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Nutrition for Multiple Sclerosis

Balanced Diet

healthy diet Depositphotos_6270042_xsEating a healthy and balanced diet is an important component of maintaining good health for all people, but it is especially important for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

A diet that includes a variety of healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limits total fat and refined sugars can help to preserve bone strength, maintain a healthy weight and reduce constipation.

With a Dietitian, (credentialed nutrition expert) on your treatment team, you can receive valuable education and guidance to ensure you meet your nutritional needs.

Bone Health

If you have MS, you also have a high risk of bone loss (also known as osteoporosis). As the disease progresses, you can have an increased incidence of falls. By keeping your bones as strong as possible, you lower the risk of fracturing a bone from a fall.

A Dietitian can help you to incorporate nutrient rich foods that support bone health (calcium, magnesium, vitamins D and K) into your diet.


For people with neurodegenerative diseases such as MS, swallowing problems (dysphagia) are common.

If you have MS and experience  difficulty chewing or swallowing, check with your doctor or a speech-language pathologist to see if you need to follow a special eating plan with modified textures of foods and/or beverages.

A Dietitian can provide education on modified texture diets and assist with meal planning and appropriate cooking tips.

Weight Management

Unplanned weight loss is common for people with MS. It may occur as a result of certain medications, and the condition itself. Patients may experience nausea or loss of appetite, depression, and slowed movement or feeding difficulty.

Malnutrition often accompanies this type of weight loss and can significantly weaken the immune system. Therefore, eating a nutrient-and energy-rich diet is important for maintaining a healthy body weight. For other patients with MS, weight gain may be a problem due to decreased physical activity levels or medication side effects.

A Dietitian can design customized meal plans and teach you how to modify recipes to achieve your weight goals.

Bowel Regularity

Constipation is a problem experienced by many people with MS. The muscles and nerves of the intestines are also affected by the degenerative process. This means the stomach empties slower and food takes longer to pass through the digestive tract. A diet high in fiber, combined with adequate water or fluid intake, can be an effective way to help treat constipation.

Dietitians are very knowledgeable in this area. They  can provide information on how to increase fiber in your diet and ensure you are drinking enough fluids.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Hand holding medicine bottleSeveral special diets have been proposed as a treatment or even cure for MS. However, scientific evidence from large clinical studies showing effectiveness of these diets is very limited.

Be aware that some of these diets recommend very high (potentially toxic) amounts of certain vitamins while others exclude important nutrients. Always talk to your doctor before starting a special diet or adding any herbs or supplements to your treatment regimen.

For a detailed description of herbs and supplements and any evidence supporting their effectiveness and safety visit http://nccam.nih.gov/health/atoz.htm. Your doctor and a Dietitian can help you sort through this information and make an informed decision about whether or not to take any herbs or other supplements.

Kristin Hirahatake is a registered dietitian. Kristin is passionate about translating scientific research findings into practical applications that people can directly implement.  She continues to maintain an active role in the field of nutrition research by co-authoring peer-reviewed journal articles.  Her most rewarding experiences as a dietitian have been to see positive changes and improvements in the lives of her clients.


National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Nutrition and Diet. Retrieved January 15, 2014
< http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/healthy-living/nutirtion-and-diet/index.aspx>.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrition Care Manual: National Dysphagia Diet.
Retrieved January 14, 2014. <https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=178>.

Habek M, Hoisak I, Brinar VV. Nutrition in Multiple Sclerosis. Clinical Neurology and
Neurosurgery. 2010;112(7):616-20.

Schwarz S, Leweling H. Multiple Sclerosis and Nutrition. Multiple Sclerosis Journal. 2005;11(1):24-32.

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