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10 healthy lifestyles to consider if you have multiple sclerosis

It has been seen that certain healthy lifestyle habits have a direct impact on the evolution of multiple sclerosis. Therefore, the main objective of people with MS should be to start taking care of themselves.

Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system. In recent years, there has been a sudden increase in its incidence. The studies published to date, related to the appearance and evolution of the disease, show that there are potentially modifiable environmental and lifestyle factors that have a direct impact on MS, such as Epstein-Barr virus infection, smoking, nutrition, and vitamin D levels . 

On the other hand, different studies suggest that there are health conditions that appear more frequently in people diagnosed with MS. This is the case, for example, of vascular disease , which is associated with a higher risk of disability progression. Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by acting on the risk factors that cause them, such as tobacco use, poor diet , physical inactivity or alcohol consumption.

All of these risk factors are potentially modifiable through activities to improve health. Therefore, starting to take care of oneself, including healthy habits and styles in the routine, should be the main objective of the person with MS .

These 10 tips will help you achieve it,

1. Follow a healthy and balanced diet

Diet plays an important role in the development and evolution of the disease . Eating habits have been the subject of debate in recent years due to their potential contribution to the inflammatory process. A healthy, variable and balanced diet provides the body with sufficient nutrients for its proper functioning.

Eat plenty of greens, fresh vegetables, seasonal fruit and legumes along with fresh fish. Avoid as much as possible consuming products that contain saturated fats and sugars, such as industrial pastries, precooked meals or packaged juices.

In the latest published studies, it has been seen that certain bacterial colonies of the intestinal flora can have effects on immunity . Certain foods such as miso, Kombucha tea, microalgae, yogurt and dark chocolate could contribute to the good state of the intestinal flora.

2. Control your weight

Although the mechanism is not clear, different studies suggest a causal effect of increased body mass index in MS and speak of a possible inflammatory role of this. In addition, obesity is a cardiovascular risk factor. The World Health Organization recommends balancing our body weight in order to reduce the risk of suffering from health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

A reduction in body weight is also associated with improvements in fatigue, a very common symptom in multiple sclerosis.

3. Decrease salt intake

There are researchers who associate the consumption of salt in the diet with an increase in the activity of the disease. It is also associated with numerous health problems such as hypertension, cardiac disorders, fluid retention…

You can choose to add herbs or spices to season your meals (pepper, garlic powder, cumin, saffron…) or low-sodium dietary salt. Remember that sausages, precooked products and snack foods usually have a high salt content.

4. Get enough sleep

Sleep intervenes in the restoration of the central nervous system and allows us to restore physical and psychological functions. If we do not rest well we will experience an increase in fatigue, sleepiness during the day, decreased physical and mental performance.

If you have trouble sleeping, avoid the consumption of stimulating drinks or foods, do relaxing activities before going to sleep and eat some food that makes it easier for you to sleep.

5. Try to reduce stress

In studies with animal models and in clinical observations with humans, stress hormones have been shown to modify the functioning of the immune system. To avoid this, you should include activities in your daily routine that can help you relax: breathing exercises , meditation , painting mandalas or listening to music .

6. Get regular physical activity

Almost any type of regular physical activity has a positive impact on the evolution of the disease, disability and some symptoms such as fatigue. In addition, physical activity is essential to prevent overweight and cardiovascular diseases.

Practice light-moderate intensity physical exercise, such as walking for 30 to 60 minutes, at least three days a week.

7. Avoid tobacco use

There are numerous studies showing that smoking increases the risk of MS and affects the progression of the disease. People with MS who smoke accumulate greater disability in a shorter period of time compared to non-smokers and quitting smoking has a beneficial effect on the disease. In addition, disease-modifying treatments in people have been shown to be less effective in people who smoke.

In the article Quit smoking with multiple sclerosis: 10 practical tips you will find strategies to quit smoking.

8. Expose yourself to the sun daily

Sun exposure protects against relapses of MS. Although more research is needed, many agree that sunlight can influence the immune system . In addition, the sun’s rays help the circadian rhythm.

If you exercise outdoors during the hours of sun exposure, in addition to improving your physical condition, you will experience improvements in the quality of sleep since the sun increases melatonin levels.

9. Exercise your mind

Working mental skills can prevent cognitive decline in the progression of multiple sclerosis. Read, do crossword puzzles, or do calculus exercises. In short, keep your brain trained.

10. Try to be in a good mood

Humor is a good tool to manage stress, improve psychological well-being and general health. Having a healthy lifestyle will help you to be in a good mood. Performing physical activity, a correct diet, a restful sleep, reducing stress and spending time with your friends are key points to achieve this.

References

Western lifestyle and immunopathology of multiple sclerosis . ResearchGate (2018). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322780232_Western_lifestyle_and_immunopathology_of_multiple_sclerosis_Western_lifestyle_and_MS 

Sun exposure over the life course and associations with multiple sclerosis . Neurology (2018). https://n.neurology.org/content/90/14/e1191.short 

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