Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Diet and Nutrition Secrets Every Caregiver Should Know

By March 19, 2014Healthy Aging

If you’re caring for a senior who’s been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), it’s important to understand the role diet and nutrition play in managing the disease. MS does require a senior to follow some specific dietary guidelines, such as increasing fiber, vitamin D and calcium at every meal. Additionally, eating nutrient-dense foods can help the body to function and perform at a higher level.

There are also certain foods that help to relieve or manage the symptoms that usually go hand-in-hand with MS. For example, prunes can help to relieve constipation, while whole grain foods help to boost energy. Foods can even help to promote a more restful sleep, such as bananas and pumpkin seeds.

While a healthy diet and proper nutrition are always recommended, it’s also important to recognize there is no proof to show that one diet or food can exclusively treat MS. When you do a quick online search of MS diets, however, you’ll find hundreds of “experts” claiming to hold the dietary “secret” for treating, and even curing, MS. Wading through the muck and separating fact from fiction can be difficult, making it essential for senior caregivers to obtain information from trustworthy sources.

What Does the Reliable Research Show?

Though millions of people suffer from MS around the world, there hasn’t been enough dietary research conducted to demonstrate solid benefits. For example, earlier studies seemed to indicate a diet low in saturated fats and regular (daily) omega-3 supplements could benefit MS sufferers. However, that research was revisited in 2012 and experts could not find any true benefit for following this MS diet.

While low levels of Vitamin D are conclusively linked to exhibiting more severe MS symptoms, there hasn’t been enough research conducted for experts to definitively say supplements can help to curb the symptoms. The body makes its own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight and it’s definitely worth mentioning that MS is much more prevalent in areas of the world that get less sunlight. The evidence that vitamin D supplements can help MS is very strong, but experts aren’t willing to say that for sure…yet.

Harmful Diets vs. Healthy Diets

Many of the special MS diets out there are harmful, especially to seniors. They often recommend people take potentially toxic amounts of vitamin supplements or completely exclude vital nutrients altogether. Plenty of MS patients follow low-fat, high-fiber diets, especially ones recommended by the American Heart Association. Before starting any kind of diet or nutrition plan, seniors and their caregivers should always consult with a healthcare professional.

While there is no designated MS diet, one thing is certain; the foods, vitamins and minerals obtained through healthy diet can make a difference. For a great resource to learn more about healthy nutrition, check out the USDA’s MYPlate website.

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