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MS and Probiotics

By Matt Cavallo

When you think about living with multiple sclerosis, you probably don’t think about your gut health. MS is a disease that affects your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), so it stands to reason you may not connect MS to your gut health. However, research has shown there are significant links between MS and gut health. 

A study published in Cell in September 2022 found people living with MS had different gut microbiome profiles than people who do not have MS. Your gut microbiome are the billions of microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. Most of these microorganisms are bacteria, and there is either good bacteria or bad bacteria. These microorganisms perform functions that are critical to your health and well-being. But when off-balance, they can lead to serious health problems.

This study sparked the need for more research to understand how gut microbiome responds to treatment, diet interventions, and lifestyle changes. It also aims to find out the relationship between gut microbiome and MS disease progression. 

One of the things you may consider is a probiotic dietary supplement to help improve your gut health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body. Probiotics are considered good bacteria. When you are feeling sick, there are more bad bacteria than good bacteria. Adding good bacteria by taking a probiotic dietary supplement is a way to add good bacteria into your digestive system to eliminate the extra bad bacteria that makes you feel sick. 

Probiotics do not have to be taken as a dietary supplement as they are contained in some foods or drinks. Foods such as yogurt and cottage cheese have probiotics, as do drinks such as Kombucha. These foods and drinks are the natural way to consume probiotics if you do not want to take a probiotic supplement pill. Probiotic supplements in pill form can be live cultures, so it’s important to keep them refrigerated. The pill container will state whether the probiotics are live and need refrigeration. 

Probiotics are considered safe because they naturally occur in your gut microbiome. However, you may get an upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, or bloating when you start taking probiotics as a part of your routine. You should talk to your doctor before starting a probiotics routine and reach out to your doctor if you have these symptoms. 

Can probiotics help people living with MS? While more research needs to be done on the subject, a study published in Science Direct concluded that probiotics alter the gut microbiome, thereby improving and affecting the immune system and inflammatory responses in patients with MS. These are promising findings especially as more and more research is spent learning the connection between gut microbiome and MS. If you are interested in starting a probiotic routine, then you will want to talk to your neurologist before you get started, but the research is certainly encouraging that probiotics can have a positive effect on people living with MS.