Diets to consider

DIETS & SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER

Learn about certain diets from a neurologist

A well-balanced diet is important to consider when focusing on overall health. For people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), diet could potentially affect the immune system. There could be direct or indirect effects on the immune cells. There could also be effects on bacteria in the gut, which could cause inflammation or stop inflammation. Although there is no cure for MS, researchers continue to evaluate whether or not nutrition could play a larger role in the risk for MS and the course of the disease than we thought.

Remember, always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet, or before starting a specific diet plan.

 

Diet and MS

Many people have questions about the role of diet in MS. Is there a specific diet that can help? Unfortunately, there are very little data, if any, about specific diets and their role in MS. Common themes include eating more fresh and natural foods, as well as cutting down on processed foods and saturated fats.

Here are some popular diets to consider:

  • Paleolithic or “Paleo” diet—also called the caveman diet. Suggests eating a high-protein, high-fiber diet like our prehistoric ancestors
  • Wahls elimination diet—made popular by Terry Wahls, a doctor living with MS. This diet contains some components of the Paleo diet and eliminates all grains, dairy, legumes, and eggs
  • Gluten-free diet—people allergic to gluten must keep a gluten-free diet to avoid a reaction. Gluten is a specific kind of protein found in wheat, rye, and barley
  • Mediterranean diet—a low-fat diet that favors fruits and vegetables; monounsaturated fats such as olive oil; foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, beans, nuts, whole grains; and limited amounts of red wine and dairy
  • Swank diet—a low-fat diet that eliminates all red meat

Salt intake

Salt intake may also affect MS disease activity and symptoms.

  • Animals that were fed a high-salt diet and then developed an “MS-like illness” had a worse form of the disease than those who were fed low-salt diets
  • Research suggests MS patients with higher amounts of salt in their diet seemed to have worse MS symptoms. This was measured by the amount of salt excreted in their urine

Vitamins and supplements

Although vitamins and supplements may be considerations for anyone, many people with MS also ask whether these could help with MS. Although more research is necessary, it’s still important for you to talk to your doctor about the use of any vitamins and supplements.

Vitamin D and MS

Low vitamin D levels are considered a risk factor for MS. However, the role it plays in the immune process after diagnosis is not as well defined.

The effects of vitamin D on immune function in MS have been studied for a number of years:

  • One study looked at vitamin D levels in people with early MS who were on treatment. Those with higher vitamin D levels seemed to do better at 5 years after diagnosis
  • Other research suggests that vitamin D may affect MS by decreasing relapses. It is important to understand that vitamin D was used in these studies in combination with, and not as a replacement for, treatment prescribed by a doctor

According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended amount of vitamin D for adults under the age of 70 is 600 IU (international units) daily.

Talk to your doctor about how much is recommended for you. Higher amounts may be needed if your levels are below normal. Sunlight exposure can also increase vitamin D levels.

Biotin

Another vitamin that may play a role in MS is biotin. Biotin is part of the vitamin B complex. It may help the protective cover on the nerves, called myelin, from being attacked by the immune system. Talk to your doctor about whether biotin is right for you.

Please keep in mind that these vitamins and supplements are just for consideration. More research has to be done on the impact of vitamin D and biotin on MS, as there is no specific study or research that conclusively shows that these will affect or cure your MS. Talk to your doctor about your vitamin D and biotin intake.

The gut microbiome and MS

Organisms that reside in the human gut—“the gut microbiome”—are being studied in MS. The full role of gut organisms in MS is not well understood. However, the gut’s role in helping “educate” the immune cells, its effect on inflammatory activity, and its role in other autoimmune disorders, has made it a new area of interest.

Remember, with so much information online, it’s important to be your own advocate. There are currently no specific medical guidelines about diet and MS. There is also no definitive evidence to suggest that diet or supplements alone affect the course of MS. It is important to work with your doctor to find the best nutritional plan for you and your MS.