You Are What You Eat: The Link Between MS and Our Gut

Last updated: June 2018

A few years ago I had my first bout with kidney stones. To say it was an unpleasant experience is like saying Cary Grant had a nice face.

Since then I’ve accumulated and passed several more stones. I’m prone to them. Most of my family, including two and three generations ago, have had them as well.

To (try and) avoid having any more stones I’ve learned what foods to avoid, those not rich in oxalates. These include spinach, baked potatoes with skin, french fries, cashews, raspberries and yams. (Click here for a list provided by The University of Chicago. Scroll down to click on the link for 180 high oxalate foods.)

(NOTE: One blog I enjoy, MS Diet for Women, is written by a woman named Kim who lives with MS. Her recent topic was gut health. Take a look at her piece by clicking here.)

We should be eating right not only to avoid kidney stones but also because gut health is important for better immune function. A lot of research is being done on finding the link between gut bacteria and MS.

Why? Because it's been found that people with MS have less good bacteria in their systems.

According to Ashutosh Mangalam, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, he and his team at the Mayo Clinic believe that people with MS have different microbiomes than those without MS:

"Although preliminary, our data suggests that patients with MS have reduced levels of good bacteria responsible for overall benefits obtained from consuming healthy foods, such as soybean and flaxseeds," says Mangalam, who is senior author on the study."

A July 2016 press release from Brigham and Women’s Hospital said researchers found clear evidence of the link between the gut and MS with hope of pursuing new therapies based on their findings:

“Our findings raise the possibility that by affecting the gut microbiome, one could come up with treatments for MS – treatments that affect the microbiome, and, in turn, the immune response,” said Howard L. Weiner, MD, director of the Partners MS Center and co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Disease at Brigham Women’s Hospital. “There are a number of ways that the microbiome could play a role in MS and this opens up a whole new world of looking at the disease in a way that it’s never been looked at before.”

There are other studies being conducted, including one about children and the disruption in their microbiota and another about a group of Japanese patients with RRMS.

Still another study found that people with MS had a reduced amount of proteins known as AHR in their blood, a protein involved in biological processes that includes inflammation.

As a community we’ll have to keep on top of more findings since the studies are in their infancy with no treatments available.

As Dr. Mangalam said, “Gut bacteria-based drugs - or Brugs - may be available in the near future to restore normal gut flora in the treatment of MS patients.”

Let’s keep hope in our hearts.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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