saturated fat, optimal vitamin D levels, exercise and meditation. 

This research outlines our follow up of the longitudinal cohort of PwMS attending Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) residential retreats at the Gawler Foundation since 2002. We started these retreats keen to observe the outcomes of people adopting the OMS lifestyle based approach, by asking them to complete a standard, well-validated 54-item questionnaire, the MSQOL-54. We then asked them to complete the questionnaire again at the 1 and 5 year marks after the retreat. 

The only intervention provided was the 5 day retreat. Nothing else. No other follow up or ongoing care, although each group had group support, as they kept in touch by regular email after the retreat. 

At the retreat, a good deal of detail was provided so that PwMS could judge for themselves the science behind the recommendations and whether they were prepared to commit to these changes for life.

As reported in the paper, the results were remarkable! Not only did this group of PwMS stop deteriorating, they rapidly began to get better! And the improvement continued to the five year mark, the last time point for which we have data. The study is ongoing of course, and it will be very interesting to see how this group is going at the ten year mark and beyond. 

But for now we know that the group had highly significant (p<0.001) improvements at one year in mental health of about 12%, physical health 19%, and quality of life 11%. At five years the benefits continued to accrue, with highly significant (p<0.001) improvements in mental health of about 23%, physical health 18%, and quality of life 20%.

The graph below (Figure 1 in the paper) shows this well.

This result is quite staggering! We do not know of any other study of any other intervention in MS that shows such improvements; nor has any other study using the MSQOL-54 in a comparable cohort shown any improvement at all, let alone such a large benefit. 

For those who have had doubts about embarking on the OMS program, or those who have had trouble sticking with it, this research should provide the necessary impetus to seriously get involved with this lifestyle. 

There is much to celebrate for the nearly 300 people overcoming MS in this study, and in general for people committed to this lifestyle approach. If someone said to you at diagnosis that you would be roughly 20% better overall in five years time, most people would be overjoyed. After the publication of this research we now know that this is what you can expect on average. Some people may not do as well; others will do correspondingly better. But on average, you can expect very significant improvement. 

Now that is something to blow the trumpets about!

Link to Prof George Jelinek’s very useful MS website: www.overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org

Access the full research paper: click here


1. Webinar open to all Tuesday 20th March 2012 at 8pm

One of the features of the Mindbody Mastery program is the extensive support package that accompanies it. Along with daily emails, weekly SMS, FAQs and research on the website, a key feature is the monthly webinar.

Having successfully presented the first webinar last month, we have decided to open the broadcast to everyone, even if you are not participating directly in the Mindbody mastery program.

So on Tuesday, I will be the presenter. I will talk directly for about 20 minutes about the four steps that make meditation easy and reliable, before focusing more particularly on relaxation in daily life. Then I will lead a meditation before taking your questions which can be sent in by email.
You need to register to be included and to do so, click on http://www.anymeeting.com/mindbodymastery, and then click on the Register button next to the 21st March 2012 webinar.
The webinars will continue each month on the 3rd Tuesday of each month and you will be able to join in via the website: 

2. Cancer on the increase

The number of cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia is projected to rise over the next decade for both males and females and is expected to reach about 150,000 in 2020—an increase of almost 40% from 2007. Increases in the number of cases diagnosed are due primarily to the ageing and increasing population and are expected to be most evident in older populations.

Cancer incidence in males is highly influenced by prostate cancer, which accounts for about 30% of all cases. Assuming incidence of prostate cancer stabilises in the future, it is projected that the overall age-standardised rate of cancer in males will fall from 595 to about 568 cases per 100,000 males between 2007 and 2020. 

Conversely, the overall age-standardised rate of cancer incidence in females is projected to rise from 394 to about 408 cases per 100,000 females between 2007 and 2020.

3. Breast cancer – The right fats decrease fatigue
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are well known for reducing inflammation. A recent, comprehensive study has shown these good oils may help reduce inflammation-related fatigue in breast cancer survivors.
Consistent with observational data in healthy populations, increased intake of omega-3 was associated with reduced inflammation in a cohort of 633 survivors, with an average age of 56.
Reporting in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers found those with the lowest intake of omega-3 relative to omega-6 PUFAs were over four times more likely to have a high-risk C-reactive protein level – a marker for inflammation – than those with the highest.
Inflammation has been previously related to a higher incidence of medical problems in cancer survivors and a reduced risk of survival in women with breast cancer.
Because fatigue was such a common condition among cancer survivors, effective treatment “could have a significant health impact”, the researchers concluded.
Reference: Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2012; doi:10.1200/ JCO.2011.36.4109



Downloadable meditation program: Mindbody Mastery


  1. Congratulations Ian and George on your courage in first investigating, then undertaking and after that persisting with life-style programs that make a difference. The MS results you quote are spectacularly significant and hopefully will be welcome news to all involved with this physical condition. No doubt there will be those who take exceptions; however, the results do speak for themselves particularly, I am sure, amongst people with MS; they are the most highly motivated to do well. And thanks to you two and all others involved in your programs they will do well.

  2. You can get the benefits of the diet,etc program even if you can't afford the live-in sessions.

  3. Multiple sclerosis is a potential disability that destroys the cells of the brain and spinal cord. This is an incurable disease. This disease can be controlled by treatment. Multiple sclerosis treatment