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Is There A Connection Between Food and Multiple Sclerosis?

Is There A Connection Between Food and Multiple Sclerosis?

Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.” ~Robert Redford

I never make New Year’s Resolutions, but instead make goals for myself to reach in the coming year.  This year my first one is to lose weight, which will, in turn, help me feel healthier.

Trying to reach these goals when you have a disease like Multiple Sclerosis always seems as if the deck is stacked against you.

While thinking about food, I came across an article about a possible relationship between what you put into your mouth and how it may affect your MS.

While visiting The Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis in New York City for my regular MS checkup, I picked up their free “MS Interactions” magazine.  Their lead article talked about a small study they are conducting on whether the intestinal micro biome (microorganisms) in our gastrointestinal system (and how they are influenced by diet) might be important in the development of MS as well as its course, severity and responses to treatment.  (Click here for more details)

Up until now there haven’t been any rigorous studies conducted on whether changes in the diet could be beneficial to MS.  With the help of a grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the preliminary data gathered from this small study can be carried over into a larger one to find answers about the correlation between diet and MS.

When I was diagnosed in 1987 I immediately started reading books by Dr. Andrew Weil, a medical doctor and naturopath who founded the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.  He believed that a diet rich in high fiber, whole foods and “good” fats paved the way toward optimal health, and counteracted chronic inflammation. Over the years, I’ve tried to follow his anti-inflammatory diet as best as I can.    (See Dr. Weil’s “Full Pyramid” for more information)

(NOTE: Since I was diagnosed in 1987 there have been many other claims as to which is the “best” diet, e.g. gluten free, vegan, McDougall Program, Swank Diet.  For the purpose of this article I am only offering what I have personally followed.)

So far I’ve done well by following Dr. Weil’s advice, and while I try my best to follow it, I feel good knowing there is something that is within my control.  Something I can be in charge of.  As everyone with MS knows, our disease can have a mind of its own. With our diet, at least we can control what we do and don’t eat.

If someday they find a definite correlation between food and MS, and we learn what to eat and what not to eat, we will finally be in charge of our MS. Won’t that be grand?

Whenever that study finds conclusive evidence, I’m hoping they find that chocolate, ice cream and croissants are good for us.  Hey, I can dream, can’t I?
Do you follow a specific food program?  If so, is it helpful?

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

  • Rosa
    5 years ago

    Changing my diet has had a profound affect on my health. I’ve been on a high carb low cat diet for the past 2 years and I’ve been symptom free ever since. About 90 percent of my diet is fruit and I love it. When I was diagnosed about 2.5 ears ago I was having problems with walking and balance, I couldn’t write (loss of fine motor skills), I couldn’t speak without slurring, the majority of my body was numb, and I was experiencing terrible fatigue. Not to mention the ms hug, which would come randomly and was incredibly painful, so much so that I couldn’t straighten out my body without feeling like I was pulling my body apart. After only a few weeks on the diet all of my symptoms disappeared and I’ve been happier than I’ve ever been. I’m a college student, 21, but I really don’t think it has anything to do with my age, but who knows. My lesions are shrinking according to my MRIs yet my doctor stresses that I take medicine because I won’t be so lucky in the future. I’ve only received negativity from doctors and no one has faith in my diet but I jus feel so good! I really wish everyone on here would try this diet before you knock it. As long as you get enough calories you’ll have an unbelievable amount of energy. I really do hope someone reads this and tries the diet n benefits from it.

    Ps my blood tests are perfect 😉

  • Nick
    5 years ago

    I always thought that losing weight would have a impact on my MS symptoms. I mean how could losing weight not help with fatigue. I have lost more than 16% of my body weight and can’t tell a difference. I still have a long way to go probably need to be between 40 and 50% loss to be satisfied but I really hoped that weighing less would mean feeling better. I am as tired as ever and just went through another flare up of optic neuritis that hopefully won’t come back anytime soon. Maybe I don’t eat the right things or take enough vitamin supplements but come on more than 80lbs. down should make me feel better. Eating healthier isn’t a magic bullet but I still plan on losing more because maybe someday it will make a difference with something.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Good for you on losing the weight! It’s a life long struggle for me, so I know about dieting and healthier eating. One suggestion would be to talk to a nutritionist to make sure you are eating the right foods. Just a suggestion.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Sproutsandstilton
    5 years ago

    I think without a doubt; yes! I was diagnosed in 2007 and have no symptoms today. I didn’t just use food to get better but vitamins (b12 is key for me), exercise, changing my mindset to a positive one, visualisations and the placebo effect. My whole MS story about how I got I’ll and how I got better can be found on my blog http://sproutsandstilton.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/my-ms-story-part-2-healing-and-recovery/

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing! I look forward to reading your story.

    Cathy

  • melissa725
    5 years ago

    Will changing your diet help things come back or just prevent new issues? Ever since my diagnosis 4 years ago my right arm and hand is completely numb. After several steroid treatments that is the one thing that has never come back. Also when I was diagnosed I was in my best health ever, I had just lost 60 lbs and was exercising almost daily and eating healthy. That just sucks

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    While eating right can help you in many areas, and it is highly recommended for anyone with MS, the issues you describe need to be addressed by your physician.

    MS is unpredictable and every case is different.

    While I am not a medical person, I can tell you that eating right goes a long way toward helping you feel better and fight illness (like the flu and colds).

    Having the proper nutrients in your body can help you fight your way toward feeling better. But it is not a replacement for medications.

    Try to stay positive, research supplements and medications, talk with your doctor and BREATHE. Try some meditation!

    I hope this helps, and I wish I could say eating well will cure MS. Unfortunately that simply isn’t the truth, but keeping yourself healthy by eating right is one important way to fight MS.

    Please keep us posted, melissa725.

  • cbrinkley
    5 years ago

    Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I thought I would get some sort of alert when there were more responses. Cathy, the Best Bet Diet is pretty much the same thing as the MS Recovery Diet that Inspiration is following (yay, go Inspiration!). You can get tons of info here: http://www.direct-ms.org
    Inspiration, if you haven’t done an ELISA test, I would highly recommend it. It’s a blood test to detect food intolerances that trigger an antibody response – not the same thing as a true allergy that triggers the histamine response. There may be something in the diet that you specifically should not be eating, that can really hinder your results & progress. Are you taking supplements too? Lots of Vitamin D alone can really help. There was a study out of University of Toronto a few years ago that showed that folks with MS who took an average of 14,000IU/day had significantly less relapses. I take several other supplements as well, but Vitamin D is the biggie!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing that information, chrinkley. I appreciate you taking the time to write it.

    And, yes, I do take lots of D. It’s all the rage!

    Thanks again, and all the best to you~
    Cathy

  • Sonya
    5 years ago

    Cathy,
    Another great article with food for thought….sorry I couldn’t resist 😉
    I have asked my neurologist several times about diet, to which I have always received, a rather generic response,”healthy eating is a key component to good health”,kind of thing.
    I, as zenhead, am carrying extra pounds which I need to shed, but the reality of not being able to exercise as I once did, is definitely a hindrance. I was diagnosed with IBS a few months back, so I have been playing the “blame game” with what does & does not cause symptoms, concerning the IBS.
    I do try to eat much healthier than before I was diagnosed, no red meat, very little sweets, junk food etc. I do plan to check out Dr. Weil’s diet.
    As always, thanks for the info. I do hope you have managed well during the recent “winter event” 🙂
    I must say I agree with Robert Redford…he’s not only good looking, he’s smart!! 😉

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    You are more than welcome, Sonya! You are doing everything right – trying this and trying that. There is no one, absolutely way of proper eating while living with this strange disease called MS. We’re all plugging away trying to find what best works for us.

    My hubby has IBS and stays away from vinegar and tomato sauce. He can have whole tomatoes, though. He find that taking Psyllium (Metamucil) 3x/day helps a lot. But, as I said, we are all different.

    Good luck to you, and thanks for sharing.

    Cathy

  • zenhead
    5 years ago

    i was doing Atkins, which (perhaps just coincidentally) led to pneumonia, which led (also perhaps coincidentally, tho i don’t think so) led to my MS dx. i tried Swank (tho probably not as closely as i should have), and currently i am just trying to eat healthfully in general, and limiting calories (everything i’ve read/heard tells me weight is a matter or calories in vs. calories out) in an attempt to lose some weight, since i can’t really burn calories thru exercise. there are plenty of success stories, some diet-based, but, like with ms itself, everyone responds differently. my main concern is weight (carrying an extra 50 lbs. can’t be good), but i have not found an magic bullet there. i am sure that, in some way, diet will affect my ms; just makes sense.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    I give you a lot of credit for trying to find what works for you. We all will keep searching until we find what is right for us.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us here, zenhead.

    Best~
    Cathy

  • cbrinkley
    5 years ago

    I have completely recovered from MS with the Best Bet Diet. I was diagnosed 6 years ago (Feb ’08) by MRI a few months after an attack of optic neuritis. By the time of the MRI I was having many other symptoms so I pretty much knew what was coming. It wasn’t as simple as just following the diet and supplement protocol. I kept a food diary for 4 years, and had several ELISA tests when I couldn’t pinpoint what I was reacting too. For several years, I was only “managing” the MS – if I ate something that caused an immune response, my symptoms came right back. After I learned about leaky gut syndrome and how to treat it, the real healing began. I’m a 41-year-old single mother of 2 boys and I play roller derby. People don’t believe me when I say I “used” to have MS.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    chrinkley,

    I’d love to hear more about our Best Bet Diet – I’ve never heard of it before.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Best~
    Cathy

  • inspiration
    5 years ago

    That is so wonderful you have successfully recovered from MS. I am currently on the MS Recovery Diet, which is a gluten free, dairy free, yeast free, legume free (the ones you are allergic to), and egg free diet. It has been about four months now, and it usually takes up to about nine to twelve months before you are symptom free, but I felt a big difference the one time I actually had gluten. It took five people to get me up the stairs, including my wife.

  • Michraf
    5 years ago

    I don’t follow a specific diet but have recently started eating healthier and gluten reduced (not gluten free, too much to think about and give up!). It has definitelt made a difference in how I feel.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    That’s wonderful, MIchraf. I’ve heard from others that a gluten free diet is working for them, too. So glad you have found something that works for you!

    Best~
    Cathy

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