Tips for Living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Living with multiple sclerosis means you will need to make some changes in your life, including self-care. It is as important as your medical treatment!

According to the neurologist Le Hua, MDThe sooner you address lifestyle issues, the easier it will be to control your symptoms or even slow their progress.

Diet

A healthy diet is one that promotes healthy foods and limits less healthy foods, such as processed foods rich in fats and sugars. Hua recommends the Mediterranean diet as a good eating plan for most people with MS. Not only does it focus on healthy foods, but it is also quite affordable. Recommended foods include:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Whole grain bread, cereals and pasta.
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seafood and birds
  • Olive oil

Exercise

Exercise or increased activity may seem to increase the fatigue that comes with living with MS. But exercise actually reduces fatigue and increases your endorphins, the “feel good” hormones. What you do after your MS diagnosis depends on your fitness level before you receive it. If you ran marathons and went to the gym every day, continuing at that level helps. If you’ve never exercised before, introduce the activity gradually. Even walking around the block is helpful. Don’t forget, developing your core helps with balance and reduces falls. Some activities that can improve your core fitness are:

  • Yoga
  • pilates
  • Exercises with resistance bands.
  • Extension

Sleep

sleep with MS

Many people with MS feel very tired. Not getting enough sleep causes even more fatigue, but sleep problems due to MS can have different causes:

  • Anxiety, especially right after diagnosis.
  • Pain
  • Getting up frequently to urinate

Things you can do to encourage better sleep:

  • Don’t use electronic devices, watch TV, exercise, or do any activity that stimulates your body or mind two to three hours before bed.
  • Do something relaxing, like journaling, coloring, or any relaxing activity.
  • Take strategic naps, no longer than 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Talk to your doctor if pain or frequent urination keeps you awake.

Control your weight

adipose tissueThe so-called fat cells are inflammatory. These increase MS symptoms. However, weight loss should be based on how you feel, Hua said, not the numbers on a scale. So don’t focus on that. Focus more on improving your diet and exercising. Contact a dietitian for guidance and support if necessary.

Stop smoking

Smoking worsens MS symptoms and outcomes, so it is important to quit the tobacco habit. Smoking increases inflammation in the body and also negatively affects MS medications. Quitting smoking can slow the progression of MS and reduce relapses. Ask your doctor for help or reach out to support groups. It may take several tries, but each time you will get a little closer to your goal.

Take care of your mental health

Woman practicing yoga to help with MS.

Whether it’s journaling, meditating, or talking to a mental health professional or support group, taking care of your mental health is an important part of living well with MS.

This educational resource was created with the support of Novartis.

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