The Best Vitamins and Supplements for MS
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). There’s currently no cure, but some experts propose the use of vitamins and supplements for MS, as this could improve the patients’ quality of life.
In this chronic pathology, the myelin sheath of neurons is affected, thus compromising nerve transmission. Symptoms are the result of the damaged fibers and include motor, visual, cognitive and emotional alterations. The physical manifestations appear in outbreaks. This leads to progressive damage, causing disability.
Is sun exposure associated with MS?
The prevalence of multiple sclerosis seems to vary with geographic latitude. In fact, the world population has been divided into 3 distinct zones of high, medium and low risk. These zones are determined by proximity to the equator.
Thus, the latitudes farthest from the equator have the highest prevalence. It’s believed that this phenomenon is caused by the lower exposure to sunlight in these areas. This hypothesis explains that the low amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays produces a vitamin D deficit and this increases the risk of MS.
However, there are mixed results in the research, as not all patients with multiple sclerosis have low vitamin D levels. In fact, there may be a deficit in people who are considered to be healthy, without this implying an increased risk of MS.
The highest prevalence is observed in developing countries, where diagnostic studies are limited.
Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis
Vitamin D is involved in many functions. Sometimes, its deficiency is related to musculoskeletal disorders. However, nuclear vitamin D receptors have now been found in several cells. This finding corroborates its implication in other body areas.
One of these areas where we find vitamin D receptors is the central nervous system. This molecule is therefore considered to have effects at this level.
Similarly, functions in the regulation of the immune system by vitamin D have been associated. And multiple sclerosis has an autoimmune component that triggers the inflammatory process causing myelin damage.
For this reason, some research recommends vitamin D supplementation in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, the most advisable dose hasn’t yet been clarified, since there’s not even a consensus on the ideal blood concentration in the general population.
Can vitamin D reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis?
On the other hand, it’s proposed that in pregnant women, vitamin D deficiency for intrauterine life would be related to an increased risk of MS for the fetus. Therefore, including vitamin D in the supplements used during pregnancy, as a preventive measure, would be something to consider in the follow-up guidelines for pregnant women.
Fatty acids and MS
As with vitamin D, the aim is to determine the effect of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3, on the progression of the disease. These compounds are related to various functions, including neuroprotection and immunomodulation.
As a result, their supplementation could be useful in neurodegenerative diseases.
However, current information on this subject is limited, and more long-term studies are needed. The aim is to clarify these protective effects.
Diets rich in oily fish, which are the main source of omega-3, have been widely recommended in the general population. The reasons are the health benefits they have on various systems of the human body. Therefore, it’s preferable to include these foods in the diet rather than resorting to nutritional supplements containing them.
Other vitamins and supplements for MS
Also, some research attempts to recommend other vitamins and supplements for MS. However, information about them is scarce and sometimes contradictory, making it difficult to find an alternative therapy that shows benefits.
Cobalamin and folic acid in multiple sclerosis
An example of this is observed with vitamin B12 or cobalamin and folic acid or folate, whose deficiencies are related to an alteration in the metabolism of proteins. Myelin has a myelin basic protein (MBP) in its structure, which depends on chemical processes in which cobalamin and folates are involved.
For this reason, a hypovitaminosis of B12 or a low concentration of folic acid could accentuate the inflammatory process characteristic of MS. And with that, these deficiencies would be part of the problem. The proposed solution is to supplement these patients with vitamin B12 and folic acid.
However, no association between neuronal damage and low levels of these components has been established. Nor has it been demonstrated that supplementation with cobalamin and folate has any benefit in the progression of MS.
Zinc in multiple sclerosis
A well-studied mineral in MS is zinc, which is involved in immune response and inflammatory processes. In fact, there are some reports of lower levels of the mineral in patients with multiple sclerosis, but these values don’ represent a significant decrease with respect to the general population.
Is it good to consume vitamins and supplements with MS?
Dubious results have been obtained in research that purports to recommend a high-fiber diet or the consumption of probiotics, for example. For these reasons, nutritional supplements continue to be a controversial issue in multiple sclerosis, since a healthy diet is essential for any pathology, but in this pathology the benefits aren’t clear.
Since there’s no clear origin for MS, it’s difficult to find a definitive treatment. Even more so if it’s an alternative therapy based on vitamins and supplements. These could bring an improvement, but they wouldn’t solve the problem completely.
More studies are needed, especially if we intend to recommend the use of substances that haven’t shown a real benefit in patients. For the time being, taking vitamins and supplements in MS should be under the observation of trained personnel, as they’ll provide reliable information to the patient, maintaining realistic expectations.It might interest you...