Some lifestyle changes combined with disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) may help reduce MS symptoms and slow disease progression. These include exercising and ceasing smoking, among others.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the central nervous system (CNS). Your body attacks myelin, which is the coating that protects the nerves in your brain and spinal cord.

Lifestyle changes alone won’t stop disease progression. However, they may help:

  • reduce symptoms
  • lower the number of relapses
  • improve overall health
  • adapt to and compensate for the effects of MS

Keep reading to learn more about 7 tips that could help slow the progression of MS.

Quitting smoking, if you’re a current smoker, may have a big impact on MS.

The authors of a 2020 review suggest that smoking is a risk factor for MS. In particular, smoking has been associated with increasing the risk of MS, as well as worsening the disease’s progression and the severity of symptoms.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) also suggests that people who smoke may not get the full effect of DMTs.

However, people don’t often see smoking as a risk factor in MS. A 2020 study involving 29 active smokers with MS found that 52% of participants were unaware of a relationship between disease progression and smoking.

Smoking cessation may improve:

  • MS symptoms
  • the number of relapses
  • the level of disability
  • motor strength and cognition

If you’re interested in smoking cessation programs, talk with a doctor or check out the resources at

Drinking alcohol can temporarily impair balance and coordination, which could make the impact of MS worse, according to the NMSS. For example, you may feel more off balance than usual while under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol may also cause nerve damage (neuropathy) of the peripheral nerves, leading to weakness and sensory loss. MS may cause weakness and sensory loss due to brain and spine demyelination, so these added effects can be debilitating.

Alcohol may also interfere with certain medications due to the effect it has on the CNS. Because of this, a doctor may recommend lowering your alcohol intake.

Moderate exercise may help improve a range of MS symptoms, including:

  • balance
  • fatigue
  • mobility issues
  • pain

It’s important to find an exercise you enjoy that’s at an intensity that works for your fitness level and ability.

A 2020 report suggests that people with MS should aim for 150–300 minutes of exercise and physical activity per week. Focus on gradually progressing based on your abilities, preferences, and safety.

Some activities may include:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • cleaning
  • gardening
  • yoga
  • resistance training

The NMSS also recommends water workouts for stretching tight muscles and improving flexibility. However, the pool temperature should not exceed 84°F (29°C) because excess heat may worsen MS symptoms.

Before starting a new exercise program, it’s important to speak with your healthcare team. A physical or occupational therapist experienced in MS can also develop a personalized program and monitor activity.

A balanced, nutrient-dense diet is essential for overall health.

There isn’t one diet proven to slow MS progression. However, a 2022 review suggests that eating some foods may help reduce inflammation and promote nerve protection and repair. These may include lean protein sources and foods high in:

  • antioxidants
  • curcumin
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • polyphenols
  • fiber
  • omega-3 fatty acids

Here’s a table of some foods to include or avoid in your diet if you have MS:

Foods to eatFoods to avoid
• fresh fruits and vegetables
• lean meats
• whole grains, like rice, oats, and quinoa
• plant-based foods and grains
• fatty fish, including salmon and mackerel
• healthy fats from flaxseed, olive oil, avocado oil
• eggs
• legumes, nuts, and seeds
• low sugar, low fat yogurt
• saturated and animal fats
• processed red meat
• highly processed foods and ready-made meals
• fried foods, like chips and french fries
• foods high in sugar
• foods high in sodium
• sugar-sweetened drinks, such as sodas

Some diet plans may help you find relief if you have MS. However, the evidence is mostly anecdotal, rather than scientific.

Getting enough sleep is important for general health. However, it’s even more critical for people with MS.

According to a 2017 study, sleep disturbances may be a trigger for an acute MS relapse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following habits to improve sleep:

  • Get 7 or more hours of sleep per night (for people ages 18–60).
  • Wake up and go to bed at about the same time each day.
  • Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Get physical activity during the day.
  • Don’t use tobacco.
  • Avoid alcohol, large meals, and caffeine before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom free from electronic devices that could unnecessarily interrupt your sleep.

The best way to manage MS symptoms and slow disease progression is to follow the treatment plan recommended by a doctor and healthcare team.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), this includes medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that could:

  • delay the progression of disability
  • reduce relapses
  • limit new disease activity

It’s also essential to follow a treatment plan for other health conditions that may worsen MS symptoms or disease progression.

Avoiding MS triggers, when possible, may help prevent relapses. Common MS triggers can include:

  • extreme hot temperatures
  • extreme cold temperatures
  • illness
  • stress
  • missing out on sleep
  • getting overheated

Can MS be stopped from progressing?

While there is no one way to stop MS from progressing, you may be able to slow or delay disease progression by following your treatment plan and taking doctor-prescribed disease-modifying therapies.

What helps slow the progression of MS?

Using disease-modifying therapies as prescribed, along with lifestyle strategies like eating a nutritious and balanced diet and getting regular physical activity, may help slow disease progression in people with MS.

If you smoke, quitting smoking can also help slow disease progression.

Can you prevent MS from getting worse?

Following your treatment plan, along with certain lifestyle behaviors, like getting enough sleep and physical activity, may help reduce symptoms and relapses and support your overall health and well-being.

How do you stop MS symptoms from getting worse?

Following your treatment plan and taking all medications as prescribed may help slow or delay disease progression in MS. You may be able to prevent MS relapses by avoiding triggers and making some lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking if you smoke.

MS is a lifelong condition that often worsens over time. But with the right treatment plan and lifestyle strategies, you can improve your overall quality of life.

Once you begin making lifestyle changes, make sure to track your progress and note any increase or decrease in symptoms.

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