Taking a holistic approach to MS
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition causing damage to the protein coating (myelin sheath) of nerves in the brain and spinal column. The areas of nerve damage (sclerosis) mean that messages being passed along the nerve get disrupted or stopped. A person’s symptoms will be determined by the areas of their brain and spinal cord that have been damaged. These may include fatigue, pain, numbness, tremors, impairment of muscles, speech and vision and incontinence. MS is more common in women, Caucasians and the further you live from the equator, suggesting a link with Vitamin D levels. It is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20-40.
What can be done?
Food and lifestyle as medicine: a different approach
Though there is no ‘cure all diet or lifestyle practice’ for MS, there is evidence that following an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising and practicing relaxation techniques can help slow the progression of the disease and/or put it into remission and reduce symptoms. As each person with MS will have a unique combination of symptoms and lifestyle factors, it is best to seek advice from a health professional to tailor an individual diet and lifestyle practices.
In general the following guidelines can be beneficial to most people with MS
Increase anti-inflammatory foods in your diet
Omega 3 foods (wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, herring, flax and hemp seeds, walnuts) as these reduce inflammation.
Foods high in lecithin (cooked greens) as these strengthen the nerves.
Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables: eat the rainbow to provide enough antioxidants to reduce inflammation and oxidation.
Sulforaphane high foods (brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, kale and collards) as these reduce inflammation, oxidation, demyelination and autoimmune responses.
Pre and pro biotics for a healthy gut. Probiotics include cultured vegetables and kombucha. Prebiotics include raw garlic, raw leeks or onions, raw asparagus and under-ripe bananas.
Complex carbohydrates (ancient grains such as millet, amaranth, sorghum) as these help good bacteria grow in the gut thereby reducing inflammation.
Nuts (except peanuts) as they are high in antioxidants, fibre and magnesium all of which regulate inflammation.
Good fats such coconut oil (contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) that support the brain and nervous system), olive oil (associated with brain health) and avocado oil (reduces inflammation).
Anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, ginger, onion, garlic and immune supporting herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano and cinnamon.
Green tea to reduce oxidative damage and various herbal teas depending on symptoms.
Consider taking specific supplements
If improving your diet as described above is difficult for you, consider taking supplements.
Fish oil to reduce inflammation and promote better nerve functioning.
Probiotics to maintain a healthy gut to reduce inflammation.
High potency multi-vitamin to provide basic nutrients for immune function.
Vitamin B12 to help with the formation of nerves.
Vitamin D if you are low in it can reduce MS relapse.
Use Essential oils
Oils that support the neurological system such as Frankincense.
Oils to improve circulation such as cypress, eucalyptus, basil, ginger.
Oils for relaxation such as lavender, lemon balm, chamomile , rose, bergamot, frankincense.
Twenty minutes of moderate exercise stimulates the immune system producing an anti-inflammatory response. It can be anything that includes movement and you enjoy doing without exhaustion such as walking, dancing, gardening and playing with kids.
Practice relaxation techniques
Stress increases the immune system response so incorporate calming techniques into your day and week such as yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, massage, mindfulness, visualization, meditation and hypnotherapy.
Quality and quantity of sleep is essential for reversing inflammation. Aim for at least 8 hours good quality per
Foods to reduce/ avoid in order to help with MS recovery
Processed foods to reduce your exposure to chemicals and because they lack good nutrients.
Gluten which might make symptoms worse for some people.
Dairy which might make symptoms worse for some people.
Potential food allergens which might make symptoms worse through triggering autoimmune reactions.
Sugar which disrupts the immune response and causes inflammation.
Alcohol which can increase inflammation.
Always seek qualified medical advice before making changes to ensure that what you are planning is right for you.