How Diet and Exercise Affect the Progression of Multiple Sclerosis

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimates that roughly 2.5 million people around the world have MS. They state that around 200 new cases are diagnosed each week just in the United States. And, the further away you are from the equator, the more likely you are to be diagnosed.   So what can you do to lower your chances or if you do have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), how can you decrease symptoms?



Researchers have noted for decades the link regarding food, but a recent study confirmed that short-chain fatty acids promote the development and propagation of regulatory cells in the immune system that can have a positive effect on MS, while long-chain fatty acids contribute to inflammation in those who have MS.

The link between short-chain fatty acids providing some relief in MS goes back to the 70s when scientists discovered that MS patients who supplemented with linoleate (short-chain fatty acid) tended to have relapses that were less frequent, significantly less severe and of shorter duration than those who supplemented with oleate (long-chain fatty acid). Researchers also note that there is interplay between diet, gut microbiota and short-chain fatty acids that can have a positive effect on diabetes and cholesterol as well.

Sources of Short-Chain Fatty Acids

If you or a family member have MS consuming short-chain fatty acids may provide relief. Studies have found that consuming sunflower seed oil or taking it as a supplement can help reduce the number of relapses as well as the severity.

Other sources of short-chain fatty acids include: flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. They are easy to incorporate into a salad – whether using sunflower seed oil as the base to a dressing or various seeds on your salad.


One study out of Canada found that only 45% of children with MS participate in any strenuous physical activity. However, those who did participate had a lower amount of brain lesions (0.46 cm3) than the children who did not exercise (3.4 cm3) as well as fewer relapses.

Exercise helps adults with MS as well. One study found that aerobic fitness has a protective effect on parts of the brain that are most affected by multiple sclerosis and that fitter patients demonstrated better performance on tasks that measured processing speed.

Vitamin D

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation has noted that the further away you live from the equator, the more likely you are to be diagnosed, leading some to question a link between vitamin D and MS. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and another conducted at the New Jersey Medical School have suggested that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may have a protective effect and lower the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). Another study conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and others suggest that for people who already have MS, vitamin D may lessen the frequency and severity of their symptoms.

Other research indicates that vitamin D along with calcium and magnesium slashed relapses in half. The results lend support to the theory that both calcium and magnesium are important in the development, structure and stability of myelin.

Those who do not have regular sun exposure can get help with vitamin D supplementation or with regular far infrared sauna sessions.

Can We Help?

At BodyIQonline, Marlene has been helping people with a variety of health conditions for decades. She helps educate how real, whole foods can give you a new lease on life. If you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and need help formulating a plan that incorporates what you have just read, please reach out – Marlene is here to help!

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Compiled and written by Debbie Lindgren