The link between MS and gut health
We all know that eating a healthy diet helps us maintain a healthy body, but how many of us are aware of the significant role that our gut plays in this, particularly concerning the health of our auto-immune systems?
In part one of this three-part series about diet and MS, we take a brief look at the role our gut plays in helping us to stay healthy and its relationship to multiple sclerosis (MS).
What are gut microbiomes?
The human Gastrointestinal (GI) tract is made up of a series of organs running from our mouths to the anus. Constituent elements of our GI tract include the esophagus, large and small intestines and our stomach. Within our GI tract live a plethora of bacterial organisms, known as gut microbiomes, which play a vital role in ensuring that our bodies stay healthy.
The microbiomes found inside our GI tract work in conjunction with our nerves, blood and wider digestive system to ensure efficient digestion of consumed food and liquids. This complex collaborative process allows our bodies to absorb nutrients which promote our growth, energy production, a healthy immune system and cell repair.
Every one of us has a unique gut microbiome make-up that is influenced by several factors, including genetics, use of medications and antibiotics, our diets and age. This microbial process begins as soon as we are born and evolves throughout our lives.
Bacterial imbalances and effects
Unfortunately, imbalances in our gut microbiomes, known as ‘dysbiosis’, can lead to bacteria escaping from the GI tract via the intestinal barrier and into our bloodstream. The effect of this is an increase in inflammatory influences on the central nervous system
Connections to MS
While more work is needed to help us understand how gut dysbiosis impacts specifically the onset and progression of auto-immune conditions such as MS, recent studies have provided convincing evidence of a connection between the two. Indeed, very recently MS-UK reported on a study which was published in 2022 and analysed the gut bacteria of MS patients. This study found a correlation between certain types of bacteria with increased and decreased disease severity.
To date, the authors of such studies have generally concluded that we need to know more about the relationship between maintaining a healthy gut and the impact it can have on auto-immune conditions, both in terms of the onset of these conditions and disease progression. However, given that we currently have clear evidence of this link, it follows that people affected by MS should consider taking steps to improve the health of their gut where possible.
To find out more about gut health and its link to MS, read our recently revised diet and supplements Choices booklet. The booklet can be viewed electronically or you can order a hard copy, completely free of charge, by using our online order form.
In the next instalment of this three-part blog we will touch on ways in which we can start the process of making our guts more healthy.
Part two and three is available now! Read some simple ways to improve your gut health blog and diets designed with MS in mind blog today.