Managing Your NMO With Your Diet

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO), or Devic's disease, is a rare inflammatory disease. NMO damages the central nervous system, including the eyes, nerves, spinal cord, and brain. Today, we're taking a closer look at the connection between diet and NMO. 1,2

NMO is an autoimmune disorder. In autoimmune disorders, the body's immune system attacks and damages healthy cells and tissues.

NMO is also a chronic disease. Chronic diseases last a long time or never go away completely.1,2

NMO symptoms

Unfortunately, there is no cure for NMO. Doctors help people with NMO by treating their symptoms. These symptoms include:1,2

  • Pain in the eyes, neck, and back
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle weakness or spasms
  • Does your diet affect NMO?

    Some people with NMO have noticed that what they eat affects their NMO symptoms.

    Research about diet and NMO

    Several studies have looked at the connection between diet and NMO. One study found a link between eating a lot of sugar and NMO. Another study found that people were at higher risk for developing NMO if they ate diets low in:3,4

  • Dairy
  • Seafood
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • A high triglyceride diet and NMO

    High triglyceride levels can lead to poor recovery from NMO. Triglycerides are fat found in a person's blood, helping to convert food into energy. However, high triglyceride levels can increase the risk of inflammatory diseases.5

    Digestion and the immune system

    There is a link between gut microbiota and neuroinflammatory illnesses, such as NMO. Several studies have looked at the connection between diet and NMO. A microbiota is a collection of microorganisms, including:6

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Role of microbiotas in illness

    Microbiotas help with digestion and strengthen the immune system. Imbalances in microbiotas can lead to neuroimmune illnesses. These are illnesses like NMO that affect the nervous system and the immune system.6

    Researchers have shown a connection between diet and microbiotas. For example, giving artificial sweeteners to lab animals raised their blood sugar levels.6

    A diet high in fiber may help modify microbiota in a positive way. The use of prebiotics and probiotics may be useful. Prebiotics act as food for the good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics help maintain a good balance of microorganisms.6

    Inflammation and the Dietary Inflammatory Index

    Fatty acids such as DHA and EPA can be helpful for people with NMO. Fatty acids support brain health and reduce inflammation. DHA and EPA are available as supplements. They are also found in cold-water fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines.6

    What is the Dietary Inflammatory Index?

    The Dietary Inflammatory index (DII) rates how a person's diet affects inflammation in their body. A high DII score means the diet is more likely to increase inflammation. Foods more likely to cause inflammation, which can lead to disease, include:7

  • Snack foods
  • Fried foods
  • Sweetened drinks
  • The benefits of a Mediterranean diet

    There is no diet designed just for NMO. But studies have found that a Mediterranean diet leads to better health. A Mediterranean diet reduces inflammation and lowers blood sugar. The diet also lowers a person's body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.8

    A Mediterranean diet focuses on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Moderate amounts of dairy, fish, poultry and alcohol are allowed. Processed foods and red meat should be avoided. Processed foods are very unhealthy. They are high in fat, sugar, and salt. They use artificial ingredients and have few nutrients.8

    The Mediterranean diet is a good choice for people with NMO. This diet can increase energy, enhance mood, and improve overall health. While no diet is perfect, eating fresh and wholesome food is a smart choice.8

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