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Diet to reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system. The disease progresses and worsens slowly and its severity depends on the extent of the symptoms (numbness, vision and movement problems, etc.) and the frequency of relapses. An anti-inflammatory diet rich in good fats is an alternative treatment for sclerosis that can slow down the progression of the disease.

The essential points of the diet to reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis :
  • Eat less
  • Choose the right fats
  • Avoid milk and gluten in case of multiple sclerosis
  • Adopt a predominantly plant-based diet
  • Ensure that you have a good supply of vitamins and minerals

Benefits of diet as an alternative treatment for multiple sclerosis

The diet to reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis has many benefits, it allows :
  • Reduce symptoms
  • slow down the progression of the disease
  • Prevent relapses
  • Adopt an overall healthy lifestyle
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain brain health
  • Have an optimal intake of micro-nutrients

Link between diet and multiple sclerosis

Certain scientific data suggest that diet may play a certain role in the development of multiple sclerosis:
  • a deficit in iodine, selenium (especially in regions where the soil is poor in these minerals) and vitamin D
  • an excess of calories, saturated fatty acids (from the animal or vegetable kingdom), pork, concentrated sugars and heavy metals.
Conversely, plant proteins, fish and cereal products would have a protective role.

Myelin is a substance made up, in large part, of fats. Its composition could therefore be influenced by diet. According to some authors, less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat in the diet could help reduce the progression of the disease. A balanced diet low in saturated fats "seems to be the most suitable approach for the time being". In this sense, it would be better to favour polyunsaturated fats.

Seignalet diet and multiple sclerosis

Dr. Seignalet has conducted research on chronic diseases for over twenty years. He was particularly interested in multiple sclerosis, which he described as a clogging of the nervous system by toxins from the intestine. In his book "L'alimentation ou la 3ème médecine" he describes the benefits of diet in reducing the symptoms of sclerosis in dozens of patients. He starts from the principle that the modern diet unbalances the functioning of the small intestine and thus disturbs the balance of the whole organism. The Seignalet diet therefore suggests, in the case of sclerosis, the total exclusion of food grains, milk and all processed foods. It also suggests consuming mostly plant products and preferring raw foods or those that have been gently cooked. In this way, the diet could stop the development of multiple sclerosis and limit or even eliminate the symptoms of the disease. The effects of the Seignalet diet on multiple sclerosis remain very controversial.

Before excluding any food, please consult your dietician so that he or she can supervise your diet and follow the evolution of your health with you.

Dr. Swank's and Kousmine's diets

Although not recognized by official medicine as effective, the diets of Dr. Roy Swank and Dr. Catherine Kousmine are often suggested to reduce symptoms and slow the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Swank's diet severely restricts saturated fats and, therefore, meats. It was the subject of a study, led by Dr. Swank himself, on 144 people over a 30-year period, in whom the progression of the disease and mortality were reduced, compared to all people with MS. Dr. Kousmine's diet also avoids saturated fats in favor of polyunsaturated fats and provides a substantial intake of vitamins and minerals. This diet has not been the subject of any clinical studies. However, Dr. Kousmine reports that she was able to follow the evolution of multiple sclerosis in 50 patients over a one-year period. Of these, 30 agreed to follow her dietary advice and saw an improvement in their symptoms. This does not allow us to draw any conclusions as to the effectiveness of this diet against multiple sclerosis, but we cannot rule out Dr. Kousmine's hypothesis either. However, antioxidant supplements (carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E) would not have an impact on the disease, according to several epidemiological studies.

Special diet for multiple sclerosis: dietary recommendations

In this fact sheet, we will discuss how to eat in order to reduce the severity of relapses and slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. We will see that by making the right food choices and avoiding foods that aggravate the inflammatory state, it is possible to have a more comfortable life and to significantly reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Recommended diet to reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis

To reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, diet can be a real alternative treatment. By reducing the daily caloric intake and making the right food choices, it is possible to regain a better quality of life. It is recommended to consume more foods rich in Omega-3 and vitamin D. Overall, a predominantly plant-based diet would also help prevent relapses and reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Eat less
There is an inverse relationship between a high calorie intake and the risk of multiple sclerosis. It is recommended that people reduce their calorie intake, especially calories from foods that have little nutritional value. Eating less would protect against neurodegenerative diseases and could be effective in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis by reducing oxidative damage. Indeed, too many calories increase the production of free radicals and inflammation.

Small steps can be taken to reduce daily calorie intake. For example, you can reduce the size of your portions, stop snacking before or after your evening meal and only have dessert occasionally. Also, practicing better listening to your hunger and satiety signals is often the best way to reduce your calories without counting.

What are hunger and satiety signals?
  • My stomach is rumbling
  • I have an empty feeling in my stomach, sometimes accompanied by small cramps
  • I feel a drop in energy, I can no longer concentrate
You should never eat if you are not really hungry.

Examples of adequate satiety or fullness signals:
  • I am no longer hungry and feel comfortable in my clothes
  • My meal seems less tasty than when I first ate it
  • If someone stole my plate at that moment, I wouldn't mind
  • I have more energy, I feel good
You should always stop eating when you are full.

How can I cut out a few calories a day?
It is enough to remove a few well-chosen foods, which sometimes add calories unnecessarily:
  • 1 12.5 cl glass of wine (100 calories)
  • 2 cookies (150 calories)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil (100 calories)
  • 30 g to 50 g of cheese (130 to 200 calories)
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise (100 calories)
  • 1 piece of cake and ice cream (about 500 calories)
  • A second plate at mealtime (about 500 calories)
Studies are still divided on the place of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet to reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. On the other hand, given the overall healthfulness of polyunsaturated fatty acids, it is strongly recommended that they be preferred to saturated fatty acids.

Note that it is preferable to consume more vegetable omega-3 sources than omega-6 sources since omega-6s are present in too large quantities in our basic diet.

The sources of omega-3 to include in the special multiple sclerosis diet are
  • Flaxseed oil and seeds
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Hemp oil and seeds
  • Nuts
  • Soybean oil and beans
  • Oil and wheat germ
  • Pumpkin seeds
The effects of marine omega-3 on the progression of multiple sclerosis and the number of relapses are still partially unknown. Furthermore, in 2009, a small study conducted with 10 patients showed that the administration of omega-3 (2.9 g of EPA and 1.9 g of DHA) for 3 months could have a beneficial immunomodulatory effect, but other studies will be needed to confirm this. What is known is that the amount of DHA is decreased in patients with multiple sclerosis. To consume more than 3 g of omega-3, one would have to eat fish every day, in significant quantities, which is difficult or impossible for most people. It is therefore recommended to supplement the required amount with fish oil supplements. However, before taking this type of supplement, you should consult a physician.

Quantity of fish to consume daily to reach 3g of EPA and DHA :
  • 120 g of mackerel
  • 150 g of salmon
  • 180 g of herring
  • 180 g of canned salmon
  • 250 g of salmon
  • 300 g of sardines
  • 300 g trout
  • 400 g white tuna
Vitamin D
Several studies published in recent years have established a link between a lack of vitamin D and the incidence of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D is believed to have a protective effect on the immune system, which may prevent the onset of the disease or limit its severity once it has been declared. Vitamin D deficiency, especially during puberty, seems to predispose to multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately, current data do not allow us to determine whether vitamin D supplementation beyond the basic nutritional intake can influence the course of the disease in men.

Until we know the ideal dose of vitamin D to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis, it is imperative to meet the basic vitamin D requirement. The basic vitamin D requirement is 400 IU (international units) per day for babies 1-12 months old, 600 IU per day for people 1 year to 70 years old, and 800 IU per day after 70 years old. To get these amounts, it is best to take a supplement. Indeed, providing these doses through diet alone is rather difficult. In addition, because of the high incidence of osteoporosis in people with multiple sclerosis, supplementation with calcium and vitamin D is usually indicated.

A high intake of plant-based proteins and whole grains is linked to a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis. Legumes, nuts and seeds are preferred. The Mediterranean diet may be indicated for people with multiple sclerosis, but clinical studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Physical activity
In order to have a healthier lifestyle and burn a few calories, physical activity should be practiced for 30 minutes a day. It will help you feel better and stop the progression of the disease.

How do you burn an extra 500 calories a day?
  • 45 minutes of jogging or aerobics
  • 1.5 hours of cycling, cross-country skiing or swimming
  • 2.5 hours of walking
If you don't usually exercise, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator, ride your bike or walk to work, take a leisurely walk during your lunch break, etc. All of these small gestures count and make a difference if practiced daily.

Other recommended foods :
  • Antioxidants
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dietary fiber
  • Lean protein
  • Good hydration

Diet not recommended for multiple sclerosis

As part of the diet to reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, it is recommended to limit foods that can, in one way or another, promote a pro-inflammatory state or harm the integrity of the body. This is the case of gluten, saturated fats and Omega-6 consumed in excess. Dairy products, if poorly tolerated, can also accelerate the progression of the disease.

Multiple sclerosis and gluten
Gluten may play a role in worsening the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In many people with gluten sensitivity, the ingestion of products containing gluten causes chronic intestinal inflammation. This pro-inflammatory state may be partly responsible for the progression of the disease. One of the alternative treatments for multiple sclerosis is therefore to limit or completely eliminate gluten.

Before any definitive exclusion, it is recommended to do an eviction test. That is to say, eliminate foods containing gluten for a few weeks and reintroduce them gradually, while monitoring the possible appearance of symptoms. Your dietician will help you adapt your diet to your situation.

Saturated fats
A diet high in saturated fats decreases membrane fluidity, leads to the production of cholesterol and contributes to the formation of inflammatory molecules, which are harmful factors in multiple sclerosis. Swank and Goodwin reported that saturated fat restriction induced remission of the disease and produced many beneficial effects in patients with multiple sclerosis. These effects were attributed to the fact that saturated fats form aggregates that cannot properly enter small capillaries. To reduce saturated fats in the diet, choose foods wisely and pay attention to the nutrition labels on products in the supermarket aisle.

Dairy Products
Multiple sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disease. The hypothesis of a link between milk consumption and multiple sclerosis emerged in the mid-1970s. Later, epidemiological studies supported this hypothesis. And this is still the case today. The proteins in milk that may be harmful in MS are the proteins that form the membranes of fat globules. Some people with multiple sclerosis may be hypersensitive to certain milk proteins. To assess whether you are intolerant to dairy products, cut them out for at least 3 months. Then gradually reintroduce them and observe the appearance of any symptoms. If unpleasant symptoms appear: bloating, nausea, joint pain, symptoms of sclerosis, then you may be sensitive to the ingestion of dairy products.

Here are the main sources of dairy products and who to avoid for a test period:

Dairy source:
Alpha-lactalbumin, butter flavoring, buttermilk, beta-lactoglobulin, butter, clarified butter, curd, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, caseinate, casein, cream, ice cream, sour cream, cheese, ghee, milk fat, butter oil, kefir, koumis, lactalbumin, lactoferrin, lactoglobulin, lactose, whey, lactulose, lactose-free milk, malt beverage mixes, whey, skim milk powder, whey powder, ovo-lactohydrolyzed protein, Simplesse® (fat replacer), skim milk solids, milk solids, modified milk substance, yogurt (from milk).

*Most likely sources of dairy products:
Cookies, flavored coffee, caramel (the candy), chocolate, deli meats, desserts (cakes, pastries), flan, soy cheese (with casein), frosting on baked goods, margarine, nougat, pies, pizza, instant, mashed, or dauphinoise potatoes, pudding, sauces, sausages, sherbets, cream soups, spreads, dips, dressings, etc.

Possible sources of dairy products:
Frozen/dehydrated foods and meals, flavoring, seasonings, caramel (the coloring agent), cereal, seasoned chips or fries, calcium-fortified juice, bread, natural and/or artificial flavoring preparation, annatto (coloring agent that may sometimes contain lactose), flavor, artificial butter flavor, tofu.

The modern diet provides far too much Omega-6, and not enough Omega-3. Even though they are essential, Omega-6 consumed in excess can promote the inflammatory state of the body and accentuate the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. It is therefore recommended, as mentioned above, to increase the consumption of Omega-3 and reduce the consumption of Omega-6 in the diet to reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Omega-6 sources to limit are:
  • Safflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Grape seed oil
  • Sesame oil and seeds
Other foods not recommended:
  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Fast food and prepared meals
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Practical daily advice for an effective alternative treatment of sclerosis

  • Prepare a Budwig cream in order to integrate more oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids. See our Budwig cream recipe
  • Get recipe books for fish and legumes to replace as much as possible red meat in your daily diet
  • In the morning, replace cheese and eggs with nut or seed butter (almond, hazelnut, peanut, macadamia butter, etc.)
  • Prepare vinaigrettes with a variety of first cold-pressed vegetable oils

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