Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a life-long condition with symptoms such as fatigue, pain, bladder and bowel problems, sexual dysfunction, movement and coordination difficulties, vision and cognition changes, and emotional/mental health problems.
Not every MS patient is affected by the condition in the same way. For some, symptoms can worsen with time, and living with MS can affect many aspects of daily life, including health, wellness, relationships, and careers. A diagnosis of MS means that people may have to adapt to a new lifestyle.
Living with MS to the fullest may mean making positive choices about your physical and mental health: here’s some tips.
The National MS Society defines wellness as a “dynamic state of physical, emotional, spiritual and social well-being that can be achieved even in the presence of a chronic illness or disability.” Wellness is a life-long journey in which people become aware of themselves and how they feel, which includes positive behavioral and lifestyle choices in order to feel their best. It is about treating both the body and mind. Strategies to promote health (diet, exercise, and MS treatments), investing in personal relationships to create a strong support groups, and mental and emotional strategies to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression are all part of a person’s overall wellness.
Being diagnosed with MS should not keep you from doing your job or participating in leisure activities that you enjoy. You can maintain your personal and professional activities and pay attention to your inner self, too.
Staying healthy is very important for people with any chronic disorder, and MS is no exception. Your doctor or other healthcare professional can recommend a diet/nutrition plan that could have a positive impact on your symptoms.
Although there is no special diet for MS, what you eat will have some impact on your health and overall well-being (including your energy level, bladder and bowel functions, and other symptoms), so your diet is important. Some specialists recommend a low-fat, high-fiber diet for people with MS. However, with any dietary recommendation it is important to consult with your doctor to ensure that important vitamins and nutrients are included.
Exercise is another great way to stay healthy and manage your symptoms. Exercise programs for those with MS should fit the individual’s needs and capabilities, and you should discuss fitness options with your doctor prior to starting a new exercise regime. There are simple physical activities that you can do at home: gardening, cooking, household tasks. Other recommended activities include yoga, adaptive Tai chi, or swimming/water exercises. Yoga and Tai chi can teach you relaxation techniques (such as meditation) that you can use when in stressful situations, such as having a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or other medical procedures. Water exercises are great for improving flexibility and range of motion, and can help reduce pain.