Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a long-term disease in which your immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers your nerves. It wears you out physically and mentally and exhibits symptoms like severe fatigue, loss of mobility, and side-effects from medications. However, you can stay strong and healthy while managing your condition by following a healthy diet.
There are various diets touted to treat or even cure MS, but no evidence has ever shown any of these extreme diets to work in that line; in fact, they could actually hurt you. To make a positive difference in your condition, you must follow proven advice for nutritious eating. Here are the dos and don’ts of multiple sclerosis diet that will help you keep your best health.
Animal fat is full of saturated fat and has been associated with cancer, heart disease and other chronic health conditions. Here's an easy way to remember which fats to limit: Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, like butter and the white fat on meats. Keep them away from your kitchen and plates.
These are polyunsaturated healthy fats and studies have shown their direct benefit for MS. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial too but their goodness for MS specifically have brought mixed results in research. However, both these types contribute towards general health. Eat coldwater fish, like salmon and mackerel for omega-3 fatty acids and find omega-6 fatty acids in nuts and in the oils, such as sunflower, safflower, and walnut.
People with MS suffer fatigue as a prominent symptom and an imbalanced diet can make things worse for you. Low-carb diets like Atkin are high in fat and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, all of which are important for people with MS.
Fatigue or mobility issues may lead to physical inactivity in people with Ms and therefore, they tend to gain weight. However, weight gain seems to make these symptoms worse. Weight gain can also happen due to steroid medications that you must be taking. The best way to reach a healthy weight is to avoid crash diets. Set a realistic goal of losing 10% of your body weight over a reasonable period of time.
Some medicines prescribed to treat MS may lead to loss of appetite in patients. They also find it hard to go grocery shopping and cooking and hence end up eating less than they should. If you are underweight according to your BMI, eat smaller meals more frequently and choose healthy snacks to get the nutrition you need.
Another downside of being inactive and taking steroid medications is osteoporosis, which makes your bones weak. Consuming low-fat dairy products, like milk and protein-rich Greek yogurt, that are high in calcium and have added vitamin D, can help prevent the problem.
Vitamin D is essential for keeping your bones strong, and it may also help MS patients because of its positive effects on the immune system. You may have low levels of vitamin D if your sun exposure is less. Studies are ongoing to determine whether increasing vitamin D can reduce MS symptoms specifically.
Another common MS symptom is constipation. It occurs because the disease interrupts nerve signals to the colon. Immobility and medications can make constipation worse in patients. Fibre from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps prevent constipation – especially when you also exercise regularly.
Medicines to treat MS can cause dehydration which worsens your risk of urinary tract infections, constipation, and fatigue. Bladder dysfunction is a very common MS problem. You should drink six to eight glasses of water a day. Also, avoid beverages that dehydrate and irritate your bladder – like coffee and alcoholic drinks.
Eating something cannot cause or cure Ms, but following a balanced diet can help you manage your condition better. Your doctor can advice you further about the dos and don’ts of eating right when suffering with multiple sclerosis.
Read more articles on Understand Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
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