Nutrition and MS: The latest research on Vitamin D

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, which results in the loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation.  The condition is an autoimmune disease since the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system. For those with MS or any chronic disorder, maintenance of general good health is important, and good nutrition is a must. In general, MS specialists recommend that those with MS adhere to the same low-fat, high-fiber diet that is recommended for the general population.

There has been evidence that diets low in saturated fats, and supplemented by Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils may have benefits for those with MS. These two oils are found in fatty fishes, cod liver oil, flaxseed, sunflower, and safflower oil. There are also other diets that are proclaimed to be beneficial; however, most of these diets have not been subjected to rigorous, controlled studies. Therefore, it is always important to consult with your physician before beginning any ‘special’ diet.  Be aware that some special diets may be harmful because of the potential of excluding important nutrients or of having toxic amounts of some vitamins and minerals.

Recent MS research targeted at nutrition has focused on the benefits of vitamin D in the diet, suggesting that vitamin D may have important effects on the immune system and may help regulate cell growth and differentiation. Current research has shown a positive effect of vitamin D on the immune system.  It is suggested that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may have a protective effect and lower the risk of developing MS; and for those who already have MS, vitamin D may lessen the frequency and severity of their symptoms.  Again, it must be emphasized that an individual should supplement with vitamin D as per their physician’s recommendation, as too much vitamin D can be toxic!

Magee was recently awarded a grant from the MS Society for wellness promotion in those individuals who are living with MS and who aspire to a healthier lifestyle. The ‘MS Healthy Living Program’ is a weekly program that is held at Magee’s Outpatient Riverfront location. Magee’s newest wellness program aims to assist those living with MS by providing structured exercise, cognitive activities, and education on topics of group interest. Additionally, socialization and stress reduction is enhanced through the use of art and horticultural therapy. The program is held every Thursday from 9 am to 12 noon, followed by light snacks.

If you or someone you know is living with MS, we welcome you to come and join us for this exciting new program!  If you wish to register for the program, or if you have any questions, please contact Mary Clare Schafer RN, MS, ONC, CRRN (program director) at 215-218-3905.


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