Does Diet Affect MS?

nutrition photo

One of the first questions that I asked my doctor when I was diagnosed, was about diet and exercise.  Well, actually, it was my husband who had the presence of mind to ask the question.  My original neurologist told us that I should just concentrate on a “good, healthy” diet (whatever-in-the-hell that means) and stay away from exercise or anything that would make me hot or more tired.  So, as  I said, that was the advice of my “original” neurologist.  I’ve moved on.

This truth is self-evident:  when I eat “better” –  I feel better.  I’m sure everyone can say that.  But the question remains:  is there a specific diet that is more beneficial for Multiple Sclerosis than others?

In an effort to find the answer, I did some digging.   Dr. Roy Swank was the first M.D. to really place credence in this idea.  He developed a suggested diet regime that concentrates on low-fat eating for the treatment of MS.  His findings are very interesting – compelling, really.  There have been a great number of MS patients that have shown marked improvement and very little progression while adhering to this diet.  Check it out for yourself:  The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book.

There have been others in between, but the next really big splash for how to eat when you have multiple sclerosis came from a patient herself.  I’m sure you’ve heard of her:  Dr. Terry Wahls.  She had primary progressive MS and went downhill – fast.  She tried a lot of pharmaceuticals, none of which deterred the MS devil.  At some point, Dr. Wahls, a clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, decided to research clinical studies being done on multiple sclerosis.  In her research, she started to learn about supplementation for brain health.  While utilizing that knowledge, her MS progression slowed, but did not halt.  She continued on her quest and decided to find the foods that could give her the brain and neuromuscular nutrition rather than supplementing.  The “Wahls Diet” was born, and in 1 year, she went from being in a tilt-recline wheelchair to going back to work and walking without a cane.  Oh and, by the way, she also completed an 18-mile bike tour in that time as well.  Yep – pretty interesting stuff.  Seems a lot of people are having great success with this diet as well.  Dr. Wahls has a foundation to help fund research on her “intensive nutritionals” and there are currently clinical studies ongoing at the University of Iowa.  This diet is very dependent on the Paleo diet (lots of meat, certain veges, no dairy, no gluten) and brain-building foods.  She also incorporates exercise, meditation and neuromuscular stimulation into her lifestyle.  She wrote a book on her experiences outlining her recommendations.  Here’s the link:  Minding My Mitochondria.

Here’s a link to her Tedx Talk from November 2011:

All of this is very interesting – and very contradicting!  My internal medicine doc tells me I should be on a TON of supplements, gluten- and dairy-free and eating mostly vegetables and fruits.  My acupuncturist (also an herbalist and nutritionist) tells me I should eat a TON of fats and protein.  In fact, he told me to go out, get a gallon of whole-milk, add some cream and chug it!  So how do you decide?  I don’t really know.  I think it comes down to educating yourself and trying what feels right to you – what makes the most sense to you.  That’s my plan.  I’ve gone gluten- and dairy-free.  I must say, I’m feeling more energized, less “achy” and I don’t feel “bloated.”  All good things, but it remains to be seen whether this change in diet will affect my MS or not.

I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences.  Do you believe there’s a link between MS and diet?  Have you made changes in your own diet?  Did it help?  What are your thoughts?



Special thanks to for use of the yummy salad photo.  Eat well!

4 thoughts on “Does Diet Affect MS?”

  1. One thing I am sure of is that MS does not affect everyone the same way…different symptoms and different triggers. I wrote a book, “I’m Not Drunk…I Just Have M.S.” I make it clear in the first chapter that the book is about MY journey and is not intended to be a prescription for everyone. I will tell you that I am a miracle. I don’t have MS anymore. I first went to see a doctor about my symptoms in 1992. For years my annual MRI’s showe my brain totally covered with plaque. It is all gone along wit my symptoms. I never took medicine. I always laughed at the absurdity of the advice not to exercise or so anything that would make you tired. Athlete’s get better because they exercise. The same is true of MS patients. Inever changed my diet because of MS. I should tell you, however, that I am a long time diabetic and I changed my diet to contol my blood sugar. I eliminated most carbs which are immediatesly transformed into sugar. I eat high fats…bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast, sometimes for dinner. I eat limited veggis with low carbs. You DO NOT need carbs to be healthy…NONE. This has long been proven. Read Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution. What worked for my diabetes may have worked for my MS. I should have mentioned what I know affected my MS. I still walk three miles everyday. I have walked over 9,000 miles. So, if I had a diet for MS, it would be High fat and low, or no, carbs and lots of exercise. I walk in an air conditioned bilding and have for years. Occasionally I walk outside and the heat does not bother me. Bottom line…My MS is gone…I ate a high fat and low carb diet. Feel free to contact me. Bruce Pelham

  2. Like you, I have always found it contradictory. I became vegetarian for the first 6 or 7 years, vegan now for about the last 12. I like Dr. Wahls findings but I’ve eaten this way for so long, I just REALLY have a hard time with, uh,(swallow hard here) organ meats! I did cook a big pot of Kale greens tonight, and they were very good. I was diagnosed in 94 and there were a million books back then on MS and everybody had a diet with no ONE in particular backed by any research. Because I KNOW how important what you eat is, to the functioning of your body…I just went with what I thought was good for me based on my own research.

  3. Hi!

    I was getting worse after each relapse when they finally decided 4 years ago (& I’ve been sick since 1990) that I had MS. It’s fair to mention I have Sjogrens & have latent Lyme disease, peripheral neuropathy & lots more!! I’ve shattered both ankles and1 is fused & the other is bone on. Bone. But after taking copaxone injections for 4 years – I totally have full function of my mind back. It’s like a miracle for me. My children were 6 & 8 when I got sick & don’t know who I am now – which is the real me! I’m funny, witty, sharp minded (they always thought I was slow because I couldn’t think right)! I’m telling you they are having a hard time with the Real Me. They show me little respect – I have to continually earn it – which is very frustrating. If my mother had gotten ill I would never disrespect her!! It’s just not the. Way I was brought up not the way they were brought up. I’m not allowed to watch the grandkids by myself or drive them anywhere!! It’s ridiculous!! Does anyone else experience this phenom? I’m just curious? Sorry to spill it all out there. Thanks for reading & if you have any responses for me, please email me! Thanks

  4. I was Dx in 1991, but in retrospect, had my first symptom 10 years earlier. I should also mention that 3 other members of my immediate family also have MS (talk about FUMS!). I have done pretty well until the past couple of years. I bought Dr. Wahls’s first edition of her book, and tried to follow it, but I cannot abide organ meats!

    I used to follow Dr. Wahls on Facebook, but I no longer do. I asked too many questions (i.e., I didn’t ‘drink the Koolaid’), and received a very harsh response from her, which still didn’t answer my questions. I believe that it’s irresponsible for her to claim “success,” when her so-called research has involved such a tiny population of patients. The fact that she is an MD gives her ideas more credence, she has to be aware of this, and she herself has not used the scientific method. Even so, if something works, well, work it, right? But I think a lot of people with MS will follow her protocol (or someone else’s), and believe that it works for them. But who is to say that in 10 or 20 years, those people will transition to SPMS, and then, they might wonder that if they had used medication, maybe they would be in better shape? It’s all very confusing, and many of us have so many problems already. To say that the entire issue is complex is a gross understatement.

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