Fatigue is maybe one of the most common symptoms of MS, if not the most common symptom of MS. It is reported by about 80% of people who have MS. That’s a lot of people. It causes a lot of people to leave work and can be quite debilitating.
Fatigue with MS can cause many symptoms. You might feel as though you’re not able to do as many things you were once able to do, or that your cognitive abilities aren’t as quick as they were before. Sometimes you might feel as though your muscles are more tired than normal as well.
When thinking of Lassitude, or MS Related Fatigue, a specific set of symptoms comes to mind.
- Occurs on a daily basis
- Can occur upon waking up, even after a restful night of sleep
- Tends to get worse as the day goes on
- Heat and humidity make it worse
- Comes on quickly and suddenly
- More severe than normal fatigue
- More likely to interfere with daily tasks
Most articles you’ll read about fatigue state that the cause of MS fatigue is unknown. I call BS on that. Fatigue can be caused by a number of things. It can be related to how you’re sleeping at night- if you’re having spasms that are keeping you up or if you have to go to the bathroom frequently. Sometimes experiencing depression can lead to fatigue as well. Sometimes the effort required to do the “everyday” tasks that used to be so easy, that now take so much more effort, are exhausting.
Another cause that not many people talk about is that fatigue could be caused by the activation of our immune system. When our body experiences higher levels of inflammation and our proinflammatory cytokines increase, as well as our oxidative stress markers, our fatigue can increase as well.
Mitochondrial dysfunction may play a role as well. Mitochondria are the engines of our cells. When those are not functioning well, our cells are not functioning well. When this whole process isn’t working like it should, you’re not getting the energy that you should, and the end result? Fatigue.
Knowing what is exactly causing your fatigue will be the best way to help yourself manage it. Yes, that sounds obvious, I know. If you know that your sleep could be improved and that is causing your fatigue during the day, then start with your sleep. Or if your muscles are deconditioned, you might start with a personal trainer or physical therapist. You could also go to an occupational therapist to learn how to simplify tasks to conserve energy.
But if your fatigue seems unexplained, you might have to start digging a little bit deeper. Could inflammation be part of the issue? or a mitochondrial dysfunction? Those are harder to test for, but the treatments are readily available. A few ideas:
B Vitamins: these help to boost your immune system, increase mitochondrial energy as well as facilitate the generation of myelin.
CoQ10: an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that is beneficial for mitochondrial function. It has also been shown to have disease modifying effects on Parkinson’s disease.
Cut the sugar: reducing sugar intake will reduce systemic inflammation levels.
Include more veggies and leafy greens: these are excellent anti-inflammatory properties as well as getting in many of the nutrients you need to keep your body functioning properly.
Include Omega 3s: these are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that have even shown clinical efficacy in SLE and RA.
These are not the only answers to fatigue, but they are big ones to look at. When thinking about potential dietary changes, first consider what you’ll add to your day, instead of what you’re taking out. It can help a lot with overwhelm.
If you’re interested in learning about the 5 Best Foods for MS, check out my cheat sheet here!