Common Myths About Multiple Sclerosis and Diet

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Nutrition Blog

Many individuals who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS) may wonder if trying a certain diet — or removing a certain food group from their diet — are able to ward off MS symptoms such as fatigue or cognitive decline, or even entirely change the course of the disease.

It’s no wonder: Special diets, supplements as well as even food-sensitivity testing are routinely touted online as ways to substantially lower MS symptoms or even “beat” or “cure” the disease. As these recommendations are made by medical doctors, often by practitioners of complementary or alternative medicine, and often just by individuals who feel better after changing up their diet.

Often The Line Between Science And Pseudoscience Is Difficult To See

Usage of the label “alternative”, “natural” or “holistic” can be an indication of pseudoscience. Or not. Lines can get rather blurry. Alternative Medical Systems – in addition to traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Homeopathy and Functional medicine – all offer different therapies and modalities which are outside of conventional medicine.

When trawling the internet for health information, government and educational sites with URLs that end in “.gov” or “.edu” are a fantastic place to start. When you come across health information you are unsure about, think about these questions:

  • Are they attempting to sell me something?
  • Are there studies cited?
  • Look past the headlines. If the information is very important to you, dig deeper. Look for a lot of different sources.
  • Is the article backed by research that is published in well-known, scientific journals?
  • Does it list the references and studies used to support the claims?
  • Just keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There Is No Evidence A Particular Diet Can Prevent, Treat Or Cure MS.

Some special diets can actually be harmful as they contain too much of particular vitamins or not enough of others. Ensure that you speak with your medical practitioner before making major changes to your diet.

Overall, individuals with MS need a balanced, low-fat and high-fibre diet. Unprocessed or naturally processed foods are preferred above processed foods. This is similar to the Mediterranean diet, in addition to the same healthy diet that’s recommended for the general population. Also consider limiting alcohol as much as you can.

Some research makes the suggestion that a diet that is low in saturated fats and which is supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids could benefit people who suffer from MS. However as these results haven’t been confirmed by large-scale studies it’s recommended that individuals suffering from MS limit animal-based fats. Instead, choose fish and nut-based fat sources such as olive oil, avocado oil and almond butter. These are rich in omega-3s.

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Also, researchers are investigating a link between vitamin D and biotin — which is a form of vitamin B that is also known as vitamin H — on multiple sclerosis disease activity. These studies are in quite the very early stages. Still, it’s recommended that individuals with MS keep their vitamin D levels in the upper levels of normal.

It’s important for individuals who suffer from MS to make healthy food choices:

  • Not getting sufficient vitamins and minerals can worsen MS symptoms.
  • Skipping meals could contribute to low energy levels.
  • Some MS symptoms – such as depression – and MS treatments – such as steroids – can cause weight gain.
  • Weight gain may lead to more health concerns, such as joint stress as well as cardiac and respiratory problems.
  • Alcohol can increase common MS symptoms, such as imbalance and lack of coordination.

What Does Science Tells Us About MS And Diet?

Some evidence makes the suggestion that making certain dietary changes could yield overall health benefits for people with MS, when practised over time. According to a study which was published in September 2016 in the journal entitled Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, consuming a diet rich in plant foods and low in fat may be linked to improvements in fatigue, cholesterol levels, as well as body mass index. These are dietary changes anyone can make.

In addition, a mounting body of evidence indicates that the most effective way to maintain good health when living with MS may be indirectly — by managing (or preventing) chronic comorbid health conditions, such as diabetes, by making sure that you maintain good glucose control, fat levels in the blood as well as blood pressure.

A review article published in October 2017 in the journal Neurotherapeutics indicates that poorly managed comorbidities are associated with an increase in disability and a decrease in quality of life among people with MS.

So, eating well is a very important part of living well with MS. However, it doesn’t mean eliminating foods unnecessarily or following unproven diets because you have MS.

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