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Diets and supplements for MS

Lots of people choose to manage their MS holistically through diet and lifestyle

iStock-1130112004.jpgA well-balanced, healthy diet is important for everybody to maintain optimum health. Many people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) have questions about whether changes to their diet and nutrition can assist in symptom management. Although not conclusively proven, between 50% and 75% of people with MS have made changes to their diet.

Although there is little existing research looking at diet in MS, a recent study using information from nearly 7,000 people with MS from North America, has concluded that a healthy lifestyle and diet are associated with lesser disability and symptom accumulation. The data from this study shows a convincing observational link between diet and disability.

Several diets have been created with MS in mind. Similar themes run through these diets and most involve reducing saturated fats, taking supplements and restricting or eliminating food groups. It is always suggested that you consult your GP, neurology specialist or MS nurse before starting to take any supplements or making any changes to your diet. Below you will find an overview of a selection of the more popular diets and additional information about MS specific dietary research and supplements.

The Swank diet

The Swank diet recommends a reduction in consumption of saturated and unsaturated fat which can be found in meat (particularly red meat) and processed foods, dairy and products containing dairy. The diet recommends reducing the amounts of saturated fat to less than 15 grams a day and having 20-50 grams a day of unsaturated fat (such as olive and flaxseed oils). The Swank diet also recommends cod liver oil and vitamin supplements.

The Overcoming MS diet

Drawing on the Swank research and learning, Professor George Jelinek’s approach focuses on a largely plant-based, very low saturated fat diet, with omega 3 supplements in the form of coldpressed flaxseed oil. Professor Jelinek was diagnosed with MS in 1999. His mother also had MS. The Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) diet has been in existence for over 15 years, and is constantly being worked on as more evidence is gathered.

The Wahls protocol

This diet is based on key elements of the paleolithic (or paleo) diet. A paleolithic diet is based on foods similar to those that would have been eaten during the paleolithic era. A paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds – foods that could be obtained by hunting and gathering.

The Wahls protocol eliminates sugar, processed foods, grains (wheat, oats, rice), soy, dairy, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes and legumes (beans and lentils) and increases the intake of grass fed meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables) and plenty of fat from animal and plant sources, (especially omega-3 fatty acids). The Wahls diet is quite prescriptive about the amounts of certain types of food to eat. The protocol says that a follower should eat six to nine cups of non-starchy vegetables a day and four ounces of protein (fish, specifically twice a week).

The Best Bet diet

This diet is based on the theory that an autoimmune process is ignited by undigested food proteins escaping through the gut wall into the circulatory system. The immune system sees these proteins as invaders and starts to attack. This is referred to as ‘leaky gut syndrome’.

The Best Bet diet focuses on four main areas; foods to avoid, foods to eat in moderation, foods to increase and the use of supplements. The Best Bet diet says that stopping, or restricting the consumption of foods that have a molecular structure similar to myelin, reduces the autoimmune response.

Read our Diets and Supplements Choices booklet for further information on this topic. You can download it from our website, or order a printed copy.  Find out more