(Natural News) Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that causes debilitating symptoms like pain and fatigue. There aren’t a lot of effective treatments for fatigue in MS and many anti-fatigue drugs often cause various side effects.
However, research has shown that following the Wahls Paleo diet can naturally reduce fatigue in patients with MS, which may prove helpful to those who want to try drug-free treatments for the condition.
Details of the study were published in the journal PLOS One.
Fatigue and other MS symptoms
Data suggests that about two-thirds of patients with MS suffer from debilitating fatigue because of their condition.
Experts believe that MS-related fatigue is caused by several factors, such as:
- Sleep deprivation and poor eating habits
- Psychological conditions associated with MS, like depression and stress
- Pathobiological processes linked to the condition, such as inflammation of the nervous system or demyelination
Unfortunately for patients, commonly prescribed anti-fatigue drugs like amantadine and modafinil cause several adverse effects.
Amantadine’s side effects include dry mouth and jitteriness. It can also cause uncommon side effects like blurred vision, insomnia and urinary hesitation.
On the other hand, Provigil (modafinil) has been reported to cause anxiety, back pain, diarrhea and nausea. The drug may also cause serious side effects, such heart problems and psychiatric problems like depression, hallucinations or mania.
Dietary changes, lipid profile and cholesterol
Data from other studies suggest that improving your dietary habits can help improve fatigue if you have MS. According to one such study, a very low-fat, plant-based diet can help improve exhaustion in patients with relapsing-remitting MS.
For the PLOS One study, researchers examined whether the benefits of a healthy diet for MS patients are due to changes in their lipid profile, particularly their blood cholesterol. They clinically followed 18 volunteers with progressive MS for 12 months, during which time the participants followed a strict Wahls Paleo diet.
This particular diet is based on the Paleo diet and was developed by Dr. Terry Wahls in 2008. The Wahls Paleo diet excludes dairy, eggs, grains and legumes and includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. (Related: The good, the bad and the ugly of eating like a caveman: Pros and cons of the Paleo diet.)
Here are the foods someone on the Wahls Paleo diet should eat every day:
- 3 Cups of green, leafy vegetables
- 3 Cups of sulfur-rich vegetables, like asparagus, cabbages, onions and mushrooms
- 3 Cups of deeply colored vegetables or fruits, like berries, beets and carrots
- Omega-3 fatty acids from wild fish and grass-fed meat
While on the diet, the study participants also joined an exercise program that included activities like stretches, strength training exercises and neuromuscular electrical stimulation. Additionally, the participants were taught how to meditate and how to perform stress-reducing self-massages.
For the follow-up period, the scientists tracked changes in the participants’ body mass indices (BMI), calorie intake, overall cholesterol levels, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels.
The volunteers used the Fatigue Severity Scale to report their fatigue levels.
The Wahls Paleo diet helps reduce MS-related fatigue
The study revealed that following the Wahls Paleo diet increased good cholesterol levels in the participants, and this increase was associated with reduced fatigue. Meanwhile, reductions in the participants’ BMI, triglycerides and bad cholesterol levels also helped reduce their exhaustion.
According to Murali Ramanathan, the study’s senior author, higher levels of HDL had the greatest impact on fatigue. He explained that good cholesterol can be beneficial to MS patients since it is crucial for muscle health. Good cholesterol stimulates glucose uptake and increases respiration in cells to improve physical performance and muscle strength.
While the implications of the study are worth celebrating, Ramanathan and colleagues say that further studies are needed to gain a deeper understanding of the benefits of the Wahls Paleo diet. With larger studies, experts can also conduct lipid monitoring to guide fatigue treatment decisions.
The fatigue experienced by MS patients is often considered a complex and difficult clinical problem aggravated by symptoms like depression, disability and inflammation. The researchers hope that their findings can one day be used to develop effective treatments for MS-related fatigue.