Living with MS is different for everyone. Some people say that certain foods help them and other people don’t notice any difference. But many people with MS say that when they eat well, they feel better. For most people with MS, the best diet is a healthy, varied one.
Some people with MS say that following a specific diet has made a difference to how they feel, perhaps by reducing the number of relapses they have or by improving their overall quality of life. But other people don’t feel this way, and there is no conclusive evidence that special diets are effective in managing MS.
What foods should I be eating?
You should be aiming for a healthy, balanced diet. Try to aim for a variety of different foods, containing a balance of the major food groups:
- proteins – for growth and tissue repair
- carbohydrates and sugars – for energy
- fats – to absorb certain vitamins and for essential fatty acids
- fibre – for healthy digestion
- vitamins and minerals – for numerous processes in the body, including tissue repair, bone strength and the absorption of other nutrients
- fluids – for optimum working of the body. Water carries nutrients around the body and is used in the various chemical processes happening in our cells.
Why is it important to eat a balanced diet?
Eating nutritionally balanced meals helps the body to work to its full potential – particularly useful when living with a long-term condition. A healthy diet, combined with the right exercise, can help to:
- control weight
- decrease fatigue
- maintain regular bowel and bladder function
- minimise the risk of skin problems
- keep bones healthy and strong
- maintain healthy teeth and gums
- strengthen the heart
- improve muscle strength and range of motion
- increase flexibility
- reduce the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and certain cancers
What about supplements?
If you are eating a balanced diet then you should be getting enough vitamins and minerals through your food – and studies have suggested that this is the best way to get the nutrients you need, rather than through supplements.
But, depending on your circumstances, there may be reasons why you might need to take supplements. For example, if your energy needs are very low and you don’t eat very much, you may not be getting enough nutrients through your diet. Speak to a health care professional if you think you might need to take supplements.
If you do take supplements, remember that high doses of certain vitamins can sometimes be harmful. This is because certain vitamins are stored in the body, so they can build up. There’s more information about vitamins and minerals on the NHS Choices website.
Food allergies and intolerances
There’s no conclusive evidence to support excluding specific foods from your diet to treat MS. But, just like anyone else, people with MS can react to particular foods. If you think you have an allergy or intolerance, speak to your GP who can help you to look into it further. There’s more information about the signs of allergies and intolerance on the NHS Choices website.
Who can help with diet and nutrition?
Your GP can tell you more about healthy eating, and most surgeries will have information leaflets you can take home. There’s also more information about getting a healthy diet on the Live Well section of the NHS Choices website.
You can ask for a referral to a dietitian, who can help if you have any particular nutritional or energy needs – for example, if you have a constant tremor, or you’re underweight, or if you have another health condition which might affect your diet. A dietitian can help you plan your meals so that you’re getting all the nutrients you need.