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 healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet, or before starting a specific diet plan.
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:
Salt intake may also affect MS disease activity and symptoms.
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 healthcare provider about the use of any vitamins and supplements.
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:
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 healthcare provider 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.
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 healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider about your vitamin D and biotin intake.
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 healthcare provider to find the best nutritional plan for you and your MS.