A chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, MS (multiple sclerosis) can be influenced by nutrition, as it is one of the environmental factors that contribute to development and progression of MS. Research suggests that vitamins and minerals are important in managing the disease, though there are currently are no dietary guidelines established for the controlling of the advancement of symptoms.
As multiple sclerosis is the result of the immune system attacking the myelin (protective covering of the nerves of the central nervous system), most treatments for MS try to minimize the activity of the immune system, without rendering the person susceptible to other diseases. Knowing this, vitamins and mineral supplements can support an individual’s central nervous system while reducing inflammation throughout the body to keep the immune system level.
Here are few vitamins and minerals that have been considered to beneficial for managing MS:
A review of several studies published in 2011 confirmed that vitamin D deficiency is correlated with multiple sclerosis, as well as other diseases associated with the immune system. Vitamin D can interact directly with immune cells, and is a key molecule in the regulation and activation of the immune system. This vitamin also regulates the functions of cells in the immune system that produces antibodies.
Additionally, a study in 2005 showed that supplementation of vitamin D served as a preventative function in relation to MS, as the incidence of the disease in those who took vitamin D was lower.
Vitamin D and calcium supplements are also recommended for MS patients as they are at greater risk for osteoporosis, and the two supplements combined helped lower the risk.
As an antioxidant, vitamin A helps protect your cells against oxidative damage from free radicals. While there is no definitive data correlating free radicals and MS, there is an association with free radicals influencing the progression of the disease.
In a Norwegian study, 69-percent of MS patients who were took vitamin A, E, D and fish oil supplements showed an improvement in their symptoms. Vitamin A can be found in various food sources, which ideally should provide most of the requirement; supplements are available; however, they must be used in moderation as vitamin A poisoning can occur in doses over 25,000 IU daily.
Vitamin E helps to reduce oxidative stress in your body, and is believed to be involved in protecting cell membranes. If you are taking polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements—thought to be beneficial to MS patients—your requirements for Vitamin E will increase.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 has been linked to multiple sclerosis, as the symptoms between the two health conditions are very similar. Individuals with MS are found to show a deficiency in the vitamin as well.
Vitamin B3 (aka Niacin)
Vitamin B3 can help alleviate MS symptoms like numbness, tingling, burning sensations or a feeling of constriction around the abdomen or limbs. Because this vitamin can cause liver damage, impair glucose tolerance and cause digestive symptoms, therefore, a doctor should supervise supplementation.
Magnesium plays a key role in maintaining the function of the central nervous system. Some researchers believe that MS begins as an autoimmune inflammation due to magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium protects the cells from various metals like aluminum, mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium and nickel. As a result, insufficient levels of magnesium can result in metal deposits in the brain since there will not be enough magnesium to protect the brain and nervous system cells from the heavy metals. These deposits are often associated with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
Researchers have found that supplementing MS patients with magnesium have resulted in improvement of symptoms, including a better range of motion and renewed spasticity.
People with MS are much more likely to fracture bones or develop osteoporosis than healthy individuals, so calcium should be taken along with vitamin D to support the skeletal system. Combined with vitamin D, calcium helps prevent bone loss and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Vitamins and minerals may help improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. While supplements are available, dietary sources of vitamins, like fruits and vegetables, are additional ways to increase overall vitamin and mineral intake. If you opt to take supplements, be sure to consult your doctor to ensure that you are taken the proper dosage for your particular needs.
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer from Southern California whose writing covers everything on health, technology, travel and marketing. To prevent osteoporosis and other health conditions, she makes sure to take the daily essential vitamins her body needs.