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7 Things a Dietitian Wants You to Know About a Diet for MS

























When you have MS, making good food and beverage choices can help you feel better and reduce your health risks.

By Kelly Kennedy, RD
Medically Reviewed by Justin Laube, MD

While many diets have been touted as helpful for MS, most of the claims are based on personal experiences, and the diets in question have not undergone scientific studies. For those diets that have been studied, the results have been mixed: Some people appear to benefit, while others do not.

As a result, the most widely recommended diet for people with MS mimics the recommendations of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society — a generally healthy diet that is low in fat (especially saturated fat) and high in fiber.

The benefits to people with MS of following such a diet include maintaining a healthy weight, which can help you stay more mobile; reducing your risk of heart disease; alleviating constipation; and possibly reducing fatigue.

While these general dietary recommendations may be helpful for most people with MS, it’s still a good idea to work with your primary-care physician, neurologist, and possibly a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to design an eating plan customized for you.

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1. Focus on Healthy Fats

Reducing the overall amount of fat in your diet can be an effective way to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, since fat has twice the number of calories per gram as carbohydrates and protein. However, it’s only effective if you don’t replace the fat calories with calories from other sources.

Reducing dietary fat may also help to alleviate MS fatigue.

One small study of a very-low-fat, plant-based diet in people with MS, published in September 2016 in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, showed that participants had improved cholesterol and insulin levels and a lower body mass index after a year on the diet. They also reported feeling less fatigued. But no improvements were seen on brain MRIs or on standard measures of MS-related disability.

When choosing which fats to include in your diet, select foods high in unsaturated fats, such as avocados and olive oil. Eating unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.

One type of unsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, is particularly good for heart health and may have some benefits for relapsing-remitting MS, although the evidence is limited. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.

Saturated fats — the ones to limit or eat in moderation — are found in meat, poultry skin, and full-fat or reduced-fat (2 percent) dairy products. Another type of fat to avoid, because it raises your risk of heart disease, is trans fat, typically found in commercial baked goods and fried foods.

2. Pump Up the Fiber

Fiber adds bulk to food, keeping you full on fewer calories, which can help to keep your weight in a healthy range, particularly when higher-fiber foods take the place of low-fiber foods in your diet.

Fiber can also increase bowel regularity and decrease constipation, but only when consumed with adequate liquids.

Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which also have the benefit of providing a range of vitamins and minerals.

3. Drink More (and More Carefully)

Staying hydrated with plenty of liquids can not only work with the fiber you consume to keep you regular, but it can also increase your energy if you tend not to drink enough. It may also help to prevent bladder infections.

When choosing what to drink, go for simple beverages such as water and fat-free or low-fat milk or soy milk. Dairy and soy milk offer a healthy dose of calcium and vitamin D to boot!

Be aware that alcohol, aspartame, caffeine, and some other food items can irritate the bladder, possibly causing leaking. While you may not need to eliminate these items completely, cutting down on the amount may help.

4. Slash the Salt

Cutting back on sodium can lower your blood pressure and may have benefits for your MS, too.

In an observational study published in January 2015 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, people with MS who consumed higher amounts of sodium, a component of salt, were found to have a higher rate of relapse and increased risk of developing a new MS lesion compared with those who followed a low-sodium diet.

Most of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods and restaurant meals. But there is very little sodium in most fresh foods.

The best way to limit the amount of sodium you eat each day, therefore, is to prepare your own meals using unprocessed ingredients, and limit the amount of salt you add while cooking.

When you buy packaged foods, such as canned foods, frozen dinners, or sauces and dressings, read the labels to check the sodium content per serving. And read the labels on fresh meats, too, to see whether salt has been added.

5. Limit Added Sugars

Cutting back on added sugar can be good for your waistline as well as your heart. There is strong evidence linking high sugar intake to high blood pressure, inflammation, and insulin resistance, which raises the risk of type 2 diabetes.

You can reduce your sugar intake by avoiding sweetened juices and soft drinks, buying unsweetened cereals and yogurt, and checking the ingredients lists for added sugars in any packaged foods you buy.

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Staying in a healthy weight range can help to decrease MS fatigue as well as the risk of developing health problems such as sleep apnea, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, cancer, and other conditions.

Some of the habits that can help you reach and stay at a healthy weight include the following:
  • Prepare more of your own meals from unprocessed ingredients.
  • Eat slowly and pay attention to how full you feel.
  • Spread your calories out over the day, so you never get ravenous.
  • Get some physical activity most days of the week.

7. No Need to Go Gluten-Free

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, most experts in the United States believe that in the absence of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no benefit to following a gluten-free diet for people with MS.

Research is divided as to whether there’s a higher incidence of celiac disease — an autoimmune disease that damages the walls of the small intestine when gluten is consumed — among people with MS. It is also not known whether people with MS are more prone to gluten sensitivity, also called non-celiac wheat sensitivity, which causes symptoms similar to celiac disease.

Symptoms of both conditions can include abdominal bloating and discomfort, “brain fog,” joint pain, and fatigue.

The treatment for celiac disease and for gluten sensitivity is removing gluten from the diet, which means cutting out any wheat, barley, and rye, as well as any foods that might have been contaminated with these grains. Such a diet requires careful planning to be nutritionally adequate and can be challenging and expensive to follow.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length


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