Living a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important ways people living with MS can start taking charge of their disease. There are important strategies that may help improve quality of life, including exercise and a healthy diet, in addition to physiotherapy, rehabilitation, massage, getting enough sleep, stress reduction techniques, planning an appropriate work—life schedule, and other wellness approaches. These non-medicinal strategies play a key role in managing all types of MS. Overall, balance in the many aspects of one’s life is key to managing MS.
Ongoing studies are investigating the ways lifestyle habits may contribute to MS onset, and perhaps exacerbate disease; therefore, maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking, and checking vitamin D levels may be proactive steps in slowing or preventing MS relapses and progression. For a list of related studies, visit the Research section.
In addition to healthy lifestyle choices, there are a variety of medications that can help control some of the inflammation that causes damage to nerve tissue and reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Slowing the accumulation of nerve damage may also prevent some of the disability seen during a person’s lifetime with MS. Early treatment is critical for those who are newly diagnosed with relapsing forms of MS.
Many special diets have been proposed as treatments, but none have been proven to prevent MS or affect the way it may develop. Special diets are best approached with caution as some may be expensive or even harmful. MS specialists recommend that people follow the same high fiber, low fat diet that is recommended for all adults. In addition, people with MS sometimes wonder whether they should take dietary supplements.
Current research has provided evidence to support that exercise is beneficial and safe for people living with MS and it is now considered to be an important aspect of the overall management of the disease. Exercise offers many benefits for people with MS. In addition to improving your overall health, aerobic and strength exercise reduce fatigue and improve bladder and bowel function, strength, balance, mobility and mood. Stretching exercises reduce stiffness and increase mobility. In 2012, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults with MS were developed to provide a basis for exercise prescription, target goals for promoting physical activity and to serve as a benchmark for monitoring activity levels among individuals with MS.