MS can be an unpredictable disease, ranging in severity. While there’s no known cure, MS self-care can help you manage symptoms and maintain the best quality of life possible with MS.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects the function of the central nervous system.
While experts aren’t certain of the exact cause behind MS, it appears to be an autoimmune disease occurring when your body’s immune system attacks the protective myelin sheathing around nerves.
Once this insulation around the nerve is damaged, the signals traveling along it become impaired, creating a wide variety of symptoms.
Tingling sensations, fatigue, vision changes, and paralysis are all possible symptoms when living with MS. You may also experience changes in memory, attention, or concentration.
MS severity is unpredictable. In mild cases, the myelin can repair itself, and symptoms improve. For many people, however, MS disrupts everyday life — but multiple sclerosis self-care may help.
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The MS experience is unique to each person. No matter how mild or severe your symptoms are, multiple sclerosis self-care options can make a difference.
Create a ‘feel good’ toolkit
MS is a persistent condition, even if some symptoms come and go. When symptoms are at their worst, having a go-to “feel good” experience might help offset the negative one.
“Reflect on what makes you feel good,” suggests Dr. Kerry Petsinger, a doctor of physical therapy from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. “Are there certain people you spend time with that fill you with joy? Do you enjoy journaling, meditating, or getting out in nature? Do you like to create art?”
Petsinger recommends keeping a list of ideas somewhere visible to help remind you of what to do on days that you need it most.
Find a diet that works with you — not against you
Dr. MaryAnn Picone is a board certified neurologist and Medical Director at the Holy Name Medical Center’s MS department in Teaneck, New Jersey. After more than 20 years working directly with MS, Picone points out diet can make a difference for many people.
“There is a strong immunologic connection between the gut microbiome and central nervous system immunology and inflammation, so what you eat can affect MS disease activity,” she explains.
Picone recommends eating a low fat, Mediterranean diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and up to a gallon of water intake daily.
Avoiding certain foods may also help, she adds, including:
- processed foods
- products high in sugar
Focus on life outside of MS
Try to remember that MS isn’t what defines you. “You are so much more than your diagnosis,” says Petsinger. “Your life is so much bigger than MS. You are an amazing person with a unique personality, values, and dreams who just happens to have MS. MS is not who you are.”
By focusing on your goals, projects, and fun plans, you can take a break from the demands of living with MS and help fortify your mental well-being.
Try to quit smoking
If you’re currently smoking, Picone suggests finding a way to quit the habit.
Stay socially active
Many of the symptoms of MS are noticeable. Muscle weakness, tremors, loss of balance, or bladder incontinence can make you self-conscious about going out socially.
“Many patients tend to isolate themselves, and the COVID pandemic made this situation worse for many patients, “ says Picone, “but maintaining contact with family and friends and staying socially active helps alleviate depression and benefits cognition.”
Get enough sleep
Frequent nighttime urination, sudden muscle tightening, and depression are all common components of MS that can disrupt sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can create challenges for anyone, and it can add to the fatigue and cognitive changes associated with MS.
Good sleep hygiene can help. This includes:
- limiting stressful activities, like responding to work emails, before bedtime
- avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening
- keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule
- skip naps during the day
- practice relaxation techniques before bed
- develop a routine like brushing your teeth, then reading, then climbing into bed
- avoid screen time before bed or use blue-light-blocking glasses
Many of the symptoms of MS impact your functionality, but exercise is still important, says Picone.
“It can be as little as 15 min a day,” she says. “Consistency is what is important.”
Exercise can include:
- chair yoga
- physical therapy
- taking a walk
Picone adds, “Having a buddy to exercise with makes it easier to adhere to a schedule. Exercise
Currently, there’s no cure — natural or pharmaceutical — for multiple sclerosis. Doing what you can to promote optimal health, however, can positively impact symptoms.
“It’s not possible to cure MS naturally,” Picone explains. However, “the better overall health someone is in aids in promoting nerve cell growth and repair, and contributes to both physical and cognitive reserve.”
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological condition. It can cause a wide range of symptoms that impact everyday life.
While there’s no known cure for MS, self-care is one way of managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.
To learn more about MS or find resources in your area, you can visit: