Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

A New Study on Using Food as Medicine for People with MS

There’s been a lot of buzz about a small clinical trial about diet and MS. Dr. Ilana Katz Sand, a neurologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is conducting a small study on using food as medicine – the relationship between what we eat, the gut and MS symptoms – and how this may help combat MS symptoms. Dr. Katz believes the bacteria living inside our immune system has far reaching implications throughout our body, so she’s put 30 patients on a strict Mediterranean Diet – lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and eliminating processed foods, dairy, and meat.

Why the Mediterranean diet?

She believes the foods in this diet contains anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties that may reprogram the immune system and slow down the assault on itself.

Many patients have reported feeling more energy. Quality of life, blood pressure, and weight loss are also being studied. The full results will not be available for several months.

In the meantime, it’s important for all of us to avoid certain foods that may trigger symptoms of MS. In general, it’s good to eat a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, and eat low-fat protein and dairy to increase the time between relapses and promote overall good health.

Food as medicine

A poor diet can increase disease activity so it’s important for everyone to use food as medicine.

Saturated Fats: Avoid saturated fats that come from animal-based food such as full-fat dairy products and red meat. Palm and coconut oils are loaded with saturated fats. Saturated fats can put you at a higher risk for heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke and can raise your bad cholesterol that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Trans Fats: Check food labels! Commercially baked cookies, pies or other packaged goods will list trans fats as an ingredient. Another clue are the words partially hydrogenated oils or shortening. Stay away from these. Eating them may lead to cardiovascular disease.

Cow’s Milk: Some studies have shown that cow’s milk may be harmful to people with MS, but the jury is still out. If you do give up milk make sure to eat other healthy sources of protein, calcium and Vitamin D.

Sugar: Lots of sugar in the diet can add pounds, and that’s something you want to avoid, especially with mobility issues. Excess weight can increase fatigue, so ease up on your consumption of sugar. You’ll be glad you did.

Salt:  According to an April 2015 article in Neurology, a higher intake of sodium is associated with increased disease activity. So think twice before using that salt shaker.

Refined Grains: Hold back on white! White flour, white rice, and white bread are all unhealthy choices because they are processed foods that can elevate blood sugar and hurt the heart. Dealing with MS is enough to handle. Adding heart disease is something we’d all like to avoid.

Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, something people with celiac disease must avoid. Yet some people without celiac disease feel healthier and more energetic after removing gluten from their diet. This has been working for me, removing the pain and trauma of gut issues that may or may not have been directly related to my MS. It’s been a godsend and gave my life back to me.

NOTE: Before starting any diet please consult with your physician.

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.


  • Anonymouse
    2 years ago

    I agree with Monk. I ate a very healthy diet growing up, and continue to do so (also, I’ve never smoked). I still have MS.

    Certainly, patients who eat processed foods will feel better after a change to a healthier diet. This shouldn’t be surprising, however.

    It’s unfortunate that an unintended result of the diet studies seems to be that the general public have started to assume that all MS patients eat poorly.

  • Monk
    2 years ago

    Hi Cathy, I do appreciate your article but from my own personal experience I’m very skeptical about “Using Food as Medicine for People with MS”. I have eaten a healthy diet since I was a kid. My mom didn’t use process foods way before any of us knew what that was. As I look at the list of what not to eat I have to laugh. With the exception of gluten I have done everything that the list advises and this was way before MS reared its ugly head. I eat lots of fruit and veggies, whole grains, low sugar, low sodium, etc. While I do believe it has helped my overall health, but from my experience it has not had an impact on my MS. At some point I will try gluten free. Forgive my skepticism but will a gluten free diet enable me to walk again? If it does I will shout it from the roof tops.
    I do encourage others to eat a healthy diet. If it helps your MS that’s awesome but if it doesn’t please don’t blame yourself.

  • kitminden
    2 years ago

    I do eat coconut oil. I believe it is important. From Dr Axe it is made of a healthy fat called a medium-chain fatty aci.

    Unlike long-chain fatty acids found in plant-based oils, MCFAs are:

    Easier to digest
    Not readily stored as fat
    Antimicrobial and antifungal
    Smaller in size, allowing easier cell permeability for immediate energy
    Processed by the liver, which means that they’re immediately converted to energy instead of being stored as fat

  • Poll