This article is part of a series; for the rest of the series, visit Food and MS.
For MSers, good nutrition does more than make us feel good. Some nutritional elements seem to affect the number or intensity of relapses, so it seems the way we eat can change the course of our disease. That being said, many people do not follow a nutritious diet, maybe because it sounds complicated or difficult. It doesn't have to be.
Diets and dietary programs are often based of the food pyramid that tells us which food groups comprise a healthy diet. One pyramid lesson is to include a variety of foods in food groups. These groups include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, oils, milk products and meats. You may decide to follow a particular MS diet, or just to eat healthy as part of your routine daily habits.
Your good eating habits can benefit your MS as well as your weight. None of the diets developed for MS are based on calorie counting. Instead, they depend on the amount and type of fats eaten and avoided. There is anecdotal data that a low-fat diet is particularly beneficial for MSers. Right here on Health Central, Dr. Jelinek shares his experience with us in favor of low saturated diets.
It is clear a strong commitment is needed to be on a truly low-fat diet. For example, the Swank Diet completely eliminates red meat for the entire first year. That means none, and not even dark meat poultry including chicken or turkey. The second part of that commitment is no restaurants and no pre-packaged food at all. That means everything must be prepared scratch by hand. This takes time, effort, and practice.
There have been many improvements in restaurant foods including special attention to nutrition and popular diet trends. Even many prepackaged foods are following improved nutrition guidelines. Perhaps the Swank Diet, if written today, would caution rather than prohibit these meals.
Although the food pyramid includes whole grains, many MS diets are based on being gluten-free, and that means wheat, rye, barley, oats, millet, and any derivative of these grains. Because many diets include whole grains, it may be difficult to find foods without them. The gluten-free idea is popular, so there are sources that are helpful, especially for novice gluten-free dieters. One is the Gluten Free Web that provides information about specific foods and brands. Online shopping is available for you to buy ingredients, frozen entrees, including pizza and alfredo, many breads, and even cake mixes.
Gluten-free diets sometimes also limit or eliminate processed sugars and dairy products like milk and eggs, thereby eliminating another section of the pyramid. "In excess, sugar is poison to our body and creates unwanted stress on our hormones and nervous system. The majority of grains convert into sugar as soon as they are digested, so grains can be just as harmful to our bodies as sugar. When reading nutrition labels, basically anything that ends in the letters '–ose' is going to be a sugar, including fructose, sucrose, glucose, etc." **
Fruits and vegetables are recommended by both the pyramid and most MS diets. They provide vitamins, energy, and regularity. Besides general health, vegetables are considered by some to be positive toward stronger cognitive skills.
Dietary elements important to the MS daily diet, and how to get them:
Most people with MS have a very low level of magnesium. So how do we get more? The food with the highest concentration of magnesium is chocolate. Yes, chocolate. The problem with chocolate is sugar and fat or we could have all the magnesium we could ever want.
Here are some general dietary information and some specific food sources. It's not so easy to name a single food type for magnesium because sources are varied such pumpkin seeds, brown rice, beans and fish.
I have often called Vitamin D a wonder drug because it is associated with so many different health conditions. Besides tablets and chewy candy, many foods, including milk and juices, are supplemented with it. Because of the supplements, many food products provide Vitamin D. There are other sources besides food for the vitamin, like the sunshine.
"More and more research has come out about Vitamin D3 and Multiple Sclerosis. Vitamin D3 is formed when sunlight hits your skin, and it is a very powerful immune system regulator. It has been shown that many people with MS are deficient in Vitamin D3. The best way to get Vitamin D3 are to go outside in the direct sunlight until your skin starts to turn light pink which could be 10 minutes to an hour depending on your skin tone and how strong the sun is. Another option is to take a high quality Vitamin D3 supplement. Also, consider having your Vitamin D levels monitored by a trained professional.". **
Fish and Fish Oil
There are many types of fats available in foods. We should avoid animal fats such as lard, and also man-made fats called "trans-fatty acids." There has been a lot of news about "trans fat" and it is now marked on many food items and being removed from others.
Fish oil supplements are available as gel capsules. Of course, the best source of fish oil is fish, but not all fish equally. Certain fish provide a better quality of fish oil. Cold-water and ocean fish are better. Farm fish have more fat, but not necessarily better protein. There are also plants with Omega 3 oils.
"Eliminate bad fats and increase good fats. The healthiest oils to use are extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Stay away from vegetable oil. Anything besides olive oil and coconut oil causes inflammation in the body which leads to progression of any chronic disease. Another option is to supplement with a high quality Omega 3 Fish Oil. It has been shown to help balance out the inflammation in our bodies." **
Vitamin B12 is said to be necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells, the maintenance of the nervous system, and modulating myelin. All of this sounds important when MS is involved. It is important to supplement our nervous systems with B12 pills or shots.
Vitamin B12 is supplied by meat, especially liver, and eggs. Although there are vegetables believed to contain B12, scientific study found no substantial levels. Vegetarians, and especially vegans, must find foods that have been supplemented.
Many of these elements are provided by the same foods. For example, if you go through the best food sources, you will find fish on several of them. That should help make building healthy menus easy.
If you want to know more, be sure to read through the Notes and Links. There are links to valuable sites and articles. Besides that, the timing is right. March is National Nutrition Month!
Notes and Links:
** Dr. Daniel Kehres wrote some MS nutrition hints for us. Look at his sight: Kehres Health
Dave. I met Dave through a comment to an earlier post, Tips for Cooking. He told me he was going write and I said I would link. Here is Dave's post Nutrition, Exercise (or lack thereof) and the effects on MS
Proper Nutrition for MS
Nutrition for MS
Dietary Recommendations for MS
Is Nutrition the Answer?
Diet may alleviate symptoms