When trying to manage MS, there are tons of things we can be doing to help. They range from how we think about or disease, to sleep, how we move to what we eat. But what can we do right now to manage our MS better? In no particular order..
Vitamin D has been shown to be both a protective factor of preventing the onset of MS as well as something that can reduce symptoms and disease course in those who have MS. Getting outside even for just 20 minutes each day can be beneficial. Bonus points if you get outside in the morning, it will benefit your circadian rhythms, even if it’s cloudy.
Getting outside can potentially boost your mood and relieve stress as well. If you’re spending time in nature or in the woods, nature can have a drastic impact on your overall stress levels and improve your quality of life. Spending time in nature can lower your cortisol levels, pulse rate, blood pressure and increase your parasympathetic nervous system activity.
I can already feel the dirty looks coming my way through the computer. Exercising when you’re exhausted is hard. I get it. I’ve been there too. But action begets action. Which is true for any action, by the way. If you do a little exercise one day, the easier it will be to exercise the next day.
Exercise can be very beneficial for individuals with MS. Exercise can help with stability, mobility, strength and can give mental benefits as well. Sometimes the exercise methods might need to be adjusted depending on limitations, but just because someone might have some physical limitations, does NOT mean that exercise shouldn’t be considered as a treatment modality.
Something to consider if you’re just starting out on your exercise journey would be to find either a physical therapist or personal trainer who is familiar with MS or autoimmune disease. They will be able to program for your needs in an individual way, while keeping your specific needs in mind.
Sleep is essential for health. Sleep is when our bodies renew our cells and repair damaged tissue. Sleep can also help with fatigue, help to prevent relapses, promote new cellular growth and reduce cortisol levels.
Yes, it can be hard to get quality sleep when you have MS. Spasticity, pain and nocturia can keep you up or wake you up plenty. But there are many lifestyle modifications you can make to try and help improve your sleep, despite these struggles.
What is on the end of your utensil can make a massive difference. Eating foods that contribute to inflammation only add fuel to the MS fire. However, eating foods that lower overall inflammation as well as specific foods that contribute to brain health, like omega 3s, will drastically improve your functioning, progression and prognosis.
One of the best things you can do first is to eliminate gluten. In the literature, some correlations between celiac disease and MS have been noted. Gluten is also very inflammatory and can contribute to leaky gut, or intestinal permeability. Which can lead to systemic inflammation and additional autoimmune disease.
Adding healing foods into your day will not only possibly reduce your symptoms it can possibly reverse progression, as in the case of Dr. Terry Wahls, and prevent further progression. Changing your diet will not cure you, but it can certainly help.
Mindfulness has been one of the best additions to my healing game yet. It has helped me in so many areas, and MS has just been one of them. In terms of MS, it has helped me with pain management and overall outlook on my disease. I routinely meditate as my mindfulness practice as well as take mindful walks, where I try to notice everything around me.
Mindfulness practices have been shown to help with quality of life, anxiety, fatigue and pain. It can look different for everyone too, meditation, yoga, exercise, cooking etc. You can make almost anything a mindfulness exercise if you’re aware of what you’re doing, what it feels like, what smells are present, what sounds you hear.
Despite doctors, the internet, your Aunt Becky telling you there is nothing you can do for your MS besides take medication, there is plenty you can do. This isn’t a complete list either, it’s what I would pick if I only could pick 5 things. These are the things I help my clients slowly integrate into their lives when we work together to help improve symptoms. If you’re interested in reading about which foods I specifically recommend for MS, click here!
The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835
A Case of Multiple Sclerosis and Celiac Disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3556850/