Guest Blog: Nutrients and fatigue in MS – synopsis from a recently published paper.

By Krishna Alexander, MS Register participant and member of the Brain Stormers, the patient engagement group for the MS Register

A recent study looked at whether nutrients have an effect on fatigue or quality of life for people suffering from MS.  The study carried out using the MS Register and data provided by people on the register who opted to take part in the research (2410 people with MS).  The study used a group of people without MS as a control (24,852 people in the control group).  It found that the group of people suffering from MS were significantly lower in all nutrients, compared to the control group.  The study also found a strong relationship between consumption of fish and lower fatigue.   The research went on to find that higher carotene, magnesium, oily fish, fruits and vegetable were responsible for positive health outcomes.  Women suffering from MS who consumed more red meat and saturated fat were found to have worse health outcomes then those in the control group.  The study states that the differences shown could be because people with MS “have different dietary intakes compared to controls, and this may be associated with worse symptoms”.  Therefore, people with MS may benefit from consuming more nutritious food.

My Experiences: How diet influences severity of MS symptoms

Fatigue is a condition many people with MS suffer from and there is mounting evidence that lowering the intake of saturated fats can help reduce this.  It’s always important to watch what we eat but this is even more important if you, like me, suffer from MS.  There is strong evidence that saturated fats have a negative impact on MS.  There is a high correlation between saturated fat intake and MS mortality.  Put simply, the more saturated fats absorbed by the body the greater the impact on MS disabilities.

Since being diagnosed with remitting, relapsing MS (in 2015), I have significantly changed my diet.  I eat very little saturated fats by removing all meat and dairy from my diet.  I concentrate on eating more fish, shellfish, fruits, nuts, beans, pulses and vegetables.   My impression is that these changes have allowed me more energy.  I am given further reassurance that my diet is making a difference when the count of lesions in my regular MRI scan show either no new lesions or existing lesions becoming smaller.

Conclusion

I found that it is not difficult to make changes in one’s diet if they are done in small steps.  When I embarked on this journey to reduce the amount of saturated fats in my diet, I didn’t make all the changes overnight.  I took small steps by first not having any dairy (including milk and cheese).  Nowadays it is so easy to make this change with the numerous selections of plant-based alternatives, like almond milk and cashew butter.  The choices available seems to grow all the time.  The next step was to remove all meat.  This was slightly harder because I never ate much fish, relying instead on chicken and mince.  But I found the variety of fish and shellfish meant that I could enjoy new flavours, and this has now become the new norm in my household.

I also found very useful, inspirational books on the subject that made making the changes easier.  I would recommend reading ‘Overcoming MS’[2] written by a Melbourne neurologist who defeated his MS by (amongst other things) changing his diet.  

To be honest, it’s not an easy journey and it’s tempting to be misled with ‘miracle cures’ that abound on the internet. Nevertheless, sticking to evidence bases science that re-enforces the basic principles of low fat diets being beneficial to multiple sclerosis sufferers seems to be a sensible approach.  My own experiences, ups and downs, have been captured in ‘Multiple Sclerosis – Our Evidence Based Journey of Hope’[3], written by my husband who has also changed his diet and finds the benefits of it too.

Guest Blogger Krishna Alexander

My name is Krishna Alexander, and I was diagnosed with Remitting Relapsing MS in 2015.  I worked as a project manager, my last job was at a bank but, soon after my diagnosis, I decided to take voluntary redundancy so that I was able to concentrate on my health.  My own experiences have been captured in ‘Multiple Sclerosis – Our Evidence Based Journey of Hope’[4], written by my husband who has also changed his diet and finds the benefits of it too.


[1] Effect of low saturated fat diet in early and late cases of multiple sclerosis, R.L. Swank, Lancet, July, 1990

[2] Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: The Evidence-based 7 Step Recovery Program, Book by George Jelinek


[3/4] Multiple Sclerosis: Our Evidence Based Journey of Hope, Book by Garry Alexander

All views are my own