Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that involves inflammation, so it seems logical to pursue treatments that reduce it. Why not try an anti-inflammatory diet?
In multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheath, which is the fatty protective covering on the nerves, becomes inflamed. Over time, the inflamed nerves lose most or all of their myelin (demyelination) and inflammatory lesions develop. The result is that the once healthy nerves are now damaged and electrical signals are not able to travel as well as they did before, which then results in various symptoms, depending on where the damage has occurred.
The authors of a new study published in ASN Neuro discuss the advantages of an anti-inflammatory diet for multiple sclerosis and the reasons why it can be beneficial. For example, the researchers explain that “what increases inflammation are hypercaloric Western-style diets, characterized by high salt, animal fat, red meat, sugar-sweetened drinks, fried food, low fiber, and lack of physical exercise.”
This way of eating, they point out further, promotes pro-inflammatory molecules (prostaglandins) and also results in low-grade systemic inflammation, compromise of intestinal immunity, and disruption of the gut microbiota (balance of good and bad bacteria). However, if you eat fewer or a limited amount of pro-inflammatory foods and more and more anti-inflammatory foods (which help the body produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins), you can help your body help itself and get symptom relief.
An anti-inflammatory diet for MS
An anti-inflammatory diet for multiple sclerosis should do two things: avoid foods that trigger inflammation and include lots of foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect. There are foods in both of these two main categories that range from mildly to highly anti-inflammatory or inflammatory.
Generally, most fruits and vegetables, extra-virgin olive oil, fish (especially fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna, salmon, and sardines), and gluten-free whole grains are anti-inflammatory. Foods such as eggs, walnuts, bananas, pumpkin seeds, and mangoes are mildly pro-inflammatory and can be enjoyed in limited amounts.
Two spices that are exceptionally high in anti-inflammatory properties are ginger and turmeric. These should be included in the diet as much as possible.
Numerous health and medical professionals have written books or have websites (e.g., Andrew Weil, MD, offers advice on an anti-inflammatory diet for people with multiple sclerosis) regarding how to follow an anti-inflammatory way of eating. It can be a dramatic change in dietary habits for many people, but there are a great number of individuals who say they have experienced significant results once they have followed it.
Making the switch to an anti-inflammatory diet for multiple sclerosis is an individual journey; people do so at their own speed and make food choices that work best for them. It can be most helpful to work with a knowledgeable nutritionist and to get information and recipe ideas from a variety of sources.
Among some of the dozens of books that have been written on anti-inflammatory diets are the following. If you have found any of these or others to be helpful for you, please share your comments with us.
- Anti-Arthritis, Anti-Inflammation Cookbook. Healing Through Natural Foods. Gary Null, PhD, John McDougall, MD
- Autoimmune Disease, Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Mary Solomon
- Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy: 75 Recipes and Nutrition Plan. Michelle Babb
- Meals That Heal Inflammation. Julie Daniluk, RHN
- The Inflammation Free Diet Plan. Monica Reinagel, Julius Torelli, MD
Riccio P, Rossano R. Nutrition facts in multiple sclerosis. ASN Neuro 2015 Feb 18; 7(1)