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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Changes to your lifestyle can help you manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups or worsening of symptoms. Your coping skills and attitude toward your illness are important factors in successfully managing the disease. Habits to consider include:

  • Get regular, moderate exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Practice stress-reduction techniques.
  • Avoid excessive heat.
  • Avoid infections.
  • Get adequate rest.

Get Regular, Moderate Exercise

Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Regular exercise can help with muscle strength, balance, endurance, and fatigue. Swimming is especially beneficial. The water helps keep your body cool during exercise.

Eat a Healthful Diet

Doctors recommend eating a healthful diet. It should be low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The fiber in grains, fruits, and vegetables helps prevent constipation.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, are sometimes recommended for people with MS. It is not clear if omega-3s are helpful for this condition.

It is also important that you drink plenty of water. Aim for about 8 glasses per day. Avoid drinks that cause dehydration, like caffeinated beverages.

Practice Stress—Reduction Techniques

Many people with MS notice that stress makes symptoms worse. Consider getting regular massages and participating in other stress reducing practices, such as meditation, yoga, and relaxation. You may also find it helpful to join a support group. These groups can provide emotional support for you and your family.

Avoid Excessive Heat

Heat worsens MS symptoms in many people. The heat may be external or internal. Tips to avoid heat include:

  • Avoid hot weather.
  • Stay in air-conditioned places during periods of hot weather.
  • Do not take hot showers or baths.
  • Seek treatment for infections or fever.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Avoid overexertion.

Quit Smoking

Smoking may worsen MS symptoms. It can make MS progress to a more severe form. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about your options for quitting. There are smoking cessation classes, online self-help programs, nicotine replacement products, prescription medications, and many other options.

Get Adequate Rest

Adequate rest helps alleviate the fatigue commonly associated with MS.

Avoid Infections

MS symptoms can be worsened when people are sick. If possible, try to avoid people who are sick.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2016 -
  • Update Date: 09/17/2014 -
  • Fish oil. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated July 16, 2015. Accessed September 13, 2016.

  • Motl RW, Pillutti LA. The benefits of exercise training in multiple sclerosis. Nat Rev Neurol. 2012;8(9):487-497.

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116285/Multiple-sclerosis-MS. Updated March 4, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.

  • NINDS multiple sclerosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/multiple%5Fsclerosis/multiple%5Fsclerosis.htm. Updated November 19, 2015. Accessed September 13, 2016.

  • Wallack EM, Wiseman HD, Ploughman M. Healthy aging from the perspectives of 638 older people with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Int. 2016;2016:1845720.

  • What is MS? National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS. Accessed September 13, 2016.

  • 11/9/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116285/Multiple-sclerosis-MS: Healy B, Ali E, Guttmann C, et al. Smoking and disease progression in multiple sclerosis. Arch Neurol. 2009;66(7):858-864.