Can a Healthy Diet Help You Manage MS?

Can a Healthy Diet Help You Manage MS?

While there is no specific diet recommended for multiple sclerosis, a healthy approach to eating can have benefits.

For patients managing multiple sclerosis, adopting long-term, healthy lifestyle behaviors may help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. One of these healthy lifestyle behaviors is nutrition.

While there is no specific diet that is known to treat MS, patients are advised to follow basic guidelines for healthy eating. They are also advised to speak to their healthcare provider before making changes to their diet—certain diets can worsen MS because they contain too much of specific vitamins or inadequate amounts of important nutrients.

MS and nutrition
The cause of MS is unknown and the relationship between diet and MS is not fully understood. However, research supports the idea that eating the right foods—and avoiding the wrong foods—may have a number of benefits for people with MS. These include:

  • Prevent symptoms from getting worse. Inadequate intake of nutrients may make some MS symptoms worse.
  • Help manage specific symptoms of MS. For example, high-fiber foods may help ease constipation and other bowel problems, which are a common symptom of MS.
  • Help lower risk of other health conditions. A healthy diet protects against common diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. These conditions affect many people who have MS and can make it more difficult to manage MS.
  • Maintain a healthy bodyweight. Obesity is associated with the onset of MS, and MS patients who are obese have a poorer prognosis than patients who are at a normal bodyweight.

In addition to nutrition, exercise is an important component of your health, and people with MS are encouraged to exercise regularly.

What to eat
People with MS should focus on eating a balanced diet that includes foods that are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin D, and healthy fats. These include:

  • Whole grain foods.
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Lean proteins.
  • Fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Beans and lentils.
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D.
  • Probiotic foods, like yogurt.
  • Prebiotic foods, such as onions, bananas, greens, garlic, and soybeans.
  • Plenty of water.

In addition to eating the right foods, it is important to pay attention to portion sizes. Overeating can be taxing on the body and make MS symptoms worse. It can also lead to weight gain.

What to avoid
In addition to giving your body the nutrients it requires to stay healthy, there are foods that you should limit or avoid. These include:

  • Foods high in sodium.
  • Foods with added sugar.
  • Low-fiber foods.
  • Processed foods.
  • Unhealthy fats (saturated fats, trans fats, fats from animal products).
  • Red meat.
  • Alcohol.

While supplements may be able to provide some of the nutritional value of these foods, it is not advisable to take supplements unless it is under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Some supplements may aggravate symptoms or interact with MS medications.

Long-term goals
Remember, short-term, temporary changes to your diet will not have much of an impact on your health—this is true for managing a condition like MS, as well as efforts to improve other aspects of your health. Instead, work on adopting healthy habits and being consistent over the long term.

Medically reviewed in September, 2019.


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