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Photo: Woman with MS preparing healthy food at home with husband

What role does diet play in managing MS?

Sheahan Arnott

Food is a vital part of life. For many, it’s more than a necessity, it can be a social activity, a cultural experience and it can make you feel good. But can following a specific diet – like the SWANK diet, or the Overcoming MS programme - help manage your MS?

At the MS Society we believe a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, can play a role in helping people with MS manage their condition.

Some people say a specific diet has kept their MS symptoms at bay. But these diets don’t work for everyone and there’s currently no conclusive scientific evidence to suggest they’re effective.

Researching diet

There’s not been a lot of research into diet and MS, and that’s because effective studies into diet are difficult to design and control.

It can be near on impossible to ensure everyone eats the same thing over a period of time, and diet studies need to run for several years to produce meaningful results, which often mean lots of people drop out.

A number of diets have been promoted as useful to those with MS; some recommend extensive vitamin supplementation, while others advise you avoid certain food groups all together.

In our new booklet on diet and nutrition we talk about a few of them, including The SWANK diet, the Overcoming MS programme and the Best Bet Diet.

Making informed choices

Ultimately, diet and nutrition is a matter of personal choice. But if you do decide to follow a diet or take vitamin supplements, you should speak to your doctor or relevant MS health professional for advice before making any significant changes to your lifestyle.

Publications like ‘I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it’ and the NHS Choices website Behind the Headlines can also be useful for helping to decipher media reports, and understanding more about the role science and evidence plays in treatments and therapies.