Fish and a Vegetarian Girl: How Fish Has Helped In My Journey With Multiple Sclerosis

Last year, I had become rather unwell. Finally one day, in a state of total distress, I wrote an email to my family members who were right outside my room, “Will someone please buy me fish?” It was a long email which went on to say much more. Sometimes distress is very good. It makes us say, in no uncertain terms, things that we had long been struggling to say.

Mom arranged for Gauri our cook to bring me cooked fish from her place, as much and as often as I felt like. Our cook is a Bengali lady. We are a vegetarian Marwari family. Since then I have been eating fish regularly. After some initial trial I have settled for one piece of fish every alternate day. The change I have experienced is so distinct, drastic, and positive, that it pushes me to share this with you.

Fish is the best source of a thing called Omega 3 that the brain cells and nerves really need, especially in conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and othersTerry Wahls and a few other sources had told me. I had started cooking and eating it when I was in USA, and I clearly experienced myself moving towards health and strength. Personally I experienced the benefits at a mental level more clearly because I, as a personality, have always been more interested in the state of my mind. However, the restoration of physical health and strength was also distinct. Other people noticed the physical improvements in me too.

This restoration was not only due fish. Based on what Terry Wahls had told me, I had also eliminated food that caused harm to my cells — wheat, rice, sugar and milk products. I also focused on eating dark green leafy vegetables and brightly coloured fruits — along with other vegetables, daal, chholaa, nuts, dark-chocolate-almond-milk (yummy!) and soya yoghurt. Those days, from Charlotte, North Carolina USA, I announced on Facebook one day about how healthy I was feeling, healthier than I had ever felt even as a child. It seemed as if I had conquered Multiple Sclerosis.

Then my health started to flounder again. I had returned to India. Cooking fish became a practical challenge and rice entered into the diet again. I was living in south-west coastal Karnataka (Udupi-Manipal), so fish was easily available but there were practical difficulties. I did not know how to clean it and cook it. My maid tried to teach me but I was unable to learn. Fish wasn’t sold cleaned and cut into pieces that I just had to smear with some masala and roast in the oven, as in USA. I went to a few nearby joints to eat fish but they were rather seedy joints and the fish was too oily. One place on Tiger Circle offered steamed fish. That was very nice. I ordered it for home delivery sometimes, but restaurant food is not a great regular solution.

When I moved to Kolkata to live, after years, with my family, the need for fish did not go away. I could feel it within myself because I had experienced the restoration of health and strength in USA. If I had not experienced that change first hand, I might have discarded everything I had learned from Terry Wahls as, “Maybe, होता होगा किसी के लिए, पर मुझे तो नहीं हुआ फायदा,” which is fair enough. Unless something helps us, that knowledge is neither here nor there.

Since I started eating fish regularly last year, I have benefited in these ways —

* Now I don’t feel hungry all the time. I don’t grab at food that harms this body, that makes this body sluggish and weak, that makes this mind muddy, weepy, and weak.

* My mind is genuinely and starkly “stronger”. I do not struggle with wanting to do x, really really trying to do it, succeeding slightly, failing mostly, and then being horribly frustrated with myself, convinced that I cannot live. Instead, there is a clear sense of strength within. This strength has nothing to do with faith, spirituality, resolve, or belief. I really do not know how to describe it, but it is distinct because I know how it was before, and I know how it is now.

So why did I feel hungry before? Did I not have enough to eat? One could easily say that when I was living alone I did not keep my larders well stocked. “अकेली रहती है, ठीक से खाती नहीं होगी” — I have heard this from relatives far and near. However, even when I moved back to live with my family, I used to feel a constant panting kind of hunger.

My family loves food and our larders are well stocked. Pa does the fresh produce shopping for the family and always makes it a point to get all the fruits – pomegranate, jaamun, pitaaree etc. apart from the humble banana, apple, oranges – and all the veggies kumdaa, lauki, even laal saag, beet root. As a substitute for the kale in USA, we discovered pui saag (in Bengali. Basale in Karnataka, Malabar spinach in English), the green version of laal saag – loddhe saag (in Bengali. Harive soppu in Karnataka), kalmee saag etc. – vegetables that most Marwari families have not learned to eat despite living in Kolkata for generations. The normal paalak comes regularly, apart from bathuaa, sarson etc. in the winters. Mom and my bhabhis always makes it a point that the meal menu contains preparations I can eat — such as daal, cauliflower sabzi and not just aaloo kee sabzi and pooree. Even then I felt hungry almost all the time.

When I lived alone, food that was in my taboo list (rice, wheat, sugar and milk products), just did not exist in the house. So I felt hungry and as a result of the hunger I felt even more depressed than what I was anyway feeling. That was all. Here in Kolkata, we are a joint family of ten members and I like I said, we love food. So there is always some barfi ready, snacks like suhaalee nimkee, some sandesh or the other keeps popping onto the table on some pretext, my niece loves her Hide-and-seek and Bourbon biscuits with milk… Initially I used to feel angry, “They know this food harms my body? Why do they keep presenting it in front of me? This family is so crazy about food, food, food!”

Then instead of being angry, I became spiritual. “We are infinite beings. It does not matter what we eat. I shall be free of all restrictions,” and so in my hunger I started lunging at the food that I knew harms my system. If nothing else, for Hide-and-seek biscuits in the evening were a must — for the chocolate, but you also get sugar free (pun intended). I just couldn’t help it. In Manipal, and here in Kolkata too, I had also started eating rice regularly again (कुछ तो चाहिए न खाने को!), and could clearly feel it making my system sluggish progressively.

Now, ever since I have started eating fish regularly, that craving is simply not there, that gnawing hunger is not there. So it requires no effort to stay away from food that harms my system. My family is free to be what they are. The food is there on the table — the stuff that repairs my system and the stuff that damages my system, and I feel zero urge to lunge at the stuff. Plus I can feel a distinct strength within.

What food we eat is not a matter of morals. It is a matter of chemistry. X chemicals in the food reacting with Y chemicals in our cells cause Z transformation. Some bodies need something, others need something else. Our bodies, a constantly evolving biology, individually and collectively, is a vehicle given to us to operate in this world. Having driven mine for some years, I have learned to recognize its sounds. We may categorize all cars as cars, but diesel is appropriate for some engines, petrol for some, and electricity for some other engines.

When I had announced good health on Facebook from USA, an uncle asked me to share my experience with an MS patient in Kolkata. Another uncle asked me to share my experience with another MS patient in Ranchi. They might have tried some of what I suggested, but things have not changed much for them as far as I know. They both belong to vegetarian Marwari families. This article is especially for them, and others of similar social and physical configurations. Fish might be a crucial missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle.

Will I never get unwell again? Can’t say. However, this is not just my experience. Terry Wahls and numerous others have benefited by consciously eating food that helps their cells and not eating food that harms their cells. Terry, a medical doctor and researcher is an MS patient herself. It is has become her life work now to conduct well designed research regarding the healing power of food and bring her findings to the general world — after she experienced drastic benefits herself. Apart from seeing her video and reading her book, I have met her in person too. It’s a beautiful stroke of providence — we were associated with the same university, consulting the same neurology doctor.

Changing the food we eat involves social, emotional and many other issues, along with a plethora of practical matters. It is not simply a matter of resolve. If you would like to know about anything else of my experience in this regard, please tell me and I will respond as best as I can.

Also, please know: You Are Your Own Boss. Not all MS patients are created alike. Not all Parkinson’s patients are created alike. “One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people — a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes”. (Mary Oliver). Read up about stuff. Educate yourself. Try things. But no one knows your system better than you. And you have more power than you acknowledge.  Over time I have developed an uncanny awareness. I know, often in the first bite, whether the food is impacting the body positively or negatively, and if the system is starving for something. So for example, no one told me rice is bad for MS patients. They talked about gulten and wheat. However, I have found consistently that rice also harms my system. As you eat with awareness, you will learn best, what is bringing energy to your body, what is not.

The book I read and linked to above is very costly in rupees. You might want to try this book: The Wahls Protocol. I have not read it.

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