Multiple Sclerosis and Diet

The importance of a good diet

A good diet and regular exercise is important for all of us. For people with multiple sclerosis the right diet and exercise regime can make all the difference in the world in terms of controlling both the effects of the disease and its progression.

Sensible eating has been proven to ward off heart problems, some types of cancer and life-threatening obesity.

Clinical trials have shown that increasing the intake of polyunsaturated fats (found in green leafy vegetables, lentils, seeds, sunflower and soya oil) helps maintain a healthy nervous system and in some cases can slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis.

It's also important for MS sufferers to cut down saturated fats found in hard margarines, dairy products and also in meats; otherwise the weight will creep on.

One of the most commonly used diets by those with Multiple Sclerosis is the 30-year-old Swank low fat diet named after its founder. By cutting down saturated fats and increasing vitamin and mineral intake through fresh food it has been found to reduce the number of relapses and slow down the disease.

Antioxidants, which remove compounds called free radicals from the body, have also been found to be important. Free radicals can cause damage to protein substances such as myelin. Increasing intake of vitamins E, C, A and selenium have been found to be beneficial in some patients.

There are many diets out there which claim to alleviate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. These usually involve cutting out certain types of food or taking vitamin supplements. There's not too much hard medical evidence to back any of this up and as of yet researchers have not proved a suggested link between food allergies and MS.

The general consensus is, however, that if it works for the individual ­and there is anecdotal evidence to say that gluten, sucrose, fructose or wheat free diets, or those high in fish oils have been beneficial in relieving or slowing down symptoms - then why not?

The trouble is a lot of these diets can be expensive and it's advisable not to embark on any of them without first consulting a trusted health professional. There are plenty of quacks advertising their wares on the internet. Many of them are simply feeding off the vulnerability of MS sufferers only too willing to spend more than they can afford on so-called miracle cures.

As for alcohol, well, most experts agree that there's nothing to stop someone with MS enjoying the occasional tipple. Just remember that large quantities can make whatever symptoms you have appear worse!

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