Paleo diet benefits for people with multiple sclerosis
07/21/2021 / By Skye Anderson / Comments
Paleo diet benefits for people with multiple sclerosis

You’ve probably heard (or read) many health experts decry the unhealthiness of the typical modern-day diet, which consists mostly of fast food, junk food and overly seasoned, highly processed foods. According to a dietary concept proposed in the 1970s that only caught on about three decades later, the advent of these “convenient” foods is one of the main reasons why we now have diseases our ancestors never knew nor worried about. Can you guess which trendy diet was built on this? If you guessed the Paleo diet, then you got it right.

What is the Paleo diet?

According to, Paleolithic nutrition is all about mimicking the diet of our ancestral past. This means eating plenty of plant-based foods, which include the usual vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, together with fish and lean meats. These foods are the kinds of food you’re likely to find at your local farmer’s market, and they’re exactly what your doctor would recommend you eat a lot of. To put it simply, the Paleo diet is just a diet that encourages you to eat healthily.

But here’s what sets the Paleo diet apart from all other diets: While most diets are ok with even just small amounts of dairy products, potatoes, cereal grains and legumes, they’re all big no-nos for Paleo dieters. Why? Because during the Paleolithic era, these foods weren’t available to our ancestors. Back then, there were no processed foods, no refined grains and sugars, and no trans fats. Now, you might be tempted to ask, what about cereal grains? We’ve been eating grains for thousands of years.

According to Paleo experts, grains can’t be a part of a Paleolithic diet because modern food processing and radical farming techniques have changed the vital structure of these edible plants. Modern grain milling, they argue, depletes grains of their nutrient content, so there’s nothing of value in them to warrant including them in your diet. And if you’re wondering, what about whole grains? Paleo experts say it doesn’t matter if they’re whole. All modern grains have been somewhat changed genetically by industrialization, so they’re not the same grains our ancestors used to eat.

Take modern wheat, for instance. Paleo advocates say that the wheat we have today has changed so much that it triggers adverse reactions in people who are allergic to gluten. Meanwhile, other grains like spelt, kamut and einkorn — ancient grains that don’t get much attention and cannot be processed the same way as wheat — have been shown to not cause adverse effects, despite containing gluten. This alone, Paleo experts say, justifies cutting out all modern grains from your diet completely.

“This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways that all drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, a physician at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus and author of the book “The Blood Sugar Solution.”

“It contains a super starch, amylopectin A, that is super fattening, a form of super gluten that is super inflammatory, and [acts like] a super drug that is super addictive and makes you crave and eat more.”

How the Paleo diet benefits people with multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. It is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the myelin sheath, which protects your nerve fibers. The damage caused by this attack leads to communication problems between the brain and other body parts. Over time, MS can cause permanent damage and nerve degeneration.

People with severe MS often lose their ability to walk independently. Signs and symptoms also vary from person to person, depending on the location of the affected nerve. There is currently no mainstream cure for MS; available treatments can only help speed up recovery from attacks and slow the disease’s progression.

According to research, one of the most common symptoms suffered by MS patients is fatigue. Estimates suggest that at least two-thirds of those with MS experience debilitating fatigue. Experts believe it can be caused by various things, such as inflammation of the nervous system, depression and stress, or poor diet and lack of sleep. Unfortunately, medications designed to combat fatigue have plenty of side effects, making them unreliable options for MS patients.

But in a recent study, a team of American researchers reported finding an effective and natural way to relieve fatigue for MS patients. They reported that following a strict Wahls diet, a more structured version of the Paleo diet that’s designed to maximize nutrient intake, can help decrease fatigue by improving blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

For their study, the researchers recruited 18 patients with progressive MS and asked them to follow the Wahls diet for 12 months. The patients were required to eat more fruits, vegetables and animal and plant proteins, and to avoid gluten-containing grains, dairy products and eggs. As part of the intervention, the patients were also asked to exercise regularly, receive neuromuscular electrical stimulation and practice stress reduction techniques.

The researchers measured fatigue using the Fatigue Severity Scale before the intervention and every three months for a whole year. They also took fasting blood samples before and after the intervention to measure each participants’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

After a year, the researchers found that the Wahls diet helped decrease the participants’ fatigue scores from a baseline of 5.51 to a mean of 3.03. The diet also increased the participants’ HDL, or good cholesterol, levels and decreased their LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as their body mass indices (BMI).

The researchers said that the improvements in the patients’ fatigue scores were associated with the increase in their HDL cholesterol levels and the decrease in their blood triglycerides. Because of these findings, they concluded that dietary interventions, particularly a Paleo-based diet like the Wahls diet, could help MS patients manage symptoms, especially fatigue. They also believe that lipid monitoring may be useful for guiding fatigue treatment decisions for MS patients.


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