keto and ms

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)? Many people are diagnosed with MS around the world every year. In just the United States, there are approximately 200 new diagnoses per week. Why does it impact some people and not others? First, it is important to know that MS is an autoimmune disease, this will help in understanding the complexities of it. In this article, you will find a quick description of autoimmune diseases. We will then explore the symptoms and causes of MS. Lastly, we will look at how nutrition plays a role in the diagnosis of MS and more specifically, explore keto and MS.

MS is an Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks the body in response to something going on inside it. To fully understand how this works, we need to recognize what the immune system does. The immune system’s job is to help keep you healthy. It works to attack bacteria and viruses that do not belong in your body. The trick is that it is expected to tell the differentiate between foreign cells (those that don’t belong) and your own cells (ones that belong). With autoimmune diseases, the immune system is trying to protect you from illness but instead ends up causing it. Some autoimmune diseases will attack certain areas of the body while others impact the body as a whole. Studies are continuously being conducted to determine the causes of autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately, there isn’t concrete evidence of any direct causes. Some of the potential causes include: diet, infections, and exposure to chemicals but researchers cannot be entirely sure. Here we will focus on multiple sclerosis, symptoms, and keto and MS.

multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative and inflammatory immune condition that causes problems throughout the body. The protective cover (myelin sheath) around the nerves is broken down. Because of this, communication between the brain and the rest of the body becomes difficult. Over time, the healthy tissues are attacked by the body’s immune system.  All the body’s internal systems are eventually affected.


As with many of the autoimmune diseases, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis are not exclusive. You cannot assign symptoms specifically to MS as they are precursors to many other health ailments. The symptoms are caused by blocked and interrupted nerve signals and include: fatigue, movement problems, numbness, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and vision problems. It is important to be aware of any of these symptoms and talk with your doctor should you experience them.

There are a series of secondary symptoms that can occur as MS impacts the body:

  • Vision loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Balance issues
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tingling and numbness


Like many other autoimmune diseases, the exact cause of multiple sclerosis is not known. Studies show that adults 20 to 40 years of age can experience early multiple sclerosis symptoms. Women are more likely to be diagnosed than men at a rate of 2 to 1. Because the entire nervous system is affected, the whole body is eventually impacted. There is no cure known today but there are treatments to manage symptoms.

keto and ms

Next, we will look at MS from a nutritional perspective. Your diet is incredibly powerful and can be the cause of many positive or negative effects on the body. If you focus on the best diet for your overall body health, the risk for an autoimmune disease will likely decrease.


Because MS is an inflammatory immune condition, you will want to be very careful of any inflammatory foods in your diet. One key to managing symptoms is to minimize the presence of instigators of inflammation in your life. Some common foods that cause inflammation include: sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, genetically modified foods, artificial sweeteners, and processed meat. To aid in minimizing extra inflammation, we recommend that you eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients.

Healthy Gut

It is believed that the microbiome of the gut could be a key in managing some autoimmune diseases. Research has found that healthy people have a different combination of bacteria in their intestines than those with some of these autoimmune diseases.

There are trillions of bacteria that reside within your body. It is important to remember that there are “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. The good bacteria will encourage a healthy gut therefore aiding in digestion. Bad bacteria can cause problems and create an unhealthy digestive tract. The bacteria in the intestines is known as intestinal or gut flora.

Ketogenic Diet

It is essential to be aware of what contributes to autoimmune diseases, particularly MS in this case, and be proactive if you are having problems. With this plethora of information, you might be asking what things you should eat, or perhaps what you should avoid. Let’s quickly review the ketogenic (“keto”) diet.

The ketogenic diet is focused on decreasing carb intake, increasing your fat intake, and moderating your protein intake. This type of eating is fueled on ketones rather than glucose. Ketones are produced in the liver, which causes your body to burn fat as an energy source, rather than just burning up the glucose (carbohydrates and sugars). When you are not on the keto diet, your body is running on glucose. When glucose is being used as your energy source, your fats are not needed, and are therefore stored. On the keto diet, the restriction of glucose sources makes your body use the fat as your energy source, burning it effortlessly. We will dig into ketones more specifically in a bit.

Let’s Connect the Dots: Keto, Inflammation and Healthy Gut

Most inflammatory foods will be removed or dramatically reduced if you are following a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you will naturally experience a decrease in inflammation in your body which could promote a healthy intestinal tract. The following foods are recommended to improve your gut health, they are also on the suggested food list when following a ketogenic diet:

  • Vegetables: Broccoli, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini.
  • Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, sauerkraut.
  • Fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout, herring.
  • Fruit: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
  • Meats and eggs: Chicken, lamb, turkey, eggs.
  • Sprouted seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.
  • Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Beverages: Bone broth, teas, kombucha, water.
  • Nuts: Pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts.

Remember that it is less likely to have inflammation in your body if you have a healthy gut. With that being said, you should also be aware of foods that negatively impact the healthy bacteria in your body including: wheat based products, grains with gluten, baked goods, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), and artificial sweeteners. Similarly, to foods that cause inflammation, if you follow a keto diet these foods are not likely to cause a problem as most of them will not be present. Due to this change in diet, you will be promoting healthy bacteria in your intestines. Reducing inflammation and promoting this healthy bacteria growth will lessen your risk of an autoimmune disease including multiple sclerosis.

Keto and MS

Symptoms of MS come and go, so measuring the effects of diet is hard. It is believed that no single diet can treat or cure MS. We discussed avoiding inflammatory foods but there are a few other recommendations that may help you manage symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Most of these foods will also be removed or considerably reduced if you are following a ketogenic diet. For both keto and MS is suggested to avoid:

  • Saturated fats – watch for naturally-occurring fats, avoid artificial and those that have been heavily processed.
  • Diet drinks – aspartame and caffeine can irritate the bladder. Those with MS often experience issues with the bladder so it is important to eliminate things that will further aggravate it.
  • Gluten – studies suggest that gluten intolerance could be attributed to all autoimmune disorders.
  • Refined sugars – these sugars are highly processed and contribute to inflammation in the body. Inflammation can instigate other issues in those with multiple sclerosis.

An interesting response within the body while practicing the keto diet is that the liver can turn fat into ketones. These ketones are a byproduct of breaking down fat. When following a keto diet, they are the main source of fuel because ketones cause your body to burn fat as an energy source, rather than just burning up the glucose (carbohydrates and sugars). This is important because research shows that the cells of the nervous system (which is what is damaged in MS) appear to be protected by ketones. There are other benefits offered by keto and MS. This is because the changes that occur when on a keto diet are at the cellular level which could help those with neurological disorders like MS. It is not entirely clear why this happens but some of these benefits include:

  • The keto diet has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
  • It protects against various forms of cell death.
  • During metabolic stress, ketones act as an alternative energy source.
  • Ketosis reduces the toxic effects of glutamate acid, a byproduct of brain injury.

other recommendations

What else can you do to prevent an autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis? As with any issue your body faces, including chronic illnesses, it is imperative to make sure you remove things that negatively impact your overall health. It is just as significant to make sure you move your body as often as possible, allow enough time for your body to rest and repair itself as well as supplement your nutrition if it is in any way lacking. Most diets today are lacking some nutritional value. It is important to make sure that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals into your body. Sometimes it is hard to find all of it in your diet, so supplements aid in making up the difference. These are a few other things that you can do to reduce inflammation and encourage healthy bacteria growth:

  • Take a probiotic supplement
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid smoking
  • Sleep more
  • Exercise

We always suggest that you take steps to minimize stress in your life. Life is so fast-paced and can be overwhelming. Take time to yourself to aid your body in releasing stress. Take a bath, go for a walk with a friend, meditate, read a book, etc. It is just as significant to make sure you get some exercise. It does not have to be anything intense. You can take 10 or 20 minutes to move your body. For some, exercise is a form of stress relief! Also make sure that you are allowing enough time for your body to rest and repair itself. We tend to have so many things to do that we sacrifice sleep. Lastly, you may supplement with probiotics. What are probiotics? They are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestive system. As we mentioned above, there are healthy and unhealthy bacteria within your body. Probiotics are the helpful bacteria that can help keep your gut healthy.  Reducing stress, improving diet and getting enough rest can all improve the health of your body, which then lowers the risk of autoimmune disease.


Remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and can play a part in the possibility of dealing with an autoimmune disease. We know that the benefits to finding a healthy, balanced diet are great and that the decision is one that needs to be made based on your health history, overall goals and in consultation with your primary care physician. A lot of work goes into finding a sustainable diet that will not only produce results but also help in managing MS. Many people have found increased well-being, better health and improved energy when following keto protocol. Our goal is to help you evaluate the possibilities regarding keto and MS so that you can make an educated decision when it comes to your health journey. In knowing the potential causes and issues that may be triggered within your body, you can be proactive and potentially minimize the possibility of being diagnosed with MS.

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