Roger McDougall's Story
MY FIGHT AGAINST MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
This is the story of my fight against Multiple Sclerosis. What follows is based upon my own experiences and the conclusions I have drawn from them. It should be clearly understood that I am not a doctor and have no medical training. My theories are controversial, though a growing number of individual doctors have now reached similar conclusions.
As a layman expressing views not accepted by the medical profession in general, I obviously come in for much criticism from that quarter. My aims are very simple. I suffered down to a state of terminal disability and am now enjoying a healthier life than I can remember. I would be inhuman if I did not use that unusual experience to give what advice I can to those still suffering. Here are the facts:
I was diagnosed 30 years ago at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen Square, London, in February 1953. At that time, my specialist was recognized as one of the world's leading neurologists and Queen Square as one of the most celebrated neurological centres.
Within a few years I was unable to use my legs, eyes, and fingers ... even my voice was affected, and I was quite unable to stand erect, even for a few seconds.
Many years later when I was living in Hollywood I was given a thorough neurological examination - encephalograph, radioactive brain scanning, and lumbar puncture. Evidence of scar tissue damage was found in the brain and a sample of my spinal fluid was sent for analysis to a New York Laboratory. It came back marked as a specimen for someone suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.
Today, my eyesight is restored, I can run up and down stairs and can lead a life as active as most men my age. In support of these statements I will refer later to a medical examination I was given in September 1975 by a leading neurologist. No miracle has been performed. I have not been cured. I am simply experiencing a remission - but A REMISSION WHICH I FIRMLY BELIEVE TO BE SELF- INDUCED.
While accepting that each person's body has a different metabolism, I think it is not unreasonable to assume that the benefit I obtained by following certain principles, may be applicable to others.
I would be totally dishonest, however, if I claimed that the regime I described in my previous booklet helped everyone who followed it. It appears to have helped me and many others. It is equally true to say that some people who have followed my recommendations have not in fact improved. I formerly thought they had not followed my recommendations to the letter for a sufficient length of time or had not perhaps had the same determination to succeed as I had.
But recent advances in the study of food allergies have disclosed a more likely explanation. The truth would seem to be that just as DIFFERENT PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT METABOLIC PROCESSES THEY HAVE DIFFERENT ALLERGIES AND ALSO DIFFERENT DEGREES OF REACTION TO VARIOUS ALLERGENS. THUS, THE DIET WHICH HELPED ME IS NOT NECESSARILY THE EXACT DIET CALLED FOR IN ALL OTHER CASES.
It is now possible to have one's allergies identified by a simple test. I had this done recently and the result provides further evidence in support of my contention. My most severe allergic reactions according to the test were to those foods I had removed from my diet all those years ago indicating that I had controlled my condition because I had removed gluten, milk fat and other animal fats and sugar from my diet.
So why did I take that action at a time when I knew nothing of allergies? The answer to that question, it seems to me, is of the utmost importance because it may really be the answer to another question - what did I believe was the cause of my multiple sclerosis?
It is important to understand what an allergen is. A food to which we are allergic (called an allergen) is a food which is not accepted by our autoimmune system. Instead of harmonising in our metabolic processes it attacks and even destroys the white blood cells whose function it is to stand guard against invasion by unwelcome intruders like viruses and germs. That is why it is so important to our health to remove them from the diet.
I was now considering my body as a biochemical process, or, more accurately, as a biochemical process going wrong. As I had not heard of allergy tests I had to find some other way of pinpointing the errors in my diet.
It seemed logical to stick to those foods which had been consumed by man since the very beginning. I BASED MY DIET ON THE FOOD CONSUMED BY THE HUNTER-GATHERER, BEFORE MANKIND SETTLED DOWN IN AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITIES, GREW CEREALS AND TENDED CATTLE.
It was this reasoning which led me to cut out gluten (a protein which surrounds the germ in grains), cow's milk and sugar. These are not foods from whose consumption we have evolved and I believe that fact is in some way connected with our rejection of them. Not enough is known yet but the close connection between diet and illness becomes more and more obvious. When I removed my three principle allergens, I stopped deteriorating and eventually began to make slow but nonetheless steady improvement.
The conclusion I draw from this is that foods which are alien to our species or to which we are allergic, and which attack the autoimmune system (our natural defenses) somehow contrive to prevent the manufacture of healthy replacement cell tissue and so become causative factors in the whole range of degenerative diseases up to and including aging.
What is Multiple Sclerosis? There appears to be no generally accepted understanding of the cause. It has to be defined by describing it effects. According to Black's Medical Dictionary: "It consists of hardened patches, from the size of a pinhead to that of a pea or larger, scattered here and there irregularly through the brain and (spinal) cord, each patch being made up of a mass of the connective tissue (neuroglia), which should be present only in sufficient amount to bind the nerve-cells and fibres together. In the earliest stage, the insulating sheaths of the nerve-fibres in the hardened patches break up, are absorbed, and leave the nerve-fibres bare, the connective tissue being later formed between these. The actual changes in the nervous system appear to be due to the action of some substance which dissolves or breaks up the fatty matter of the nerve sheaths." Or according to Gould's (Blakiston's 3rd Edition): "Demyelinisation followed by gliosis and formation of plaques affecting different parts of the nervous system in patches. Cause is unknown."
In simple terms it would appear that the insulation of the nerves deteriorates, so that impulses can no longer be effectively carried to and from the brain. The result may be paralysis, partial blindness, lack of balance and the whole familiar range of symptoms which can vary widely from case to case.
As I see it, we have three basic ways of trying to cope with illness and disease.
First there is the orthodox medical approach with the use of drugs. It is on this that the success of modern medicine is primarily based. Unfortunately, in the case of MS and many other degenerative conditions, the appropriate drug has not yet been discovered (if in fact it exists).
Second, there is the new scientific manipulative approach which has come to be called genetic engineering. This, to be practical, is still some way off.
Third, there is the method known as preventative or holistic medicine. It is in this group that my method of dealing with MS is based.
All these are legitimate approaches to problems of health. But since, in the case of MS, the method I have adopted is the only one for me which has produced positive results, it would seem reasonable to give it a try.
I believe that all three are possible ways of approaching any problem. Professionals tend to become too rigid and stereotyped. It's good always to remember that there's more than one way of skinning a cat.
Let me consolidate what I have so far touched on. Twenty-five years ago I became disillusioned with the neurological approach to my condition. It lacked cohesion, lacked direction, lacked conviction, lacked any discernible chance of success. My thoughts travelled back to a time when I had read biochemistry, and I remembered being struck by the thought that I was not what the anatomy-trained doctor considered me, that is a static chunk of meat - a sort of living cadaver. More accurately, I was a biochemical process. And now, I was a biochemical process going wrong.
Perhaps, I thought, there is no mysterious virus, no invading germ involved at all. Perhaps I am simply the result of a chemical imbalance, of the wrong chemicals (in the widest sense) being lumped together and failing to add up to a satisfactory human being.
In consequence, I left my neurologist and set out, almost a total wreck, to investigate this new possibility - with invaluable help from my wife and my friends.
This essay is one of the results of that decision. And because of my story many people have experienced noticeable improvements.
I hope that another result will be the realisation by some of my medical friends on the opposite side of this controversy that DIET AND DISEASE ARE OFTEN DIRECTLY RELATED.
At any rate, after I left Queen Square, I began a process of treatment by logic. I did what a combination of history, observation, and common sense dictated that I should do.
That is what I personally did and the result for me was a complete reversal of my unhappy prognosis. Instead of a wheelchair-confined cabbage I became a normal human being again.
There is no way in which I can guarantee that the same regime will have the same happy effect on other sufferers.
What I can say is that the same analysis of the metabolic process, the same rigid enforcement of the appropriate compensating diet should produce the same results.
No two people are exactly alike. Your life is in your own hands. If you want to control and improve your condition it is logical that you should do as I did and work out what diet your body can tolerate.
I'd like to be able to say don't touch this, take all you want of that. I can't.
I can tell you that a significant number of people can't tolerate wheat and other grains, also sugar and milk and milk products, but you have to find out for yourself whether you are among them. They may be okay for you. Though, along with many experts in dietary matters, I doubt it.
If you do not feel competent to do this on your own, or feel that you need help, I strongly recommend that you look for an open- minded, diet-conscious, holistic-type physician who can read this essay without dismissing it out of hand, and put yourself in his charge.
It is perhaps worth noting that the three significant changes in diet with which I began are medically recognised as helpful in the treatment of other degenerative diseases.
It would seem obvious that these dietary changes affect the ability of the metabolism to produce a supply of healthy replacement cell tissue. We can once more keep up with our body's demand for new cell tissue to replace that lost by the mere process of living.
An important way of helping to maintain that same function is to replace any essential nutrients lost as a result of following your diet. This I will consider later when I talk of the list of vitamin and mineral supplements I devised.
Over the course of the next few years, I dropped the suspect foods from my diet one after another. At first I merely stabilized the state of my symptoms; then slowly and steadily, my health improved. Slowly is the word I must emphasize. IT WAS MORE THAN FOUR YEARS BEFORE I NOTICED THE FIRST SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT when I managed to fumble a shirt-sleeve button into the buttonhole - the first time my fingers had obeyed a command for a very long time.
Thus encouraged, I took a closer interest in the problem of nutrition in relation to my condition.
I owe a great deal - everything in fact - to the work of many different doctors, biochemists, scientists, research workers and experts. I have merely put together into a cohesive pattern dis- coveries, suggestions and realisations which have come from many others.
It is a positive approach to the problem and one which appears to be helping large numbers of people. By its very nature, it is often extremely slow in showing results but, as I have said earlier, a slow improvement is surely preferable to a slow, hopeless degeneration.
I hope that one day soon the medical profession will treat my theories by medical methods which will take into account biochemical and dietetic considerations.
I have followed the course dictated by my theories for many years and in evidence of my present state of health I am delighted to tell you that in September of 1975 I went to the neurologist who in 1953 actually conducted most of my original examination at Queen Square. I asked him to give me a complete and thorough neurological examination. This he did, and throughout the examination kept saying "l can't fault you." Every reflex, every muscle, every movement was normal.
Finally he came to my eyes and at the extremity of my field of vision, as I glance right, he found a vestigal trace of nystagmus (juddering of the optic nerve). When at my worst, I had suffered from nystagmus to the point of virtual blindness so that to be left with a vestigial trace, of which I am unaware, hardly presents a hardship. As far as my eyes are otherwise concerned my astigmatism has cleared up amazingly and I am now able, in good sunlight, to read newsprint without glasses - something I have not been able to do for more than thirty years.
At the conclusion of my examination the neurologist confirmed that this slight trace of nystagmus was the only damage that appeared to remain throughout my entire system as the result of a crippling attack of Multiple Sclerosis.
Talking about the past, he recalled that I'd had a pretty severe episode in the years that followed our first meeting at Queen Square. I asked him point blank if he'd ever encountered such a spectacular remission and he freely admitted that he hadn't.
What then am I suggesting to victims of Multiple Sclerosis? Certainly not the possibility of a cure. I offer, if you like, an approach to the problem which in my own case I believe to have been responsible for the improvement in my body and which I believe may help others.
What now follow are the details of the regime which I still adhere to since I AM CONVINCED THAT SHOULD I EVEN MOMENTARILY RELAX I MIGHT WELL RETURN TO MY FORMER UNENVIABLE CONDITION.
To some extent, of course, I have altered it to conform to the findings of my allergy test. This means that I have eliminated a few other foods to which I am slightly allergic.
Anyone who takes an allergy test should do the same but the diet I have developed over the years remains in substance the diet I follow and recommend to others.
It is important that I should point out here that, through no wish of my own, I have become known to many people as "the gluten- free diet man", with the implication that the banning of gluten is the be-all and end-all of my approach to Multiple Sclerosis. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. A gluten-free diet on its own could in fact be extremely harmful, leading, among other things, to a serious loss of B vitamins in which sclerotics are already deficient and to a serious loss of weight. You must remember that the removal of gluten from your diet - although often essential is only one aspect of the complete approach.
I believe that the dietary approach to degenerative conditions should take the form of a five-pronged attack:
Individual reactions to an allergy test may stress one or other aspect of this as the most important, but I remain convinced that it will be found generally applicable. I base this opinion on the fact that so many MS sufferers seemed to react positively to my specific diet after a long enough trial. I see now that other types of metabolic imbalance may cause the same symptoms in people genetically prone to weakness in the nervous system but it remains true that many seem to share my particular set of allergies and deficiencies.
It is medically accepted that certain conditions are caused or aggravated by the consumption of certain foods. For example: coeliac disease linked with cereals, diabetes and hypoglycaemia linked with sugar, cardiovascular conditions linked with dairy fats.
My regime is based on the belief that Multiple Sclerosis falls into the same category, but again it must be stressed that this opinion is not shared by medical authority. If I am right, IT IS SURELY POSSIBLE THAT YOU ARE EATING FOODS TO WHICH YOU MAY BE ALLERGIC AND WHICH MAY BE DOING YOU HARM. I believe that by eating the correct foods you will have a good chance of improving your condition. As with so much in life, SUCCESS MUST DEPEND ON YOUR OWN DETERMINATION and there can be no half-hearted approximation to the rules. Watch every dish you eat lest it contain one of the substances you believe to be harmful. If you are tempted to cheat, remember you are only cheating yourself.
Once you have corrected your diet, you will find it almost as easy to follow as your present one. That too is only a matter of habit. Good or bad eating habits - the choice is yours.
SUPPLEMENTARY VITAMINS AND MINERALS
As I have said earlier, it is important that anyone following a diet should not, by cutting out the undesirable foods I mention later, deprive themselves of the beneficial vitamins and minerals those foods contain along with their harmful ingredients. For example, milk - which I believe to be harmful to many of us - is, at the same time, a valuable source of Vitamins B2, B12, and Calcium.
The ideal way to counter this problem is, of course, to eat other foods which contain the necessary vitamins and minerals but which are not in any way harmful due to the presence of deleterious ingredients. However, as I soon discovered, this is not always possible and, furthermore, one may find that some of these foods are unacceptable purely from the point of view of personal taste. (How many of us, for example, can stomach a daily ration of raw chopped liver?)
It was to combat these difficulties that, with the assistance and guidance of a doctor friend, I set about formulating a broad spectrum of the vitamins and minerals most likely to be lost as a result of rigid adherence to a diet. I list below the ingredients that we settled upon.
All excipients from biological natural sources. What is important is that you should not underestimate or neglect the importance of this aspect of a balanced diet.
WHAT TO AVOID
In this section I deal specifically with the foods I cut out from my own diet because I believed they were doing me harm, i.e. those that contain either gluten, high animal fats or refined sugar. The list looks formidable and will almost certainly involve fundamental changes in your present eating habits but you will see that the range of good, nourishing and tasty foods still available to you is very wide and permits plenty of variation in your daily menus.
YOU MUST CUT OUT GLUTEN RIGIDLY. That means you should avoid all use of WHEAT, BARLEY, OATS, and RYE, all of which contain gluten, and this includes foods made from or containing these grains or the gluten from them, such as Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, Wheat Germ Flakes, Froment, All-Bran, white and brown bread, cakes, puddings, biscuits, porridge, rye and wheat crispbreads, all kinds of pasta, semolina, Bisto, etc. Eat nothing that has even a pinch of flour in it. In this respect your diet must be as strict as that of someone suffering from coeliac disease.
In my opinion you would be wise to take this precaution even if gluten sensitivity is not yet apparent in your system.
Also, completely cut out all refined sugar. This is advice I would give to anyone whether or not sugar is shown to be an allergen. Nowadays, most medical authorities would agree on this.
It is possible that honey and fructose (fruit sugar) may me less damaging to your system.
You should severely limit your intake of animal fats. CUT OUT ALL DAIRY PRODUCTS AND MARGARINES. Use olive oil, sunflower or safflower seed oil for cooking and salads.
Fried foods are the hardest to digest, so please try to reduce your intake.
AVOID ALL HIGHLY-SATURATED FATS SUCH AS BEEF, PORK, HAM, GOOSE, DUCK, MUTTON AND LAMB FATS. Bacon, too, should be avoided. Whenever you can, eat offal (liver, kidney, tongue, sweetbread, etc.) in preference to meat. Eat free-range animals (venison, rabbit, poultry) in preference to domestic animals. Always remove the fat from your meat.
In domestic animals, the ratio of adipose (harmful) fat to structural (essential) fat can be 50 to one. In free-range animals it is 2 to one.
Beer, gin, whisky, vodka, sweetened fruit juices and bottled fizzy drinks are not permitted.
Some of the above recommendations may conflict with the results of your own judgment. In effect, I am putting you in charge of your own body. I have told you what I did to achieve the control and improvement of my own condition. I have also given you access to a scientific method of helping you to make your own decisions. I can do no more.
UNFORTUNATELY, I CANNOT SAY "DO THIS", "DON'T DO THAT". INDIVIDUAL RESPONSES TO THE FOODS WE EAT USUALLY VARY TOO WIDELY FOR ANY GENERAL RULES TO BE APPROPRIATE.
This is why I am always suspicious of diets which are alleged to control specific degenerative diseases. There is always a diet for an individual with such a disease, but it is for the individual not for the disease. A DIET MUST ALWAYS BE TAILOR-MADE TO SUIT A SPECIFIC METABOLISM.
GENERAL HEALTH HINTS
Whenever possible eat foods as fresh as possible. Eat raw vegetables, such as shredded cabbage, raw grated carrots and beetroot. Eat fresh fruits every day too - they give you live enzymes which aid digestion.
Fruit and vegetable juices are a fine "liquid meal". Fresh juices can be extracted from vegetables with a juice extractor or you can purchase them in a health food shop. Natural (unsweetened) juices are sugar free and can give you an additional daily intake of Vitamin C.
Remember, your degenerative condition has taken many years to show itself, so you won't improve overnight.
As a last thought, please remember that if you have taken an allergy test, this last section has to be adapted to conform to it.
I am confident that you will find that most of what I suggest will still be applicable. Ideally a diet, as I said, has to be tailor-made, as it were, to suit each individual. But I believe the diet I describe will be a basis from which to elaborate your own.
PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE AND DILIGENT APPLICATION ARE NEEDED. But the total freedom from symptoms which I achieved is worth any effort. Of that I can assure you.
Remember that YOUR PROBLEM IS BASICALLY ONE OF ALLERGIES AND DEFICIENCIES. You are not suffering from a disease in the usual sense of the word. You are suffering from your own particular and unique imbalance (your own personal lack of this or addiction to that) which has its own specific causes and remedies. Your job is to find out what these individual metabolic problems (be they allergies, or mineral or vitamin shortages) happen to be and then to correct them.
Fortunately many doctors, clinics and medical centres are now oriented towards nutrition as a causative factor in degenerative disease and, while they may not yet have abandoned the concept that MS is an entity in itself, they can be of immense help. You have to use your own judgment and decide what to accept in their recommendations and what to doubt.
Never forget that my salvation was my realisation that I was not a "living cadaver" as my doctors seemed to believe but was in fact a biochemical process going wrong. It was by correcting the biochemical process known as Roger MacDougall that I regained total normality and relief from my MS symptoms.
The results of my allergy test were significant to me for two reasons. They showed that all symptoms of MS had disappeared and I had identified my major allergies - grains (gluten), milk products, sugar, oranges, tomatoes, tobacco. They also identified a few other allergies of which I had not been aware, particularly onions, rice, corn and apples.
It will be interesting to observe if their absence from my diet will bring about further improvement.
Among the commonest allergies mentioned by specialists are wheat, oats, rye, barley, dairy products, cocoa, chocolate, and sugar all of which are foods which I cut out of the regime I devised for myself. Other foods which seem to cause problems for some people are: shellfish, eggs, red meat (I now cut that out too). But YOU HAVE TO FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF WHAT YOUR OWN WORST ENEMIES HAPPEN TO BE.
In my opinion there is no mysterious undiscovered physical cause of MS - rather only the predictable and easily understood reaction of your metabolic processes (particularly your autoimmune system, that is your white blood cells) to the presence of alien foodstuffs in your bloodstream. Stop feeling panicky and begin the long slow and arduous climb back to a healthy life.
I did just that more than twenty years ago when I was working in the dark with nothing much more to go on than hope and a well trained sense of the logic of things. If I could do it then, on my own, you can certainly do it now with all the help that is available. So go to it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Playwright, film writer, composer, lyricist, musician and a Professor of Theatre Arts, Roger MacDougall was born in Bearsden, Dumbartonshire in 1910. His father, a headmaster in Glasgow, and his mother, a teacher, had hoped that their son would make a career in Administrative Education in Scotland. However, after studying at Glasgow University and graduating in law, he turned to writing and composing as a career and soon had numerous successes to his credit. He wrote plays, revues and sketches for the B.B.C., and music and lyrics for five revues at the Prince of Wales Theatre and two Crazy Gang Shows at the London Palladium.
It was inevitable that his talents would be snapped up by the busy British film studios. His pen was prolific and over the next few years he had no less than 26 screen credits to his name including "Midnight Menace", "This Man is News" and "This Man in Paris". At the famous Ealing Studios, he wrote several films, one of which was to become a screen classic - "The Man in the White Suit" which starred Alec Guinness and for which MacDougall received an Academy Award nomination. Other films followed including "The Gentle Gunman" (starring Dirk Bogarde and John Mills), "The Mouse That Roared" (starring Peter Sellers) and "A Touch of Larceny" (starring James Mason and George Sanders).
Constant demands from the film studios did not mean that MacDougall neglected his first love, the theatre. His play, "To Dorothy, A Son" (later filmed with Shelley Winters starring), was a smash hit. It ran for 18 months as did "Escapade" (which was later filmed with John Mills and Alastair Sim).
It was just after "Escapade" had opened (in 1953) that MacDougall was admitted to hospital for diagnosis of a strange deterioration in his eyesight and ability to walk properly. Multiple Sclerosis was diagnosed but the truth was kept from him. Only his wife, Renee, was told of his condition while he was told he had "inflammation of the nerves".
Slowly MacDougall's condition worsened until he was a helpless invalid confined to a wheelchair.
Defiant of his condition, he continued to work as best he could, dictating and using a tape recorder. By these means he wrote "The Facts of Life" and "A Touch of Larceny".
Not content to accept the steady deterioration in his condition without question, it was inevitable that before long he learnt the truth - that he had Multiple Sclerosis.
Refusing to believe that his condition was hopeless, MacDougall set out to learn all he could of the known treatments for degenerative complaints and came to the conclusion that a dietary approach might help him.
So began many years of experiment on his own body, the results of which are told in this story.
MacDougall is today in good health and as active as any normal man of his age. Whether this return to normality is simply a remission, or, as he maintains, a self-induced, controlled remission, is bound to be a matter for argument whenever his theories are discussed.
Whatever the case, as MacDougall says, his approach to MS seems to have helped him and his greatest wish is that it will help others too.
Mr. MacDougall died a few years ago in his eighties. He had no MS symptoms at the time of his death. There can be little doubt that Roger MacDougall defeated MS through his dietary changes. Science is slowly catching up with his intuitive insights of 40 years ago. MacDougall's dietary regime is basically the same as what is now called the "Paleolithic Diet" which is being recommended by some nutritionists as the best defense against many "lifestyle" diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Unfortunately most MS neurologists still stubbornly ignore Mr. MacDougall's successful methods. Thus little has changed since Mr. MacDougall abandoned his neurologist 40 years ago and beat MS through logic and a dedication to his deduced dietary therapy. Obviously clinical trials to test the efficacy of a low fat, allergy free diet with supplements are required. I can only suggest that you lobby your national MS Society to promote and fund such research.
Finally I would like to thank the directors of Regenics Inc. of Great Britain for generously allowing me to put this edited version of the Roger MacDougall story on the World Wide Web.