Multiple Sclerosis and Nutrition
Is there a diet recommended for people with MS?
No conclusive data exists that favors a particular diet for multiple sclerosis (MS). But maintaining a healthy diet is a key part of your overall health. What is considered a healthy diet? For most adults, it is an eating plan that is low in fat and includes a variety of nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods like grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as some high-protein foods like lean meats, fish or low-fat dairy.1
Always talk to your doctor before starting any diet or nutritional program.
Strategies for healthy eating
Some helpful tips for managing your diet:
- Keep a food journal. Then, compare what you eat with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate food guide recommendations. This can help you identify changes you can make in your diet.
- Control your portions. It takes 20 minutes before you start feeling full, so try taking smaller portions at first and eating slower.2 You may find that by giving your body a chance to register food intake, the smaller amount of food on your plate may actually be enough!
- Make low-fat substitutions. Choose fresh fruit or yogurt instead of ice cream, turkey instead of ham for a sandwich, and precut veggies or pretzels instead of potato chips.
- Don't forget the fiber. Eat fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These foods can help you feel full, which decreases the desire to eat more.2
- Avoid foods high in saturated fats, sugar and other sweeteners, including refined "white" grains. They may offer empty calories that fill you up but don't offer the nutritional value your body needs.3 For example, choose brown rice instead of white rice, whole wheat bread over white bread.
- Stay hydrated. Water helps maintain a normal body temperature. For some people, a rise in body temperature may temporarily exacerbate symptoms or lead to fatigue.4
- Plan ahead. Eating a healthy snack before going to a party or other social events can help curb your appetite and limit indulgence in more high-calorie foods.
- Start slow. When changing your diet, it's best to start slow. Diet plans that involve dramatic changes are harder to start and maintain.
- Understand the connection between eating and emotions. For instance, sometimes people eat too much or too little when they are stressed. If you notice changes in your eating habits related to your mood, talk to your doctor.
Changing ingrained eating habits can be difficult. It can help to set small, easily attainable goals. Here are a few suggestions:
- Try a new healthy food or recipe once a month.
- Cut out dessert with meals once or twice a week.
- Visit a farm stand if there is one in your area. Locally grown food is often fresher and tastier than a lot of produce you might find in your large grocery store chains, because locally grown food often gets to the consumer more quickly. It may travel less or spend less time in between distribution centers.
- If you drink a lot of soda, try cutting out one or two servings a week.
Think of goals that will work best for you. You can also ask your health care professional for additional ideas.
1. American Heart Association. Diet and lifestyle recommendations. 2012. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp. Accessed September 14, 2012.
2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right: Eating Right for a Healthy Weight. 2012. http://www.eatright.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10828. Accessed September 14, 2012.
3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right: Step Up to Nutrition and Health. 2009. http://www.eatright.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10824. Accessed March 24, 2010.
4. Nowack D. Food for Thought—MS and Nutrition. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. 2012. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/multimedia-library/brochures/staying-well/download.aspx?id=149. Accessed September 14, 2012.