Multiple sclerosis treatment with diets like Paleo show mixed results, though balanced diet helps, studies show

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Brain Function | Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 03:00 PM

Multiple sclerosis paleo dietTreating multiple sclerosis (MS) with regimes, such as the Paleo diet, have shown mixed results. However, most experts agree that when it comes to diet for multiple sclerosis there are certain food triggers, and MS diet and exercise do impact how a sufferer feels.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. It can cause symptoms of extreme fatigue, as well as weakness, tingling, vision problems, coordination problems, cognitive impairment, and mood changes. Some people believe that a Paleo diet would make a good diet for MS. Paleo diets are based on foods that were consumed by early humans. For example, meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, but no dairy or grain products.

As it turns out, when it comes to diet for multiple sclerosis, research shows that there is no specific diet that can prevent the debilitating symptoms. In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that there are some diets that can actually do more harm than good. When it comes to MS and diet, it is important to make sure that you are not getting too much of certain vitamins and not enough of others. Mayo doctors say people with multiple sclerosis should be focused on a balanced, low-fat, and high-fiber diet. This is the same diet that the majority of us can benefit from.

Multiple sclerosis: Foods to eat

So what exactly should be in an MS diet plan? Constipation is common among people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, so many nutritional experts suggest foods that are rich in fiber. This can include bright-colored fruits and vegetables, as well as lentils and whole grains.

Some studies have shown that people who are low in vitamin D are at a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis. There aren’t a lot of dietary sources of vitamin D, but people can get the vitamin from D-fortified drinks, including orange juice.

Lean protein has been helpful in combatting some of the symptoms of MS, such as fatigue. Consuming fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, is a good idea. Lean meats, including skinless chicken and turkey, are other options.

Although studies have been small and have shown mixed results, some MS sufferers have said they feel less tired when they follow a Paleo diet. It is important to note that these same people also incorporated exercise into their daily routine so it could have also been a combination of MS diet and exercise that helped them feel better. Additionally, many people with multiple sclerosis have tried and liked the Mediterranean diet, which is a diet with a lot of fish, fruits and vegetables, as well as olive oil. Some studies show the Mediterranean diet lowers inflammation.

A new approach for multiple sclerosis diet might be the Swank diet. It is a low-fat diet that calls for eating fewer than 15 grams of saturated fat and 20 to 50 grams of unsaturated fat each day. There haven’t been any large-scale studies with MS sufferers when it comes to the Swank diet, so this should be discussed with a doctor first.

Multiple sclerosis: Foods to avoid

foodIf you or someone you know has been diagnosed with MS, there are a number of points to consider, including multiple sclerosis diet restrictions.

  • Not getting enough vitamins and minerals can make symptoms worse.
  • Skipping meals can cause very low energy.
  • Saturated fats put MS sufferers at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Trans fats increase inflammation (so lower the intake).
  • Certain proteins in cow’s milk could negatively impact those with MS.
  • Sugar intake should be controlled as extra weight can cause complications for MS sufferers.
  • High sodium in diet has been linked to MS symptoms’ relapse.
  • Some MS sufferers experience flare-ups with full-fat dairy.
  • Diet Pop, caffeine, and alcohol can aggravate MS bladder symptoms.

Some foods to avoid with MS would include salty snacks, white rice, white bread, cookies, cakes, pies, and any other packaged products that contain a lot of trans-fats, a lot of salt, or a lot of sugar.

It is also worth noting that some studies, including one published in BMC Neurology in 2011, showed a higher number of celiac disease cases in people with multiple sclerosis. Celiac makes a person gluten intolerant. While the gluten-free diet has become very popular in the last decade, there is no evidence to suggest that it helps people who suffer from MS, so unless you have MS and have been diagnosed with celiac disease as well, you can’t count on the gluten-free diet being the answer to all your problems.

Multiple sclerosis exercise plan

Multiple sclerosis diet is important, but so is exercise. It can ease some of the symptoms of MS. It is crucial that a person with MS is careful when exercising, since overdoing it can cause extreme discomfort. It is best to check with a doctor to find out what exercises are best and what level of intensity is appropriate.

Exercising with MS can help improve coordination and boost mood. Some of the exercises that MS sufferers have benefited from include swimming, strength training, upper body strengthening, stretching exercises, balancing exercises, and even light jogging.

Multiple sclerosis exercise recommendations and guidelines

water sportMany exercise physiologists are accustomed to working with people who have multiple sclerosis. They are familiar with the potential limitations that come with MS and can guide people through specific exercises to prevent injury.

Here are some typical exercises that physiologists recommend:

Water aerobics: Using water weights, wet belts, noodles, and other pool equipment to get an effective cardio workout.

Wall squats: Standing with your back to wall, slide down the wall, bending knees and keeping upper body flat against the wall so thighs are parallel to floor. Hold for five seconds and then push with legs to return to starting position.

The bridge: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Bring feet toward your butt while keeping them flat on the floor. Contract stomach muscles, pulling belly button in toward spine. Inhale as you lift hip by tightening butt muscles. Pause few seconds and return to starting position.

Wall push-ups: Stand two feet from wall, facing it with feet together. Place hands flat on the wall with arms straight out at shoulder height and slightly more than shoulder width apart. Lean toward the wall while keeping elbows tucked into your sides until nose almost touches wall. Hold for few seconds and slowly return to starting position.

Marching balance: Stand with feet hip width apart, abdominal muscles firm. A chair can be used to help steady yourself. Slowly bend your right knee, raising your right foot off the floor, and bring your leg to a marching position. Pause three seconds and lower the leg. Repeat with the other leg.

These are just a few examples, but a good therapist will evaluate a person’s strengths and weaknesses before even suggesting a set of exercises.

Multiple sclerosis exercise precautions

When you make exercise a part of your regular routine, you should take precautions. For example, always warm up before you begin exercises and perform some cool down stretching afterwards. This can help you avoid injuries. It is also advisable to start slow and work your way up. So if you hope to work out for 20 to 30 minutes per session, try starting with 10-minute sessions, and work up to 20 or 30 over time.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Exercise in a safe environment, free of throw rugs, toys, poor lighting, or other possible hazards.
  • If you tend to have balance issues, exercise close to a bar, rail, or steady chair in case you need to grab onto something.
  • Choose exercises that you find fun so you will want to maintain a routine.
  • If you feel sick or if you start hurting, stop the exercise.

Overheating is a common problem when exercising. If you experience overheating, try your routine in the morning or evening, drink plenty of fluids, slow down your pace, or even stop the exercise until you have cooled down.

Multiple sclerosis diet and exercise will not cure the autoimmune disease. There is currently no cure for MS. However, growing evidence, including patient reports, seems to suggest that multiple sclerosis nutrition along with careful physical activity can be very helpful in easing some of the unpleasant symptoms that sufferers experience.

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