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Diet & Nutrition

Eating healthy to take charge of your health.

Shelly
Diagnosed in 2006
Publication

Diet and MS Research Review Paper

With increasing interest in the possible role of diet in MS, this research review looks at current evidence that diet may be beneficial in MS.

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Publication

Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs in MS

Practical guide to diet supplements for people with MS. Outlines what is and is not known, with references for further study.

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Multiple Sclerosis: A Self-Care Guide To Wellness

The book covers a broad spectrum of topics related to MS and its effects, offering practical tips on self-care designed to promote maximum independence, well-being and productivity.

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Diet and Nutrition in MS

People living with MS and healthcare professionals discuss experiences and evidence related to diet / nutrition, and potential effect(s) on multiple sclerosis and symptoms.

Overview

Maintenance of general good health is very important for people with any chronic disorder: a well-balanced and planned diet will help achieve this goal. Although there's no special “MS diet,” what and how you eat can make a difference in your energy level, bladder and bowel function, and overall health. MS specialists recommend that people with MS adhere to the same low-fat, high-fiber diet recommendations of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society for the general population. The USDA's MyPlate website can help you start on the path to healthy nutrition. Learn more about the importance of nutrition in MS.

Challenges with special diets

Different diets have been proposed as treatments, or even cures, for the signs and symptoms of MS. Most of the diets touted as helping people with MS have not been subjected to rigorous, controlled studies, and the few that have been evaluated have produced mixed results.

Most claims made for dietary treatments are based on personal accounts, and reported benefits may be changes that could have happened without any treatment. Read more in the Eating Habits article from Momentum magazine and below:
  • There is some evidence that a diet low in saturated fats and supplemented by Omega-3 (from fatty fishes, cod-liver oil, or flaxseed oil) and Omega-6 (fatty acids from sunflower or safflower seed oil and possibly evening primrose oil) may have some benefit for people with MS.
  • A recent research review paper by Pavan Bhargava, MD, provides information and current evidence for each of the most popular diets.
Some special diets may be harmful because they include potentially toxic amounts of certain vitamins, or exclude important nutrients. That's why it's important to consult with your healthcare professional before starting any diet that includes nutritional supplements or vitamins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a hormone and has many functions in the body:
  • promotes the absorption of calcium, necessary for bone health
  • supports immune response to infections
  • helps to limit inflammation and regulate the immune system
Low Vitamin D is common and deficiency of Vitamin D (very low levels in the blood) may cause thin bones and increase the risk for fractures. Low Vitamin D may cause muscle weakness and a deficiency may increase your risk for certain types of cancer, heart disease and even mood disorders. 

Several epidemiological studies (studies of populations) have shown that low Vitamin D is one of several risk factors that can contribute to the development of MS. Other studies have suggested that low Vitamin D may be associated with more MS activity.  However, it has not been established that correcting low Vitamin D impacts the MS disease course. Vitamin D and MS continues to be an active area of research.

Our best source of Vitamin D is sun exposure (about 15 minutes/day) – which allows our body to make its own Vitamin D by absorption through the skin. But with less time in the sun due to skin cancer risk, and the use of sunscreens, sun exposure is often limited. Also, for some, heat exposure can temporarily make MS symptoms feel worse. Food sources of Vitamin D include oily fish (such as salmon or tuna), beef liver, egg yolks, pork, fortified foods such as milk and juices. It is difficult to get sufficient Vitamin D from food, so most people who have low Vitamin D take a supplement.

It is possible to get too much Vitamin D from supplements, and too much can cause side effects – such as kidney stones, kidney failure, bone loss, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, vomiting and nausea. Your supplement dose needs to be individualized and ideally based upon your blood level of Vitamin D. Work with your MS provider or your primary care provider to determine the dose that you should take.

Biotin /MD1003

Biotin is considered a form of vitamin B, and is a component of enzymes in the body that help break down certain substances in the body. It also activates certain enzymes that help the body produce myelin – the substance wrapped around many nerves in the central nervous system. Biotin, also known as vitamin H, is usually obtained from food.

Because of the role in myelin production, Biotin was thought to be a promising treatment for progressive MS and early clinical trials had positive results. However, the largest clinical trial of MD1003 involving people with primary and secondary progressive MS who did not have recent relapses showed no reversal in functional disability in those who took MD1003 versus placebo. No serious safety issues were reported.

NOTE: In November 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Safety Communication to let the public and healthcare providers know that biotin can significantly interfere with certain lab tests, causing falsely high or falsely low test results that may go undetected. They issued a second Safety Communication in November 2019 to remind the public and healthcare providers about biotin interference with lab tests. Work with your healthcare provider and laboratory to help prevent adverse events. If you suspect or experience a problem with a laboratory test while taking biotin, the FDA encourages you to report the problem through the MedWatch Voluntary Reporting Form.
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Vitamin D and MS

Research into the role Vitamin D plays in MS is growing.

Additional resources


Find a dietician / nutritionist Food assistance
  • Feeding America – Nationwide network of food banks. Also offers information & links to help consumers determine their eligibility for federal food assistance such as SNAP and the National School Lunch Program.
  • Meals on Wheels America – Online search tool to locate home-delivered meal programs throughout the U.S.

Momentum articles

Other

Nutrition and MS

Learn more about nutritional guidelines for people living with MS.

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