Multiple sclerosis, a complex autoimmune disease, appears to have several interesting diet connections. Food choices, of course, do not directly cause multiple sclerosis. MS results from a poorly understood combination of genetics and environmental factors. Age, gender, family history, certain infections, race, climate, smoking, weight, and a history of other autoimmune diseases all factor into the risk profile of multiple sclerosis.
However, there are intriguing dietary associations. For example, as I have written about in the past (Become a Fish Fan), including fish in the diet regularly can reduce the chances that a person will later develop multiple sclerosis.
If you’re curious to know, fish with the highest level of omega-3s (the anti-inflammatory MS-fighting component of fish) include salmon, sardines, lake trout, and albacore tuna. Omega-3s can be found in flaxseed and walnuts for those who don’t care for fish, as well as in dietary supplements.
Recently, there’s new research highlighting a connection between food allergies and those with multiple sclerosis. This research, it’s important to note, was an observational study, which naturally has certain limitations. Specifically, this study merely showed a link (e.g., a connection), it does not indicate a cause and effect relationship between food allergies and multiple sclerosis.
But what exactly did this study find?
Those with MS who report having food allergies show a 27% higher rate of disease flare-ups compared to those without food allergies. In addition, those with food allergies also experience twice the likelihood of having active inflammatory MS lesions.
It remains to be seen in future research if better management of food allergies (identifying the allergenic foods and avoiding them) can reduce flare-ups, but there is certainly no down side to managing food allergies.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Food allergies and multiple sclerosis: New link: MS patients with food allergies had a higher rate of MS disease activity. ScienceDaily February 2019.