Multiple Sclerosis – The Optimum Nutrition Approach

Discover five proven ways to arrest and even reverse multiple sclerosis with nutritional medicine.

Multiple Sclerosis is an auto-immune disease that leads to degeneration of the myelin sheath around nerves. Any auto-immune disease requires investigating the possibility of cross-reaction between food proteins and proteins in the body. The development of food allergies is also often associated with increased gastrointestinal problems.

Thus, the list of possible contributors for MS include:

  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Food allergies or intolerance – most common foods being wheat, dairy and legumes
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Essential fat and phospholipids deficiency
  • Poor methylation (high homocysteine)

Leaky Gut Syndrome and Food Intolerance
Increased gastro-intestinal permeability is a common contriboutor to food intolerance. It is easily investigated with a urine test available through nutritional therapists. The gut wall, consisting of rapidly multiplying epithelial cells, can be restored to full integrity by a combination of probiotics and glutamine. Food intolerances can involve different kinds of antibody reactions, the most common being IgG, IgE and IgA antibodies. Generally it is worth testing for both IgE and IgG antibody reactions with a reliable laboratory using the ELISA immuno-assay method (

Foods particularly associated with MS are wheat and legumes, both containing lectins, and also dairy products. One stream of investigation is the possibility of a cross-reaction between lectins and proteins within the myelin sheath. Lectins are very high in legumes such as soya. For more on this subject read the attached link Also

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is made in the skin in the presence of sunlight. The further from the Equator you live the lesser is sun exposure. The fact that multiple sclerosis incidence increases with decreasing sunlight exposure led to investigation of the role of vitamin D. Research to date tends to show a) that sufficient vitamin D in pregnancy reduces risk; b) that children with MS tend to have low levels and c) that supplementing high levels of vitamin D reduces relapses. In an unpublished study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology high doses of vitamin D dramatically cut the relapse rate in people with multiple sclerosis. Sixteen percent of 25 people with multiple sclerosis (MS) given an average of 14,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day for a year suffered relapses, says Jodie Burton, MD, a neurologist at the University of Toronto. In contrast, close to 40% of 24 MS patients who took an average of 1,000 IU a day — the amount recommended by many MS specialists — relapsed, she says. Also, people taking high-dose vitamin D suffered 41% fewer relapses than the year before the study began, compared with 17% of those taking typical doses. People taking high doses of vitamin D did not suffer any significant side effects. These doses, however, are very high and should not be taken without supervision. Toxicity has been observed in doses in excess of 50mcg a day for several months, equivalent to 2,000iu. It is certainly worth supplementing this amount and also checking your vitamin D status. This level is quite conservative and some recommend ten times this amount.

Essential Fats and Phospholipids
Since the formation of nerves is very dependent on predominantly omega 3 fats and 6 fats and phospholipids there is a good reason to optimize your intake of these. There is growing evidence that omega 3 fats may improve immune response and thereby lessen MS symptoms. The most critical fats for the nervous system are arachidonic acid (omega 6) EPA, DPA and DHA (omega 3). I would recommend supplementing a combination of these (eg Biocare’s Essential Omegas, plus an additional high strength EPA rich fish oil (eg Biocare’s Mega EPA) as well as eating oily fish three times a week and seeds every day, emphasising flax seeds, then pumpkin seeds for their omega 3 content. However, bear in mind that seeds contain lectins so if you wish to pursue a lectin-free diet then these foods should be avoided.

The principle phospholipids in the brain is phosphatidyl choline (PC), followed by phosphatidyl serine then DMAE. Personally, I supplement these every day in Biocare’s Brain Food. The best source of PC are eggs, and also lecithin granules. A spoonful a day is a good way to ensure optimal supply.

Homocysteine and Methylation
Reducing your homocysteine levels can reduce your risk of many different diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease through to Alzheimer’s and cancer. Evidence is growing of an association between increased risk for MS and associated depression and cognitive decline in those with high homocysteine levels.

Homocysteine is produced from the amino acid Methionine, which is found mainly in animal protein. Optimal levels of B vitamins and other nutrients in the diet convert methionine into one of two things; Either, Glutathione a potent antioxidant, or SAMe, which is known to alleviate depression and aid liver detoxification. If the body cannot turn methionine in to these helpful factors its route gets stuck at the damaging homocysteine. It is the extra need for B vitamins for people with MS that could lead to a build up of homocysteine and its detrimental effects.

Being a non-meat eater doesn’t release you from the high homocysteine risk group as you may think. Many vegetarian diets can be deficient in the B vitamins that are needed to lower your homocysteine. 1 in 10 people have a gene mutation that affects the ability of MTHFR, a B vitamin dependant enzyme, to work properly. This enzyme converts Homocysteine into SAMe. If you have this gene mutation it can lead to an increase in Homocysteine levels and a possible risk of depression and poor liver function due to low SAMe levels. B vitamins enable the MTHFR enzyme to work properly by assisting a process called methylation. Quite simply this is the adding or taking away of a methyl group to a molecule.

Methylation happens all of the time in the body, and all parts of the body rely on it in order to function properly. Methylation is needed (among many other things) for

Energy production, formation of neurotransmitters – e.g. serotonin – needed for sleep and good moods, formation of myelin, repair of ~DNA and RNA that governs cell growth and repair

Depression can be a huge part of the MS equation. If you are unfortunate to be the 1 person 10 whose MYHFR enzyme isn’t working properly you will have an increased need for the B vitamins needed to make SAMe from homocysteine. If you are not getting these in adequate amounts, whether you have an enzyme problem or not, it is likely that you will be suffering from depression, Firstly from a lack of SAMe and if you’re not methylating properly you may also have a lack of serotonin needed for good moods. SAMe also helps your liver to function enabling the body to rid itself of toxins, which can build up and cause problems.

High homocysteine increases inflammation by promoting the inflammatory prostaglandins (1). Eating foods high in saturated fat found in red meat and also hard vegetable fats such as palm fat and coconut fat are also known to increase these particular types of prostaglandin. The fats that are known to produce the anti inflammatory prostaglandins are the omega 3 and 6 fats rich in seed oils such as linseeds, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp and sesame seeds and also the oily fish e.g. salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies. Therefore by eating the right foods and keeping your homocysteine levels low you can help to reduce inflammation.

The MS symptoms of feeling tired and exhausted may have other causes not directly linked to MS that should be investigated. One of these is your thyroid function. This is the gland that is responsible for the speed of your metabolism – how quickly you burn food to make energy. Classic symptoms of an under active thyroid include lack of energy, constipation and muscular aches and pains. Researchers at the Cleveland clinic Foundation and the University of California, Davis have found that low thyroid function is associated with raised homocysteine levels. (2) These results were also replicated by scientists in Denmark.

The magic B’s – Vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid
B12 is necessary for the formation and repair of myelin, it also needed for immune function and is a component of neurotransmitters such as serotonin needed for good mood and adrenalin, needed for motivation. B12 along with folic acid, needed for a healthy digestive tract, and also prevention of depression it is a ‘methyl donor’ therefore helping methylation. B6 is needed for protein digestion, helping to prevent depression and PMS in women. Together these three nutrients have been shown to greatly reduce homocysteine levels in a more powerful way than when supplemented alone. In addition the co-factor vitamins and minerals zinc, Magnesium and vitamin B2 have been shown to help the process.

What levels of these vitamins do I need? Well to know how much you need to take, you can have your homocysteine levels checked. York Laboratories offer a simple skin prick test with a 14-day turnaround, which can safely assess your levels of homocysteine. Recent research indicates that a score of below 6 is needed to lower your risk of many diseases such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. It would be sensible therefore to conclude that this is also the level that ensures you are able to methylate properly. All you need to know is that your score should be below 6. If you receive your results and they are above six then you need to begin to take some homocysteine lowering supplements for 6 months and retest. Once levels have been bought down then a maintenance dose is all that is required.

There are a selection of homocysteine supplements on the market available from many companies. The supplement that I favour due to the form of vitamin B12 it contains, which is methylcobalamin is Biocare’s Connect. This provides all the nutrients that assist methylation and homocysteine normalizing – B2, B56, B12, folic acid, zinc, magnesium and NAC/glutathione. The amount you need depends on your homocysteine levels. Those deficient in B12 often need 500mcg or more to correct deficiency. The RDA is 1mcg so this is one nutrient you are unlikely to get enough of from your diet.