Is There a Connection?
Since gluten intolerance and MS are both autoimmune diseases, many health professionals and patients wonder if there’s a connection. A January 2019 literature review of 49 publications looked at the connection between gluten, a protein found in some grains, and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
- In three studies, a gluten-free diet had a positive effect on disease-related markers in MS patients.
- Another study, however, found a diet that included cereal and bread to be protective against MS.
- Four studies found no relationship between MS and celiac disease.
- Seventeen studies tested gluten-sensitivity markers in patients with MS with inconsistent results.
So what does all of this mean? First and foremost, it means more research would be helpful to confirm a direct link. Second, there might be other links to specific components of gluten. According to Medical News Today, one group of proteins found in wheat (known as ATIs) has been linked to inflammation in some cases — adding weight to the argument for eliminating gluten altogether to lower the frequency of MS flare-ups.
Multiple Sclerosis and a Gluten-Free Diet
There’s still not enough evidence to pinpoint a perfect MS diet. Clinical research doesn’t yet indicate going gluten-free is the key to eliminating MS symptoms. But plenty of anecdotal evidence claims eliminating gluten can have a positive effect on decreasing inflammation and potentially, your overall well-being. If you suspect you may have a gluten intolerance, ask your doctor if you can be tested for celiac disease. If you test negative for celiac, there are unfortunately currently no reliable tests that indicate non-celiac gluten intolerance.
However, if supported by your health team, you can always reduce or eliminate gluten and see how you feel. Just as with any other diet, keeping a journal of your food intake and symptoms can help you determine what sort of foods help you feel your best.
Gluten-Free Diet Basics
If you’re interested in trying out a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of resources online. Looking at Whole 30 or Paleo diet plans may give you a good starting point. In a nutshell, you need to eliminate the following grains:
- oats unless certified gluten-free
If you do eliminate gluten, make sure you’re getting enough B Vitamins, particularly folic acid, and fiber. These vitamins are available from other sources, but a nutritional supplement may be worth asking your health team about.