MS Nutrition for the Real World

March 7, 2024

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Real World Nutrition Plans for MS with Nutrition Coach Alene Brennan

Are You Overwhelmed by MS Protocols?

The rules. 

The limitations.

The elimination of ALL your favorite foods. 

They have promising results, but HOW can you fit them into your daily routine?

Of course you want to feel better – break free from the fatigue, brain fog and all the other symptoms – but does it have to be behind this mountain of rules?

Is there a way to make this easier and still get the results?

Do you HAVE to follow EVERY rule?

Let’s find out! 

But First, Acknowledge the Stress

I want to start us off with the reminder that healing shouldn’t be stressful. 

Healing shouldn’t be stressful. 

Eating shouldn’t be stressful either. 

And yet, when I was diagnosed with MS in 2016 that’s exactly how it felt. 

Everything about my diagnosis felt stressful. 

The doctor’s appointments. 

The insurance calls. 

Having absolutely NO idea what was going to happen to my body and when it would start, was super stressful. (You can hear more about this experience on My MS Podcast.)

I remember walking out of the neurologist’s office at the hospital, wondering how am I going to do this???

How am I going to manage MS?

I actually had heard about the Wahls protocol leading up to my diagnosis, and had already started some of it, but when you get that definitive diagnosis – “MS” is now on YOUR medical record, that just feels different. 

Overwhelmed as a Nutrition Coach

I was already a nutrition coach at that point, and had my nutrition practice, so my mind naturally went to food, but even as a nutrition coach I was intimidated by the protocol. 

I mean 9 cups of veggies every single day?

NINE cups???

Can I even do that? 

What do I do just eat salads every day? Even for breakfast?

That sounds exciting.

And yet, if that was the way to stabilize this disease, why would I not do it?

Not doing it feels like it would just pile on the guilt, ignoring something that could potentially improve my quality of life today and for years to come. 

I know that so many of you can relate to this place of limbo – you want to follow the protocol because you want the results, but you also don’t want to eat salad for the rest of your life and you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around these rigid protocols. 

Is There a Middle Ground?

Does a middle ground exist? And if it does, will it still get you the same results with managing MS? 

Here’s my personal take on that… yes, something is better than nothing.

I see too many people take an all or nothing approach. 

Like you have to eat nine cups a day or else… 

And when that doesn’t feel realistic, you don’t even aim for one or two cups. 

I see more people than not, sticking with the same routine day after day, pushing off their “start date” until they can muster up the motivation to tackle the 9 cups. 

But here’s the deal, the longer you take to start something, the less likely you are to ever do it. 

That’s the problem with this all or nothing  approach. 

You feel like you have to wait until you have it all figured out. 

That’s not helpful. 

You’ll never have it all figured out. 

I still don’t have it all figured out and I’ve been following it for years now AND teaching it to thousands of people. 

There are certain things in life that you can only learn through doing – following an MS nutrition protocol is one of them. 

You Learn Through Action

I love the analogy about understanding the flavor of food – how you can only understand it so much by reading the menu, at some point you have to place an order so you can actually take the food firsthand. 

No menu description can give you the same experience as actually seeing, smelling and tasting the food. 

That’s similar to following an MS nutrition protocol.

You can only learn so much by reading a book, scrolling through the social media posts or even watching another webinar about it. 

You have to try it out firsthand to understand how it will feel in your body and how it will work in your day to day life. 

So, going back to my point about continually pushing off your start date until you have it all figured out, what if you just started today, by finding a way to eat one serving of veggies that you weren’t already planning to eat?

Quick, Simple Wins

It can be that simple. 

For me a big win is choosing…

  • Cut up veggies for a snack instead of chips
  • A salad for lunch
  • To add spinach to my strawberry banana smoothie, or
  • Adding a serving of veggies at dinner. 

Don’t stress about having a perfect meal, just eat one more serving of veggies today. 

And once that becomes part of your natural day, add one more serving. 

I’ll tell you the people that take this gradual approach are the ones that tend to last the longest with MS protocols, because they don’t feel like they’re “on a diet.”

Creating Your New Norm

Instead, they’re just creating a new “norm” for them. 

They’re focusing on building a healthier lifestyle, not following a diet. 

That feels a lot better, especially when you’re already dealing with a lot of stress from your diagnosis. 

Now to circle back to the other question… Can you get the same results with the gradual approach?

In my experience, you get better results – there’s not a dramatic before and after transformation in just 30 days kind of results – but those that take this gradual approach last longer, because again, they don’t feel like they’re following a diet, it’s their new lifestyle. 

So if they get tripped up in any way, they’re not saying that they “fell off the wagon” so they might as well just forget it all. 

No, they look at it from the perspective that they had one bad meal or day or week, whatever it is, and then they just begin again. 

The reality is MS is a chronic illness. 

This diagnosis isn’t going away, so we need focus on the long game when it comes to managing it. 

And having a real world plan is a lot more manageable than some super rigid, unrealistic set of do’s and don’ts. 

I mean don’t you want a real world plan that helps you to feel better but also allows you to eat one meal with the whole family and go to a restaurant for date night or happy hour for girls night out or enjoy holidays and celebrations like birthdays and weddings?

5 Core Nutrition Principles

If you’re looking for a starting point that doesn’t involve measuring every leafy of lettuce that you eat, I invite you to check out these nutrition foundations. 

Personally, I always go back to… 

  • Eat less processed foods
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits
  • Have balanced meals & snacks – meaning include protein and healthy fats – to minimize inflammation, boost energy and reduce cravings. 
  • And eliminate or reduce inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy and sugar. 
  • Avoid foods that your body is personally triggered by – pain, energy, mood, mental clarity, etc. 

Those are my core nutrition principles. 

It’s not overly complicated. 

It doesn’t force you into a tiny box that makes it impossible to maintain in the real world. 

And then this next step is key… pay attention to the results. 

Have you felt better since making these changes? I can personally say, YES, 100% without a doubt. 

Do you think your health would be negatively impacted by adding these foods back into your diet? Yes! 

The Body Doesn’t Lie

I can’t look back on regret of anything I did, if I was listening to my body and letting it guide me choices. 

But how often do we listen to our body?

Do you pay attention to how you feel after you eat?

Immediately after you eat.

Two hours later. 

Later in the day. 

And even the next day? 

Do you get quiet or still enough to pay attention to how your body responds to certain foods? 

We live in a fast paced world, so it’s easy to just try to follow someone else’s diet and keep the day moving, without asking ourselves if it works for us. 

What is your body saying? 

How does your body speak to you? 

For years, my body spoke to me through migraine headaches. 

If I was too stressed, taking on too much or eating poorly, my body would respond with a migraine headache. 

Now it’s more likely to respond through my digestive system or fatigue. 

How does your body let you know that something is “off.” 

The best guide for your diet is your body. 

People’s opinions may change over the years – research may even change over the years.

That’s why it’s always important to let your body be the guide.  

Again, if I’m following what my body is telling me, I can’t look back on regret. 

Because I didn’t follow someone else’s diet or recommendation. 

I followed MY body. 

And that’s what I want to invite you to start doing more often. 

Your Starting Point

Now you might be asking yourself, it makes sense, I’ll start letting my body be the guide, but where do I start. 

I need some type of a starting point. 

Especially as you’re bombarded with “do’s” and “don’ts” every single day with nutrition. 

I feel like I can’t go on social media any more without seeing yet another rule I’m supposed to follow around food. 

So, I am very much in agreement with the message that we don’t need to fear food – food is a great pleasure in life that is meant to be enjoyed and brings us together around a table. 

I am 100% for that message. 

Don’t develop a fear around food. 

Too many rules and restrictions create fear… paralyzing fear. 

Paralyzing in the sense that you start to fear food. 

You’re afraid that you’ll eat the wrong foods and it will trigger a flare.

Or you don’t have enough of the “right” foods in the house to feed you for the week. 

Food becomes stressful. 

I see it all the time with our community, and I’ve even experienced it myself.

I want to invite you to embrace it as a tool to support your healing – a tool that can help you to develop the health that you want to live a more active and meaningful life. 

Food Matters

But don’t just follow food or diet rules because someone else said so. 

Learn the recommendations, and then filter them through what your body is telling you. 

Does this recommendation make sense for you? 

If you feel better after eliminating a specific food, then that’s great information. 

Then discover how you can expand your meal and snack options without having this food in your diet. 

That’s a big mindset shift isn’t it? 

How can you EXPAND your meal and snack options without having this food in your diet?

Let’s make eating healthy… and home cooking fun! 

So, if you’re looking for a starting point, I would encourage you to consider the five principles that I shared.

Take one step at a time and pay attention to the results. 

Track Your Progress

If can be helpful to track your progress too. 

That’s what my MS wellness tracker is great for. 

If you don’t have a copy of it yet, download it at alenebrennan.com/tracker.

It helps you to track your food and lifestyle habits, along with your energy and it’s a super simple checklist. 

The main message of today, is don’t believe everything that you hear on social media or in the news. 

Let your body be the guide. 

Eat real food and pay attention to the results. 

Now It’s Your Turn!

What’s your approach with an MS diet?

Are you an all or nothing approach or have you found a good middle ground for you?

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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. 

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