Foods that heal? Debunking MS diet myths

Can certain foods cause or cure MS? Learn the truth behind some common MS diet myths.

Myth: Eating foods high in animal fats causes MS. This idea came about when researchers found a higher risk of MS in countries where people consumed more animal fat. Further studies were done to test whether this link meant the animal fats were causing MS, or whether the link was a just a coincidence. These studies did not show that eating high levels of animal fats caused MS.

Fact: Not eating a healthy diet can make some of your symptoms worse. If you don't get enough nutrients and calories in your diet, your symptoms of fatigue and weakness may get worse. If you aren't getting enough fluids (at least 8 glasses per day), you may become dehydrated, which can cause fatigue, constipation, and headaches.

Myth: Antioxidants can cure MS. Some studies have found lower levels of antioxidants in people with MS, while others have not. So it is not clear whether MS is related to antioxidant levels or whether taking antioxidants will help MS. There have been no scientific studies showing that antioxidants can cure MS.

Fact: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may help people with relapsing/remitting MS. An analysis of a few small studies has shown that omega-6 fatty acids (especially linoleic acid) may slightly reduce the severity and frequency of relapses in people with relapsing/remitting MS. People with mild or newly diagnosed MS had the most benefits. Omega-6 fatty acid intake should be balanced with omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in oily fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel), green leafy vegetables, and linseed oil. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in nuts and seeds. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are also available in supplements. However, the long-term effects of taking omega-6 and omega-3 supplements are not known. Check with your doctor before starting supplements or making major changes to your diet.

Heard about a particular diet for MS, and want to try it? Check with your doctor before making any major changes to your eating habits.

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