Is it possible to fight MS with a Keto Diet?

The keto diet, also known as ketogenic diet, ketosis diet or ketosis diet, is used for various therapeutic purposes.

There are clinics where autism or epilepsy is treated with a ketogenic diet. A special keto dietitian even accompanies people.

The keto diet is also used in the field of other disorders such as Alzheimer’s. That is why there is a growing interest in whether the keto diet can combat MS (multiple sclerosis). We will discuss this question in this article.

Before we discuss this, it is crucial first to discuss what exactly MS means and what consequences this disease has for the body.

What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

MS is a chronic condition that affects the central nervous system. There is as yet no consensus within medical science on what exactly is the cause of MS.

In general, MS is seen as an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the protective layer of nerve fibers. This affects the myelin.

Myelin is a fatty substance that ensures that the signals in nerve cells (neurons) are transmitted faster. A fast nerve network is therefore made possible by this substance.

In MS, myelin is affected, making the transfer of signals between nerve cells more difficult and eventually stopping altogether. This process is also referred to as demyelination.

At the places where myelin is affected, the body fills it with connective tissue. This causes hardening (sclerosis).

MS is, therefore, a condition in which nerve bundles are affected. No medicine can cure MS, but there are ways you can combat symptoms.

There are of course, the conventional medical ways, which include:

  • Medication
  • Supporting technical aids (such as electrical stimulators)
  • Clinical investigations
  • Rehabilitation activities (for example under the supervision of a physiotherapist)

But it makes sense that you don’t just want to be assigned to help from the medical sector. You want to be able to do something yourself.

You must have read that quote, which is wrongly assigned to the founder of medical science, Hippocrates, but is, therefore, no less inspiring  (1) :

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

We will, therefore, in the spirit of the above quote, discuss to what extent it is possible to combat MS with a keto diet. Before we do that, it is essential to explain what a keto diet is.

What is a Keto Diet?

Keto is the abbreviation with which the ketogenic diet is indicated.

The keto diet is a diet that takes its name from the fact that the body switches to using ketones as a primary energy source. These ketones are produced in the liver from broken-down fat particles.

It will therefore not surprise you that a ketogenic diet mainly consists of the consumption of fat.

Your body starts using fat as an energy source because the consumption of carbohydrates is kept to a minimum. In a typical regular Western (American) diet, about half of the calories consumed (50%) are carbohydrates, 35% is fat and 15% are proteins  (2) .

In the ketogenic diet, you delete almost all carbohydrates from your food pattern so that you start eating low-carb and high-fat foods. Your body then adjusts to being able to use the fat that you eat as fuel.

Here the ratios are around 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates, although there are also people who use the OKL diet (Optimal Ketogenic Living) where more proteins are consumed for muscle mass preservation.

Your metabolic state makes the transition from glycolysis (carbohydrate as fuel), to lipolysis (fat as fuel) and ketose (ketones as fuel).

Now you may think, how can scrapping potatoes from my diet cause me to suffer less from MS. This is due to the presence of ketones .

The Therapeutic Effect of Ketones

What exactly are ketones? They are energy molecules that are produced by the liver in the absence of glucose.

The ketones that can be produced in the human body through the liver are the following ketone bodies:

  • Acetoacetic acid
  • Acetone
  • Beta-hydroxybutyric acid (BHB)

Acetoacetic acid is the  basic ketone body    that is made by the liver from fatty acid molecules. This means that acetoacetic acid is further processed into acetone and BHB. Of these two types of ketone bodies, BHB functions as a highly efficient energy source, while acetone leaves the body via the breath and urine  (3) .

The phenomenon of ‘ keto-breath ‘ is caused by the acetone that leaves the body through the breath. Fortunately, this is generally only a temporary phenomenon. So you don’t have to worry about running around with a breath that smells like nail polish remover during your entire ketosis.

So where acetone is expelled from the body as a waste product, the opposite applies to BHB. If your body has adjusted for several weeks to use fat as an energy source, then the acetoacetic acid starts to convert to BHB.

As an energy source, BHB is more efficient than acetoacetic acid.  The reason for this is that it has undergone an additional chemical reaction that yields more energy when a body cell wants to use it as fuel.

Studies show that the body and brain can use the energy of BHB and acetoacetic acid as much as  70% more efficiently than glucose.

Ketones are, therefore an extremely efficient source of energy for the brain. For this reason, the ketogenic diet is used as a means to combat various chronic conditions and cognitive disorders.

This is because ketones have the following therapeutic effects:

  • Ketones stimulate mitochondrial production

When cells use ketones as fuel, they form new mitochondria. The mitochondria are the “power plants” of the cell. In the mitochondria, the energy from food is converted into a form that the cell (and therefore the body) can use for all functions (moving, growing, thinking, etc.)  (4) .

So what happens is that your body gets an extra battalion of small power plants that help to improve energy production and cell health  (5) .

  • Ketones protect and repair the nervous system

Ketones help maintain the functioning of aging nerve cells, and they help repair damaged or malfunctioning nerve cells. Many scientific studies show that ketones can help to significantly improve acute brain damage (6)  (7)  .

  •  Ketones act as an antioxidant.

As mentioned, ketones are a more efficient energy source than glucose. One of the reasons is that ketones produce far fewer free radicals and reactive oxygen components on combustion than glucose. By using ketones as fuel, the body can thus protect itself against the damage that is normally caused by reactive oxygen components and free radicals  (8)  (9) .

  • Ketones significantly improve brain function

Many scientific studies have shown how a ketogenic diet can help to combat the symptoms of among others:

  • Autism
  • Epilepsy  (10)
  • Alzheimer’s  (11)
  • Parkinson’s disease  (12)

There are also anecdotal reports in which people indicate that the ketogenic diet has reduced migraine and other headache complaints.

If you see the above workings in a row then you can probably understand why ketones can also have a possible positive effect on MS-related complaints.

There is a potent anti-inflammatory and therapeutic effect of ketones, which protects nerve cells and makes them function better. Because these neurons are affected by MS, it is a good idea to follow the keto diet.

How an American Doctor managed to combat MS with an Adapted Keto Diet effectively

The success story of the American doctor Terry Wahls shows that a low-carbohydrate diet can work effectively against MS.

This medical doctor was struggling with progressive MS, for which she was even treated with chemotherapy, to prevent the progression of the disease. The muscles in her back had become so weak at one point that she was forced to move in a wheelchair.

The future did not look particularly bright for Wahls. With the way in which MS persisted with her, it seemed that she would eventually be confined to bed.

However, Wahls decided not to let it go and she knew from her academic experience that many medical studies based on animal models were 20 to 30 years ahead of clinical medical practice at the time.

Wahls was determined to find a solution, and every evening, she immersed herself in academic literature in which she explored biochemical, physiological, and neuro-immunological research reports.

Eventually, she managed to compile a list of different nutrients that were important for brain health, and she started taking these specific vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in supplement form.

Wahls then immersed himself in functional medicine, where doctors use the latest scientific insights to better guide and treat people with chronic diseases.

Inspired by the philosophy of functional medicine, Wahls wondered to what extent through a specialized diet she could ensure that she would get all the nutrients and nutrients to combat MS.

She combined her insights with her knowledge of the Paleo diet and in this way developed the Wahls’ protocol.

The Wahls Protocol is a Paleo / Keto diet that consists of three phases.

Phase 1 of the Wahls Protocol

This first phase of Wahls’ Protocol consists of eliminating gluten, eggs, processed fats and oils, and processed food. Sugar is only allowed to a limited extent. Dairy is also removed (excluding ghee).

The focus during this first phase is on the nutritional nature of the diet. The goal is to use as many foods as possible that provide you with the right nutrients.

Besides, Wahls emphasizes the importance of organic and sustainable grass-fed and wild-caught meat and fish.

Phase 2 – Wahls Protocol

During this phase, the diet starts to become more and more Paleo and also carbohydrate poorer, because potatoes and legumes are limited to a maximum of times per week.

In addition, organ meat is also introduced during this phase due to the high content of vitamins and minerals in the organ meat. Fermented food is also being introduced.

Phase 3 – Wahls Protocol

This phase is the phase in which a keto diet is pursued. However, the Wahls Protocol emphasizes, even more, the importance of continuing to eat extra vegetables during this low-carbohydrate diet due to the vitamins.

A nutritious diet with many different vegetables and high-quality and unprocessed meat is one of the better ways to organize your keto diet. Many people have the idea that the keto diet is a kind of “egg-with-bacon diet”, where it’s all about the fats.

But a nutritious keto diet is also about vitamins and nutrients!

In the third phase of Wahl’s Protocol, therefore, the emphasis is also on nutritiousness and in this way the third phase of the Wahl’s protocol is a variant with which a keto diet can combat MS.

The components on which Wahl’s Protocol deviates somewhat from a regular keto diet is that no dairy can be used (so no full-fat variants). Typically, with a standard keto diet, milk is also excluded, due to the milk sugars, but full-fat options are still allowed. This is, therefore not the case in the Wahls’ Protocol.

Besides, eggs are also not allowed.


As you have read, a keto diet can combat MS-related complaints. You can choose to pursue an adapted variant of keto, whereby you also avoid eggs and dairy.

But it is essential to ensure that you take a nutritious and balanced keto diet as a starting point.

So make sure you use good quality and unprocessed meat. Preferably from organic and sustainable farms, as far as you can afford of course!

It is also essential to use the right fats as the basis for your keto diet. You can read more about this in our article Healthy versus Bad Fats during the ketogenic diet

In addition, the use of many different types of vegetables and red fruit is recommended to get various vital antioxidants.

Through this eating method, in combination with physical exercises and electrotherapy, Dr. Wahls managed to slow her MS down.

You may think to yourself that the keto diet is dangerous because of the consumption of more fats. But the idea that fat is bad has long since been overtaken by modern science.

Do you have experiences with the use of the keto diet as a remedy for MS or other chronic diseases? How did this go and what tips do you have for others in the same situation?

We look forward to hearing from you in a comment below!

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