Manage MS Symptoms with Nutrition
February 2, 2017
By Jennifer Barnes, MS, LN
Maybe you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). So what is it? How is it going to affect your life? And more importantly, what can you do to keep symptoms from interfering with your daily activities? The foods you put in your mouth every day can make a huge difference in your experience with multiple sclerosis. This is exciting news because you have more control over your symptoms.
Tina Beehler, a Nutritional Weight & Wellness client with multiple sclerosis, says after changing her nutrition she feels “like I’m working on all cylinders.” Nutrition helped Tina, and it can help you, too.
Tina was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis eleven years ago. Her first warning sign occurred during a workout at the gym. “I reached over to pick up my water bottle and my arm didn’t work!” Afterwards, Tina felt achy and lost strength in her arms. The achiness and lack of strength slowly went away after two weeks, but as time went on, she began to feel sluggish and periodically experienced poor balance.
Removing offending foods is the first step
Tina came to Nutritional Weight & Wellness looking for some direction. Working with a nutritionist, Tina discovered she needed to remove foods that were contributing to her symptoms and add others to support her health. One of the first changes Tina made was to remove gluten from her diet. For most individuals with multiple sclerosis, certain foods are contributing to their symptoms. A study evaluating the cerebral fluid in individuals with MS found an elevated concentration of IgG antibodies, a marker of food sensitivities, in 80-90 percent of those in the study. What foods could be causing these antibodies? A higher prevalence of multiple sclerosis has been found in those with diets high in gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) and dairy, making these two foods a good place to begin changing your diet.
After removing gluten from her diet and greatly reducing her sugar and processed food intake, Tina is not only enjoying her life and her family today, but she also has more energy, enthusiasm and has seen other health improvements, such as an increase in her bone density.
Adding healthy fats that protect you
Because multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the myelin sheath, it is important to incorporate the healthy fats that make up the myelin, both dietary fats and essential fatty acids. For Tina, this was a big change from her past dietary choices. She joked, “I did not let an ounce of fat cross my lips!”
Tina’s eating plan includes healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds, avocadoes, olive oil, real cream, and butter. Along with these dietary fats, Tina added essential fatty acids to give the myelin sheath the right nutrients for optimal functioning. DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid, makes up a large component of the protective insulation of the myelin sheath. Wonderful food sources of DHA include:
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Grass-fed beef
A deficiency of Omega-3s affects nerve cell membranes and reduces your body’s ability to form normal myelin. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that diets high in cold-water fish were associated with a reduction of symptom occurrence from multiple sclerosis. At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we often recommend that individuals who have MS take a therapeutic amount of DHA.
Incorporating antioxidants that protect you
Another way to protect your myelin sheath is to eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and real proteins that provide vitamins E, C and selenium. We need these antioxidants to keep damage from occurring to the sheath and to provide the building blocks for good energy and vitality. With spring just around the corner, try plating up a salmon salad (selenium) with red peppers and strawberries (vitamin C) and some avocado and an olive oil dressing (vitamin E). This salad provides these important nutrients and tastes great, too! Other great sources of these antioxidants include these foods:
- Brazil nuts
Ready for a change…
If you are experiencing MS symptoms, take Tina’s advice and find a doctor that will work with you and do the correct testing. “It’s better to know your enemy, and I was lucky that I found out when I did.” Tina believes that knowing what is happening in your body gives you the power to take things into your own hands.
Your next step is to sit down with a nutritionist at Nutritional Weight & Wellness to get a plan that fits your specific needs. We are here to help and want to see you succeed!
For more information on this topic, listen to our podcast, Nutritional Support for Symptoms of MS (Multiple Sclerosis).