If you are a person who eats foods that are high in fat, meat, and dairy products, then this article is for you. That’s because many diseases can be controlled and managed just by adopting a low-fat vegetarian diet. Take for instance, multiple sclerosis (MS), a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord, which is common in the U.S., Canada, and Northern Europe, but rare in Africa and Asia.
Research has found that a diet rich in animal fats, especially those from dairy products, have been closely linked to the development of MS. So, your diet plays a critical role in the development and treatment of multiple sclerosis.1 The best approach to deal with MS is to switch to healthier foods and avoid the foods that cause inflammation as they can increase the incidence or severity of symptoms.
Here are the best foods that help you prevent and manage multiple sclerosis.
1. Vitamin D-Rich Foods
It is interesting to note that multiple sclerosis is more prevalent in higher latitudes, where sunlight is of lower intensity than in lower latitudes.2 Of course, the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is through exposure to the sun.
Vitamin D deficiency is thought to play a possible role in the development of multiple sclerosis. People who have low levels of vitamin D intake or low blood levels of vitamin D have a higher risk for MS.3
In one study, the researchers found that higher vitamin D levels in the first 12 months predicted reduced MS activity and a slower rate of MS progression. Some foods that are rich in vitamin D and safe for people with MS to consume include cod liver oil, fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon), and mushrooms.
Touted as one of the best medicinal spices, turmeric contains curcumin, a compound that may block the progression of multiple sclerosis. Curcumin has been shown to exhibit therapeutic potential in many chronic diseases, including multiple sclerosis, in which inflammation is known to play a major role.4
Additionally, curcumin also blocks the signaling pathways and helps in the treatment of MS.5 Try to include at least 3 grams (a teaspoon) of this powerful yellow spice into your foods every day, but ensure that the turmeric powder you use is not adulterated.
Another delicious food that has strong anti-inflammatory properties are avocados, which contain phytosterols that suppress inflammation. They are a great source of healthy unsaturated fat and antioxidants.
Studies have found that avocado’s potassium and lutein may help control oxidative and inflammatory stress, which is crucial when dealing with MS.6 Avocados can be eaten along with salads and a variety of dishes, including delicious smoothies and guacamole.
Nuts are not just tasty but also highly nutritious. Including fresh nuts (walnut, hazelnut, almond, and pistachio) in your diet provides you with essential fatty acids, which is known to be important when dealing with the risk of MS and the appropriate food intake for this disease.7
Most nuts are loaded with a variety of nutrients, healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, and magnesium, which play a vital role in regulating inflammation. A study conducted on 113 MS patients showed that consumption of different nuts, including walnuts and almonds, more than five times a week was not associated with the risk of MS.
5. Fruits And Vegetables
Studies have found that fruits and vegetables have a protective effect on MS.8 Fruits and vegetables are rich in various types of minerals and especially vitamins, which are the antioxidants that play a protective role in the prevention of MS.9
Studies have noted that healthy subjects consumed fruits more than five times a week when compared with MS patients. Most fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ensure that you eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that are preferably organically produced.
6. Omega-3 Foods
Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects on a variety of inflammatory human diseases including MS.10 Americans, on average, consume too much omega-6 fatty acids when compared to omega-3s, which can cause your immune system to become overactive and lead to inflammation.11
Consider including fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, trout and mackerel into your diet, which can help in maintaining the appropriate ratio between the omega-6s and omega-3s.
7. Plant-Based Oils
Many plant-based oils such as olive, hemp or flaxseed oil contain healthy unsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Olive oil, which is generously used in Mediterennean diets, is especially ideal as it contains a variety of phenolic compounds that are known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
The polyphenols present in many plant-based oils have immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, which can come in handy to prevent or treat multiple sclerosis. Some studies have also found that vegetable oil consumption was significantly associated with a risk for MS.12 Saturated solid oils increase cholesterol and triglycerides, which can increase the risk of MS.
Another spice that has protective and therapeutic properties when it comes to neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis is ginger. Ginger contains many compounds and substances that have anti-inflammatory properties.13
Among them is 10-Gingerol, a bioactive ingredient of fresh ginger, which is known to have anti-neuroinflammatory effects.14 Most of the drugs that treat inflammation are known to produce from mild to serious side-effects. But, studies have observed that ginger does not cause any adverse effects and can be easily incorporated into our diet.15
Foods To Avoid
Although your doctor, after a detailed analysis, will be the best person to give you a list of foods that you must avoid, chances are that these foods mentioned below will be mentioned on that list too. Here are some foods you must stay clear of.
- Saturated fats
- Refined grains
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Sugar and salt
- Full fat dairy
|↑1||Bagur, M. José, M. Antonia Murcia, Antonia M. Jiménez-Monreal, Josep A. Tur, M. Mar Bibiloni, Gonzalo L. Alonso, and Magdalena Martínez-Tomé. “Influence of Diet in Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 8, no. 3 (2017): 463-472.|
|↑2||Alharbi, Fatimah M. “Update in vitamin D and multiple sclerosis.” Neurosciences 20, no. 4 (2015): 329.|
|↑3||Vitamin D Levels Predict Multiple Sclerosis Progression. National Institutes of Health. 2014.|
|↑4||Aggarwal, Bharat B., and Kuzhuvelil B. Harikumar. “Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases.” The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology 41, no. 1 (2009): 40-59.|
|↑5||Natarajan, Chandramohan, and John J. Bright. “Curcumin inhibits experimental allergic encephalomyelitis by blocking IL-12 signaling through Janus kinase-STAT pathway in T lymphocytes.” The Journal of Immunology 168, no. 12 (2002): 6506-6513.|
|↑6||Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 7 (2013): 738-750.|
|↑7, ↑9, ↑12||Bagheri, Maryam, Zahra Maghsoudi, Sadigheh Fayazi, Nasrin Elahi, Hamed Tabesh, and Nastaran Majdinasab. “Several food items and multiple sclerosis: A case-control study in Ahvaz (Iran).” Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research 19, no. 6 (2014): 659.|
|↑8||Barbaresko, Janett, Manja Koch, Matthias B. Schulze, and Ute Nöthlings. “Dietary pattern analysis and biomarkers of low-grade inflammation: a systematic literature review.” Nutrition reviews 71, no. 8 (2013): 511-527.|
|↑10||Yan, Yiqing, Wei Jiang, Thibaud Spinetti, Aubry Tardivel, Rosa Castillo, Carole Bourquin, Greta Guarda, Zhigang Tian, Jurg Tschopp, and Rongbin Zhou. “Omega-3 fatty acids prevent inflammation and metabolic disorder through inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome activation.” Immunity 38, no. 6 (2013): 1154-1163.|
|↑11||Simopoulos, Artemis P. “An increase in the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio increases the risk for obesity.” Nutrients 8, no. 3 (2016): 128.|
|↑13||Mashhadi, Nafiseh Shokri, Reza Ghiasvand, Gholamreza Askari, Mitra Hariri, Leila Darvishi, and Mohammad Reza Mofid. “Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence.” International journal of preventive medicine 4, no. Suppl 1 (2013): S36.|
|↑14||Ho, Su-Chen, Ku-Shang Chang, and Chih-Cheng Lin. “Anti-neuroinflammatory capacity of fresh ginger is attributed mainly to 10-gingerol.” Food chemistry 141, no. 3 (2013): 3183-3191.|
|↑15||Srivastava, K. C., and T. Mustafa. “Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders.” Medical hypotheses 39, no. 4 (1992): 342-348.|