Advertisement
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

Is Dairy Harmful If You Live with MS?

Updated February 15, 2024

Content created for the Bezzy community and sponsored by our partners. Learn More

Photography by Serge Filimonov/Stocksy United

Photography by Serge Filimonov/Stocksy United

by Carly Werner, RD

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT

•••••

•••••

by Carly Werner, RD

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT

•••••

•••••

Research into the effects of dairy on multiple sclerosis is limited, but here’s what we know so far.

If you live with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may wonder whether what you eat can affect your symptoms and overall health.

Research on diet, MS symptoms, and the progression of MS is ongoing. Researchers want to determine whether food choices can help manage MS, prevent flares, and slow disease progression.

Some people recommend avoiding dairy or following a specific diet, like an anti-inflammatory meal plan.

We know there’s increased inflammation during a relapse of MS and that some dietary patterns can lower inflammation. The hope is that foods and nutrients can play a role in reducing symptoms and slowing MS progression.

Join the free MS community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

Is dairy harmful for MS?

It’s hard to say for sure. Research shows that a diet high in saturated fats can increase inflammation.

Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products like dairy. Full-fat milk and yogurt, cream, cheese, butter, and ice cream contain saturated fats. Other sources of saturated fat include meat, poultry skin, coconut, and egg yolks.

It’s hard to determine what parts of a diet may be a problem. A typical Western diet is high in saturated fat from red and processed meats but also high in refined carbohydrates. White, refined grains and high-sugar foods are also linked to inflammation.

It may be more helpful to look at whole dietary patterns instead.

In a 2023 study, participants who consumed a plant-rich diet reported fewer MS symptoms than those who followed a Western dietary pattern high in red and processed meats.

Another 2023 study found no association between dairy intake and MS symptoms. A plant-rich diet that includes dairy may work well for your body and lifestyle, though everyone is different.

Advertisement
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

Should you avoid dairy in your MS diet?

It’s not recommended that everyone living with MS avoid dairy. Dairy products provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

We need protein to build and repair cells. It also plays a role in keeping the immune system strong. Other sources of protein are nuts, seeds, beans, fish, and seafood.

Vitamin D and calcium are essential for bone health. It’s important to note that if you live with MS, you may be at greater risk of osteoporosis, so getting enough Vitamin D and calcium is vital. Higher blood levels of vitamin D are associated with better outcomes. 

You may want to talk with a doctor about dietary changes to address your specific concerns. A dairy-free diet may not be right for everyone. If you decide to cut down or eliminate dairy, there are other ways to meet your nutrient needs.

What are good dairy alternatives?

If you do decide to cut down or avoid dairy, you can get the nutrients that dairy would provide in other ways. The primary ones are calcium and vitamin D.

Other sources of calcium include:

  • milk alternative beverages with added calcium, such as soy, almond, and oat beverages
  • calcium-fortified orange juice
  • sardines and canned salmon with bones
  • leafy green vegetables
  • tofu and some beans
  • some nuts and seeds

Our bodies make some vitamin D in response to sunlight. However, it’s hard to get enough vitamin D in this way, especially if you live somewhere without full sunlight year-round. Many people need some vitamin D supplementation.

People living with MS typically have lower blood vitamin D levels. Research shows that high doses of vitamin D may help normalize levels.

A 2023 review of five studies found an association between vitamin D supplementation and a significant reduction in fatigue in people with MS compared to those with control treatments.

One small study from 2010 had participants with MS take up to 40,000IU vitamin D daily. That’s much higher than the standard recommendation of 1000-2000IU daily. There may be some benefits, but more research is needed.

It’s not recommended to take such a high dose on your own. Talk with a doctor to get bloodwork to check your vitamin D status. This can help determine the proper dose of vitamin D supplementation.

Advertisement
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

Takeaway

Research is ongoing into the best way to eat to manage MS. It’s not recommended that you avoid dairy if you live with MS, but you may decide to reduce or cut down dairy in your diet for other reasons.

A plant-rich diet with or without dairy can be good if other foods provide enough calcium.

People with MS tend to have low vitamin D levels, so getting bloodwork to check your levels is a good idea. A supplement can help boost your levels.

Working with a doctor to develop a personalized diet based on your needs, medication regimen, and overall health can be beneficial.

Originally written March 01, 2021

Medically reviewed on February 15, 2024

5 Sources


Join the free MS community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

Like the story? React below:


Have thoughts or suggestions about this article? Email us at article-feedback@bezzy.com.

About the author

Carly Werner, RD

Carly (she/her) is a freelance writer and registered dietitian based in Ontario, Canada who loves writing about a variety of health topics. She especially enjoys helping people improve their relationship with food. Carly lives with her husband and two young kids. She loves reading and baking, sometimes at the same time.

Related stories

Advertisement
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you