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Multiple sclerosis and nutrition

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition that belongs to the diseases related to the marrow. It is usually characterised by recurrent focal attacks of the central nervous system (CNS). But how is multiple sclerosis related to diet?

Evgenia Ioannidou

Evgenia Ioannidou

Nutrition & Dietetics at the Alexandreio Institute of Technology in Thessaloniki

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition that belongs to the diseases related to the marrow. It is usually characterised by recurrent focal attacks of the central nervous system (CNS). But how is multiple sclerosis related to diet?

The nutritional status of MS patients is a topic that, even if it has not been fully studied, there are some data in which the phenomenon of malnutrition is very often found. This malnutrition results from the lack of appetite that patients experience due to the numerous effects on their body. The weakening of the immune system along with the muscular weakness that occurs, all these together negatively affect the mental state of people with MS. The above findings therefore indicate the importance of proper nutritional nourishment in patients with MS.

In what way does proper nutrition act on people with MS?

Nutrition can contribute to the management of the disease in a number of ways, including preventing or controlling its progression, helping to manage its symptoms and reducing flare-ups.

What form-constitution diet is active in MS?

A MS-friendly diet needs to be rich in:

  • Antioxidants: to fight inflammation (fruits, vegetables, tea).
  • Dietary fibre: to help bowel movements (cereals, wholemeal products).
  • Calcium and vitamin D : to fight osteoporosis (milk, fish, eggs).
  • Vitamins and minerals : to fight fatigue and promote well-being.

Some evidence suggests that other dietary regimes, including the ketogenic diet, may help improve symptoms in people with MS. However, this research is ongoing and scientists need to further investigate the role of diet in MS.

Guidelines for an MS-friendly diet are similar to an overall healthy and balanced diet. However, there is an emphasis on eating more plant foods and cereals.

This is because plant foods and cereals are higher in fibre, vitamins, minerals and fluids. All of these can help with the symptoms of the disease, such as constipation, fatigue and bladder dysfunction. They also have antioxidants, essential elements to protect your cells from free radical damage and inflammation and thus potentially slow down the progression of MS. They are also higher in plant compounds that act as antioxidants, which are molecules that help protect your cells from free radical damage and inflammation. These compounds can help fight inflammation and potentially slow the progression of MS.

Fish, particularly oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, appear to be beneficial for MS, probably because they are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. They are also high in vitamin D, which can help keep your bones strong when combined with calcium.

What foods to avoid if you have MS?

While a disease-friendly diet allows for many healthy, delicious options, there are certain food groups you should limit to manage MS symptoms. Most of these foods are associated with chronic inflammation. They include processed meats, refined carbohydrates, trans fats and sugary drinks, etc.

More specifically :

  • Processed meats: sausages, bacon, canned meats, smoked meats, deli meats
  • Simple carbohydrates: white bread, pasta, biscuits and tortillas
  • Fried foods: French fries, fried potatoes, fried chicken, etc.
  • Trans fats: margarine, fat and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (palm oil)
  • Sugary drinks: energy and sports drinks, soda and packaged tea
    Alcohol: in whatever form it is found. It is advisable to limit it considerably, or when this is not possible to avoid mixing it with various sugary drinks.

General conclusion

There are still no official dietary guidelines for multiple sclerosis. However, it is advisable to keep in mind that just changing your eating habits is very important. It can help to relieve the symptoms that occur. It can also even help to improve the overall quality of life that you are having. Therefore, it is advisable to follow the general guidelines for the Mediterranean diet and avoid highly processed products on the market.

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