May 28th is world MS day. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system. In young Australian’s, it is the most common chronic disease of the central nervous system. The symptoms experienced will differ between each individual. Treatment is aimed at managing symptoms and also slowing the progression of the disease.
There is no special diet for people who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). However, if you or someone you know has MS or if you care for someone with MS, there are dietary approaches that can help in relieving some of the symptoms and improve quality of life.
Firstly, a healthy balanced diet will help to improve the wellbeing of anyone. A diet high in poor quality fats and carbohydrates will make anyone feel sluggish and generally unwell.
It is therefore a good idea to firstly make sure an individual with MS is getting a variety of healthy foods in to their diet. This will also help to maintain a healthy weight and keep the immune system strong.
Management of symptoms
Constipation can often be a symptom of MS. This symptom however can be well managed through diet.
Fibre is the key to keeping the bowels regular. This means ensuring enough fibre rich foods are consumed. In order to do this, try incorporate the below foods in to the diet:
- Vegetables. Vegetables are a great source of fibre and they are packed full of other important nutrients. Aim for 5 serves a day and incorporate a variety of different types and colours. Keep the skins on to increase the fibre content e.g. pumpkin, carrot.
- Fruit. Fruit is another excelled source of fibre and other nutrients and minerals. Aim for 2 pieces of fruit per day. As mentioned in the precious point, keeping skin on fruit will retain a lot of the fibre. Always choose whole fruit over fruit juices.
- Wholegrain products. This includes wholemeal pasta, brown rice, wholegrain breads and wholegrain cereals. This food group also provides a substantial amount of fibre to your diet.
- Fluid. For regular bowel motions it is necessary to be drinking enough water. You can be meeting your fibre requirements but without an adequate water intake, you can become even more constipated. Choose water over any other beverages.
This symptom can be more difficult to manage but ensuring you are eating the best sources of energy will always help. Carbohydrate foods are the major source of energy for your body. However, carbohydrate foods differ in the way they deliver energy – this has to do with Glycaemic Index (GI).
Choose foods that are low in GI. This means the energy from that food will be released at a much slower rate which will keep you going for longer. High GI foods can provide a quick burst of energy but will leave you feeling more tired, shortly after eating it.
What foods are low GI?
- Most vegetables
- Most fruit
- Wholegrain cereals e.g wholegrain bread, oats
- Meat, poultry, fish
- Legumes, nuts and seeds
- Most dairy products
Combining a high GI food with low GI foods will also assist in bringing the entire GI of that meal down e.g. Jasmine rice (high GI) with vegetables (low GI) and salmon (low GI).
For more information on the GI of specific foods, visit the link below where you can search for individual foods and products:
Or read my blog on glycaemic index:
Depression or a lower than normal mood can be experience by people with MS. This can be managed through medication but there are also a few dietary tips that can help as well. Omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins (B-12 in particular) have been shown to assist in regulating mood and also decreasing depression and stress. Not to mention the other health benefits they provide.
Aim to incorporate 2-3 serves of oily fish in to your diet each week e.g. salmon, mackerel or sardines – this will provide you with a good source of omega 3. Eggs, chicken and beef also contain omega 3 along with walnuts, canola/soybean oil and linseeds.
Meat, poultry and fish are good sources of B-12. For the other B vitamins, consuming a variety of wholegrains, vegetables and fruit should meet your needs.
Corticosteroids are often used for people with MS. Unfortunately these drugs can encourage bone loss. If you are regularly taking these drugs and are not taking a calcium or vitamin D supplement, it is important to ensure you are getting enough through your diet.
Good sources of calcium include:
- Dairy products: milk, yoghurt, cheese
- Dairy substitutes: Soy milk, soy yoghurt
- Soft fish bones e.g. in tinned salmon
Dietary sources of vitamin D:
Very few foods contain vitamin D so it is important for us to get some sun exposure. The below foods contain small amounts of vitamin D.
- Flesh of fatty fish e.g. salmon, tuna and mackerel skin – this is the best source
- Egg yolk
- Fortified products e.g. margarine with vitamin D
- Vitamin D activated mushrooms
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about multiple sclerosis or other nutrition related issues, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.