Adopting a healthy diet with multiple sclerosis (MS) is an important part of an overall MS wellness plan. A nutritious, well-balanced diet has the potential to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS).
Researchers are discovering that a healthy diet can impact energy level, bladder and bowel function, and overall well-being in people with MS. Healthy foods may even be able to change the course of the disease by limiting inflammation that can damage nerves, and promoting nervous system repair. Eating nutritious foods can help prevent other chronic conditions that are common in people with MS, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
MS Diet: What Should You Eat?
People with MS seeking to change their dietary habits to reduce MS symptoms are often at a loss for what to eat. Unlike heart disease and obesity, no single “MS diet” has been scientifically proven to treat or cure MS, nor has the medical community issued standard-of-care dietary guidelines for people with MS.
Current studies of diets thought to have MS benefits – such as plant-based, low saturated fat, Paleo, and Mediterranean regimens – report mixed results. Most diets have not been subjected to rigorous, controlled studies. Some may even make misleading claims, and contain toxic levels of certain nutrients, or dangerously low levels of others. No diet should ever replace clinically proven MS drug therapies.
In the absence of clinical evidence supporting safe and effective MS diets, physicians who specialize in MS recommend following the same low-fat, high-fiber diets the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society suggest for the general population. Those diets include fresh, minimally processed, mostly plant-based foods that are low in saturated fats and high in vitamin D, Omega-3, and Omega-6 fatty acids.
MS Diet: Best Foods for MS
Research studies have identified the possibility of some benefits – better quality of life, lower rates of disability - possibly even fewer relapses and slower disease progression – when people with MS adopt a healthy diet. More research is needed to deepen the scientific understanding of diet’s role in MS. A comprehensive guide from NMSS details the best foods for MS:
Since preparing fresh, healthy foods can be time consuming and hard for people with fatigue and mobility issues, the National MS Society offers tips and tricks for quick and easy meals, cooking ahead, food storage, and grab-and-go snacks.
MS Diet: What Researchers Are Finding
Researchers are currently studying the roles of red wine, polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), salt, and gut bacteria on inflammation, which have been shown to increase MS activity in the brain, bones and body. Several studies have also investigated how dietary salt impacts MS disease activity and how eating more fish may decrease the risk of developing MS.
Both Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids are being investigated to understand their role in the development and progression of MS. Further research is needed to understand how these supplements could be used in MS treatment. Always speak to your doctor before adding a new dietary supplement. Some supplements can cause dangerous interactions with medication.
MS and Diet: What Foods Are Members of MyMSTeam Eating?
Switching to a healthy diet has helped many MyMSTeam members improve their overall well-being. Diets that work for one person, however, may not work for another. Here’s what works for MyMSTeam members:
You Are Not Alone: Talk To Others About MS Diets
On MyMSTeam, the social network and online support group for people living with multiple sclerosis, members talk about a range of personal experiences. Making dietary changes as part of an overall MS wellness plan is one of the most popular topics.