Menu

Diet and MS

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been living with MS for a long time or you’re newly diagnosed, diet and its impact on MS continues to be a topic of interest in the community.

You may have received advice from well-meaning friends and family and there’s often new articles or blogs on how diet and particular vitamins affect MS but it can be hard to know what works and what’s been proven.

There’s some simple key points that you can take away to help you to look after yourself as best you can. You can use this information to make positive lifestyle decisions and aim to be as well as humanly possible.

Things to consider

Dietary changes may have a positive impact on your MS but what we know for sure is, they will impact your general health – and the healthier you are the better you will manage with the things that MS throws your way.

If you’re thinking about changing your diet, there’s a couple of questions to consider as you go:

What am I expecting from a dietary change?

Can I stick to it (how will it impact your social life)?

Are you trying to manage MS or keep other things away?

 

The “keeping other things away” point is a very important one. Living with MS is challenging enough without having to managing another illness.

Reviewing and managing your diet can be more so about making sure you’re the healthiest version of yourself to avoid any other illness.

 

Good nutrition is important for everyone

Making positive changes to your diet and nutrition is good for anyone with MS. Most of us have some room for improvement in our diet to avoid potential future health complications.

When we talk about other health complications, this can include heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, Osteoporosis which in most cases are preventable. It is important to keep your body healthy to avoid health complications like this in addition to your MS.

As a person with MS, the development of any vascular comorbidity such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, can lead to an increased progression of MS.  For this reason, it is important to consider your nutrition choices and maintain a healthy body weight to reduce the risk of these conditions.

What food should I avoid?

One thing we know for sure, is that salt is not good, whether you add it yourself or it’s in the food you eat.

High salt diets have an impact on MS over a long period of time as it triggers an inflammatory response. It is not just the inflammatory response though; it is also salt’s impact on other health complications like heart disease etc.

Alcohol and Caffeine often come into the debate as well and the advice seems to be consistently changing. With alcohol and caffeine simply apply the moderation principle …. everything in moderation.

Is there a diet to help with MS?

There are a number of well-known people living with MS, such as Matt Embry, Terry Wahls, and George Jelinik, who have developed widely publicised dietary recommendations for MS.  Whilst none of these specific diets have been clinically proven to benefit people with MS, there may be some people who experience improvements after making adjustments to their diet.

 

We have a list of popular MS diets below:

Dr. Swank/Dr. Jelenik Diet

What is it? What does it remove? Possible deficiencies Evidence for MS Other diseases?
·  Low fat diet

·  Advocates reduction in saturated fats

·  Wholegrain cereals recommended

·  Two serves of fruit and vegetables daily

·  White fish, shellfish and trimmed poultry allowed

·  Low-fat dairy allowed

·  Small quantities of red meat permissible post-first year (Swank diet only)

 

·  Processed foods with saturated fats

·  High-fat dairy products

·  Red meat for first year

 

None expected. Possibly Vitamins A, C, E and folate Observational data from a single cohort of patients treated with the diet suggested an improvement in relapses and functional status.

*there was no control comparison group

 

None

Dr. Whal’s Protocol

What is it? What does it remove? Possible deficiencies Evidence for MS Other diseases?
·  Emphasises consumption of game meats (30-35% daily caloric intake) and plant foods (besides cereals)

·  Multiple daily servings of green, sulfur-rich and intensly colour fruit and vegetables

·  High intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids to target particular ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats

 

·  Processed foods

·  Domesticated meats and dairy

 

·  Folic acid

·  Thiamine

·  Vitamin B6

·  Calcium

·  Vitamin D

·  Insufficient caloric intake

 

Single observation study demonstrating possible improvement in fatigue in progressive MS.

*diet was bundled with other interventions and there was no comparison group.

 

Single study showed improvement in cardiovascular risk factors

 

Gluten Free Diet

What is it? What does it remove? Possible deficiencies Evidence for MS Other diseases?
Avoidance of all foods containing wheat, barley, triticales or their derivatives Foods containing wheat, barley or triticales or their derivatives None expected None Treatment for Celiac disease and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity

McDougall Diet

What is it? What does it remove? Possible deficiencies Evidence for MS Other diseases?
· High carbohydrate

· Low fat

· Low sodium vegan diet with cereals, potatoes and legumes as staples

· Fruits and vegetables are allowed in any amount

· Low sodium intake and small amounts of sugar recommended

·  Dairy

·  Eggs

·  Meat

·  Poultry

·  Fish

·  All oils

 

·  Iron

·  Vitamin B12

·  Calcium

·  Vitamin D

·  Fatty acids

 

None One study showed improvement in cardiovascular risk factors with one week of the diet.
*did not look at long term effects

Mediterranean Diet

What is it? What does it remove? Possible deficiencies Evidence for MS Other diseases?
· High intake of wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil, and fish

· Low intake of saturated fats (butter and other animal fats), red meat, poultry, dairy products

· Regular but moderate intake of ethanol (mainly red wine)

No specific exclusions None None Extensive evidence for a benefit on cardiovascular health, diabetes and possibly on cancer risk

Dietary changes can take months or even years before you start to see a benefit. MS affects everyone differently and what works for one person may not work for another. For dietary advice and guidance specific to your requirements it is best to speak with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist.

Summing up

By staying fit and healthy, you can keep away any other condition that might make managing your MS more difficult.

As for diets, the scientific evidence is debatable for any specific MS diet. If you’ve spoken to your neurologist or GP about this you may not have received an enthusiastic response but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in these diets.

For the diets listed, there is nothing unsafe. If you try it and you don’t feel any different then perhaps it’s not for you. If you notice a benefit and you feel better from a diet, then it can’t be a bad thing.

 

Where to from here?

Contact our NeuroAssist Team

We can help you find a dietitian or nutritionist in your area.

Request a callback

 

View our Diet and Nutrition webinar

Our MS Nurse explores some of the common questions about diet and MS.

View webinar

Stay updated

Read the latest news and articles on living well with MS.

Stay up to date

Learn about our services

MS Queensland offers a range of services and supports to help you manage your MS.

Learn more

 

Learn more about Diet & MS from our team.

Request a callback