Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition where the body’s immune system destroys the protective nerve coverings and can be difficult to live with. The damage that occurs causes an impaired nerve impulse and leads to common symptoms such as fatigue, pain all over the body, changes in sensation, muscle stiffness, muscle paralysis, impaired coordination, and vision changes. Symptoms of MS vary largely from person to person and depend on the severity of their condition.
While there are many different types of MS, one of the most common types is called relapsing-remitting MS. As part of relapsing-remitting MS, an individual will experience periods of increased symptoms and difficulty engaging in daily activities, also known as the relapsing period. These episodes are followed by a length of time where symptoms decrease, called the remitting period. During the remitting period, some individuals report their symptoms have disappeared altogether.
Fortunately, it is possible to live a full and meaningful life with MS. This can be done by making and following a regular wellness plan to assist with managing symptoms throughout the course of the condition. With this in mind, below are 3 ways to manage multiple sclerosis at home.
1) Use adaptive equipment
As part of rehabilitation programs, either with physical or occupational therapy, an individual with MS will likely be trained on the use of various types of equipment. Adaptive equipment is intended to allow individuals to continue performing the tasks that are most important to them by working around symptoms such as fatigue and muscle weakness. One piece of adaptive equipment that helps people with MS is a tub bench. This allows individuals to sit while bathing themselves to conserve energy, prevent falls, and reduce the strain placed on muscles when standing for long periods.
Another piece of adaptive equipment is a mobility aid called a rollator. Rollators are a type of walker to assist individuals as they move between places within their homes and the community. Unlike standard walkers, rollators have a built-in seat that allows individuals to turn the brakes on, fold the seat down, turn around, and sit for a rest break. Rollators allow individuals to use their judgment and take a rest break when they are feeling weak, fatigued, or out of breath.
2) Get your diet under control
Diet is an important aspect of every health condition. Eating healthy foods provides our body with the fuel we need to keep going all day. On the other hand, eating nutrient-deficient foods can cause symptoms to develop or worsen, since our body is not getting the raw materials it needs to keep these symptoms at bay.
Eating a diet rich in Vitamin D can not only help strengthen the immune system, which plays an important role in MS, but it can also help the body absorb calcium to improve bone strength. Foods that are rich in Vitamin D include fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, egg yolks, mushrooms, and some dairy products.
Maintaining a diet that is low in saturated fats and high in omega-3 and omega-6 can also assist in managing symptoms of MS. Fatty fish, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, and other healthy fats are a good source of omega acids.
There are many MS-specific diets that are popular, but lack verified scientific evidence to be deemed effective. It is not recommended to follow these diets, however, maintaining a standard diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can benefit the body in a variety of ways. If you or someone you love has questions about forming a healthy diet to assist with managing MS, consult your doctor or a registered dietitian.
3) Stick to your recommendations – even if you feel good
No matter what type of MS someone has, it is important to maintain a regular routine to ensure that their wellness stays on track. Especially with the relapsing-remitting form of MS, it is vital for individuals to stay healthy even if their symptoms have remitted. The body needs healthy habits and healthy routines for a regular period of time to ensure good health overall.
It is also important to avoid overexerting yourself in all areas of your life. This refers to not straining yourself when exercising, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and saying no to certain social obligations if you are not feeling up to it. You should also receive assistance fulfilling household obligations, such as cleaning, laundry, and cooking. An occupational therapist can assist with environmental modifications and training to improve efficiency and conserve energy.
Also, be sure to track your symptoms in order to report back to your doctor and/or therapist about your progress over time. This will help them to best treat you and provide recommendations.
Living with MS can be trying, but there are resources and recommendations to make it easier for individuals to thrive within the community. It is important to ensure that each person receives regular physician visits to monitor their condition and be referred to additional disciplines to assist with a range of their symptoms. Some individuals may benefit from rehab services, dietary assistance, psychology, and more, depending on their symptoms, Speak to your doctor to find the services that are best to improve your quality of life and well-being.
Do you have any tips on how to manage MS from home? Please share them in the comments below!
- Health.gov. (2018). Food sources of Vitamin D. Retrieved from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-12/
- National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. (2019. Diet and Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Diet-Exercise-Healthy-Behaviors/Diet-Nutrition
- National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. (2019). Managing MS. Retrieved from https://www.nationalmssociety.org/For-Professionals/Clinical-Care/Managing-MS