Over the last year or so I have written numerous articles about MS and diet. While there are certainly food choices and habit modifications that can contribute to wellness and help with individual symptom management, there is no dietary pattern has been proven to cure MS or alter the MS disease course.
Nutrition and Multiple Sclerosis, Are We Asking The Right Question?
Rather than asking how to eat specifically to address MS it might be more helpful to ask: what eating pattern is associated with optimal health and wellness? Consider this: Evidence suggests that people with MS who have one or more comorbid health conditions experience a decreased quality of life and an increase in disability. MS is a disease with a poorly understood diversity of outcomes. Comorbidity might potentially explain this diversity. Changes to diet and habits can have a big impact!
The diet and habit guidelines supported by the American Heart Association , The American Stroke Association, The American Diabetes Association and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) are linked with better health outcomes for many of the chronic health conditions common in people living with MS. By following these recommendations you are likely to improve your overall health, reduce your risk of comorbid diseases associated with MS.
Here is a brief summary of these recommendations:
Eat a variety of nutrient dense foods including:
Colorful vegetables and fruits
Beans and legumes
Nuts and seeds
Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids
Foods rich in calcium
Eat less of these foods that offer few benefits:
Foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients
Limit or avoid added sugars
Reduce sodium intake. From the salt shaker as well as from sodium contained in refined, processed convenience foods.
Limit the amount of saturated fat that you eat. Avoid trans fats entirely.
Don’t regularly consume more calories than you use. Doing so can lead to excess body fat which can increase your risk for comorbid diseases and contribute to systemic inflammation.
Be physically active
Is There Anything Else That I Can Do To Eat Healthy With MS?
The DASH Diet (also here) and The Mediterranean Diet (also here) are two dietary patterns that are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, heart attack and stroke. Martha Clare Morris, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center recently developed the MIND Diet, which is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. MIND is an acronym that stands for Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
DASH And Mediterranean Dietary Guidelines: Better Together And Perfection Is Not Required!
According to the research conducted at Rush, the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in participants who stuck to the diet rigorously. But even those study participants who only moderately followed the guidelines still cut their Alzheimers risk by about 35 percent. The MIND Diet has not been studied with people who have multiple sclerosis but it does specifically include foods and nutrients that medical literature and data show are good for the brain.
Because there are only 15 dietary components, the MIND Diet is easy to follow. Who doesn’t like easy?
Eat these foods:
Green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale and salad greens): At least six servings a week
Other vegetables: At least one a day
Nuts: Five servings a week
Berries: Two or more servings a week
Beans: At least three servings a week
Whole grains: Three or more servings a day
Fish: Once a week
Poultry (like chicken or turkey): Two times a week
Olive oil: Use it as your main cooking oil
Wine: One glass a day. *Enjoy a daily glass of wine for women, or two for men, but no more. If you do not regularly consume alcohol this is not a suggestion to start. If alcohol is not making you the best you can be, consider eliminating it.*
Limit Or Avoid These Foods:
Red meat: Less than four servings a week
Butter and margarine: Less than a tablespoon daily
Cheese: Less than one serving a week
Pastries and sweets: Less than five servings a week
Fried or fast food: Less than one serving a week
Does the MIND Diet Say Anything About Salt or Exercise?
The MIND Diet does not specifically address salt intake. However, in addition to the undesirable effect of salt on high blood pressure there is some evidence to suggest that a high sodium diet might impact disease activity in people with MS. Opt for lower sodium options when shopping and cooking.
Physical activity is not specifically addressed by the MIND Diet guidelines either but it is an important part of optimal health. Physical activity has been shown to improve cognition and alleviate depression.
Eat and live for optimal health and wellness. Focus on better fuel for your body and your brain. Move your body every day.
Eat better, feel better.
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