It is essential to reduce your saturated fat intake if you have MS to a maximum of 15g a day and to avoid hydrogenated fats, which are just as useless for the body. According to Professor Swank, although it will be un-apparent for several years, even a slightly higher amount of fat than 15g will result in a slow deterioration followed by an acceleration of the illness. Having followed 150 MS patients on their low-saturated fat diet for 35 years Swank realised that 90-95% of patients who begun it in the early stages of their MS with little or no obvious disability, did not worsen during that time. People who did not stick to the diet however, did get worse.
Fats are not all bad however. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are extremely important for people with MS; who have an unusual fatty acids pattern in their blood.
Because EFAs play an essential role in the maintenance of nervous tissues, they are needed in MS, where the nervous system is under attack; so that it may be repaired.
The myelin sheath, red and white blood cells, membranes, platelets, brain and blood plasma are all deficient in EFAs in people with MS. It is thought that lymphocytes (white blood cells) depend on the condition of cell the membrane. If a cell membrane is deficient in EFAs it becomes rigid causing certain of these lymphocytes to be less effective immunologically. A deficiency in EFAs also causes red blood cells to move slower than they should and have a lower surface charge in people with MS.
EFAs improve brain cell communication and ensure that cell membranes are fluid and flexible. It is suggested that by sticking to a diet rich in EFAs, people with MS will correct the problems mentioned above and have less demyelination resulting in less damage.
There are 2 parent EFAs – which are converted into the others:
both are essential for fighting MS: both must be consumed so that the body can make them into longer chain, more biologically active unsaturated fatty acids, which are used by the brain. The derivatives** of these EFAs are more important than the parent* fatty acids. Eating the parent foods is fine, but it has been suggested that people with MS are possibly not efficient at converting them into their valuable derivatives, which are used by the brain. . A reason for this may be the vitamin deficiencies that MS patients have. To convert Lineleic Acid (LA) into Gamma linoleic acid (GLA), Dihomogamma-Linoleic Acid (DGLA) and Arachidonic Acid (AA) the body needs magnesium, zinc as well as vitamins b3, b6 and C. So there is a solid argument for eating foods containing both the parent fatty acids (*) as well as their derivatives (**) until deficiencies have been resolved (this can be done through liver flushing).
People with health problems such as MS should consume more omega3 than omega6.
1) Alpha-Linoleic Acid (LNA): Omega 3 found in *flaxseed/linseed, sunflower and safflower seeds, seed oils, vegetable oils, hemp oil, chia and kukui oils as well as the following in smaller quantities: walnuts, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, egg yolk, rapeseed, rice bran, dark green leafy veg, legumes, human breast milk (animal fats and milk also have LNA but are to be avoided in general if you have MS).
LNA Regulates slow-moving and low surface charged red blood cells common in people with MS.
The body makes LNA into Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) which are both very important omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential for normal eye and brain development. Brain cells, nerve synapses, visual receptors, adrenal and sex glands are full of EPA and DHA. While DHA is essential for building brain structure, EPA is needed for brain function. MS patients as well as most other GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) patients, are unable to convert the parent LNA into EPA and DHA because their bodies are deficient in the nutrients needed (magnesium, zinc as well as vitamins b3, b6 and C) to carry out this process. Though consuming sources of the parent EFA (listed above) is important, it is also vital that we consume food sources of its derivatives, ready-made. That is why fish** is an important part of the MS Diet, the best sources are cold-water fish**: salmon, sardines, kippers, mackerel, trout ect.
As MS patients are deficient in these important EFAs (EPA and DHA) it is important, as well as eating fish three times a week; to supplement with fish oil and cod liver oil until the deficiencies have been resolved. Some studies have concluded that more EPA is needed that DHA in these deficient people. These studies involved MRI showing that the supplementation of EPA led to the restoration of brain tissue. The fish oil I use (Higher Nature) has more EPA than DHA.
2) Linoleic Acid (LA): Omega 6 found in *oats,evening primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant oil, most seeds and nuts and in smaller quantities in egg yolk and human breast milk
From LA the body makes Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), Dihomogamma-Linolenic Acid (DGLA) and Archidonic Acid (AA), all very important for brain function and structure, blood clotting, the immune system, hormone metabolism and inflammation as well as many other roles in the body. The same vitamins are needed to convert LA to GLA and DGLA as the ones mentioned above. So as with LNA, patients must consume the derivatives of LA to get ready-made GLA, DGLA and AA as their bodies are unable to convert the EFAs themselves.
GLA and DGLA are found in **evening primrose, hemp, borage and blackcurrant seed oil. For a regular supply of Omega6 oils, it is a good idea to eat nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, brazil nuts ect regularly, as well as sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds, be careful about their saturated fat content though – especially the nuts, and be sure to grind the seeds before using so that they don’t just go through you and their oils are actually absorbed!
AA is a very important EFA as it is the most present in the brain. In MS and other GAPS patients this AA is simply leaking out of the cell membranes and explains the fact that in these conditions the brain shrinks. This loss of AA results in the inability of cells, be they brain, immune or other cells, to carry out their function.
Research indicates that the enzyme Phosopholipase A2 (PLA2) is responsible for this loss of AA. This enzyme’s purpose is to release AA from the cell membranes. This enzyme has been found to be overactive in GAPS patients. The main causes of this overactivity are usually bio-toxins from bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites in the gut. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Most MS patients can trace the start of their MS to a virus: click here to read about how it all begins in the gut. But this is a bit of a chicken and egg story; as another cause for the activation of PLA2 is chronic inflammation. Other causes include high levels of insulin (from consuming too many processed carbohydrates and sugars -cut out grains, starch and sugar to preserve AA) exposure to pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals, Aspartame, lack of oxygen, brain damage, bee and snake venom.
AA can be found directly in meat especially liver, and eggs (also dairy)
Prostaglandins are made by GLA and AA as and when they are needed.
– In MS, platelets clump together, prostaglandins are said to fix this abnormality.
– In MS the immune system attacks the body’s own matter. Series 1 Prostaglandins are said to regulate the T suppressor cells – a type of T lymphocyte (white blood cell) – which prevents the body from attacking itself. These cells are particularly low during an MS relapse and may become defective in a shortage of Series 1 Prostaglandins. Prostaglandins also stop lymphocytes which attack the central nervous system.
Enough polyunsaturated fats need to be introduced into the diet before there is an effect on the severity and duration of relapses. If these EFAs are not taking at the same time as enough anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals i.e. vegetables, they will be oxidised make peroxides which cause a lot of damage. Take a look at the MS diet for more information.
Nuts and seeds are good sources of omega3s and omega6s rich in amino acids, magnesium, selenium, zinc and other vital minerals. Studies have proven that people who regularly eat seeds and nuts in moderation are less likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer and degenerative diseases than those who do not regularly consume them. However both are fibrous and should not be taken if there is diarrhoea. Seeds are good for sprouting which makes them easier to digest.
As mentioned above, we need both omega3 and omega6 however as the western diet is full of vegetable oils, most people already consume a lot of omega6 which predisposes us to many inflammatory diseases, like MS. People with health problems such as MS should consume more omega3 than omega6: the optimum ratio in oil blends is generally said to be 2:1 of omega3:omega6. You can use oils blended to this ratio as long as they are of good quality, or you can grind seeds in this ratio. The ratio of omega6: omega3 is too high in hemp oil (1:3) and so should not be used alone. Flax seed oil has a lot more omega3 than omega 6 and so should be combined with something high in omega6 such as ground pumpkin seeds. Because seed and nut oils are easily damaged it is important you buy oils following certain rules, click here for more information. Olive oil is also a wonderful oil worth adding to your diet, as long as you follow the rules to good oil.