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What To Eat & Avoid When You Have Neuromyelitis Optica?

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) or Devic’s disease, is a rare condition that affects the central nervous system. It is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that specifically affects the myelin sheath, which covers nerves in the body. The areas that are mainly affected are the spinal cord and optic nerves. Therefore, if the condition worsens, it can lead to further complications including blindness and paralysis. Neuromyelitis optica is most common during childhood, and young women are more susceptible to the condition compared to men. Neuromyelitis optics can either be relapsing or monophasic whereby, the latter involves a single attack that may last for a month or two, whereas the former is characterized by period flare-ups with recovery in between.[1]

What To Eat & Avoid When You Have Neuromyelitis Optica?

What To Eat & Avoid When You Have Neuromyelitis Optica?

A dietary approach is considered for patients with neuromyelitis optica in an aim to control the disease as well as it’s symptoms. Considering that it is an immune system disorder, there are a few dietary modifications one would consider so as to boost the immune system and at the same time, avoid any foods that would cause a flare-up. Anyways, being diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a special diet. No, the idea is to eat a healthy, varied, well-balanced diet so that you can provide the body with all the right nutrients. Furthermore, the nervous system works best when its cells have the right nutrition to maintain their structure and to renew as well as repair themselves.

In patients with neuromyelitis optica, the immune system is usually active. Therefore, eating foods as well as dietary supplements that will help suppress the immune system can be helpful in managing the condition. Vitamin D, for example, has shown great improvement in patients with multiple sclerosis, which is a condition that is almost similar to neuromyelitis optica, but less severe. It helps slow down the disease process, thus reducing the likelihood of neuromyelitis optica attacks. Needless to say, scientific studies indicate that vitamin D has regulatory effects on B-cells function, which are more involved in neuromyelitis optica than T-cells. Although vitamin D is often gained from sunlight exposure, there are foods with smaller amounts that you could eat such as eggs, cereals, fortified soya milk, and oily fish. Alternatively, take vitamin D supplements to suffice the levels in your body.

Fatty acids also affect the functionality of the immune system. For neuromyelitis optica, the Immune system suppression which could be beneficial is produced by omega-six fatty acids and especially by omega-three fatty acids. The effect of the fatty acids to the immune system appears to involve both the T-cells and B-cells. Similarly, in relation to multiple sclerosis, high intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help slow down the disease process and shower risk of having disease flare-ups. The best food sources for omega-6 are vegetable oils, margarines, nuts and seeds whereas omega-3 can be found in oily fish, and plant-based foods such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Foods that you should avoid if you have neuromyelitis optica are those that will stimulate or rather activate an overreaction of the immune system. Additionally, avoid supplements that activate the immune system or will have a harmful effect on your immune. Other tips that you should follow are drinking plenty of water, don’t smoke and drink alcohol, and eat whole foods and fruits rather than processed foods and juices. You should also eat more fish, avoid saturated fats and white sugars, don’t skip meals, eat less salt, and be watchful of your weight.[2] [3] [4]


The effects of neuromyelitis optica on the body can be adverse and keep getting worse over time. This is because the disease episodes cause damage to the optic nerve and spinal cord bit by bit. In an aim to manage the condition, or rather keep your body healthy and enrich your immune system, you can eat a varied, well-balanced diet that is inclusive of as much of the nutrients your body needs. On the other hand, you should avoid any foods and supplements that will stir up the immune system leading to flare-ups.


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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 17, 2019

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