Can Special Diets or Vitamin Supplements Ease My MS Symptoms?

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by Ed Tobias |

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Can I survive without dessert? Can I live without ice cream, chocolate, and fruit pies, or with only a small amount of beef when I want a burger?

The other day, my wife decided to start the ketogenic diet to try to lose some weight. I’m a skinny guy, so I don’t need to do that. But after reading about various MS diets over the years, I’ve been thinking about trying to eat a more healthy diet.

The National MS Society agrees that healthier meals should be good for me. It notes that, “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.”

I found a similar opinion in a 2017 interview with Dr. E.J. Gettings, assistant professor of neurology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Gettings told U.S. News and World Report that, “Poor food choices can lead to inflammatory changes that might worsen MS and also contribute to disabling symptoms such as fatigue, cognitive changes and bowel and bladder function.”

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The Wahls and Swank diets

My wife’s keto diet isn’t designed specifically for MS. But a recent study reports that two diets that are, the Wahls elimination diet and the low-fat Swank diet, appear to improve MS fatigue levels. A considerable number of people with MS have tried these diets, and many say they find them helpful.

The Wahls diet concentrates on plant-based foods, as well as beef, lamb, pork, and some fish. Forget about eggs, tomatoes, and potatoes.

The Swank diet focuses on reducing saturated and unsaturated fats. Red meat and pork are off-limits for the first year, while the diet encourages fruits, veggies, some poultry, and white fish, among other foods.

I really enjoy my meat and potatoes, and my eggs, so neither of these diets has what I want on my dinner menu.

What about sugar?

I eat a lot of sugar. I crave chocolate. I scream for ice cream. But in his interview with U.S. News and World Report, Gettings gave these treats a thumbs-down, warning that a diet with lots of processed sugar can cause frequent swings between high and low blood sugar. These swings can worsen MS fatigue.

Two years ago, researchers in the U.S. and Germany linked sugar-sweetened beverages to an increased MS disability level. I think you’ll find a lot of agreement that sweets are sour for our health.

I might be able to cut back on my sweets. I could start by eliminating the doughnut I usually have following my morning bowl of cereal with fruit. I could probably limit my evening bowl of ice cream to only two or three nights a week. But extracting my sweet tooth would be painful.

Vitamins?

I’ve taken vitamin D3 every day for years, based on reports warning that low levels of this vitamin might exacerbate my MS. A recent Multiple Sclerosis News Today article reported that supplements containing vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D reduced MS fatigue by 34%, according to a recent study. So, I’ve added a multivitamin to my morning routine. The supplement I’m trying contains those four vitamins plus a lot more, including vitamins E and K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and biotin. It also contains aloe, coriander, artichoke, and palmetto. 

Guess what? It sounds crazy, but after only two or three days, I felt like I had less fatigue and more energy. I woke up feeling fresher than I’d felt in years. Now, after taking one of these pills each morning for the past two weeks, I’m convinced that I feel better overall. For the past eight nights, I’ve had between six and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s been ages since I’ve slept that well.

Is this multivitamin magic or just a placebo effect? I don’t care because it’s working for me. It might not work as well as changing my diet, but taking a vitamin pill is something I know I can swallow.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

John Cowburn avatar

John Cowburn

The Wahls Diet and Swank Diet seem to have opposing food choices, if you also look at the Mcdougall Diet for MS you get another opposing view to the other two?So which is right or wrong, no-one knows. I try to eat reasonably healthy food and eat only plant based meals every other day. Also like you I take a few minerals and vitamins. I enjoy my food and wine and to follow a very restricted diet would make life miserable.

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Reg Bavis avatar

Reg Bavis

I have ms dioginished in 95 I take vitamin d and multi vitamin daily I don’t know if this helps as not clear decision has ever been made as to how much vitamins should be taken daily

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Reg,

It might be a good idea to talk with your neurologist about your vitamin doses. He or she may be able to give you some guidance.

Ed

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JJ avatar

JJ

I have progressive MS and a healthy diet has definitely helped me. I used to have serious bowel and bladder issues but these are now pretty well a thing of the past. I practice intermittent fasting – eating only twice a day (no snacks). I avoid sugar, gluten, dairy, red meat and all processed food. My food intake consists of lots & lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, some pulses and occasional poultry and wild-caught salmon. As far as supplements go, Vitamin D3 with K2 is high on the list and I concur with the advice on making sure we get all the other vitamins & minerals in supplement form. Also Omega 3.

Most medical doctors, including neurologists, get approximately one hour on nutrition in their medical training. So we can’t really blame them for not dispensing advice on the importance of diet for complex chronic illnesses like MS but it is desperately sad that more people don’t realize how powerful a healthy diet can be.

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Maria Mead avatar

Maria Mead

I wish that they had used the OMS (Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis) Diet instead of Swank's. OMS takes Swank and improves upon it. I believe using that diet against Wahl's would show a clear winner, and now we have to wait more years for another study. OMS was also developed by a physician (George Jelinik in Australia). It is entirely evidence-based, common-sense,, and has been vetted and has been shown to benefit many, many adherents over the years, unlike the Wahls Protocol. I tell all newly diagnosed or recently diagnosed people to read the OMS book. It may be less effective for those of us who have had MS for many. many years, but it has definitely been shown to improve quality of life. It also incorporates Vitamin D, exercise, and relaxation/ meditation, as well as prevention for family members and is open to Western meds as appropriate.

Maria Mead, MD

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Ellen Lerner avatar

Ellen Lerner

at one point at time years ago now I had gained too much weight. I think this was before I was dx'd with MS which wasn't until I was 57. I was never really heavy growing up but a little overweight. I loved (still do) sweets and carbs and a couple times my weight was way too high. Calorie reduction made my unsatisfied. I lost weight on it a few times but could easily gain it back. After I reached 50 lbs again, I went on a modified Atkins low carb diet maybe 25 yrs ago maybe not that long ago; I really don't remember, and lost 25 pounds in a month mostly sitting in front of my computer. I Am now between 115 an 117.6 and pretty much aim for 60 net carbs a day but realistically more like 100 plus or minus. When I first started I was very strict about it. I think my metabolism changed. I allowed myself leeway on weekends and special occasions. I don't probably eat a full compliment of foods anymore. Sometime I get busy and don't eat for hours. So I take a LOT or suppliments ( which drives my health providers nuts). So some are divided into twice a day. I take about 11 in the morning or early afternoon and the another 11 before I sleep.I think some of the supplements do help like magnesium ( which help cut down on the ankle cramps when I wake up) and the Vit C (not ascorbic acid), D3 and many others. I only take stevia in my coffee or any time I need to sweeten something. I never drink OJ or any other juices except occasionally lo cal ones. bottom line is I stick to the lower carb lifestyle. Does it help my MS? Hard to say. I've never had a difficult time with it.. never had progression. After 12 years of injecting myself and after age 70 I came off MS medication. So far so good.. MRIs haven't changed. Any active lesions happened before I was diagosed but never had any symptoms that I know of. Although controversial I am still on Hormone therapy which I take every other day instead of everyday. That is another discussion,,,
Good luck on your diet . I would get that the cutting down on carbs and the vits. help you feel better. Sincerely, Ellen

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Peter Tinsley avatar

Peter Tinsley

Hi Ed,
I read you often, your comments make me smile.

I am man 66. As some others often, I may have had some previous illness or fell ill with not seriously knowing why ? I was confirmed RRMS in 2017.
Along with others, fatigue is always with me but, not easy to see and hard to explain to others. Is tired a sign of a serious medical condition ?? lol
I used to use Multivitamins off and on, I did not notice that much.
A year ago, I spent a couple of months in a hospital. I didn’t use multivitamin’s every day but, now, I use them every day and feel better for sure. I also was recommend to use vitamin D3 every day.

I would recommend anybody with MS to try Multivitamins & D3 daily

Pete Tinsley

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Lynn Caraher avatar

Lynn Caraher

What you’re saying is you like sweets more than you like your health. It’s your choice. I gave up added sugar 5 years ago. It took me a month to totally eliminate it. My tastes have changed. I used to have a terrible sweet tooth. Now I can eat plain yogurt and find it delicious. Every time I cheat, like sometimes over the Christmas holidays or on vacation, I see a worsening of symptoms afterwards. You don’t have to give up chocolate. I eat Alter Eco 100% chocolate. I also eat fruit in moderation, especially berries.

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Becky Morean avatar

Becky Morean

How much vitamin D3 are you taking each day ? All at once or a couple times a day?

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Dianne McLendon avatar

Dianne McLendon

Would you mind sharing the brand name of the supplement you are using?

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Gary Mullennix avatar

Gary Mullennix

You are sleeping better and feeling better if you’ve dropped your sugar intake. The bowl of ice cream and other hi carb snacks cause a hypoglycemic reaction and your body releases adrenaline to get glucose released so your blood will have enough oxygen to keep you alive.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Gary,

I understand the concept but the improved sleeping didn't follow a drop in my sugar intake. When I wrote this I was still eating a bowl of ice cream nearly every evening as I watched my Washington Nationals lose another ballgame. (Still eating a doughnut in the morning, too.) So, it must have been something else. But, I've now started cutting back on the sugar and we'll see how things go after a few weeks of that.

Ed

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Lorena Hodges avatar

Lorena Hodges

That's great... Which brand of Multi Vitamin do you take?

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Lorena,

It's New Chapter for men 55+. I suspect they have several versions for women of different ages.

Ed

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Kid Kooijmans avatar

Kid Kooijmans

Hi Ed,

Could you share what multivitamins you are using?

K.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Kid,

New Chapter for Men 55+.

Ed

Reply
Fiona Black avatar

Fiona Black

Take a look at the UK site Bart’s MS Blog that provides some good advice on diet, and supplements such as Lipoic Acid, much of it provided by the neurologist Professor Gavin Giovannoni who’s recognised as an international expert on MS.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks, Fiona.

I read the MS Blog regularly and get a lot of great info from Prof. G. He's one of my go-to neuros for answers.

Ed

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