Foods to limit with MS include:
- High-sodium foods – Eating foods high in sodium can increase blood pressure, which can result in heart disease.
- Saturated fats – Consuming too much saturated fat can increase LDL cholesterol in the blood, which is considered the “bad” cholesterol.Learn more about saturated food here in our previous blog post: The Scoop on Saturated Fat
- Ultra processed foods – These packaged foods tend to have many of their vitamins and minerals stripped during processing, ultimately lowering the nutritional value.
- Foods with added sugars – Consuming lots of food high in sugar can contribute to excess calories in your diet and can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Following a diet around these recommendations is ideal for individuals with MS to improve their overall quality of life!
What about diets found online such as the Swank diet, gluten-free diet, and the Paleo/Wahls diet?
There are many diets found online that claim they can cure MS. The Swank diet restricts saturated fat to below 15g per day, the gluten-free diet restricts all gluten-containing foods, and both the Paleo and Wahls diets restrict dairy, grains, high carb fruits/vegetables and legumes from the diet.
These diets are believed to help decrease symptoms or halt the progression of MS, but scientific studies have shown that these claims are not true. Also, these diets restrict nutritious foods all of which could be included in a balanced diet. Additionally, foods containing dairy usually contain high levels of vitamin D, a vitamin that is particularly important for people with MS.
Therefore, the evidence does not demonstrate that these diets have any positive effect on slowing the progression of MS. Again, avoiding the restriction of certain foods contributes to proper mental and physical health, which are important in individuals with MS.
Myths about MS and Diet
Myth #1: A certain diet can prevent flares
A major myth about diet and MS is that a “special diet can prevent flares”. As mentioned previously, there is no “all-around diet cure” for MS, but there are certain foods to prioritize in the diet to make the disease more manageable.
Myth #2: You should not exercise if you have MS
Proper diet and exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight, build muscle, and stay healthy. This not only applies to the general population but also to individuals with MS. Combined with a balanced diet, regular, non-vigorous exercise can help lower the risk of other health problems, ultimately improving quality of life. Exercising too hard can cause fatigue and may cause symptoms to worsen for the time being, so always consult with your healthcare provider before undergoing any intense exercise.
Myth #3: Individuals with MS should eat lots of vitamin D-rich foods
First of all, vitamin D cannot be explicitly stated as a possible cause of MS due to the many grey areas surrounding the disease. Therefore, focusing on a balanced diet instead of specific nutrients is important for an all-around balanced diet. For more information on Vitamin D visit this article on Vitamin D.
Myth #4: Eating your favourite sweets and treats could worsen your symptoms because they are unhealthy
Never, in any case (except allergies!) should a diet restrict your favourite foods! All foods can fit. Individuals with MS are advised to eat a balanced diet; this includes pizza, ice cream, cookies, and whatever else comes to mind. The consumption of such foods in moderation is helpful in promoting mental health and wellbeing for people with MS, since the disease can sometimes feel overwhelming.