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Food for Thought — Answering Your Questions: My Friend Has MS . . .

This is the first question sent in by a reader in response to Janet Verney’s request for reader questions. See this article for more information.

A friend of mine was diagnosed about 11 years ago now with Multiple Sclerosis.  Though they are doing well overall considering the nature of the illness, they still struggle at times with soreness and pain.  I know there are myriad of possible reasons for a diagnosis including lack of vitamin D, if you had mono, and even gut issues.  My friend had all three at some point.  What is the most effective dietary advice or even course of food consumption for someone in this condition aside from general maxims like eat mostly healthy greens or reduce sugar intake, etc.?

— A reader from Haddam

Thank you for sharing this story and for inquiring for your friend. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease and the cause is still unknown, although many have varying theories as to why someone develops this condition. Many autoimmune diseases are thought to be linked to gut health and more and more research is supporting this theory. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7226078/

For someone who is diagnosed with MS, I would suggest looking at a multidisciplinary approach to treating this condition. Having said that, this is not to take the place of conventional medicine, but is inclusive of treatments prescribed by their physician and complimentary medicine and lifestyle changes.

Please note – any additions, or changes to diet & lifestyle should be discussed with their medical provider.

Ok, lets break this down into five areas that may be helpful, from a health coaches’ perspective:

  1. Food & Nutrition: If the gut may play a role in supporting someone with this condition, then we need to optimize and diversify the microbiome. I like to think of the gut as the foundation to good health. I also think of the gut as a garden that one must tend. The better we prepare the soil, the more nourishment we can provide, and the removal of the weeds, will allow our garden to have beautiful blooms…
    1. Let’s start with the weeds. Removing possible trigger foods to underlying inflammation can help calm the fires. Things like fried foods; overly refined white flour with gluten; refined sugars (there are more than 60 names for sugar hiding in processed foods); alcohol; dairy of any kind, especially cheese; sometimes there is a sensitivity to corn, soy, or tree nuts as well. Some individuals have more inflammation with various nightshade vegetables, like potatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc. In addition, extracted and heated oils, even those that are touted to be healthy can trigger inflammation.
    2. To prepare the soil, it’s time to crowd in foods that nourish the body. Adding whole plant-based foods like leafy greens, a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables, especially living raw foods like sprouts. Sprouted, organic legumes, nuts & seeds, and grains as tolerated. It is also important to stay well hydrated, so consuming filtered water, at least half your weight in ounces (160 lbs = 80 oz of water), is a good daily goal. In addition, adding in small amounts of fermented foods can be very helpful as well. To learn more about a whole food plant-based lifestyle, I like to refer folks to Forks Over Knives or Plant-Strong websites.
  2. Movement: Whatever activity level you are able to do, it is important to keep moving each and every day. This is an area that you may need support with depending on the progression of your MS. Gentle yoga, Pilates, walks in nature would be at the top of my list. Also, weight bearing exercises as tolerated would be helpful.
  3. Vagus Nerve: this gut-brain connection is often overlooked and yet it plays a critical role in your health and can greatly reduce stress and anxiety, which can be common with those who have MS. There are many ways to improve vagal tone, but concentrated breathing exercises and meditation are two ways to support this. https://themovementparadigm.com/how-to-improve-your-vagal-tone-9-ways-to-stimulate-your-vagus-nerve/
  4. Body Work: Where there is pain and inflammation it can be very helpful to bring blood flow to the that area through massage, acupuncture, compresses, etc. https://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/nerve-pain-legs-feet#At-home-solutions
  5. Herbs & Supplements: Sometimes the body needs a little extra help when we are in the healing process or living with a chronic disease. There are many options out there, but supplements are not all created equal. Many have added fillers and emulsifiers that can actually do more harm than good. Work with your practitioner to insure you are getting a quality brand and that there are not interactions with any prescription medications. https://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/going-herbal-vitamins-and-supplements-for-multiple-sclerosis#herbs

Thank you so much for your inquiry! Wishing you and your friend the best of health and happiness!

———

I am not a doctor, but I am a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, whose niche is in gut health and who has many resources and experiences in the health & wellness field. I love helping clients to improve their health, to inspire them to reach their goals, and to arm them with insightful questions to ask of their physicians.

You can send your questions to HK-NowEditors@outlook.com, attention FOOD FOR THOUGHT and I will address them on a first come first serve basis. If you prefer to stay anonymous, just use initials, or a made-up name of choice. Let’s make 2021 your best year ever!

Janet E. Verney is an Author, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Wellness Designer, and Healthy Food Chef who resides in Higganum and loves helping others to “health-up” their lives!  Also known as the Gut Guru, Janet oversees IIN’s advanced course in Gut Health. Have a burning health or nutrition question, write to Janet at connect@roots2wellness.com. To learn more, visit her website at roots2wellness.com. 

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