The Importance of Keeping Your Gut Healthy When You Have MS

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.

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

Comments

View Comments (23)
  • westexer
    10 months ago

    Yogurt and cranberry juice as a regular part of my life made a much better difference in my life than any prescription medication did.

  • Sylvia V
    11 months ago

    I’m glad I have come across this article. So is taking probiotics good for us MSers?

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hi Sylvia,

    There is no general answer to your question since we all have MS differently and we react to medications in different ways. If you’re considering probiotics I suggest speaking to your doctor about it. Explain what your reasons are for taking them and have an open, honest discussion about them.

    Take care and best of luck~
    Cathy Chester

  • 24qyy18
    11 months ago

    Have you tried Plexus? Probiotic and gut flush

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    11 months ago

    No I have no 24qyy18. Has it worked for you?

    Thanks for reaching out. Best to you always~
    Cathy Chester

  • tfs
    2 years ago

    Thanks for this. I appreciate the additional comment from xfwls5: “Try using whole flax seed. I use a large water glass, water, stir, and place in the refrigerator overnight. Pretty simple and worth a try.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    11 months ago

    tfs,

    Thank you! I do use flax seeds when making smoothies, pancakes (gluten-free, of course), etc. I never heard about your method so perhaps I’ll give it a whirl!

    Thanks so much~
    Cathy Chester

  • tfs
    2 years ago

    Thanks for this. I appreciate the additional comment from xfwls5: “Try using whole flax seed. I use a large water glass, fill it about one third with whole flax seed, the rest of the way with water, stir, and place in the refrigerator overnight. I eat it like ice cream, spoon over yogurt, or granola.” Pretty simple and worth a try.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    Yes, I found that interesting too, tfs! I used to purchase flax seeds at the health food store and sprinkle them on my morning cereal or on yogurt but I stopped for some reason. Perhaps I should try that too. Don’t know what the difference is between doing that and what xfwls5 suggested but if it worked for her….GREAT!

    Cathy

  • xfwls5
    2 years ago

    After two bouts of sepsis in 18 months, my doctors determined the best way to treat my dysbiosis was FMT. I live in the States so it wasn’t possible to receive treatment here, in the foreseeable future, without a diagnosis of C-diff. We went to Buenos Aires, Argentina for one month to Newbery Medicine. Dr. Silvio Najt was still alive and I was privileged to receive treatment from him. The team is still in contact with me, and we have developed friendships that extend beyond my treatment. I now correspond with other FMT Newbery patients that are receiving care with Dr. Najt’s hand picked, personally trained, highly skilled and educated team. This week I had my first endoscopy since the FMT and my gut is 100%!
    Before departing for South America, I was advised to focus on my gut and not expect any change in the MS. Imagine my surprise when I no longer needed trekking poles, slept only 7-8 hours a night, stopped taking 2-3 hour naps everyday, began to have bladder control for the first time in years, and have returned to teaching two and a half days a week! I brought home 60 frozen specimens and continue self administered treatments. At this time my US based gastroenterologist has said to keep using the FMT for the MS, but I no longer require it for my gut. And my perscription bills have been cut to less than a quarter of last years.
    My diet is organic, gluten free, low sugar and heavily pre-biotic. I’ve been able to discontinue the costly probiotics and multiple dietary supplements. I’m back in the gym and strength training to recover some muscle strength. After thirty years of battling this disease, I’ve finally found a long term solution to the multitude of symptoms that doesn’t make me sacrifice any more than my gag reflex.
    I strongly, recommend FMT from wherever you can receive qualitative care from a physician headed clinic. Not one like the Taymount in England; instead there are three in Australia, and the Newbery in Argentina. We as a family chose Newbery because I could receive a level of treatment and care that met our expectations. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s been worth every penny we’ve sacrificed. We took a loan on my husband’s retirement to do this and have no regrets.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    Just answered my own question: “Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) is a new treatment that has been shown to be over 90% effective for treating C. difficile infection in patients who had previously failed to recover with antibiotic therapy. During FMT, a fecal preparation from a carefully screened, healthy stool donor is transplanted into the colon of the patient. There are multiple routes of administration (e.g., via colonoscopy, naso-enteric tube, capsules), each of which has unique risks and benefits. ” openbiome.org

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    I just answered my own question as found on openbiome: “Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) is a new treatment that has been shown to be over 90% effective for treating C. difficile infection in patients who had previously failed to recover with antibiotic therapy. During FMT, a fecal preparation from a carefully screened, healthy stool donor is transplanted into the colon of the patient. There are multiple routes of administration (e.g., via colonoscopy, naso-enteric tube, capsules), each of which has unique risks and benefits. “

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you and good for you! That is an amazing story xfwls5! What is FMT? I am not familiar with that. The cost might be prohibitive to fly and have the treatment but it certainly is worth considering against the cost of everything else you mentioned that you’ve saved on. Thank you for sharing this important story with us.

    Best~
    Cathy Chester

  • rnhviolin
    2 years ago

    This was a well research article, but add Terry Wahl’s work to your story. She is a person who has MS, is a doctor, and has written a fabulous book addressing the issue, “Wahl’s Protocol”. This will help that I am certain about, being a follower for the past 4 years! Good luck, roz

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    I am glad Terry Wahl’s worked for you so thank you for mentioning it! I have my own personal thoughts about that diet that will remain private. For now I know many people who successfully follow her advice. I am so glad it works for you. Thanks again. rnhviolin.

  • J R
    2 years ago

    I have suspected something about this for years. But when you have MS you are constantly trying to (HOPEFULLY) connect the dots somehow to a miraculous cause/cure. When I had my colonoscopy six years ago the doctor told me that he was sure he had seen a longer colon but he couldn’t remember when. It is very twisted too. Sometimes it can be 5-7 days before a bowel movement. Pre-Pro biotics. Always seems like too much information on any subject to take away just the good. I love Asparagus but about fifteen years ago my body stopped processing the asparagusic acid that gives asparagus its name. I was out on a business dinner and had asparagus soup and when I went pee holy Stromboli! I thought my liver had stopped working. Now its funny to look back on but the smell is still there. I’ll keep watching this for sure.. and hoping.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    JR I know there is so much to remember. And for me I have to be so careful what I eat. No citrus, tomatoes, fried (not a problem!), fatty, spicy, coffee (that one is hard), chocolate. I don’t eat red meat so my list is getting smaller and smaller. I think we do have to think of food as medicine along with whatever traditional or holistic therapies we follow/take. So we’ll keep sleuthing in the name of better health.

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    Best always~
    Cathy Chester

  • J R
    2 years ago

    Oh yeah. I take daily antibiotics to stop chronic UTI’s!!!

  • potter
    2 years ago

    I am just finishing a round of antibiotics for a ear infection. I started doing some research on prebiotics to rebuild my gut system after the antibiotics wiped it out. I found a lot of expensive prebiotic pills I could buy. I only found a few foods that would help one of them is raw asparagus and the other was chicory coffee. I love raw asparagus so that is easy and I’ll start looking for some chicory coffee. They say prebiotics a and probiotic work the best when taken together. Any advise of rebuilding your gut would be appreciated. Potter

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    I don’t know much about prebiotics. I’ve been taking probiotics for several years and only recently, very recently, heard about prebiotics. So I’m learning along with you.

    Perhaps you could post your question on our Facebook page so others could answer. I’ll be following along! Thanks so much for being a part of our community, potter!

    https://www.facebook.com/MultipleSclerosisDotNet/

  • xfwls5
    2 years ago

    Try using whole flax seed. I use a large water glass, fill it about one third with whole flax seed, the rest of the way with water, stir, and place in the refrigerator overnight. I eat it like ice cream, spoon over yogurt, or granola. I was given this recipe from Dr. Silvio Najt. Since that time I have had regular and appropriate bowel movements. I use it every morning and evacuate every evening. The concoction only lasts about 2-3 days, but I have determined how much I will consume at a time and adjust accordingly.

  • Lisa
    2 years ago

    Interesting. Thanks for this. Wishing you well.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you and good wishes to you as well, Lisa! Cathy Chester

  • Poll