Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system appears to be attacking the body and causing damage to the central nervous system. Any supplement that claims to boost or strengthen the immune system should be avoided. Doses should be carefully considered with vitamin and mineral supplements. At a higher dose, these can more harmful than beneficial. It is important to work with your physician to determine the best supplements for you and at what doses.
What are vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins are essential chemicals that our bodies need to maintain health. We typically receive our vitamins from dietary sources of foods and drinks except for Vitamin D which is produced when skin is exposed to the sun, but it can be obtained in some foods. Minerals are inorganic substances that our body needs to maintain health and like vitamins, can be obtained from our dietary sources. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences has defined the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals that we need on a daily basis to consume and stay healthy.
Vitamins and Minerals for those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
There are some vitamins and minerals that have been evaluated to use for symptomatic and disease-modifying treatment for those with MS.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is important for maintaining bone density to help with the increased risk of bone loss for those with MS. Studies have suggested that that increased levels of Vitamin D may help decrease the likelihood of developing MS as well as the progression of MS.
Antioxidant Vitamins – Vitamin A, C & E: Vitamin A (also taken as beta-carotene) is important for eye health. It can also help with normal cell growth throughout the body. Sources can be found in liver, eggs, and cod liver oil. Vitamin C can be helpful for preventing urinary tract infections which can be common for those with MS. It makes the urine more acidic preventing bacteria to colonize the urinary tract. Cranberry juice has also been known to help protect against urinary tract infections. Vitamin E is available in vegetables, nuts, meats, vegetable oils, and fruits. It helps prevent oxidative damage to the body. All three of these vitamins help reduce damage caused by free radicals which is an oxidant reacting to other substances in the body due to their unpaired electron aspect. This reaction results in oxidative damage.
Vitamin B6: These are taken to increase energy. Natural sources of vitamin B6 can be found in fish, vegetables, chicken and pork, beans and bananas. Too high of doses (such as 1,000 milligrams) can result in numbness, tingling or pain.
Selenium: This mineral can help with its antioxidant effects. It can be found in legumes seafood, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy products.
Calcium: This mineral can help those with MS to maintain healthy bones and teeth. People with MS are at a greater risk for bone loss so adequate calcium levels are needed to maintain. Dietary sources are eggs, dairy products, and leafy vegetables.
Another largely experimental treatment for MS is stem cell therapy. Learn more about the potential of stem cells treatment for Multiple Sclerosis here.