Multiple Sclerosis – What to Eat & What to Avoid

We all know that managing multiple sclerosis is not an easy task. Everything from medications, performing exercises, and maintaining positive mental health becomes essential. However, while balancing physical activities, we often overlook the most important thing—our diet. 

Diet has a vital role in treating multiple sclerosis, which is why you must know what you should eat and what needs to be avoided. To understand the importance of diet in multiple sclerosis, you should first understand what happens in your body if you have multiple sclerosis.

What happens in Multiple Sclerosis?

Our body’s immune system is designed to fight the harmful organisms that attack our bodies, such as viruses, bacteria, etc. However, in Multiple Sclerosis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own body, especially the widely distributed nerves in your body.

This attack by your body’s immune system damages the covering of the nerves, i.e., Myelin, and the function of these nerves is disrupted.

These nerves are responsible for many functions such as movement, vision, balance, etc., and when the nerve gets damaged, its function is affected. As the name (Multiple Sclerosis) indicates, this damage occurs at multiple sites in your body; hence different symptoms are seen, such as muscle weakness, loss of balance, visual problems, etc.


The connection between Diet and Multiple Sclerosis

As mentioned above, multiple sclerosis occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the outer covering of your nerves, i.eMyelin, a diet that affects your immune system, also affects the progression of this disease.

  • Some diets support and protect your nerves (or nervous system), and they can help minimize the relapsing episodes.
  • Some vitamin deficiencies can weaken your nervous system, and they can indirectly worsen your symptoms.
  • A healthy diet improves the overall well-being, and hence the ability to fight several diseases together with multiple sclerosis is increased.
  • Some bacteria are naturally present in your gut, and they play a beneficial role in your body in several ways. Both healthy and unhealthy diets have effects on these bacteria.

As diet is closely linked with multiple sclerosis episodes and symptoms, one must be very careful in choosing his/her diet if one has multiple sclerosis.

Foods you should eat.

Now, when you understand the importance of diet in multiple sclerosis, let’s have a look at the foods you should eat.

white and green labeled cans

Probiotics and Prebiotics

As mentioned earlier, there are some beneficial bacteria present in your gut. These bacteria are responsible for breaking up food and nutrients, and they also help in the digestion process.

Probiotics are foods that contain these beneficial bacteria. Eating these foods increases the number of these beneficial bacteria in your body. These foods include

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Fermented tea

A diet that promotes the growth of such beneficial bacteria in your gut is known as the probiotic diet. This type of diet mainly contains fiber. These foods include:

  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes

Fiber

The fiber in your diet helps nourish your gut bacteria, manages your blood cholesterol levels, and reduces the risks of obesity. Recommended foods for fiber are as follows.

  • Vegetables
  • Legumes (e.g. Lentils)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole grains

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for improving bone health in multiple sclerosis patients. Vitamin D can be achieved by appropriate exposure to sunlight, but certain foods can also help gain it.

  • Fortified Dairy Products
  • Yogurt
  • Orange Juice
  • Egg Yolks

Vitamin B

Vitamin B or biotin has a vital role in minimizing the episodes of relapsing multiple sclerosis, and one can gain it by following foods.

  • Eggs
  • Yeast
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Whole-wheat bread

Others

Other important components of a beneficial diet for multiple sclerosis patients include fruits, vegetables, herbs, polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, etc.

Foods you should avoid

Just like some foods protect and support your nervous system, some foods have a terrible effect on your already compromised nervous system in multiple sclerosis patients.

Besides this, some foods are not suitable for your muscles and bone health, and as they are already weakened in multiple sclerosis, you should avoid these foods.

Let’s have a look at the foods you need to avoid if you have multiple sclerosis.

Saturated Fats

Unlike polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s), foods containing saturated fats are not suitable for health, especially for those already fighting neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Foods with a high amount of saturated fats are as follows.

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Palm and coconut oil
  • Red meat, etc.

Sodium

A high amount of sodium in the body can result in elevated blood pressure (hypertension), and hypertension can increase heart disease and stroke risks.

A study done in 2015 showed that people with multiple sclerosis who have high sodium levels in their bodies are more prone to experience relapsing symptoms of this disease. [1]

Foods containing high levels of sodium are as follows.

  • Salted or canned meat
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Sausages
  • Canned entrees
  • Beets

Sugary Foods     

Just like a high amount of salt is not suitable for your body, foods containing a high amount of sugar also negatively affect your well-being.

A high amount of sugar or glucose in your body can affect the nerves in your body (neuropathy) and decrease their function. As nerves are already damaged in multiple sclerosis, a high amount of sugar in the body can be damaging to your health.

Foods containing a high amount of sugar are as follows.

  • Ketchup
  • Yogurt
  • Chocolate
  • Cola
  • Fruit Juice
  • BBQ sauce

Fried Foods

Foods fried in a high amount of oil can also be damaging to the health of multiple sclerosis patients. In addition, when a person has a neurological disease and their body is busy fighting that condition, chances of getting affected by other diseases are also increased.

Oily and fried foods increase the amount of bad cholesterol in the body. This increased cholesterol can result in several heart diseases. It can also result in stroke if the blood supply of your brain is interrupted or blocked.

Most commonly used fried foods include fish, fries, chicken strips, and cheese sticks, but a person can deep fry any food.

Final Words

If you have multiple sclerosis, you should eat foods beneficial for your nervous and musculoskeletal (muscles and bones) system and avoid foods that can increase the risks of other diseases.

REFERENCES

1. Riccio, P. and R. Rossano, Nutrition facts in multiple sclerosis. ASN neuro, 2015. 7(1): p. 1759091414568185.

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