What I Learned About My MS While on Vacation

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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(Photo by Ed Tobias)


You wouldn’t think that a guy who was diagnosed with MS more than 37 years ago would still be able to learn a thing or two about his disease. But that’s exactly what I did while on vacation about a week ago.

I guess I really did know these things, but it took a trip to the beautiful island of St. Kitts to make a few things that were staring me in the face impossible to ignore. In addition to being beautiful, you see, St. Kitts is hot and humid, and that’s a big part of this story.

Ed in the pool

(Photo by Laura Tobias)

The heat and the humidity kept me immersed in the resort’s swimming pool for most of the time I was there. I’d spend about 25% of my time sitting next to the pool and reading and 75% in the pool keeping cool. And I didn’t just sit — I walked. I never did much pool-walking back at home. In the summer I’d swim, but not walk. But, since this pool was more conducive to walking than to swimming, that’s what I did. Water exercise isn’t anything new as an MS treatment. In fact, I’ve written about it before. I’d just never done much of it (and I still haven’t been in a water program that’s structured for MS).

The heat and the humidity also had me chugging drinking water. Like many MS patients, I drink far less water than I should, thinking that what doesn’t go in won’t come out … urgently and frequently. But that sun in St. Kitts is strong! So, I drank at least one, 20-ounce bottle of water each hour that I was outside. That’s a lot more than my usual water intake.

What was the result of these two simple things I did nearly all of the nine days we were there?

  • Better bladder control. Less urgency. Less frequency. Several nights of being able to sleep six or seven hours without having to get up to make a pee trip. I’m guessing that my water-walking may have helped my core muscles, which play a part in controlling urine flow. But, I think even more likely is that more water equaled less. I remember a doctor telling me, years ago, that limiting my water intake was actually making my urgency and frequency worse, because that resulted in my urine becoming highly concentrated. Highly concentrated urine can irritate the bladder and, in turn, result in that frequent gotta-go feeling. Doing a little research after returning from my trip, I found an article that confirmed my memory.
  • Better bowel regularity. It’s not unusual for me to go a day or two without a good sit-down. On this trip, I was almost once-a-day regular. Water and exercise seem to have both played a role here. An article on the U.S. News and World Report website says it’s actually water, aerobic exercise plus relaxation.
  • No overnight dry mouth. I’d been having this problem for more than a month, possibly because of a change in one of my meds. Staying better hydrated during the day helped eliminate that problem at night.
  • More energy. There have been studies that marry hydration with energy. And, of course, nearly everyone who exercises regularly will tell you it helps their overall energy level.

Now, I don’t claim that I’ve found any magical cures during a nine-day vacation, but it seems as if the vacation did help. The question is whether I can keep this water and exercise thing going when I’m not on a warm, sunny island where a big swimming pool is just a few steps from my room. I’ll let ya know.

You’re invited to follow my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Comments

Phil Longford avatar

Phil Longford

Interesting observations!
Certainly, everyone recommends drinking lots of water, but my reckoning has always been, drinking less means less journeys to the loo. Always an adventure, with MS.
Swimming in this country, lacks a certain appeal. Might have to make the effort. Or go somewhere warm (not too hot!!)

Reply
Cathy avatar

Cathy

Not disagreeing with any of the author's observations. Just wondering if the high end mattressess present in a lot of hotels may have had something to do with sleeping thru a little longer. I'm sleeping much deeper, and my bathroom trips are down from 3-4 to 1.

Reply
Harvey Connors avatar

Harvey Connors

I am unable to go into a pool to do water walking. do to I have an Illeostmoy (bag no colon). But I drink often and plenty and I can say it is healthier and I have more energy for sure. I also make better food choices because of it. Try it or Pedilyte type product is good too.

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Anitta Harkonen avatar

Anitta Harkonen

Hi! Waterwalking is only and best way to training walking to wheelchair patient like me. I have had MS sinse 1990, 7 years in a wheelchair so that I´m walking is a wonderfull feeling !!!!!
Anitta Härkönen

Reply
Barbara Dalziel avatar

Barbara Dalziel

I have always thought that swimming or at least walking round the side of the pool which I can do in the pool,is of great benefit to me drinking lots of water as well is good as it flushes out your bladder and makes going to the toilet more regularly better water is the most understated thing that we all can do to improve our wellbeing. I know some people who gain great benefit from going to a hydro therapy pool but your local swimming pool can have the same results as well. Boosts your mood as well.

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Karen avatar

Karen

I live in a hot, humid climate in Queensland Australia with a backyard pool. I tend to go for a swim irregularly but maybe I should try walking in the water more regularly to see if it helps my balance. I was diagnosed in 1993, am still mobile but getting less so.

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Roseanna Happy Mango avatar

Roseanna Happy Mango

Thanks for sharing!

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Linda Phillips avatar

Linda Phillips

I think that being in the sun would also help with you absorbing more vitamin d than usual

Reply
Juel avatar

Juel

I live in North Queensland and my daughter has a backyard pool.Easy to get in but don't know how I would get out.I'm a bit like Karen still slightly mobile but yes there is no improvement.I am going to have to organize something to do more water exercise.Thanks for reminding me as summer is here.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Juel,

I wish that summer was here in Maryland. We had 1 or 2 inches of snow fall yesterday.

I also have trouble getting out of the pool but I'm able to do it if there are steps and a hand rail that I can use. There are also seats that can be installed that can be used to life a swimmer from the water onto the pool deck. Any pool company should be able to provide information about them.

Good luck,

Ed

Reply
Carolyn avatar

Carolyn

Thank you ever so much, you actually stated what I needed to hear. I was diagnosed with Ms 2017, I was paralyzed from waist down and now I mountain bike, swim few times a week indoor pool, but I live in Green Bay, Wisconsin where I need the real vitamin D sunshine.. I wanted to say thank you for motivating me🙏🙏

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

You're welcome, Carolyn.

Gee, in Green Bay you could also try ice fishing! :-)

Keep on keepin' active.

Ed

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