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Nutrition and Multiple Sclerosis - Part 3

Updated on January 21, 2008

Foods to Avoid with Multiple Sclerosis

Things to Avoid

There are various products that research indicates should be avoided from the diet of those with multiple sclerosis.

Dairy Products

There is plenty of evidence of a link between multiple sclerosis and dairy products (The Hospital for Sick Children, 2003; Cohen, 2006). There is a close link between the amount of milk consumed in a country and the occurrence of multiple sclerosis. Eskimos, Bantus and native North and South American Indians or Asians all who consume practically no milk products, hardly ever get multiple sclerosis (Cohen, 2001). Fragments of protein in milk are similar to those associated with myelin. This can lead to the molecular mimicry where the immune system recognizes part of the protein portion of the invader. A cell known as a macrophage engulfs this invader, usually a bacteria or food particle and breaks it down. However, in autoimmune diseases the immune system attacks the body's own cells in the same way when the structure of the cells is similar to those of specific invaders. In the case of multiple sclerosis the myelin is attacked. (Wucherpfennig and Strominger, 1995; Theofilopoulos 1995b; Oldstone, 1998; Wekerle and Hohlfeld, 2003).. cells thinking the myelin is milk protein and therefore destroying them. Also, when milk protein was injected into animals, these animals developed EAE, which is the animal form of multiple sclerosis (Embry, 2006). Research by Michael Dosch (2006) say that immunologically, type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis are almost identical and he believes that exposure to milk is a risk factor in both conditions.

Dairy products are not something that people have always eaten, they became popular when we started domesticating animals. They are now the second most popular food group. However, recent research (Feskanich et al, 1997) indicates that they are not as healthy as people used to believe. Whilst dairy products do contain large amounts of calcium, this is poorly absorbed and green vegetables and nuts can be a better source of calcium. Research indicates that higher rates of dairy consumption in women lead to a higher rate of fractures (Willett, 2001). Dairy products include milk solids, skimmed milk powder, cream, butter, cheese, whey, whey syrup sweetener, hydrolysed whey protein, hydrolysed whey sugar, casein, casinates, hydrolysed casein, lactose, yoghurt, ghee and non-milk-fat solids.


Research on rats who were induced with EAE showed that when gluten was removed from the diet the condition tended to worsen, but in the long term those without gluten had much less sign of the condition (Connie et al, 2004; Di Marco, 2004). Gluten is known to be the cause of celiac disease (Auricchio, 1985) and dermatitis herpetifomis (Hall, 1997), both of which are also autoimmune diseases and it has been noted that there is more multiple sclerosis in areas where there is a high intake of grains (Swank, 1952). In addition the protein in grains is very similar to the proteins in the joints and the pancreas, so there may be a similar autoaggressive immune cell reaction as there is with milk proteins.

Gluten is found in semolina, bran, wheat flour, cereals, malt, rusks, rye, barley, oats, starch and modified starch. It gives the flour its elasticity and enables it to hold air or carbon dioxide and therefore gives foods a light texture. Intolerance to wheat gluten is quite common, less people are intolerant to glutens in other grains.


Research has long shown that lesions in the myelin sheath are related to excitotoxins in the body. However, recent research shows that the sweetener, aspartame, increases the level of excitotoxins considerably (Blaylock, 2006). When the flavour enhancer, monosodium glutamate, is also taken these levels are even higher. Therefore both aspartame and monosodium glutamate (E621) should be avoided completely. Aspartame is often found in sugar free items and monosodium glutamate (MSG) is found in a whole range products.

Allergies and intolerances

Whilst the above are guidelines, everybody is different and therefore it is important to work out what foods disagree with the individual. The most common food intolerances and allergies are wheat, milk, eggs, yeast and corn most of which are discussed here, however you can be allergic or intolerant to anything, food substances or other substances. Items that you are intolerant to tend to be those you are addicted to and the most reliable way to check if they have any effect is to remove them from the diet and see what happens. A food allergy occurs when the body produces immunoglobin E antibodies, which are intended to fight bacteria and viruses, in reaction to a normal food substance. These reactions often happen quickly and so it is quite easy to connect the cause of the reaction to the result. Many reactions can occur at this time, the most common are hay fever type problems, a rash, or sickness and diarrhoea. However there are many other possible reactions such as fits, muscle weaknesses, tiredness and many more. Your doctor can test you for an allergy, although you need to tell him what it is that you think you are allergic to.

Food intolerances work in a completely different way. Often the reaction is not so quick and therefore it is difficult to tell what causes it. There has not been much research done on food intolerances. Usually, if you have a food intolerance, removing the offending item from the diet for a few weeks and then bringing it back again slowly will remove the problem. The effects of food intolerances can vary somewhat depending on the general health of the individual. There are many therapists these days, who can offer tests for food intolerances, and give information on the subject.


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      ghconsultancy 6 years ago

      Hello Caroline, it is always great to see a fellow comrade keep the flame of good nutrition burning on the hillside for all to see a better way out of their state of uncertainty or perplexity, especially as most people today require a choice other than the unfavourable option given them. Keep up the good work. check out my hub on MS.

    • carolinecollard profile image

      carolinecollard 9 years ago from Rhayader

      This essay was part of my degree work towards a BA in Neurological Care, I have not yet completed this. I have also studied and worked in nutrition for about 16 years.

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      Aiesha 9 years ago

      Can you tell what qualifications or experience you have in writing this article please. I just am curious as to whether you have a professional qualification and have written further articles as I find this fascinating reading, and I think you talk sense... Alesha D

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      james 9 years ago

      Spelling error, "hydrolysed why protein" should be "hydrolysed whey protein"