Healthy lifestyles for people with MS
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an important part of everyone’s life. It is even more important to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul when living with a long-term condition such as multiple sclerosis. Everyone has a different experience of MS and it is not possible to predict your journey.
You will need to review your life at times and choose options that are best for you.
People can find it hard to believe that simple changes to their diet can make powerful differences to their lives. Look at your diet as a whole, rather than on specific foods. By choosing a variety of foods over time, you will meet all of your nutritional needs and you may find that a healthy, balanced diet helps manage some of your symptoms, such as depression, constipation and fatigue as well as protecting you against other conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
With a healthy, balanced diet there should be no need to take any additional dietary supplements, however the exception to this could be Vitamin D. Not having enough vitamin D has been linked with a higher chance of developing MS in the first place. Once you have MS, low vitamin D levels may cause more frequent relapses. We mainly get Vitamin D from sunshine, as well as in some foods. If you are low in vitamin D, tablets are available over the counter or from your GP.
Some supplements may interact with prescription drugs or treatments so be sure to always tell your GP or health professional what supplements you are taking, or intending to take.
Regular, moderate exercise helps to maintain good health and well-being in people with MS. It can improve bowel and bladder function, fatigue, pain, depression and memory. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight.
There is no set activity to help with MS, what works for someone else, might not work for you and there might be days where you need to adjust your activity to match your situation. Find something that you enjoy as you are more likely to want to keep doing it! Start slowly and don’t try to do too much, too soon. You don’t need to feel like you are training for a marathon, activities such as walking, gardening and housework can be just as beneficial.
Gentle stretching exercises can help maintain mobility and improve strength in limbs and core.
Aerobic exercise, where you raise your heart rate, is great for cardiovascular health, improving blood pressure and helping with weight loss. Activities such as cycling, running or rowing can improve balance, co-ordination, fatigue and the feeling of general wellbeing reducing anxiety and depression.
Strength training, which includes using weights and resistance bands can help with balance, posture, fatigue and builds muscle strength.
Endurance training such as cycling, jogging and swimming is beneficial to both cardiovascular and muscle strength.
Meditation can help to bring about a state of calm, and reduce stress, depression, anxiety and some pain.
It is a technique that you can learn and practice, there are lots of apps and information available online to help you get started. Anyone can try it, you don’t need any equipment, to be physically active or to spend any money and it only need to take a few minutes each day for you to feel the benefits.