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 Healthy Diet

Doctors recommend eating a healthy 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 62 ounces per day, about 8 glasses. 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 medicines, 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.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if new symptoms develop.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2014 -
  • Update Date: 09/17/2014 -
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