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Staying Well with Multiple Sclerosis

There are several ways people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can help maintain and even improve their personal health and sense of well-being. Many of the guidelines pertain to good health in general, but the effort takes on even more importance when dealing with a chronic disease like MS. Here are some tips for creating an effective self-care environment.

  • Get enough rest — Issues associated with MS, including stress, inactivity, and even depression can disrupt healthy sleep patterns. If specific problems such as muscle stiffness or spasms are affecting sleep, a doctor may prescribe exercises, physical therapy and sometimes medication to help with these symptoms. However a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine remains a key strategy for preventing sleep problems. Also, staying active during the day, avoiding heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine near bedtime and getting up if you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes are all helpful tips for better sleep.
     
  • Make time for exercise — Exercise is a natural mood enhancer and can be done safely by people with MS — the key is simply not to overdo it. Over-exertion can put undue stress on muscles and cause unnecessary pain and fatigue. Aerobics, swimming, tai chi and yoga are examples of exercises that work well for many MS patients. Be aware that MS symptoms can become worse when body heat rises. If new symptoms come on when exercising, slow down or stop exercising until the body is cooled down.
     
  • Manage stress — The ongoing stress of living with a chronic illness is something many MS patients must actively manage. The foundation for any plan to reduce stress starts with getting exercise, adequate rest and eating a healthy diet. But there are also techniques for simplifying the issues of daily life, as well as relaxation exercises that anyone can learn. 
      
  • Eat a well-balanced diet — The general recommendation for MS patients is a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber. A healthy diet naturally supports the immune system and promotes good digestion. While some health professionals and other sources talk about adding or restricting certain foods or food groups for people with MS, there are no controlled studies that prove a certain type of diet will relieve MS symptoms or control the progression of the disease. However, even if there is no concrete evidence that a specific diet positively affects MS, there are numerous reasons to eat a healthy diet and avoid things that are known to be bad for everybody's health. 

  • Vitamin D and MS — Several high-profile studies have suggested a connection between high levels of vitamin D and a reduced risk of developing MS, possibly because vitamin D is known to support the immune system. But until further research clarifies the relationship between vitamin D and MS, the evidence is lacking to use vitamin D as a way to treat or prevent the disease. If there is a beneficial effect of vitamin D supplementation, from recent research, this is likely a very small effect.

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