1 / 8 What Not to Eat if You Have MS
While there’s no one specific diet for multiple sclerosis (MS), eating healthy — fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat protein, and low-fat dairy — could increase the time between relapses as well as promote overall health. What’s more, a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that a healthy diet could also help you maintain a healthier outlook as well. Conversely, a poor diet may increase your disease activity and cause weight gain. Here are foods to avoid as part of your MS management plan.
2 / 8 Saturated Fats
Saturated fats come primarily from animal-based foods — fatty red meat and full-fat dairy products. They’re also in foods with palm and coconut oils. Saturated fats are known to raise your LDL, or bad, cholesterol. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease. A study published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis found that people with MS, particularly women, are already at higher risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation (or flutter) than those without MS.
3 / 8 Trans Fats
Skip commercially baked cookies, crackers, pies, and any other packaged products whose ingredients list includes trans fats. Keywords to look for on nutrition labels are partially hydrogenated oils or shortening, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, a board certified sports dietetics specialist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “We know that trans fats increase inflammation inside blood vessels and thus could lead to cardiovascular problems,” Jamieson-Petonic says.
4 / 8 Dairy Milk
In addition to its saturated fat content, some specific proteins in cow’s milk could be detrimental to people with MS, according to research published in the journal Autoimmune Diseases. The study authors did point out, however, that other researchers believe the link isn’t strong enough to merit giving up the other nutrients in milk. You might try eliminating milk or at least try low- or no-fat to see if you feel better.
5 / 8 Sugar
Too much sugar, especially in the form of sweets, can pack on the pounds. “You don’t want to increase your weight because it’s going to make it more difficult to be mobile and perform activities of daily living,” Jamieson-Petonic. Excess weight also increases fatigue, which common among people with MS. Need more motivation to decline dessert? A study published in the International Journal of MS Care found that a healthier diet can help you avoid flu-like symptoms common with the disease-modifying therapy, interferon.
6 / 8 Salt
Put down the saltshaker. A study published in Neurology found that the more salt in MS patients had in their diet, the more likely they were to relapse and have a greater risk of developing new lesions. More reason to shake the salt habit: Excess salt can increase your blood pressure, another path to heart disease. Aim for less than 2,400 milligrams (mg) a day if you’re otherwise healthy, less than 1,500 mg if you have heart-health concerns.
7 / 8 Refined Grains
Put white rice, white bread, and white pasta on your list of foods to avoid. These processed carbohydrates, which elevate blood sugar, also appear to hurt the heart, especially in women. Women who eat a diet rich in these carbs are at greater risk of coronary heart disease, according to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. “When you’re trying to deal with MS, you don’t want to have to deal with other diseases like heart disease and diabetes as well,” Jamieson-Petonic says.
8 / 8 Gluten
A study in BMC Neurology in 2011 found a higher incidence of gluten intolerance in MS patients than in the general population. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Only the 1 to 2 percent of the population that has celiac disease, an intolerance to gluten, must go gluten-free. Many people without actual celiac disease, however, find they feel better overall when they eliminate gluten from their diet. Jamieson-Petonic suggests limiting the amount of gluten in your diet to see if you feel better. “Reducing gluten may be an option if you’re not finding relief with other things,” she says.