Learn About Multiple Sclerosis


Diet

While many of these diets have not been scientifically proven to alter the course of MS, each has its proponents. MSF suggests that before any diet regime is adopted, you check with a qualified dietitian and conduct your own research on what diet may be most effective for you.

A diet low in fat and cholesterol is still the most highly regarded option by most health care professionals. Also, avoid alcohol, sugary sweets, tobacco and other “vices,” that may feel good, but really aren’t that good for you.

  • Low-Fat Diet - The most popular diet prescribed for those with multiple sclerosis is one low in fat. First proposed by Dr. Roy Swank in 1952, the low-fat diet has come under the closest scrutiny. It is also a well-rounded diet for most people, with or without MS.

While most dietitians encourage lowering fat intake, for those with MS, a high fat diet is considered quite harmful by many health care advisors. The reason: high fat encourages the production of Prostaglandin 2 - a chemical response to fat intake, which triggers our immune response. In those with MS, the immune response is faulty - attacking healthy cells. A low-fat diet, it is argued, may help to monitor the production of the chemicals based on fat intake which triggers these responses.

  • PUFA Supplement Diet – includes supplements of linoleic acid, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil and evening primrose oil. PUFAs are elements of myelin and are being studied for their effect on MS.
  • Gluten-Free Diet – excludes any wheat and rye products and restricts other carbohydrates, coffee and alcohol.
  • Allergen-Free - If your immune system is busy fighting allergic reactions, it is reasoned, it is too exhausted to fight true invaders such as those associated with MS. This is the rational behind an allergen-free diet.
  • Raw Foods – a diet of only natural (unprocessed) foods including a daily intake of germinated wheat. Also recommended: raw root vegetables, whole wheat bread, cheese, butter, honey, and raw milk, eggs and ham. Not included: salt, sugar, candy, condiments and some leafy greens and certain vegetables. For those with a fat intolerance, some foods may not digest well such as butter, eggs, ham and raw milk.
  • Enzyme Therapy - A therapy that uses various enzymes to aid in digestion and absorption of vital nutrients present in foods and nutritional supplements.

Exercise

Having multiple sclerosis does not mean that you cannot or should not exercise. Every multiple sclerosis patient is different and each individual must learn to exercise within his or her own limitations. Avoid exercise that is fatiguing. Exercising to the point of exhaustion can be harmful. Do not set unrealistic goals for yourself. Learn to recognize and respect your own limits. Your physician can help you develop a safe appropriate exercise plan.

The exercise options outlined here are some of the most popular. You may have your own favorites which will do just as well. Your physician or therapist may have some suggestions. Whatever the case, you will exercise more often if you make it fun.

  • Water Sports - The mental and physical value of water exercise has long been known and can be very beneficial for people coping with multiple sclerosis. Swimming is a great form of exercise. For those who are quickly fatigued, water aerobics provides an excellent workout. Walking, stretching, and leg lifts can be very therapeutic. Water therapy might be suitable for those who experience severe fatigue or are not ambulatory.
  • Outdoor Activities - For those who enjoy the outdoors, walking and bicycle riding are excellent sources of exercise. Adaptive equipment is even available for wheelchair users who might enjoy playing golf.
  • Inside Exercise - If you prefer to exercise indoors, a stationary bicycle may be just the ticket. For mild cases of MS or those in remission, low impact aerobics (exercises that give minimal stress to the joints) and mild weight lifting are also popular exercise alternatives.

Your body temperature rises when exercising, so it is important to cool down afterwards. Again, it can not be stressed enough: an exercise which leaves you feeling exhausted or increases your symptoms is harmful. If a certain area of your body is particularly sensitive, do not exercise that part until it has recovered. Ask your doctor about exercising during an exacerbation.

Other Alternatives

  • Herbal Medicine - The use of plant material as medical treatment for diseases and disorders.
  • Juice Therapy - The use of fresh and raw juices from vegetables and fruits to give supplement nutrition to the body. It can be helpful for stress and illnesses.
  • Naprapathic Medicine - A medical system based on prevention and treatment of disease by stimulating the body’s homeostatic mechanisms through the use of many different modalities including: herbal remedy, nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, oriental medicine, naprapathic manual medicine, and hydrotherapy.
  • Naturopathic Medicine - A medical system based on natural principles of health and the healing powers of nature. It uses many different modalities within this practice including: diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and counseling.
  • Nutritional Therapy - The science of health maintenance through the proper balance of nutrients in the body.
  • Orthomolecular Medicine - The field of medicine that treats many health conditions with nutritional treatments.
  • Physical Therapy - Physical therapy (PT) is the field of medicine concerned with balance, posture - both standing and while in motion, physical mobility, fatigue and pain. It focuses on mobility challenges and accommodating physical changes due to disease and injury. The therapist and MS patient work together to improve physical stamina and functionality for the MS patient. Therapists utilize different types of exercises to achieve different goals. Some exercises are used to increase range of motion, while others are used to strengthen the muscles, or to compensate for the loss of some neurologic functioning, or to improve balance, relieve pain, and improve some mild forms of spasticity. Physical therapy does not reverse disease progression nor does it remove or undo neurologic damage. Rather, it compensates for the damage already done and attempts to minimize further damage due to abnormal movements caused by the progression of the disease.
  • Qigong - An Oriental technique using movement and breathing to stimulate qi (vital energy) throughout the body. It is thought to enhance vitality, aid in disease resistance, and reduce the effects of stress.
  • Tai Chi - An ancient Chinese exercise and martial art that stimulates qi (vital energy) in the body. It is used to enhance vitality, aid in disease resistance, and reduce the effects of stress through its slow and simple movements.
  • Tragerwork - A therapy that utilizes motion, soft stretching and rotations to promote relaxation and to improve flexibility and range of motion.
  • Yoga - Indian health system that encompasses exercises, posture, meditation, and breathing to promote balanced health. Assists with many conditions including pain and stress.

View these alternatives

Stress - massage, reflexology, meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, tai chi, yoga

Symptom Management - acupuncture, ayurveda, homeopathy, chiropractic

(Last reviewed 7/2009)

 



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Unless otherwise specified, all medical content is compiled by MSF staff and reviewed for accuracy by a member of our Medical Advisory Board.

The MSF strives to present clear and unbiased information. This site is partially funded through a grant from Bayer Healthcare, LLC.

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