The gut appears to have particular significance in managing MS. It is an emerging area of research so let's look at some recent findings.
In one study, alterations in the gut microbiota (in mice) significantly altered the susceptibility to autoimmune encephalitis. (Autoimmune encephalitis is the experimental model for multiple sclerosis in mice.) In this particular paper, mice who were put on antibiotics to wipe out the bacteria in their guts fared better than those that did not take antibiotics. Based on what we know about gut microbiota, this may be somewhat surprising as we generally think of these bacteria as protective.
However, the authors conclude that "microbial populations that selectively persist in the gastrointestinal tracts of mice treated with antibiotics... could be inducing the antiinflammatory reactions reported in this study." In other words, there are bacteria in the gut that seem to have a protective effect in this condition.
These findings were confirmed by researchers at Cal Tech. These researchers state, " intestinal microbiota profoundly impacts the balance between pro- and antiinflammatory immune responses..." They go on and "suggest that modulation of gut bacteria may provide therapeutic targets for extraintestinal inflammatory diseases such as MS."
If these findings are accurate, then it would appear that healthy gut bacteria are necessary to protect the brain from inappropriate immune assault. We do not know to what extent this protective effect exists. We do not know what co-factors are necessary. We do not know to what extent healthy gut microbiota reduce the progression in those individuals already with the disease. There is so much we have to learn. But this much is clear; disrupted microbiota massively influence immune function. The degree and extent of immune disruption is related to MS.
Let's try and make this meaningful to the current MS patient; it stands to reason that maintaining a healthy gut should have some priority. This line of research opens up new questions that are pertinent to individuals with MS. What destroys gut bacteria? What foods? Additives/preservatives/toxins? Lifestyle habits? How can I maintain a healthy balance?
A healthy gut is essential for everyone; with or without MS.