Healthy nutrition is important for all of us. However, its significance becomes vital –although not always clear- for people suffering from autoimmune and chronic diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). To date, many dietary models have been introduced and recommended, but there is no scientific proof that any of these protect us against the disease or prevent its development.
A balanced nutrition based on the Mediterranean Diet and, in general, a lifestyle that includes at least some average physical activity or exercise are factors that certainly contribute to the patient’s wellbeing.
But, why would nutrition be significant in such cases?
The weight, the muscles and body’s mobility
As the disease evolves, a difficulty, and even a limited ability, in movement is observed. The abundance of medication that forms part of the patient’s treatment (cortisone, antidepressants), in combination with the mobility problems, lead to a reduced muscular fibre and an increased weight, which, needless to say, will make the daily life of the patient even more difficult. Furthermore, the reduced muscular mass will cause weakness, muscular atrophy and accelerated occurrence of the disease’s symptoms.
Frequency of recurrences and the immune system
Calorie restriction is considered to be a powerful tool against frequent recurrences. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), MS occurrence percentages are higher in populations following a hypercaloric diet rich in fats and carbohydrates. Be careful, though! This does not mean that an exhausting diet will be beneficial. On the contrary, it will lead to an exhausted immune system, reduced muscle fibre and increased recurrences.
The much talked about Vitamin D
In 2008, the WHO suggested that exposure to sun, which results in the production of natural Vitamin D, protects us against the development of MS. In addition, according to various studies, MS patients with low blood levels of Vitamin D have higher risk of relapses, new injuries and even aggravation of mobility problems. This is based on the positive effect of Vitamin D on the immune system, inter alia. Vitamin D has also very positive effects on brain function, due to its protective and immuno-modulating properties, rendering it a powerful tool against neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases, such as MS.
So, which is the magic recipe?
The following tips may not work magic, but they certainly will be beneficial:
1. The Mediterranean Diet
-Have regular small meals during the day
-Consume foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (fat fish, flaxseed_ at least twice a week
-Consume unprocessed cereals (bread, pasta)
-Consume lots of vegetables on a daily basis. Constipation is a common symptom of the disease.
-Follow the “5 fruits a day” rule (1 fruit corresponds to a fist-size portion)
-Consume red meat not more than 1 to 2 times a week (pork, beef)
-Cut down on salt and sugar
-Drink 1 ½ – 2 lt water on a daily basis
2. Vitamin D
-Salmon, mackerel, tuna fish and sardines are the richest in Vitamin D. Also, egg yolks, beef liver and cheese have an average content.
-Try to find Vitamin D enriched foods, such as milk, orange juice or even cereals.
To sum up:
There is no special nutrition regime that can cure MS.
However, bad nutrition can have a negative effect on the disease.
Food should be a pleasure in life, not a mere process of intaking useful nutrients. It is important to have enough time to enjoy our meals. And let’s not forget that, when eating together with family or friends, we have the chance to socialise and express ourselves.
Finally, introduce movement and, even better, exercise to your life!