Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is debilitating. The symptoms look like you’ve taken multiple diseases and thrown them all together into one awful mix. Common symptoms include pain, pins and needles, and muscle cramping in any part of the body. The pain can be constant and intense. Frequently bowel and bladder problems exist, which are problematic and can lead to embarrassing situations. Muscle weakness can cause breathing problems and extreme fatigue. I could go on, but I won’t. If you have MS then you are well aware of what you are dealing with.
All of this happens because myelin is destroyed. Myelin is the fatty sheath that protects nerve fibers. MS is a neurological autoimmune disease. In autoimmunity the immune system attacks body tissue, and in the case of MS the immune system is attacking part of the central nervous system (that’s the neurological part).
Thanks to the work of Alessio Fasano MD, our understanding of autoimmunity has changed. If autoimmunity were a mathematical equation here’s what it used to look like:
genetic susceptibility + environmental trigger = autoimmunity
With new insights we now know it looks like this:
genetic susceptibility + environmental trigger + poor gut health = autoimmunity
We now know that there are conditions in our guts that have to be present for an autoimmune reaction to occur. There are in fact two aspects that I like to think of as two sides of the same coin. The first of these is dysbiosis and the second is intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut).
1. Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the species of organisms that live in our digestive tracts. These organisms are often referred to as the gut microbiome.
In fact, research has identified a depletion of species from Clostridia clusters XIVa and IV, as well as a reduction in Bacteriodetes (Source).
Clostridium perfringens type B may also play a role in multiple sclerosis, but research is still in the early stages. (Source)
2. Intestinal permeability means that substances that would normally only be present in your gut are able to leak out of the gut. The wall of the small intestine has a barrier that is only 1 cell thick. These cells are normally connected to each other to create the barrier, but when those connections break down, then substances can go between the cells and leak out. The leaking of these substances initiates the immune processes that are part of an autoimmune condition.
GOOD NEWS! We can change the gut health part of the equation. A gut healthy diet involves eating to bring the microbiome back to a healthy state, and eating to restore the intestinal barrier.
Whether you are using MS treatments or not, a nutritional approach that addresses gut health is an important step to managing your symptoms. It’s the one aspect of your condition that you can change. Change your autoimmune equation today, by taking poor gut health out of the equation!
You can do this!
Have you or someone you know used diet to help manage their MS?
Happy, Healthy Eating!