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March 11, 2020

Multiple Sclerosis, A Multi-Faceted Malady: Looking at Diet and Exercise

by Barbara Giesser

Looking at the Roles of Diet and Exercise in the Management of Persons with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that damages the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. It can result in difficulties with mobility, vision, sensation, thinking and other functions.

There is no “good” time to receive this diagnosis, but now is the most hopeful time for persons with MS.

MS is not curable but it is very treatable. In addition to access to medications that have been proven to reduce future nerve damage, and slow disease progression, persons with MS can make lifestyle choices to help them live their best lives with this condition.

Multiple Sclerosis Diet and Exercise

While no specific diet or exclusion of a particular food substance has been proven to prevent nerve damage or reverse existing damage.

Data from many studies indicate that persons with MS who consume diets that are abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and unsaturated fats, and lower in processed foods, saturated fats, refined sugars and high salt, tend to favor better neurologic outcomes.

Other medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) and obesity, are also associated with poorer neurologic status in persons with MS and a healthier type of diet will benefit these conditions as well.

Physical activity and exercise have many benefits for persons with MS. They can multiple sclerosis diet and exercise, such as fatigue and depression, increase endurance, and could have anti-inflammatory and disease-modifying effects, although these latter benefits need to be confirmed in large scale trials.

Both aerobic exercise and resistance exercises are beneficial for and well tolerated by persons with MS; just consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.

For those persons with MS who are heat sensitive, cooling strategies such as a cold wet cloth on the neck, cooling garments, or drinking cold or iced beverages while they exercise may permit them to exercise for longer periods of time.

About the Author

Barbara Giesser, MD

Barbara Giesser

Barbara S. Giesser, MD, FAAN, FANA, is an internationally recognized clinician and award-winning educator who has specialized in the care of persons with Multiple Sclerosis since 1982. Her approach to the diagnosis and management of persons with MS combines advanced diagnostics and a personalized medication plan for each patient with an emphasis on integrating lifestyle and wellness strategies into the neurologic treatment plan.

Last updated: March 23rd, 2020