MS gluten free diet

Multiple Sclerosis Caused by Gluten?

Is There a Link Between Gluten And Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Because MS has such a debilitating outcome, the question about whether or not natural treatments (including the gluten free diet) are effective comes up on a regular basis. I recently sat down with reporter, Melissa Wilson, from Fox News in Houston, TX to discuss natural options for the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis. After you watch this important video, scroll down and listen to one of the most profound podcast interviews with Dr. Terry Wahls. Dr. Wahls was confined to a wheel chair with multiple sclerosis. We discuss the connection between gluten and multiple sclerosis, but also go into detail about action steps you can take to naturally overcome MS. What makes Dr. Wahls an expert on this? Aside from being trained in medicine, she suffered with the disease. After ditching the drugs and changing her diet, she made a full recovery. She now rides her bike on a regular basis.

Want to Do If You Have Been Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis

  1. Have a functional medicine doctor properly measure your nutritional status
  2. Consider starting on vitamin D and vitamin B12. You can click on the links to find the best forms of these vitamins.
  3. Stop eating processed foods immediately. This includes sugar.
  4. Stop drinking alcohol immediately. Alcohol leaches many of the vitamins and minerals out of your body. It also puts stress on the liver. Because many MS patients have heavy metal toxicity issues, the liver function should be preserved as much as possible to help eliminate heavy metals more effectively.
  5. Get sunshine every day possible. Use common sense. Don’t go out long enough to burn, but go outside as much as possible to ensure that your body is producing its own source of vitamin D.
  6. Sweat. Sweating is an important mechanism that helps your body eliminate wastes and toxins. Because multiple sclerosis patients tend to have these in abundance, sweating because a natural form of detoxification.
  7. Gluten and multiple sclerosis are connected. It is very important to have your doctor test you for gluten sensitivity. Don’t accept celiac testing. It has a tendency to come back with too often falsely negative. You need genetic testing to best identify gluten sensitivity.
  8. Have your doctor rule out other food allergies. One man’s food is another man’s poison. The wrong foods can contribute to autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation.
  9. Read No Grain No Pain. The 30 day protocol in this book will set you up with the basic knowledge you will need to achieve success in the long run.
  10. Listen to the Gluten Free Warrior Podcast below where I interview Dr. Terry Wahls. She is a medical doctor who was stricken with MS. Frustrated with mainstream treatments, she began the diligent process of investigation and research, and overcame the disease.

Functional Medicine’s Role in Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Wahls gave up all dairy, all legumes, and all grains. She started to diligently supplement with key nutrients, and she modified her diet to include 20 key nutrients. She performed natural detoxification using infrared therapy. All of this was done because she discovered functional medicine.

Gluten And Multiple Sclerosis – Is There A Scientific Connection?

Simple answer: YES

Gluten has been shown to trigger neurological antibodies that cause demyelination. Gluten has been shown to contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. These same nutrient deficits can disrupt the nervous system leading to increased neuropathy and chronic inflammation. If you have MS and you are still eating gluten and grains, you need to rethink your dietary strategy fast. This is no longer what many neurologists like to call pseudo science. Gluten as a contributor to MS is the real deal.

Medical Research Sources:

Multiple sclerosis and occult gluten sensitivity

We agree that gluten sensitivity is not etiologically linked to MS. We screened 100 patients with relapsing-remitting, secondary progressive MS, or both, and found the prevalence of antigliadin antibodies to be 10%; the same as in the healthy population (1200 healthy volunteers, prevalence of 12.5%). Involvement of the white matter of the brain and spinal cord in the context of gluten sensitivity has been reported. However, the MRI changes in those cases were different than seen in MS, being more peripherally situated and often confluent.

The authors describe two patients with apparent “atypical” MS-like illness both having ataxia in addition to other neurological deficits. We encountered five patients labeled as having primary progressive or atypical MS-like illness who had gluten sensitivity. The predominant feature was ataxia but other focal neurological deficits were also present. MR imaging of the brain showed changes confined to the white matter, indistinguishable from those seen MS patients. Two of them also had spinal lesions. In three, there was neurophysiological evidence of an axonal peripheral neuropathy a finding distinguishes them from patients with MS.

The presence of oligoclonal bands cannot be used as a distinguishing feature as their presence has been reported in up to 50% of patients with gluten ataxia. Gluten -free diet resulted in the stabilization of their neurology but no alteration of the MRI findings.

Gluten sensitivity may be considered as the etiology of “atypical” primary progressive MS particularly where ataxia is a prominent feature. The authors’ conclusion that “antigliadin antibody (especially IgG isotype) can be a nonspecific finding” should be clarified. There is nothing in their report to support this. The existence of gluten sensitivity even in the absence of an enteropathy is now well established. The neurological manifestations of gluten sensitivity have been shown to improve with gluten free diet even in the absence of an enteropathy.

The authors also mention, “poor disease specificity for IgG antigliadin antibodies” which is meaningless given that enteropathy is not a prerequisite for the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. A third of patients with neurological manifestations of gluten sensitivity have enteropathy, antigliadin antibodies (particularly IgG) remain the best available markers of the whole spectrum of gluten sensitivity of which enteropathy (coeliac disease) is only one part.

1. Tengah CP, Lock RJ, Unsworth DJ, Wills A. Multiple sclerosis and occult gluten sensitivity. Neurology 2004;62:2326-7.

2. Sanders DS, Patel D, Stephenson TJ et al. A primary care cross-sectional study of undiagnosed adult coeliac disease. European J Gastro & Hep 2003;15:407-413.

3. Hadjivassiliou M, Grünewald RAG, Lawden M, Davies-Jones GAB, Powell T, Smith CML. Headache and CNS white matter abnormalities associated with gluten sensitivity. Neurology 2001;56:385-388.

4. Hadjivassiliou M, Williamson CA, Woodroofe NM. The humoral response in the pathogenesis of gluten ataxia: Reply from authors. Neurology 2003; 60: 1397-1399.

5. Hadjivassiliou M, Davies-Jones GAB, Sanders DS, Grünewald RAG. Dietary treatment of gluten ataxia. J

Gluten intolerance is typically associated with celiac disease, but experts have also found a relationship with several other autoimmune and neurological conditions as well.Multiple sclerosis, which is considered to be primarily an autoimmune disease or a neurodegenerative disease, depending on your school of thought, seems to have a relationship with gluten that begs the question: can going gluten-free help with multiple sclerosis?

Throughout the years, I have known and spoken with numerous individuals who live with multiple sclerosis. They and some of my readers have shared their concerns and experiences with dietary changes and their impact on MS symptoms. Some have been mildly to profoundly happy with the results of removing gluten from their diet, citing a reduction in fatigue, pain, and other symptoms, while others have not enjoyed these benefits. So, is going gluten-free worth a try?

Read more about health benefits of a gluten-free diet

Celiac and multiple sclerosis

In addition to the existence of positive anecdotal evidence, some scientific research also suggests gluten-free may be a good option for people who have MS. For one thing, there appears to be an increased prevalence of celiac disease/gluten intolerance among people who have multiple sclerosis.

The authors of a 2011 article in BMC Neurology, for example, pointed out that while the mean prevalence of celiac disease is 1 to 2 percent among the general population, their investigations found a higher prevalence among people with MS and their relatives. They came to this conclusion by analyzing various biological markets for celiac disease in 72 individuals with multiple sclerosis plus 126 of their first-degree relatives and compared them with 123 healthy controls.

The findings were somewhat amazing: 11.1 percent of the patients with multiple sclerosis and 32 percent of their first-degree relatives had celiac disease. These discoveries caused the authors to recommended “increased efforts aimed at the early detection and dietary treatment of CD among antibody-positive MS patients.”

A prior study explored the same question. The research team in this study evaluated the levels of various antibodies in 98 individuals who had multiple sclerosis. Among the antibodies observed were those considered to be anti-gluten antibodies; namely, anti-gliadin IgG and IgA, in which Ig stands for immunoglobulin or antibody; and antitissue transglutaminase antibodies.

The investigators found a “highly significant increase in titers of immunoglobulin G antibodies against gliadin and tissue transglutaminase” in the individuals with multiple sclerosis. Based on this finding the authors recommended that a gluten-free diet be considered in patients with multiple sclerosis who have gluten antibodies.

The authors of an even earlier study pointed out that the antibodies that target gluten and gliadin may have a role in the development of multiple sclerosis by affecting the blood-brain barrier. That is, they discovered that antibodies in people with celiac had the ability to react with blood vessels in the brain and thus might be involved in abnormal nervous system function.

Gluten-free and multiple sclerosis

What does any of this mean for people who have multiple sclerosis? Unfortunately, the relationship between gluten and multiple sclerosis and its causes and symptoms is not clear. The few research studies on the topic suggest some patients may be harboring gluten intolerance and thus could well benefit from a gluten-free diet. Among some of the improvements people have reported anecdotally are an improvement in concentration and thinking ability, less fatigue, improvement in strength, reduced pain, and elimination of gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

Read more about where gluten may be hiding in your diet

For people with multiple sclerosis, going gluten-free is a treatment alternative that could provide significant relief. Like any treatment option, it will not work for everyone nor have the same impact on those it does help. However, it is a noninvasive, non-drug choice that could change one’s life for the better.

Image: Garry Knight

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Top Ten Best and Worst Foods for MS Multiple Sclerosis

Top 10 Best Foods for MS

1. Foods Rich in Vitamin D

A higher incidence of MS is found in patients with patients low in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is obtained from getting adequate amounts of sunlight. Eat foods fortified with Vitamin D such as Orange Juice or take a vitamin D supplement to prevent and slow disease progression. You can read more about Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis and the dosaging requirements on the website for the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

2. Lean Meats

If you are going in include meat into your diet, select organic chicken, turkey or lean cuts of meats in moderation. Dr. Roy Swank as well as Dr. John Mcdougal recommend keeping fat levels to beneath 20 grams per day, so choose extremely low fat cuts of meat, chicken or turkey and eat animal fat sparingly as research by Dr. Swank indicates that an extremely low fat diet can stop the disease progression in some patients.

3. Whole Grains

Eating whole grains instead of refined flour or processed cakes will increase fiber, maintain stable blood sugars, promote healthy bowel habits, and help with the fatigue MS patient’s experience. Oats, brown rice, and quinoa are good examples of whole grains you can incorporate into your diet.

4. Fresh Fruit

Constipation is a constant battle with people who suffer from MS. Eat a variety of brightly colored fruits for increase in fiber to increase motility and prevent and ease constipation. Eating whole foods such as fruit instead of refined sugars will help stabilize blood sugar and battle fatigue.

5. Vegetables

Green Leafy veggies, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, foods high in fiber will help with constipation and stabilize blood sugar. Filling up on veggies will help maintain a healthy weight and prevent onset of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. A low fat, high fiber diet is recommended by Dr. Roy Swank and filling up on vegetables is a good way to go and recommends a mostly vegetarian diet with very little animal fat.

6. Fatty Fish

Increase your intake of fish high in Omega-3’s, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, trout and mackerel. They have good fatty acids that prevent inflammation and are good for balancing out our diet which is usually higher in omega 6 fatty acids. The imbalance of too much omega 6 fatty acids to Omega 3 can cause your immune system to become overactive which is an issue in Multiple Sclerosis.

7. Plant Based Oils

Choose olive, hemp or flaxseed oil, instead of saturated fats like butter or shortening. These oils have healthy unsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation.

8. Turmeric

Multiple Sclerosis is a diseases which causes inflammation and scarring to the neural pathways. Eating foods that stop inflammation can help ease symptoms of MS and possibly prevent disease progression. Turmeric is a spice which has been proven to fight inflammation due to the ingredient curcumin it contains. According to researcher Dr. Chandramohan Natarajan of Vanderbilt University mice injected with turmeric showed little or no signs of disease of an MS like illness called EAE, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

9. Avocado

Avocados are another food that have strong anti-inflammatory properties. The phytosterols avocados contain suppress inflammation. They are also a great source of healthy unsaturated fat and helps reduce your risk of heart disease. There are so many ways to enjoy avocado; make guacamole, serve with fish or chicken or spread on toast.

10. Ginger

According to a 2013 study in Food Chemistry ginger extract possesses strong anti-neuroinflammatory characteristics. Select a firm, smooth root, and add a slice or two to your favorite tea, or make it an ingredient in your favorite salads, dressing and marinades.

Top 10 Worst Foods for MS

1. Saturated Fats

Avoid foods high in saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats come mostly from animal based foods. As discussed earlier Dr. Roy Swank conducted research in the 1940’s and 50’s which strongly suggested a very low fat diet, mostly vegetarian, with little to no animal fats or tropical oils, such as coconut, palm kernel, or palm oil as they contain a great deal of saturated fatty acids.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. According to the National MS Society, some people with MS report a worsening of their neurologic symptoms, such as imbalance and lack of coordination, after just one drink. In addition, drinking alcohol may have an additive effect when combined with many of the medications prescribed for MS.

3. Sugar

Avoid foods high in simple sugars, as they contribute to an imbalance in blood sugars, contributing to the fatigue experienced with MS. In addition the loss of mobility experienced by MS patients, can lead to weight gain, and watching sugar intake can prevent the onset of diabetes.

4. Aspartame

At the original date of this posting, Aspartame was thought to cause MS. While this has since has been disproved, studies on the health effects of aspartame continue and it has been linked to health issues.

5. Refined Grains

Avoid white rice, potatoes, white bread, and all refined grains. Refined grains contribute to unstable blood sugars and increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.

6. MSG

The food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) is one of the substances Dr. Russel L. Blaylock, Neurosurgeon calls an excitotoxin. It can inflict further damage to the myelin sheath and patients should read food labels and check when ordering food to avoid consuming any foods containing MSG.

7. Full Fat Dairy

Food high in animal and saturated fat are to be avoided. Choose low fat dairy products or limit dairy products to maintain a low fat diet.

8. Salt

According to the journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, high salt intake is linked to exacerbation of MS symptoms. Limit adding salt to season your foods by using alternative spices, such as black pepper. Buy fresh or frozen vegetables, and avoid all canned products which are extremely high in sodium. If you do have to resort to canned goods, wash the food thoroughly to get rid of excess sodium.

9. Caffeine

MS patients often exhibit urinary bladder issues. Avoiding caffeine can help manage some of the symptoms associated with bladder related issues found in MS patients and prevent irritation.

10. Gluten

Wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains, including white flour contain gluten. Some have also explored the link between Multiple Sclerosis and Celiac Disease—a condition in which eating foods containing gluten causes damage to your small intestine. MS patients should be tested for gluten intolerance and be placed on a gluten free diet if they are.

Read our post on Top 10 Superfoods for additional suggestions on which foods can be beneficial for those with MS.

Soda, sugar-sweetened beverages linked to more severe symptoms for people with multiple sclerosis

“MS patients often want to know how diet and specific foods can affect the progression of their disease,” said study author Elisa Meier-Gerdingh, MD, of St. Josef Hospital in Bochum, Germany, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “While we did not find a link with overall diet, interestingly, we did find a link with those who drank sodas, flavored juices and sweetened teas and coffees.”

The study involved 135 people with MS. Participants completed a questionnaire about their diet. Researchers then looked at how close each participants’ diet was to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet recommends whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry and fish, and nuts and legumes and limits foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar.

“We chose to study the DASH diet because adherence to the DASH diet is associated with lower risk of other chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” said Meier-Gerdingh.

Researchers also measured the participants’ level of disability using the Expanded Disability Status Scale, a common method to quantify disability ranging from 0, no symptoms, to 10 points, death due to MS. A total of 30 participants had severe disability.

Overall, researchers did not find a link between what participants ate and their level of disability.

For soda and sugar-sweetened beverages, the participants were divided into five groups based on how much they drank. The people in the top group drank an average of 290 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages per day, while the lowest group seldom drank sugar-sweetened beverages.

The study found that participants who consumed the largest amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages were five times more likely to have severe disability than people who seldom drank sugar-sweetened beverages. Of the 34 people in the top group, 12 had severe disability, compared to 4 of the 34 people in the bottom group. The top group had on average a disability score of 4.1 points, while the bottom group had an average of 3.4 points.

“While these results need to be confirmed by larger studies that follow people over a long period of time, and the results do not show that soda and sugar-sweetened beverages cause more severe disability, we do know that sodas have no nutritional value and people with MS may want to consider reducing or eliminating them from their diet,” Meier-Gerdingh said.

Limitations of the study include the relatively small number of participants. The study also assessed participants’ diets and sugar-sweetened beverages at the same time as disability, so it is not possible to distinguish whether it is actually an aspect of diet, like sugar-sweetened beverages, that contributes to higher disability or whether more severe disease impacts a person’s ability to have a healthy diet.

Additional studies are needed to evaluate whether sugar-sweetened beverages affect the course of the disease.

Is Increased MS Disability Associated With Higher Sugar Consumption?

Elisa Meier-Gerdingh, MD Although no association was observed between overall diet quality and disability status in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), new findings from a preliminary study suggest that there may be a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and greater disability status in MS.1
With respect to individual Dietary-Approaches-to-Stop-Hypertension (DASH) score factors, those in the highest quartile of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption displayed a higher risk for severe disability (odds ratio 5.01; 95% CI, 1.03- 24.37; P = .01) compared with mild-to-moderate disability.
The research will be presented at the 2019 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 4-10, 2019.
Led by Elisa Meier-Gerdingh, MD, of St. Josef Hospital Bochum in Germany, the study included 135 patients with MS with a mean body mass index (BMI) of 24.5 (standard deviation , 5.3), of which 30 had severe disability. DASH scores were compiled as a composite measurement of each individual’s quality of diet, favoring the intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, whole-grains, and dairy. The composites unfavorably weigh the intake of sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats.
“The mechanisms in which diet and diet quality may impact symptoms and disability in MS are not fully understood,” Meier-Gerdingh told NeurologyLive®. “In the general population, a healthy diet can support a reduction of BMI and lowers cardiovascular risk factors, both of which are aspects that might be of relevance in MS, as people with MS are at increased risk of metabolic diseases.”
Meier-Gerdingh explained that the mechanisms in which diet modulates the immune system include the reduction of oxidative stress and the influence of the composition of the human gut microbiota.2-4 “Both of these examples show an impact on the pathomechanisms of MS,” she said.
None of the other DASH score components which were measured were associated with disability status in MS. The investigators noted that, despite the fact that previous research has been somewhat limited, there have been studies suggesting an association between diet and disease progression.5,6
They noted that longitudinal studies are still needed to evaluate if diet impacts future disability in MS, especially so that in the instance that the association exists, that nutritional guidelines or recommendations can be developed.
The DASH-based diet was chosen as it is a widely recommended regimen for those with hypertension—one of the most common metabolic disorders. There are no established risk or disease-modifying factors for MS, and as such, there is no specific score available to measure a patient’s diet quality in regards to disease risk or disease course. The aforementioned association with metabolic disorder-risk and MS was also part of the reasoning for DASH’s use.

Meier-Gerdingh noted that as sugar consumption was only evaluated in the context of sugar-sweetened beverages, investigators cannot say whether or not a link exists between overall sugar consumption and disability status in MS, even if “it seems reasonable.”
“In earlier studies, nutritional components like fish, diverse fats, or vitamin D have been discussed as potential influencing factors in context with MS,” she said. “Therefore, sugar-sweetened beverages or general sugar consumption were not yet in the focus. But with regard to the fact that, on one hand, sugar-sweetened beverages are rated as a component of an unhealthy diet that promotes the development of chronicle diseases like adiposity or hypertension. And on the other hand, people with MS are at increased risk of metabolic disorders, so a possible association might not be too far-fetched.”
“Earlier studies have shown that a healthy diet might be of benefit for people with MS, so if these findings get further affirmed, nutritional counseling in people with MS should be established,” Meier-Gerdingh said.
For more coverage of AAN 2019, . REFERENCES
1. Meier-Gerdingh E, Fitzgerald K, Gold R, Hellwig K. Dietary Intake and the Effect on Disease Progression in People with Multiple Sclerosis. Presented at AAN 2019; Philadelphia, PA; May 4 to 9, 2019.
2. Gilgun-Sherki Y, Melamed E, Offen D. The role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis: The need for effective antioxidant therapy. J Neurol. 2004;251(3):261-8.
3. Dai J, Jones DP, Goldberg J, et al. Association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and oxidative stress. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(5):1364-70.
4. Haase S, Haghikia A, Gold R, Linker RA. Dietary fatty acids and susceptibility to multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler J. 2018;24(1):12-6. doi: 10.1177/1352458517737372.
5. Fitzgerald KC, Tyry T, Salter A, et al. Diet quality is associated with disability and symptom severity in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2018;90(1):e1-11. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004768;
6. Hadgkiss EJ, Jelinek GA, Weiland TJ, Pereira NG, Marck CH, van der Meer DM. The association of diet with quality of life, disability, and relapse rate in an international sample of people with multiple sclerosis. Nutr Neurosci. 2015;18(3):125-36. doi: 10.1179/1476830514Y.0000000117

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