Multiple Sclerosis

Best Foods for Your Brain Health

March 20, 2024

What it feels like to have MS
Why We Crave Sugar
Going Gluten Free
Now Trending:
I'm alene!

I’m Alene, Nutrition Coach and your MS sister. I created this online haven to empower you to heal and inspire you to thrive with MS! Make yourself at home and become a regular!


Become an Empowered Patient

Yes, Empower Me!

Go into your appointments feeling focused and confident so you can collaborate with your doctor.

Best Foods for Your Brain Health

What are the best foods for your brain health? How does the gut-brain connection affect MS? 

We hear a lot about gut health but how specifically is your gut affecting MS?

How does the food that you eat impact your brain and your ability to manage the progression of MS and its many symptoms? 

Having a real understanding of this makes your food choices a lot easier. 

And the more consistent you are with the right foods, the better – and sooner – you’ll get results, and that’s really what we’re after. 

We want to feel better. 

We want:

  • Less inflammation 
  • More energy
  • More mental clarity and 
  • A more resilient immune system. 

So, let’s break this down.

How Your Diet Can Affect MS

Let me ask you a question, if someone were to ask you right now, how can your diet affect MS, could you give them an honest answer?

I mean, what exactly do berries, sauerkraut or olive oil do in your body that helps you to better manage MS?

It’s an honest question. 

And one that you might get asked if you’re talking about your MS diet. 

It’s easy to get tripped up in answering these questions and then you walk away feeling ridiculous and like you have no idea what you’re talking about and feeling like you’ve lost all credibility. 

Well, I don’t want us to go down a rabbit hole of having to justify our food choices, because that is NOT what this is about. 

What you eat or don’t eat is nobody else’s business. 

However, I do want YOU to have an understanding of how food affects your body, so if the person asking the question is your inner voice or inner critic when you’re hungry and trying to decide what to eat, I want you to have the knowledge of why you’re choosing certain foods over others. 

Okay, so where do we start? 

I think we need to start with a basic understanding of how the brain and the gut are even connected in the first place.

They certainly aren’t close to one another in the body. 

The brain is all the way at the top of your body and your gut is in the middle or lower half of your torso.

So, what’s the connection? 

Gut-Brain Axis Explained

The connection between your gut and brain is called the gut brain axis. 

It’s an actual physical connection through the vagus nerve. 

The vagus nerve starts at the brainstem and runs down through the neck, chest, and abdomen, branching out to different organs, one of which is your digestive tract.

So, there’s this physical connection that connects the brain to the digestive tract – specifically the stomach, small and large intestines. 

The vagus nerve basically sends signals from the brain to the gut.

It’s like your brain and gut are texting each other all day. 

What do they talk about?

It might send messages about your emotions, hunger levels, or stress, and this information can influence your mood, behavior (eating, sleeping, working out, etc), and it can influence cognitive functions.

So, basically the gut-brain access is a physical connection from the brain to the digestive tract that enables the gut to talk to the brain and vice versa. 

The Gut Connection with MS

This is relevant as we’re talking about food and MS because what we eat can significantly impact this communication system. 

The types of foods we eat can influence the types of bacteria living in our gut.

You need a good balance of bacteria in your gut to have healthy communications between the gut and the brain. 

If you’re eating a crappy diet – lots of sugar and processed foods – that will help the bad bacteria to grow which can drain your energy and mess with your emotions and ability to think straight.

Regulating the Immune System

But even more specific to MS, the healthy gut-brain axis helps to regulate the immune system.

Basically it has the potential to bring back into balance, so the immune system stops seeing the body as the enemy and attacking it. 

Impact Neuroinflammation

Having a good line of communication between the gut and the brain can also positively impact neuroinflammation – inflammation in the brain. 

Certain bacteria in our gut can produce compounds that either promote or reduce inflammation in the brain. 

MS is an inflammatory condition affecting the brain. 

Managing this chronic inflammation is key in MS because if it’s left unchecked, it can damage the nerve fibers and myelin sheaths.

Produce Neurotransmitters

A healthy gut microbiome also helps to produce neurotransmitters that are important for brain function and mood regulation. 

Best Foods for Brain Health

So, let’s talk more specifically about the foods that best support the gut-brain axis.

To support the gut-brain axis we focus on foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Basically we want to focus on foods that support the growth of good bacteria, and keep the bad bacteria in check.  

This includes:

High Fiber Foods

There’s a reason why the Wahls Protocol is built upon 9 cups of vegetables a day. 

Vegetables and fruits help to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Now you may not be able to eat 9 cups in a day, but can you eat one more serving today than you did yesterday?

How can you fit one more serving of veggies in your diet?

  • Can you add spinach or frozen cauliflower to your smoothie?
  • Can you add a side salad to your meal next time you’re out to dinner?
  • Can you roast your favorite veggies for dinner – broccoli and brussel sprouts are some of my personal favorites?
  • Can you try making mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes this Sunday night?

Don’t get stressed over the idea of 9 cups, just focus on adding one more serving in now that you did before.

Fermented Foods

These are daily condiments in many cultures, here in America, we just simply don’t think much about them.

And honestly, when I talk about fermented foods to my clients, they immediately think that they have to eat a cup of sauerkraut.

No, just start with a tablespoon.

You actually don’t want to overeat fermented foods in the beginning. 

You need to give your stomach time to adjust to these probiotic-rich foods.

So just start with 1 tablespoon and then you can gradually increase.

But remember, something is better than nothing.

If you like spice, try some kimchi, that’s my personal favorite.

But overall, fermented foods contain probiotics that can help to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

That’s the goal when we’re talking about the best foods for gut health.

Polyphenol-Rich Foods:

Polyphenols are antioxidants so they help to combat oxidative stress in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Basically, they help to protect against and reduce the damage of chronic inflammation.

Foods that are high in polyphenols are: 

  • Berries
  • Nuts and seeds, and 
  • Olive oil.

The antioxidant properties in these foods help to support a healthy gut microbiome.

  • So can you add berries to your salad?
  • Can you use olive oil for your salad dressing? 
  • Can you have some nuts and seeds as an easy, on-the-go snack? 
  • Or another snack idea you could do is to add nut butter to sliced apples or bananas.
  • Or could you have a bowl of berries topped with coconut cream for an evening dessert? 

You’ve heard me say this before, but I always want to encourage you to not just consume more information, think about how this applies to you. 

How can you fit more berries, nuts, seeds or olive oil into your diet this week?

Try to identify one step that you can start taking today. 

So out of the three groups that we’ve identified so far, what is one food that you can start eating today?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We talked about these in our last episode about foods that help to reduce inflammation, fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

So, they apply here too because our focus is on reducing inflammation in the brain.

Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation in the body, including the brain.

So again you can layer these recommendations by adding a tablespoon of chia seeds to your berry smoothie.

Or you can sprinkle flaxseed in your salad that’s drizzled with olive oil.

Again, I don’t want you to just walk again with a food list.

I want you to have ideas for specific meals and snacks because that’s what your brain will think of when it’s hungry.

It’s not going to think “oh I should snack on some polyphenol-rich foods,” but it will remember berries or nuts and seeds. 

Break this down to specific foods, meals and snacks that you eat.

And if this is an area that you feel stuck in, reach out to me because that’s exactly what I do with clients in my nutrition coaching program

We break these theories and lists down to meals and snacks that you’re eating at home, on the go or in a restaurant. 

Just send me a message and I can share more details about it. 

Now, I also want to take a quick minute to talk about important foods to avoid that have the potential to worsen brain health and your symptoms from MS. 

Are there any foods I should avoid to prevent worsening my MS symptoms? 

Foods to Avoid for Better Brain Health

Here are some categories of foods that are often recommended to limit or avoid:

Refined Carbohydrates and Sugars

Foods high in refined carbs and sugars, such as white bread, pastries, and sugary drinks, can lead to spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, contributing to inflammation and potentially worsening MS symptoms.

Processed Foods

Many processed foods contain additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients that may negatively impact gut health and inflammation.

For instance, some studies suggest that dietary emulsifiers used in processed foods can alter gut microbiota and increase inflammation.

So for this and many other reasons, this certainly does not make the cut for foods to support brain health.


Gluten is one of the most common or popular foods to eliminate to manage MS and other inflammatory conditions. 

And a lot of people are confused by this because they’ve eaten bread, pasta, bagels and lots of other gluten-containing foods for years and never had a problem.

So, you may be wondering, does this one apply to me?

It seems like a big inconvenience to take out because it’s likely in a lot of your everyday foods.

The problem is just because you don’t have a stomach ache after eating gluten, doesn’t mean that it’s not creating inflammation and damage in your body. 

The best way to determine if it’s affecting you is to eliminate it for 30-90 days and see how you feel. 

I honestly don’t think I’ve worked with a single client that hasn’t said that they don’t feel an improvement in their symptoms – especially their energy levels – after eliminating gluten from their diet. 

So if you haven’t tried it yet, this is a little friendly reminder or invitation to give it a try. 

Because basically, gluten can create leaky gut which allows substances to cross the gut barrier which can trigger immune responses and inflammation that may affect the brain, potentially contributing to symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, and mood disturbances.


Dairy – cheese, milk, yogurt and cream – can potentially have a similar impact, so that’s another one to consider eliminating when choosing the best foods to support your brain health.

Important Note

Now, it’s always important to remember that each person is different. 

This is the concept of bioindividuality. 

Your body has its own unique needs, that’s why it can be helpful to personalize these recommendations for you. 

But in all the years of coaching clients with MS, and other autoimmune diseases and chronic illness, I will say that these lists – both the beneficial foods and well as the ones that I shared as ones to avoid – are pretty consistent across the board. 

So, this can be a pretty strong foundation to start to support brain health. 

Eating to Improve Your Brain Health

What’s one step that you can start taking today to choose more foods that support your brain health while living with MS?

Share in the comments below!

P.S. You can also tune into the podcast version of this blog post on My MS Podcast.

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

so hot right now

I'm Alene, your MS Sister.

When I was diagnosed with MS in 2016, I was scared and felt alone. But as a Nutrition Coach, I knew there was more to healing than what I was being told. I took action and within six months the lesions I had on my brain shrunk and went inactive. Now, seven years later there has been no new lesions and no new activity. As a nutritionist specializing in multiple sclerosis, I help women take back control of their future.

That’s my story, but I’m not alone. It's your turn to start Thriving with MS. I’m here to show you the way. 

hey there!

What's the Best Diet for Autoimmune Disease

get it now

Blog Post

Letter to My Newly Diagnosed Self

read it

Blog Post

 Top MS Nutrition Resources

Snag My MS Wellness Tracker

This tracker simplifies life with MS by helping to keep you on track with your food, sleep and movement.

Free guide

MS Wellness Tracker

I’m Alene, nutritionist specializing in multiple sclerosis and your MS sister. I created this online haven to empower you to heal and inspire you to thrive with MS!

Alene Brennan

© alene Brennan, LLC 2023  |  Policies  | 





follow along 
on Instagram:

  Medical Disclaimer