My holistic approach

Nutritional therapist and naturopath Tanya Clarke explains how she manages her condition with diet and lifestyle.

My first symptoms began in 1993 when I was running a busy manufacturing business with my mother. I had eye pain, blurry and double vision as well as suffering from debilitating fatigue. I had a great deal of joint pain, stiffness and swelling, especially in my hands and knees, which is not a typical multiple sclerosis (MS) symptom. I had various symptoms following this, but it wasn’t until 1999 that I was diagnosed with MS at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

The following year, I was advised I would probably be a full-time wheelchair user within six months. My diagnosis hit me very hard at first… my business, my sick father, my daughter – how would I manage everything?

Then the determination set in and I started to apply logic. I spent hours reading the latest research. My logic made me think that if I was going to lose muscle strength, then I should be exercising more, so I started to swim three times a day. I chose swimming as it was easier on my joints and I was lucky to have access to a saltwater swimming pool. I then thought about the potential loss of coordination – I had to start horse riding again!

I bought a horse and rode every day. Being outside in nature with one of my favourite animals just lifted me. Riding is now used as a therapy for MS patients – it’s called hippotherapy. The movement of the horse provides therapeutic movement to the rider – it helps to stimulate the connection between the brain and the body. For me, it worked!

Due to the unpredictable and variable nature of MS and the fact that it affects every aspect of life – work, family, and social life, I believe a holistic approach to care is required to meet the needs of those living with the condition. It is important to consider a person’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.

My diet

I follow a naturopathic diet, based on organic whole foods. It is a very anti-inflammatory diet, high in vegetables (raw or lightly steamed) and whole fruit. I eat a rainbow of colours of fruit and vegetables. Colourful vegetables and fruit contain specific micronutrients that support your health and combat biological stress with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules.

I rarely eat cow’s milk products (goat and sheep products are fine). I minimise caffeine and tannin intake, except for green tea. I rarely eat gluten, simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. I am not vegetarian but I eat a lot of vegetables and I eat more fish than meat – I only eat red meat occasionally.


I find yoga beneficial for my strength, flexibility and breathing – it’s a boost for my physical and mental wellbeing. I meditate every day. Various studies have shown that it may help reduce pain and improve quality of life in patients with MS. I have used acupuncture and homeopathy – both of which helped to bring my body back into balance. I am very careful with my stress levels. If I know that I am about to go through a very stressful period, I focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet to support me and increase the amount of time that I spend outdoors. I also meditate more frequently. Learning to say ‘no’ was very difficult for me initially, but absolutely essential when looking after myself. It is not being selfish, it is just that there are times when taking on any more would be detrimental to my own health.

Never forget that good health is all about keeping the body in balance. That balance has different requirements for every single individual, but it can be found, and improvements can be made.