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How to Beat IBS & Never Worry About Digestive Problems Again!

Multiple Sclerosis and IBS

Published date: July 18, 2023 | Modified date:
by Dr Stephen Wangen


Here’s what we’re going to cover

  1. Are Multiple Sclerosis and IBS Related?
  2. Can MS Cause Gastrointestinal Problems?
  3. Bowel Problems You Might Have with Multiple Sclerosis
  4. Why Do You Gain Weight With MS?
  5. How Do You Treat IBS with Multiple Sclerosis?


Many people with multiple sclerosis have IBS, or at least have digestive problems. There is some significant overlap in IBS and Multiple Sclerosis, and often both can be helped when you help one of them.

Are Multiple Sclerosis and IBS Related?

What I’ve found is that in most cases there is a significant amount of overlap in the issues related to multiple sclerosis and IBS, and I think that you’ll find the causes not only interesting but helpful for making progress with each condition. First let’s talk about the digestive symptoms often found in MS.

Can MS Cause Gastrointestinal Problems?

About 10% of patients with multiple sclerosis also have IBS. That’s significant, but it’s not higher than the rest of the population. So, it’s not that IBS is more common in multiple sclerosis, but some of the causes for IBS have also been connected with multiple sclerosis.

As you probably already know if you’re watching this, multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system is attacking the sheathing of the nerves. That in turn can potentially lead to digestive problems, which makes sense. Because your nervous system also impacts your digestion.

Bowel Problems You Might Have with Multiple Sclerosis

constipation, or a slow bowelThe most common digestive problem that people with multiple sclerosis have is constipation, or a slow bowel. This is logical, because if you are losing nervous system function in your gut, then you are probably more likely to stop moving stool through it as well as you should.

Related to this is dysphagia, or trouble swallowing, and gastroparesis, which is delayed emptying of the stomach and a feeling of fullness. These are also types of slow movement of food through the digestive system. And of course, if things aren’t moving down, that can contribute to reflux and heartburn, which are also often seen in multiple sclerosis.

Fecal incontinence, or loss of bowel control, is another symptom often associated with multiple sclerosis. And this again probably ties in with nervous system function that is no longer able to keep anal sphincter muscles taught when they need to be. And this same loss of function may also impact heartburn and reflux, which is controlled by the lower esophageal sphincter, the area that usually keeps the lid on stomach acid.

All of this tie together, yet some people with multiple sclerosis experience diarrhea, and others experience abdominal pain, gas and bloating.

Why Do You Gain Weight With MS?

People with MS may lose weight, but many gain weight, and this is likely due to either a loss of mobility or side effects of medications. Note that inflammation is also weight. Inflammation includes swelling, and swelling is the retention of water, which adds weight.

How Do You Treat IBS with Multiple Sclerosis?

The first thing that I think about whenever I’m dealing with an autoimmune condition is why has the immune system gone rogue and started attacking the body?

This is where the IBS connection gets interesting. Digestion is often the key to everything else that’s going on in the body. And digestion isn’t just about what you eat, it’s about how your immune system responds to what you eat.

Studies have shown that people with multiple sclerosis are more likely to have celiac disease, which is a type of gluten intolerance.1 Studies have also shown that people with MS are more likely to have antibodies against foods.2 I’m talking about IgA and IgG antibodies. Having antibodies means that your immune system is reacting to a food, and that is not normal good health.

The studies have not looked at a lot of foods yet, but they have shown that non celiac gluten sensitivities and dairy reactions are often found in people with MS.3

Now let’s connect some dots. Celiac disease has clearly been shown to increase the incidence of many autoimmune diseases. And to be more specific, many other autoimmune diseases. Because celiac disease is itself an autoimmune disease. And get this, the damage from celiac disease goes away when you avoid gluten.

What I just said is that you can cure an autoimmune disease by avoiding a food. You don’t usually hear it put in those words, but that is exactly what is happening. And I think that it’s very important to stop and think about the power of food and immune reactions to food.

Avoiding foods is also a major component of helping people solve IBS. This is where IBS and multiple sclerosis overlap.

I can’t tell you which food to avoid in order to solve your IBS, because that is only a piece of the IBS treatment puzzle, and the dietary component is different for each of patients. But what I can tell you is that in most cases, IBS is usually very treatable if you work with an IBS specialist, which is very different than working with your regular doctor or a gastroenterologist.

And what I find even more exciting is that the potential side benefit of getting the proper treatment for your IBS may be connected to improvement in your multiple sclerosis. And I’m confident that food reactions play a role in MS and other autoimmune conditions, because I’ve seen it in my practice.

So, I hope that you have some hope and that you’ll give this serious thought. It’s easy to find people and organizations who say that there is no connection, but there is far too much evidence to ignore this, especially if you’re the one with MS or IBS. Why wouldn’t you want to put all of the odds in your favor?