How Nutritional Therapy Can Slow Down Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one complicated disease. The causes are unknown, it’s not inherited, and there isn’t one test to diagnose it. Symptoms look different for everyone and range from mild to severe. Needless to say, MS is a mysterious one. And while there isn’t a cure, nutritional therapy can significantly control the symptoms. Food is medicine, as they say.

But what does that look like for such an unpredictable disease? For MS, it’s more than just “eating well.” It’s about focusing and avoiding specific nutrients for life-long, natural management.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is inflammation of the central nervous system

MS is an inflammatory condition of the central nervous system. The body’s immune system attacks myelin, a fatty substance that protects nerves. In turn, the brain can’t communicate with other parts of the body.1

Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop MS than men. And when they do? Symptoms show up between the ages of 20 and 40, often starting with vision problems. Blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, and blindness are common. From there, it can progress into muscle weakness and poor coordination. About 50% suffer from cognitive issues like lack of focus and memory difficulties.2 3

Nutritional Therapy For Multiple Sclerosis

1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D reduces inflammation

In the world of MS, vitamin D has caused quite the buzz. Low levels are actually linked to the progression of inflammatory diseases! Specifically, the active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, has anti-inflammatory properties.4

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to have vitamin D deficiency. Not many foods naturally have it, so the body needs moderate exposure to sunlight. The skin can synthesize vitamin D even when sunscreen is applied. But what if you live in a place where winters are long and days are short? Focus on the few foods that are rich in vitamin D. Cod liver oil is the top source, but fatty fish, mushrooms, and eggs are great options. With your doctor’s permission, supplements will also help.5

2. Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps with the psychiatric effects of MS

Did you know that vitamin D needs vitamin A to work its anti-inflammatory magic? The latter helps vitamin D bind to necessary receptors. Without both, increasing intake is pointless.6

As an antioxidant, vitamin A will also help with the psychiatric side effects of MS. It’s been shown to reduce fatigue and depression, proving its role in nutritional therapy. Lycopene is your best bet. Tomato, watermelon, and pink grapefruit are excellent sources.7 8

3.
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Fiber

High-fiber diets control inflammation

Low-fiber diets are associated with inflammation. Increasing intake is a great idea for anyone, but for patients with MS, the perks are even more. It’s actually one of the major dietary suggestions for controlling symptoms. Opt for whole grains like bran and oats. You can also get fiber from fruits – especially prunes – and veggies.9 10

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids control neuroinflammation

The anti-inflammatory powers of omega-3 fatty acids will help MS, too. They specifically act on enzymes that control neuroinflammation, and therefore, might improve motor function. Fatty fish like salmon and cod are delicious options. Be mindful of your omega-3/omega-6 ratio. Too much omega-6 can actually induce inflammation, so MS patients should take heed. Seed oils are particularly high in omega-6, making soybean, sesame, sunflower, and corn oils off-limits.11

5. Probiotics

Probiotics reduce inflammation

Probiotics are important for everyone. But if you have MS, these “good bacteria” can reduce inflammation in the colon, helping improve control of bowel functions. Lactococcus lactis, Bifidobacterium lactis, and clostridium butyricum are highly recommended. Before buying probiotic food, always check the label.12

6.
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Fruit And Vegetables

Fruits and veggies contain anti-oxidative polyphenols

Aside from fiber and vitamin A, fruit and veggies offer anti-oxidative polyphenols. These plant chemicals are associated with a slower progression of MS!13 They’ll downregulate synthesis of pro-inflammatory molecules, maintain a healthy gut, and regulate enzymes needed for oxidative stress.14

What Multiple Sclerosis Patients Should Avoid

What Multiple Sclerosis Patients Should Avoid

People with MS should avoid what everyone else should. And these are foods that increase inflammation. This includes the typical high-calorie Western diet, characterized by the following foods:15

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  • Animal fat
  • Red meat
  • Sugary drinks
  • Fried food
  • High-salt foods
  • Low-fiber foods

On top of it all, be sure to drink lots of water. The University of Maryland Medical Center shares that 2 quarts of water daily is the common suggestion. This will help avoid constipation and, again, promote better control of bowel movements.16

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