Healthy Living

New Study: How a Mediterranean-style Diet Can Fight Multiple Sclerosis

New Study: How a Mediterranean-style Diet Can Fight Multiple Sclerosis

New research is currently being developed at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, studying how food can be used as a treatment option to tackle MS. Neurologist Ilana Katz Sand is leading one of the first clinical trials to research the connection between food, gut bacteria, and MS symptoms. The clinical trial is testing whether a dietary intervention can, in fact, re-direct the actions of the immune system so that it does not attack the myelin. Patients participating in the study are following a strict Mediterranean diet, which involves lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but no dairy, meat, or processed food. Dr. Katz Sand reveals that she chose this type of diet because such foods are believed to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.

The study consists of about 30 participants and once a month, the group of MS patients get together to discuss nutritional tips and share their temptations. The study is estimated to reveal its initial results after a period of 24 weeks. Only then will researchers determine if dietary intervention can have a significant impact on MS symptoms. However, some MS patients in the group are already reporting having more energy to perform everyday tasks.

If you have MS and you are experiencing several symptoms such as tiredness, a diet high in fats and carbohydrates is not going to help you feel better. The better you take care of yourself, the best your overall health will be. That being said, your diet should primarily consist of the following:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Sources of protein such as fish and skinless poultry
  • Dairy products that are low in fat
  • Rich sources of fiber such as whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Plenty of water and other fluids

It is important you are aware that there are many foods that may help or harm your condition. You should limit or avoid your intake of:

  • Fatty dairy products
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Foods high in refined sugars
  • Foods high in sodium
  • Highly processed foods
  • Saturated fats
  • Trans fat
  • Red meats

Studies have found that there may be a connection between dairy and the severity of MS flare-ups. While it has not been proven by research findings, it is suggested that high consumption of fatty dairy products can worsen symptoms of MS. What’s more, it is best to avoid beverages such as caffeine and alcohol, as they can irritate your bladder.

No research findings have demonstrated the connection between refined sugars and MS flare-ups; however, avoiding foods high in refined sugars can help you to maintain a healthy weight. After all, foods high in sugar and calories can lead to weight gain, thus increasing an MS-related symptom - tiredness. Being overweight may also lead to mobility problems and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. In any case, you do not have to avoid sugary foods altogether but doctors do recommend snacking on fruit as a dessert alternative. Moreover, make sure to check food labels when it comes to sodium levels. Foods high in sodium may increase your risk of developing lesions.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition that affects the central nervous system. In MS, the myelin - the protective layer surrounding the nerve fibers - is attacked by the immune system. When this occurs, inflammation and scar tissue are triggered, thus making it more difficult for your brain to transmit signals to the rest of your body. Eventually, MS can cause nerve deterioration or even lead to permanent nerve damage.

Individuals with MS tend to experience initial symptoms between the ages of 20-40. The symptoms of MS vary greatly from individual to individual, depending on the type of MS you have, the parts of your body that MS has affected, and your overall health. The most common symptoms of MS include the following:

Around 80% of individuals with MS report feeling tired. Tiredness is the most common symptom of MS and it can become so severe that it can affect your ability to conduct work or perform daily activities. If you have MS, the myelin in your body becomes damaged as a result of an attack by the immune system. As to what exactly causes the immune system to attack the myelin remains unclear. Several researchers believe that it could be due to a combination of both genetic and environmental factors.

While there is currently no cure for MS, there are several treatment options that can help control your condition. Such treatment options include the following:

  • A well-balanced diet to help manage your overall health
  • Disease-modifying drugs to treat your specific symptoms
  • Regular physical exercise (yoga and swimming) to help manage your physical and mental health
  • Complementary therapies (meditation, massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and more) to relax your muscles and help you de-stress

Of all of the above listed treatment options, researchers have stated that a healthy diet can help you to maintain a healthier outlook. While there is no specific “MS diet”, what you eat and how much you eat can make a difference in controlling and easing your symptoms.

What other foods can help or hurt MS?

Furthermore, it is suggested that tropical oils, saturated and trans fat, as well as red meats may worsen symptoms of MS. While this too, has not been proven by research findings, reducing their intake is a positive step towards good health. Saturated fats are known to raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, thus leading to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Trans fat, on the other hand, can increase inflammation in your blood vessels, thus leading to cardiovascular problems. However, it is important not to eliminate all fats from your diet because foods, such as fatty fish and beef liver, are high in vitamin D. It is a well-known fact that vitamin D works by promoting calcium absorption for proper bone development and it helps regulate cell growth and differentiation. Most important, it has a protective effect on MS.

MS is a lifelong condition that can pose many challenges over the course of one’s lifetime. While every individual’s case is unique, most find ways to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives. Generally speaking, your quality of life will depend greatly on your symptoms and how well you respond to treatment options. MS symptoms tend to come and go, making it difficult to measure the effectiveness of a diet; however, you do not need to adapt to a severely restrictive diet. Both the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association recommend filling your plate with foods high in fiber and low in fat, all the while maintaining portion control. Such foods can provide you with the energy you need to combat MS symptoms and offer you protection against other health-related problems. Nowadays, several different diet plans are available as treatment for managing MS signs and symptoms, so find the one that works best for you. Dietary intervention is a small sacrifice to make for better health.