Navigating Special Diets with MS: A Guide to Evidence-Based Nutrition


Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) comes with many challenges, including potentially making changes to your diet. 

Various diets like gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, or low saturated fat diets are promoted to help manage MS symptoms. 

However, it can be confusing to know which diets are legitimately helpful versus hype or fads. As an MS diagnosis often requires significant lifestyle adjustments, having clear, realistic nutrition advice is so important. 

This article will break down the most popular special diets recommended for MS and provide guidance on following them safely and effectively. 

The goal is to empower you to make informed decisions about how diet modifications may or may not benefit your individual MS experience.

Navigating Special Diets with MS: A Guide to Evidence-Based Nutrition

Gluten-Free Diet 

Some research indicates gluten could play a role in autoimmune diseases like MS. A gluten-free diet eliminates foods containing the protein gluten like wheat, barley and rye. 

Benefits for MS patients could include reduced fatigue, decreased pain and improved bowel function. However, gluten-free substitutions often add sugar, salt and fat. 

Sticking to naturally gluten-free whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish and dairy is ideal. 

Work with a registered dietitian knowledgeable in MS and gluten-free eating to ensure proper nutrition. Supplement shortfalls in fiber, B vitamins and iron. Allow 3-6 months to notice any symptom changes.

But keep in mind, only those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity need to follow a strict gluten-free diet long-term.

Anti-Inflammatory Diets  

Chronic inflammation may play a role in MS progression, prompting interest in anti-inflammatory diets. 

These diets emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, omega-3 fatty acids from fish and olive oil, and avoiding refined carbs, saturated fat, red meat and processed foods. Overall this style of eating provides antioxidants, fiber and healthy fats to reduce inflammation. 

The Mediterranean Diet in particular provides a healthy anti-inflammatory eating framework. While anti-inflammatory eating can’t cure MS, it provides nutrition to support overall health. 

Inflammation-fighting foods to emphasize include leafy greens, salmon, berries, avocados, turmeric, green tea and mushrooms. Work with an RD to personalize your diet while meeting all nutrient needs.

Low Saturated Fat Diets 

Some research indicates following a diet low in saturated fat could benefit MS by decreasing inflammatory markers. Saturated fats are found primarily in red and processed meats, full fat dairy, coconut and palm oils and many fried and baked goods. 

Limiting these and emphasizing plant foods, fish and lean meats provides nutrition while avoiding inflammation triggers. However, severely restricting any food group long-term can lead to deficiencies, so work with a professional. 

Emphasize monounsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts and avocado and omega-3s from salmon, walnuts and flax. 

Monitor your health through regular lab work and be sure to supplement any nutritional shortfalls. Focus on an overall healthy pattern of eating for sustainable results.

Working with a Registered Dietitian 

If you decide to trial a special diet, consulting an MS-experienced registered dietitian is highly recommended. 

An RD can assess your needs, determine risks for deficiencies, provide accountability and help you personalize any diet to your preferences. 

Be wary of popular fad diets that completely eliminate foods or food groups. Any effective eating pattern must provide balanced nutrition to support health. An RD can identify your unique symptom triggers and intolerances so you don’t unnecessarily cut out beneficial foods. 

They will also monitor your progress with lab work and assessments. Partnering with an RD ensures you are nourishing your body appropriately while trialing dietary changes. Most insurance plans cover RD counseling. 

Invest in your health by seeking individualized nutrition therapy.


Modifying your diet may provide some symptom relief on your MS journey. Gluten-free, anti-inflammatory and low saturated fat diets show some potential based on limited evidence. However, more research is needed to make definitive diet recommendations. 

While some individuals report benefits from dietary changes, results vary widely. If you decide to trial a special diet, fill any nutritional gaps with careful planning, allow enough time to truly test its efficacy, and enlist professional support. 

Any diet should leave you feeling energized and supported in your health goals. Work with your care team to find an eating pattern tailored to your needs that optimizes nutrition. 

Nourish your body with a wide variety of minimally processed foods and be skeptical of restrictive diets. An open mind paired with realistic expectations can help you successfully navigate dietary changes with MS.