March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Education and Awareness Month. And in honor of the awareness month and week the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) launched a year-long campaign, “Whatever it Takes,” to increase awareness of MS and the realities of living with the condition. The campaign, shaped by the results of a survey conducted by NMSS in 2017, focuses on areas of concern for individuals living with MS such as access to affordable healthcare, employment assistance, symptom management, and research. 1
Every day, people living with MS are doing “whatever it takes” to face the unique challenges of the disease and live their best life, including maintaining a healthy diet. A well-balanced nutritional diet is very important for maintenance of good general health for people with any chronic disorder/condition but can be especially important for individuals with MS. In honor of National Nutrition Month and MS Awareness Month the National MS Society offers a few suggestions on diet and nutrition in MS.
While there is no specific “MS diet,” what you eat can make a difference on your energy level, bladder and bowel function, and overall health. Specialists recommend adhering to the same low-fat, high-fiber diet recommendations of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society for the general population. Here are some of their tips for eating and living healthy:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat less (portion control) and move more
- Exercise and be active as conditions allow
- Limit sedentary activity time
- Make healthy, nutritious food choices
- Eat a balanced diet with a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups including:
- Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables and fruits without added sugar/salt
- Fiber-rich whole grains for the most grain servings versus refined grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Chose fish and leaner meats over red meats and processed meats
- Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars
- Choose foods with less sodium and prepare foods with little or no salt
Life can be hectic—managing work, family, and social commitments as well as managing chronic primary/secondary chronic conditions can leave little time for shopping, meal planning, and preparation, which can make it difficult to eat the way we should. The National MS Society’s Food for Thought: MS and Nutrition has helpful information on keeping meals quick and easy and discusses topics such managing fatigue, eating and emotions, and how MS can affect chewing and swallowing.