Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative condition that affects the brain and spinal cord and causes serious disability and symptoms, including problems with balance, limb movement, and sensation.
People with multiple sclerosis have an average life expectancy of 5 to 10 years, which is average and has increased over time. The course of the disease varies from person to person, but thanks to advanced medical science and research, most people with MS can now live a normal life.
This article will help you find the Multiple Sclerosis Diet and Nutrition that’s perfect for you. Keep reading to learn more.
What causes Multiple Sclerosis?
In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the cells responsible for the electrical signals between the brain and the body. When this happens, these cells are inflamed, causing symptoms affecting all body parts.
There is still no clear explanation as to why this occurs. According to studies, there are a lot of risk factors that can lead to multiple sclerosis. Dietary and nutrition factors are lack of exposure to sunlight, vitamin D deficiency, smoking, and teenage obesity.
Symptoms develop and can worsen over time when Multiple Sclerosis Diet and Nutrition are not met. Here are the classic MS signs and symptoms.
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Sensory loss
- Muscle cramping
- Problems with learning and planning
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction
- Scanning speech (inarticulation of words)
- Facial weakness (on both sides)
- Heat intolerance
- Depression and Bipolar Disorder
A single test cannot diagnose MS, but some are required to help confirm it. Your GP would request a neurological exam and an MRI scan to support the MS diagnosis. Blood tests are rarely requested to rule out vitamin deficiency as the case.
Treatment and Management
There may be no cure for multiple sclerosis yet, but certain medications have made it possible for patients to improve their quality of life. Rituximab is a drug that targets inflamed neurons in your brain, delaying the progression of MS.
Another one is ocrelizumab which has almost the same effect but is more favorable in terms of risk. These are not approved treatments for Multiple sclerosis as it only lessens the severity of symptoms. Management of MS may differ for every person. It involves managing its symptoms, delaying its progression, lessening the relapses, and rehabilitation leading to modifying the course of the disease.
Most experts agree that a healthy diet for MS management is essential due to its long-term effects on the nervous system. Not only can it eliminate certain risk factors of getting MS, but it can also affect how the disease progresses. The right Multiple Sclerosis diet and nutrition may help the patient’s general health and well-being in the long term.
Role of Multiple Sclerosis Diet and Nutrition
Many physicians have considered diet a form of management for MS. Its dietary risk factors like obesity and vitamin D deficiency can be addressed by a proper diet suitable for people with MS.
According to studies, addressing this also reduces inflammation, similar to the effect of the drugs mentioned above. Another benefit of diet on MS is its indirect effect on intestinal bacteria. These good bacteria can boost the immune system in its anti-inflammatory function.
Saturated Fats in Multiple Sclerosis
An increase in LDL or bad cholesterol in saturated fat intake is associated with poor outcomes in MS. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products. They directly induce inflammation in cells causing several downstream effects. A diet rich in short-chain fatty acids such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contradicts such effects.
Although it is still an ongoing study on a specific and best Multiple Sclerosis Diet and Nutrition for patients, it was proven that healthy eating habits show good results in MS delay. Dr. Pavan Bhargava of John Hopkins School of Medicine focuses on research on popular diets or eating plans that greatly benefit people with MS.
A swank diet is a low saturated fat diet proposed by Richard Swank to treat MS. Although it doesn’t treat MS, it has shown great benefits. Since it was proven that saturated fat affects MS progression as it increases the pro-inflammatory expression of cells, the Swank protocol can be recommended to people experiencing the disease.
This diet recommends not taking more than 20g of saturated fat daily. There should be no more than 50g of total fat consumed daily. The Swank diet includes olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil, which contain unsaturated fat.
Here are the recommended food portions by the Swank Diet.
- At least 2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day without restriction
- Shellfish and whitefish with no limit to portion size
- Fish with a less fat content like tilapia, pink salmon, cod, and flounder
- At least 2 servings of non-fat dairy found in cottage cheese and fat-free cheese
- Not more than one whole egg thrice in a week
- 4 servings of bread, rice, and pasta
- Not more than 3 caffeinated drinks per day
- Not more than 1 serving of liquor per day
- Vitamins A, C, and E should be strictly taken as supplementary, found in leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and red bell pepper
Or the “paleolithic diet” is one of the recommended diets for managing MS patients as it highlights the consumption of polyunsaturated fat and protein. PUFA or polyunsaturated fat like omega 3 and an ALA or alpha-linoleic acid have shown beneficial effects by decreasing inflammation and preventing demyelination, which is the direct cause of MS.
This diet focuses on the consumption of meats, fish, fruits, and nuts while avoiding grains, potatoes, beans, dairy products, sugar, and processed foods. If you’re planning to go on a Paleo diet, you can have meals such as broiled pork, beer sirloin, salads, and steamed vegetables.
The Mediterranean diet has not been studied much, but it is a diet low in saturated fats that fits the Multiple Ssclerosis diet and nutrition. It’s high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in fish, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables. Patients can greatly benefit from this diet, for it also gives protection for cognitive decline. It reduces the risk for other cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Additionally, it promotes weight loss, lesser risk of heart diseases, reduces blood sugar levels in diabetes patients, and decreases insulin resistance. An MS patient on the Mediterranean diet should eat eggs, poultry, and cheese in moderate amounts and a limit on sugar.
If you want to enjoy snacks but still stay within the Mediterranean diet, here are some ideas:
- Greek yogurt
- Nuts and mixed berries
- Slices of apple with almond butter
- Chia pudding
- Hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper
It is a weight loss diet plan proposed by Dr. John McDougall, which is unusual for it is starch based and high in carbohydrates. In fact, it is similar to a vegan diet because all animal products are to be avoided. The reasons are that animal products contain a high amount of fat, contribute to obesity, and increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.
People with MS will benefit greatly from this plant-based diet since most are also at risk for heart diseases and diabetes. Based on the diet plans already mentioned, it is beneficial to lower fat consumption, especially saturated ones.
According to a study in Oregon, a year of being on the McDougall diet resulted in people with MS with lesser fatigue due to lesser cholesterol and insulin level.
The proposed consumption of calories by the McDougal diet is around 70-80% from foods like whole grains and root crops. Eating brown rice, white bread, pasta, sweet potato, herbs, and beans is ideal for this diet. Meanwhile, meat, fish, dairy products, and fats should be avoided.
This dietary protocol is designed and most recommended for patients with neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s Disease and MS. It’s a high protein, high fiber, and rich in omega 3 diet that helps reduce inflammation by supporting the neurons in our brain. A person with MS on Wahls Diet can eat a lot of fish and meat but not dairy, eggs, grains, and foods with sugar content.
Wahls Multiple Sclerosis Diet and Nutrition for patients focuses on consuming vitamins and minerals such as carotenoids and vitamin K that support neuron health. Retinol-rich foods in Wahls are good for immune function, which in turn is good for the slow progression of the disease.
This diet has three levels to make it easier for patients to adapt.
- Level One Wahls – No dairy but 9-10 cups of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Level Two Wahls – No more grains. Limited consumption of carbohydrates and beans. Include fermented foods.
- Level Three – No potatoes and beans. More berries than fruits. Limit meals to twice a day with a long fast.
Recipes for People with Multiple Sclerosis
These mentioned diets may be restrictive even for healthy people, which is why some would still modify their meal plans according to their liking. People already dealing with a condition like multiple sclerosis have the most right to enjoy their food.
Since diet plays a huge role in managing their condition, their meals are something that must be focused on by those who aid in taking care of them. Here are some recipes that people with multiple sclerosis can enjoy, according to Overcoming MS and MS Community.
Roasted Stuffed Peppers
- 1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
- 0.25 cup of tomato paste with basil
- 1 cup of whole grain basmati rice
- 100g of chickpeas
- Chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Cook rice, then set aside.
- Prepare the peppers. Scrape out the seed and place them in a baking pan.
- Mix the cooked rice, chickpeas, and chopped parsley. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper.
- SUe the mixture as a filling to the peppers, then put them in the oven.
- Bake for 25-30 mins.
- Serve hot with salad.
Baked Salmon with Mango Salsa
- 120g salmon fillet portions with the skin already removed
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander
- Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F.
- Put the salmon on a baking pan with greaseproof paper.
- Zest the lemon and squeeze out its lemon juice.
- Inside a zip lock bag, mix 1 tablespoon of lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of love oil.
- Coat the salmon with this mixture and marinade for 30 minutes.
- Put the remaining lime juice in a separate bowl, then mix with the onion.
- Mix diced mango in the bowl.
- Season it with salt and pepper.
- Place the salmon into the baking pan.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- When the salmon is already opaque, serve it with the mango salsa. It can be eaten with crusty bread and green salad.
Spinach Salad with Maple Soy Chicken
- 12oz chicken breast
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
For the dressing:
- 1 teaspoon grapeseed or avocado oil
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
For the salad:
- 5 oz baby spinach
- 16oz sliced baby Bella mushrooms
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- Mix soy sauce and maple syrup in a bowl.
- Place the chicken into the mixture. Make sure it is coated well. Then set it aside.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl.
- Combine all the salad ingredients in a serving bowl.
- Cook the chicken on medium to medium-low heat for 5 minutes on each side.
- Cool down for 5-10 minutes, then slice into bite-sized strips.
- Combine the salad and dressing.
- Place the chicken.
Before recommending or taking on any Multiple Sclerosis diet and nutrition plan, you must consider which foods you are allergic to. There would never be a diet that fits everyone, so people with MS should still consult their physician before changing dietary habits.
Among these diet plans, the Swank and Wahls’ diet has been proven to improve people with MS’s energy and quality of life. It is uncertain though if these diets directly affect fatigue which is the more global symptom of MS. Despite these uncertainties, one thing was made clear, adopting healthy eating habits makes longevity a possibility despite this detrimental disease.