There is no known direct cause for multiple sclerosis. Although it is believed that MS is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including lifestyle choices, there are no direct known causes or combinations of events that have been discovered to lead to the development of MS. While nutritional studies have been mostly inconclusive, with no known food or deficiency leading to the cause of MS, new genetic findings may someday help researchers discover a link between genetic factors and certain types of foods.
New Genetic Research Discoveries
2013 research has identified an additional 48 genes that may be associated with an increased risk for developing multiple sclerosis. This same research also re-established the evidence of previously identified genes that were implicated in the disease, making the total number of genes identified by researchers reach 110. While none of these genes have been shown to lead to an MS risk alone, when combined these variants may account for up to 20 percent of all MS cases.
According to the research, genes that were most recently identified as potential contributing factors to the development of MS overlap with the same genes that have been previously linked to the development of other autoimmune diseases. This further verifies the immune related basis for multiple sclerosis development. However, simply having the gene variations for developing autoimmune disease may not always be enough for individuals to develop these chronic conditions. Often, some sort of combination of events, including exposure to an environmental trigger, may be necessary for someone to develop conditions to which they may have a genetic predisposition.
Diet and Autoimmunity
Exposure to certain toxins or viruses is often implicated in triggering the development of certain autoimmune diseases for those with gene variants that make them susceptible to these conditions. For years, researchers have tried to link certain foods as contributing factors for the development of MS, with no proven results. It is quite possible that those who have a type of allergy or sensitivity to certain foods may be more likely to get MS. For example, those with the autoimmune disorder called celiac disease develop a reaction from eating products that contain gluten. Perhaps there are certain types of foods that cause an immune system reaction such as occurs with an allergy or sensitivity that triggers the autoimmune response that can lead to the development of MS. More studies will be necessary for researchers to see how environmental triggers, such as diet, can affect gene variants that may be involved in MS. However, what is known is that eating a healthy and balanced diet with healthy fats, adequate vitamins and minerals, and additional plant-based foods can help give the nerve coverings some protection from neurotoxicity and nerve damage.