What Should Be on the Menu (Literally) for MS Patients?
Last updated: March 2023
As a caregiver who helps my wife navigate through a multitude of complex MS issues and decisions, it has become apparent that pinpointing the best diet is one of the trickier tasks. There is an abundance of information and misinformation that can cause confusion and frustration. (Searching “MS diet” produced millions of results.)
An overview of diets for MS
This article attempts to provide a simple, helpful summary of potential diets for MS patients.
The Wahls Protocol
First, we should consider the diets that have been promoted to control or modify the disease. The Wahls Protocol Diet is a Paleo-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, sulfur-rich foods, and protein from meat and fish, with no dairy. It is popular because physician Terry Wahls, who suffers from secondary progressive MS, regained her ability to walk while adhering to this diet. However, Dr. Wahls was also treated with electrical stimulation of muscles, so it is unclear to what extent the diet may have contributed to her improvement.3,4
The Swank Diet
The Swank Diet is low in fat (read: little to no butter or margarine or red meats) and emphasizes whole-grain breads and pasta, fruits/vegetables, and some seafood. While there has been some research on the Swank diet and MS, more is needed to draw actual conclusions on whether it has any effect.5
The Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic Diet is a strict diet that minimizes carbohydrates. Again, there's not enough evidence to suggest it affects MS.5
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet promotes consumption of vegetables, fruits, fish, beans, and nuts, among other things. This diet has not been found specifically helpful in fighting MS symptoms, but some experts recommend it because it is nutritionally sound.5
What diet does the National MS Society recommend?
The National MS Society suggests that there is no "best diet" and says more research needs to be done. Positive changes to diet, however, can improve overall health, and that can be important for the long-term health of the nervous system. Preparing meals at home, eating fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed foods may help with overall health.1
General diet & nutrition thoughts
While I am a health fanatic and not a dietician, I feel that adding fruits and vegetables to a diet (as the National MS Society suggests) can be a good idea. If you're thinking about following a specific diet, consider how rigid it is and whether it may be difficult to keep up in the long-run. Also, if you're able, try to combine exercise with good diet, even if you can only walk a short distance or at a slow pace.
What tips do you have for MS patients who want to eat healthy?
Editor's note: If you have any concerns or questions about your diet and how it affects your MS, you should always consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional. Likewise, always consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or nutrition program.
Do you ever have moments where you question your self worth because of your MS?