The Importance of Keeping Your Gut Healthy When You Have MS

Last updated: September 2018

The focus of my work is about living our best life within our abilities or feeling thankful for our blessings despite our difficulties. Lately I haven’t been taking my own advice. There’s a pity party going on in my head and I’m sitting at a table of one.

I’ve been hit with an exacerbation from the stresses of the past year. I’ve written about this so often that I’m surprised my laptop doesn’t automatically shut down.

A writer writes what they know

There’s a new kid in town and it’s a bacteria growing in my small intestine. Cramping, loss of appetite, pain and constant bouts of diarrhea have plagued me for months. My gastroenterologist concluded I need a strong antibiotic to wipe it out.

Costing over $1,500 for a two week supply, and being on Medicare with no supplementary plan, it took awhile to gain coverage for the medication. As I waited for the specialty pharmacy to battle it out with Medicare my body was battling it out with me.

I was forced to cancel plans, ate little, lost weight, stopped driving and danced with depression over illness and missing out on life.

This new symptom was further exacerbating my MS. I refused the steroids my neurologist offered (a medication that in the past made me feel worse before feeling better.) I was doing my best to rest, meditate, work and de-stress.

But the problem with my gut was making walking and living life even more difficult and I was miserable.

Research on gut bacteria and MS

Fortunately, the MS medical community has shown interest in the link between gut bacteria and MS. Take a look at some of their work:

  1. According to a June 2016 article in Science Daily called “Link between gut bacteria, MS discovered: MS patients show lower levels of good bacteria” it was found that “Researchers are now saying bad gut bacteria -- or an insufficient amount of good bacteria -- may have a direct link to multiple sclerosis.” It was found that MS patients have a different microbiome (gut microbiome is the term used for the gastrointestinal system) than healthy peers, but further research is needed.
  2. According to an article appearing in Multiple Sclerosis News Today titled “Gut Bacteria: Key to MS,” published on May 18th, 2015 says “Some scientists believe that differences in the type of bacteria found in the gut may underlie neurological disease. In fact, it has been suggested by some that gut bacteria may interact with the immune system, in turn affecting autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS).”
  3. According to a recent opinion paper titled “The Gut Microbiome in Multiple Sclerosis” published in the April 2015 issue of “Current Options in Neurology” Daniel Mielcarz, PhD and Lloyd Kasper, MD state “Preliminary clinical trials aimed at modulating the gut microbiota in MS patients are underway and may prove to be a promising and lower-risk treatment option in the future.” Let’s hope so.
  4. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is funding The MS Microbiome Consortium which will analyze gut bacteria in MS patients to “determine factors that may drive progression and to develop probiotic strategies for stopping progression.”
  5. The NMSS article titled Gut Bacteria Differ in People with MS and May Respond to Disease-Modifying Therapies, Say Researchers Co-Funded by the National MS Society” further states:
  • Harvard researchers found significant differences between the gut bacteria of people with MS and without MS, and also between treated and untreated people with MS.
  • The differences included increases in bacteria associated with inflammation in people with MS, and suggestions that treatment may help “normalize” some of the MS-related changes seen in gut bacteria.
  • This study adds to growing evidence of the possible influence of gut bacteria on immune activity. Further study is needed to determine whether alterations in the gut microbiome play a role in MS disease activity, or are a consequence of it.
  • This study was funded by the National MS Society, the National Institutes of Health and the Harvard Digestive Disease Center.
  • The team (Drs. Sushrut Jangi, Howard L. Weiner, and colleagues from Harvard’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston) has published results in Nature Communications (Published online June 28, 2016).

Hoping antibiotics help

For now, I’m taking a two-week course of Xifaxan (rifaximin), an antibiotic that fights bacterial infection in the intestines. In addition, I’m taking a probiotic (Culturelle) to fight symptoms caused by antibiotics and to help curb diarrhea. (In general, probiotics are living microorganisms taken to replenish the “good” bacteria to help our bodies stay healthy. Speak to your healthcare provider about taking probiotics as part of a daily regimen.)

I hope studies about gut microbiome and MS are not just a fad and the medical community discovers a way for MS patients to keep good bacteria in our system and protect us from bad bacteria.

Let’s keep a good thought. I sure will.

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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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