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7 Supplements and Vitamins to Consider If You Have

By Matt Cavallo

Currently, I meet with my neurologist every six months. My relapsing remitting MS is currently well-controlled with my disease-modifying therapy, my MRIs show no new disease progression, and my last major clinical relapse was in the winter of 2016. Because I am not currently experiencing any MS activity, I always find it interesting when my neurologist adds something new to my regimen. At the end of our last appointment he said, “Are you taking your vitamin D and Biotin?” He had never mentioned Biotin to me before but said that he wanted me to start taking it along with the vitamin D.  

When I got home, I Googled, “Multiple Sclerosis and Biotin,” and found that there were clinical trials involving high-dose Biotin and progressive MS. My research varied in opinions on Biotin and MS. Biotin reportedly helps the body produce more myelin, but in a clinical trial Biotin only did slightly better than the placebo in improving disability. 

With the exception of vitamin D, there is a lot of similar sentiment towards other supplements and vitamins as there is towards Biotin. Just like with Biotin, while there are some health benefits of vitamins and supplements, the benefits to multiple sclerosis is greatly unknown.

That said, as a person living with MS, if I find a supplement that gives me a health benefit, such as extra energy to combat my MS fatigue, then I might incorporate it into my daily routine if my doctor agrees it is safe for me to take. Whenever you start a new vitamin or supplement routine, you should always talk to your doctor or neurologist first. 

Here is a list of supplements and vitamins to consider if you have MS:

1. Vitamin D – The effect that vitamin D has on MS, or the prevention of MS, has been well studied. Studies show that if you have a low level of vitamin D, you may be more likely to get MS, or if you have MS, you are more likely to have a relapse. A simple blood test can show your vitamin D levels. While we get vitamin D from the sun and some foods, if you have low vitamin D levels, ask your doctor or neurologist if you should start a daily vitamin routine. Also, it is important to ask how many IUs (international units) you should take.

2. Biotin – Many people know Biotin helps with skin, hair, and nails. Did you know that Biotin also helps with your metabolism, central nervous system, and liver? Biotin also helps reduce inflammation, boosts immunity, and is thought to produce myelin. So, there are many positive health benefits to starting a Biotin routine. Biotin has also been clinically studied for MS, but the study did not show improvement of MS-related disability.

3. Antioxidants – Research shows antioxidants can help eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are molecules in your body that can lead to illness and aging. According to the National Institute for Health, examples of antioxidants include: vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, so you may not need a supplement if you are eating enough fruits and vegetables each day. Research for MS and antioxidants is not available. Some researchers believe that antioxidants can help reduce the amount of cell damage caused by free radicals, which could be potentially beneficial for people with MS. However, antioxidants boost the immune system, which can be a risk for MS. Most MS treatments aim to suppress the immune system, so if you want to start an antioxidant routine, check with your neurologist to make sure that an antioxidant routine is okay with your current MS therapy.

4. Vitamin B-6 and B-12 – The B vitamins are synonymous with energy. Furthermore, a lot of people living with MS have a B-12 deficiency. A simple blood test can reveal if you are deficient in B-12. The B vitamins may provide a boost of energy, but there is a chance that they could lead to MS symptoms, such as tingling if too much is taken. The B vitamins are present in food, but some vegetarians have low B-12 levels because B-12 is found mostly in animal products. While there may be an energy benefit, there is also a risk with the B vitamins, so make sure to talk to your doctor or neurologist about starting a B vitamin routine.

5. Ginseng – There are two types of ginseng, Asian (Panax), or American. While they both have health benefits, Panax ginseng is more synonymous with increased energy. Along with energy, ginseng may help with mood and mental performance. There are also risks, however, with taking ginseng, especially if you take other stimulants like caffeine. You may become jittery or experience insomnia. Ginseng could also boost your immune system, which is something most MS treatments aim to suppress. Consult your doctor before starting a ginseng regimen.

6. Calcium – We all know that calcium helps with strong teeth and bones. Did you know that steroids, like solumedrol, which is used to treat MS exacerbations, can weaken your bones? Long-term steroid use can lead to bone loss, osteoporosis or even bone fractures. Calcium can be taken as a preventative measure to help strengthen your bones. Calcium can also be found in foods.

7. Ginger – Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help with muscle or joint pain. Health benefits of ginger are available from MS Focus here. While you can purchase raw ginger at any grocery store, it is also available in supplemental pill form.