Fasting and MS

Fasting and MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the protein coating that protects nerve fibers from damage. It is unknown what triggers the immune system’s attack, but many MS treatments are targeted at reducing inflammation to curb the activity of the immune system.

Researchers say one factor that may contribute to MS progression is the microbiome — the assorted microorganisms that live in the human digestive tract.

What is the microbiome?

Within the digestive tract live millions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses which constitute the microbiome. The populations of microorganisms can change based on what (and when) we eat. Some of these organisms are helpful in digesting food while others may produce chemicals that contribute to disease.

Changing the microbiome may help treat many diseases, including MS, researchers say. One method to alter the microbiome is fasting.

What is fasting?

Fasting, or caloric restriction, means abstaining from consuming food and liquids for a period of time. Intermittent fasting involves not eating during specific hours of the day, or decreasing caloric intake on specific days of the week.

Before starting a fast, patients should talk to a registered dietitian to ensure that they know how to fast safely. They should also discuss fasting with their pharmacist and physician, as some MS medications may need to be taken with specific meals to prevent gastric distress or other problems.

What does the research say?

Few studies have been done on the effect of the microbiome on MS.

One example is a clinical trial (NCT03539094) being conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis to examine the effects of diet on relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). The 12-week study is currently recruiting participants and aims to enroll a total of 60 patients.

Half of the participants will be randomly assigned to eat a Western-style diet seven days a week while the other half will eat a Western-style diet for five days a week, with two days set aside for fasting where they will consume 500 calories a day. Patients will undergo a neurological assessment, and provide blood and stool samples at the beginning of the study, at week six, and at the end of the study.

The researchers stated that diet alone will unlikely be sufficient to treat MS but that their study may discover whether changes in diet and the microbiome are effective in improving disease symptoms in conjunction with other treatments.


Last updated: Nov. 15, 2019


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.

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  1. I have been trying this for the past 5 months. While I cant say there has been a drastic improvement in mobility or dexterity I feel better, have shed 20+ kgs and do not have constant “hugs” . Time will tell

  2. Sue Morris says:

    I was diagnosed around 30 years ago with SPMS and have managed to keep the disease from progressing very far. This could be attributable to luck or to diet.
    I read all those years ago that MS may have a connection with the gut. More recently there has been a great deal more interest and research into (and recognition of) the microbiome.
    I bought a copy of Dr Michael Mosley’s The Clever Guts Diet which is not a slimming regime – (I have always been slim) although that is evidently a very positive effect of following it) It promotes fasting for periods during the day and advises on which foods are best for your gut bacteria. It turns out that in general my eating habits coincide with most of the recommendations…coincidence or what??

  3. Charles Dick says:

    I am really looking forward to seeing where the research goes regarding the gut microbiome and inflammatory conditions. It is complicated, but more is being learned all the time.

    • Pete Johnson says:

      Water is allowed, tea if you must, but preferably just water as you might have a reaction to certain teas of coffee ( if you are a smoker dont smome during the fasting period), I also recommend you avoid candy, and processed foods as much as you can. If you have never done a prolonged fast before you start with a 16:8 fast, meaning you fast for 16 hours a day, just so that your body starts getting used to burning fat instead of glucose. It might be abit uncomfortable in the beginning but just keep mind, the feeling of hunger is the feeling of healing. Now as you have gotten used to the 16 hour fast after 3 to 4 weeks, try your first 24 hour fast, if you felt this was easy ( wich it should by now) I recommend you try a 48 hour fast the next weekend. Dont forget to refeed properly ( Google refeed after fasting ). Now studies have shown that longer fasts have the potential to repair the myelin sheath ( amongst other things). By longer fast I mean from 3 to 5 days. Prolonged fasts are not dangerous if you aren’t underweight or malnourished. if you have the option you can do the fasting mimicking diet ( I would just do a plain water fast, because you cant do anything wrong there, it just requires more willpower), just remember the refeeding period is crucial, DO NOT overeat, take your time, on a 5 day fast you will refeed for 2 til 3 days until you can eat normally again. On other notes, do a SIBO test, to see if you might have SIBO, as sibo does trigger autoimmune responses in your body ( if that is the case there are a range of foods, even healthy foods that must be avoided, until you cure your sibo) . You can also do a stool test to have your microbiome tested, it is pricey but if you can afford it I recommend you take one, to get better insight of the microbione imbalance. Good luck and happy fasting.

  4. Sharon Aldred says:

    I have just read the paper for the clinical trial you mention and it actually says this…
    “During the days of fasting, subjects WILL BE ALLOWED TO DRINK WATER, CALORIE FREE BEVERAGES, and eat fresh, steamed or roasted non-starchy vegetables.”
    So water IS allowed!

  5. Neena says:

    Mentioned about Western diet. What about the Indian side?
    Well, let us set aside the diet & fasting.
    I want to go ahead. But at times getting negative comments, which indeed makes me feel lonely. Exercise intolerance and the effects of the steroids pull me down. Still feeling blessed to have a lovely husband and kids 😊

  6. Ellen says:

    I saw a video from The Buck Institute that talked about fasting. Seems there is some advantage for many with autoimmune disease to embark on some fasting schedule. I just saw a documentary on vegetarian vs non vegetarian diets. I don’t know how valid this all was but the claim there is that vegetable diet is MUCH better for our health and our gut bacteria. I think a lot more research in this area needs to be done.

  7. J Howell says:

    Oddly enough, I had been on an intermittent fasting regimen for a little over a year, and had kind of fallen off the wagon a bit with it just before I had the symptoms that led me to a diagnosis. Kinda wonder if the IF had helped stave off some things.

    As I understand it, putting the body into ketosis activates cellular repair in a way that doesn’t happen otherwise.

    I was getting back on the IF wagon, but it’s been hard as eating a little in the morning when I take meds helps quite a bit with gastric side effects. Now that I’m adjusting to the Gilenya I started a few weeks ago, maybe it’s time to get disciplined about it again?

  8. Donna Brown says:

    I sometimes don’t eat until 6:00pm at supper an than I don’t eat again until the next day but I still gaining wait an I can not walk with out my Walker I try an then I fall.

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