Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disorder of the central nervous system. When you have the condition, your brain and spinal cord are affected.
Normally, nerve cells are surrounded by an insulating layer called “myelin.” Myelin is a fatty substance that helps transmit nerve impulses. When you have MS, the myelin sheath is inflamed or damaged. This slows or disrupts completely the transmission of nerve impulses, leaving areas of scarring called “sclerosis.” When the nerve signals are disrupted, you can experience a number of symptoms, the most common of which are blurred or double vision, tingling in the limbs, loss of balance and coordination, and tremors. MS attacks typically come and go in episodes, with relapses alternating with remissions.
Diet is thought to play a key role in the development of MS. Medical researchers point to the fact that MS is fairly common in the U.S. and Europe and almost unheard of in countries such as Japan, Korea and China. The average U.S. diet is high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and alcohol. According to the researchers, these and other nutritional “bad guys” lead to the production of something called “prostaglandin 2” (PG2). PG2 is a hormone-like substance that promotes an inflammatory response. In turn, inflammation worsens the symptoms of MS. By contrast, in Asian countries, people typically consume much less fat than their American counterparts. Their diets tend to be high in foods that contain omega-3s and other essential fatty acids. Omega-3s are known to prevent inflammation.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked with an increased risk for the symptoms of MS. In a clinical trial performed at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, researchers examined whether levels of vitamin D were
associated with the risk of developing MS. The researchers did a massive data review of more than seven million U.S. military personnel who had blood samples stored in the Department of Defense Serum Repository. Multiple sclerosis cases were identified through Army and Navy databases from the years 1992 through 2004. The researchers matched each of the 257 cases to two controls. Vitamin D status was then evaluated by reviewing serum samples collected before the date of initial MS symptoms. The research group found that, among whites, the risk of multiple sclerosis significantly decreased with increasing levels of vitamin D. The researchers concluded that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis.
Many with MS have been statistically found to have a poor diet prior to the onset of the disease. Allergies to gluten and dairy have been suspected of playing a role in the progression of MS, too. Whatever the real cause of MS, it is obviously important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to avoid harmful chemicals and pollutants as much as possible. This is especially true if you have a family member already suffering with the condition.