I was recently diagnosed with MS. Is there a special diet I should follow?
Answers from Orhun Kantarci, M.D.
There is no evidence that a specific diet can prevent, treat or cure multiple sclerosis (MS). Some special diets can actually be harmful because they contain too much of certain vitamins or not enough of others.
Make sure you talk to your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
Overall, people with MS need a balanced, low-fat and high-fiber diet. Unprocessed or naturally processed foods are preferred to processed foods. This is similar to the Mediterranean diet, and the same healthy diet that's recommended for the general population. Also consider limiting alcohol as much as possible.
Some research suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids may benefit people with MS. But these results haven't been confirmed by large-scale studies. However, it's recommended that people with MS limit animal-based fats. Instead, opt for fish and nut-based fat sources such as olive oil, avocado oil and almond butter, which are rich in omega-3s.
Researchers are also investigating a link between vitamin D and biotin — a form of vitamin B also known as vitamin H — on multiple sclerosis disease activity. These studies are in the very early stages. Still, it's recommended that people with MS keep vitamin D levels in the upper range of normal.
It's important for people with MS to make healthy food choices:
- Not getting enough vitamins and minerals can worsen MS symptoms.
- Skipping meals may contribute to low energy levels.
- Some MS symptoms such as depression and MS treatments such as steroids can cause weight gain.
- Weight gain can lead to more health concerns, such as joint stress and cardiac and respiratory problems.
- Alcohol can intensify common MS symptoms, such as imbalance and lack of coordination.
Feb. 10, 2018
Orhun Kantarci, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Diet and nutrition. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Health-Wellness/Diet-Nutrition. Accessed Dec. 9, 2016.
- Olek, MJ, et al. Symptom management of multiple sclerosis in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Dec. 9, 2016.
- Farinotti M, et al. Dietary interventions for multiple sclerosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004192.pub3/abstract. Accessed Dec. 9, 2016.
- Take control of your weight. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Diet-Exercise-Healthy-Behaviors/Diet-Nutrition/Take-Control-of-Your-Weight. Accessed Dec. 9, 2016.
- Alcohol. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Health-Wellness/Alcohol. Accessed Dec. 14, 2016.
- Food for thought: MS and nutrition. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Brochure-Food-for-Thought—MS-and-Nutrition.pdf. Accessed Dec. 14, 2016.
- Kantarci OH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 27, 2017.