Lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in multiple sclerosis.
Tony Ferro says he should be in a wheelchair.
He worked in the family pizza business after knee and ankle injuries and several concussions, derailed a prospective football career while he was in prep school.
He added more than 100 pounds to his already large frame afterward.
His health began to fail a decade ago and he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012.
Ferro could have taken the more-traveled road to MS treatment and counted on medication as the main force to try to keep the debilitating neurological condition in check. Instead he chose another path. He completely remade his wellness regimen.
“A doctor can only lead you so far unless you’re your own advocate,” said the 39-year-old founder of the Change MS Wellness Foundation.
During the last six years, Ferro has sworn off pasta, pizza and other processed foods. Water became his beverage of choice. His diet got heavy on berries and veggies. He meditates, and is toying with the idea of starting yoga.
He has lost 120 pounds.
“Everybody tells me, I don’t know why you’re doing so well but keep doing what you’re doing,” Ferro said. “If I can do it, anybody can.”
Dr. Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, a leading Buffalo-based neurologist, agreed.
“I really think that diet and exercise is very important,” she said. “I absolutely think that medication alone is not sufficient but is an add-on. To have full, 100-percent control, you have to have both.”
The immune system attacks the central nervous system – the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves – to forge multiple sclerosis, a disease yet to be cured. It can be mild, moderate or severe, often depending on where in the body the attack is centered.
Symptoms can include fatigue, numbness or tingling, walking or vision problems, pain and brain fog.
The condition can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms are common for autoimmune diseases. Tests to find it can get complicated. Depression can challenge those under its grip.
Ferro began experiencing symptoms a decade ago, while in his late 20s.
“By the time I went to the doctor, I was severely numb from the neck down,” he said. “It was hard to walk because I couldn’t feel my feet on the ground. I didn’t have full use of my right hand. I couldn’t put socks on, grab a glass, shake your hand. My depth perception was off. My balance was off.”
During those years, Ferro helped manage the family business, Gino & Joe’s New York Pizzeria in the Main Place Mall. He described his diet during those years as “all grab and go.”
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