March is MS Awareness Month
March is MS Awareness Month

March is the MS (multiple sclerosis disease) Awareness month.

I want to talk to you about the importance of lifestyle management in managing MS (multiple sclerosis disease)

There are several aspects of how we live that make a difference on whether you maintain your mobility, improve, or start to decline. A lot of these things can be really challenging when you have MS because you’re tired, and dealing with spasticity.

If you’re on medication, sometimes you’re dealing with the side effects of the medication. In my practice, I deal with confounding factors we have to overcome, but there are many things we can do to improve our quality of life.

  1. Sleep & MS (multiple sclerosis disease)

If you’re not getting deep restorative sleep, it’s really hard for your body to repair and restore itself. We have a lot of research now showing the importance of getting deep sleep. When you get into a deep state of sleep, that’s when your brain detoxifies and when neurons repair themselves. There is evidence that we can repair these neurons that have been damaged, yet it takes a long time under the best of circumstances. Some of the research suggests it can take up to nine years for neurons to repair themselves.

With multiple sclerosis, it’s a long game. We’re not necessarily going to see these improvements within weeks or months, but possibly over the course of years. Sometimes when you start making these changes in your life and you don’t see immediate improvements, it’s easy to get frustrated and say, “Well, this isn’t really working, and just screw it, I’m going to do something else.” You have to be persistent and diligent. If you do that, you’re going to find over time your health will improve.

How to Commit to Good Sleep Habits

Forming good sleep habits is important, such as disabling electronics one and a half to two hours before you go to sleep. Make sure you get your brain in a relaxed state. When you’re ready to go to bed, it will be easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. You ideally you want a cool, dark room. We have evidence that 66 to 68 degrees is ideal for a good-quality sleep. Make sure the room is completely dark and there’s no distractions.

You also want to commit to going to bed and wake up around the same time every day.

Sleep is a pattern; the more you can help teach your body about that pattern, it’s going to be consistent. [TWEET THIS]

On the weekends, most of us have a different schedule. We’ll typically stay up later and sleep in later. Try to get your body on a track that’s within about an hour or so of the same time, so your body could adjust. Hormonally, it starts changing in a way that you get relatively good consistent sleep. If you’ve got kids, I know sometimes they’re disrupting you, but do the best you can. If you could commit to having good sleep habits, it would give your body every opportunity to repair itself in the way that it should.

Get better Sleep Habits! Improve your Mobility Daily.
Get better Sleep Habits!                                                                                    Improve your Mobility Daily.
  1. Movement & Exercise & MS (multiple sclerosis disease)

Movement or exercise could be very challenging for people that have limited mobility or have other aspects of MS that prohibit them from doing activities that other people might.

No matter where you are, there’s something you can do to help improve your mobility. [TWEET THIS]

Movement or exercise like Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong, are very gentle types of exercise that aren’t overly strenuous. To feel like you’re improving, you can increase the intensity and the duration as you see fit. I personally don’t enjoy yoga at all, but when I do it, I feel tremendously better. I can feel my mobility, strength, and balance improve. If you could commit to doing these things, you’ll see improvement in your health. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

How to Challenge your Movement

For people who can walk, walking is great exercise; even stretching can be great for your body. Dr. Wahls talks a lot about using e-stim, which is a type of electrical stimulation. It helps with the connection between your brain and your muscles. A lot of us with MS have problems with spasticity; therefore our mobility is a little bit impaired. It’s harder to do some of these activities, but e-stim is an easy way to help open up the muscles so that you have a little bit more flexibility. If you’re interested in doing e-stim, you’ll want to consult a health professional. There are a lot of machines that you can buy that are relatively inexpensive. I bought a device (about $80 on Amazon) and I worked with my physical therapist to show me how to use it appropriately.

Consistency is going to be one of the better ways that we can help maintain our mobility.

  1. Stress Management & MS (multiple sclerosis disease)

Dealing with any kind of chronic illness can be very stressful for you, loved ones, family members, and children. All of these things together are really important as we’re dealing with MS to get our bodies moving forward. Sleep, movement, and stress management are really key things that anyone can do on a very limited budget. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to do these things, yet it’s something important to help us get to better health.

How to Mitigate Stress

It’s hard to share how you feel.
It’s hard to share how you feel.

Have a way that you can help manage stress. Whether it’s meditation, an exercise regimen, talking with a therapist, it really doesn’t matter. I think it’s important that you have an avenue to express yourself and share how you’re feeling. It could be hard to talk about how you’re feeling because even your family sometimes does not understand.

Words are sometimes hard to express the way you feel so other people understand it.

Have an outlet that brings joy to your life and a way you can express yourself. It helps reduce your stress and improve your quality of life. [TWEET THIS]



MS and Lifestyle Management
MS and Lifestyle Management

Thank you, for joining me as we continue our series about MS (multiple sclerosis).

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Thanks so much.

Darin Ingels, ND, FAAEM, FMAPS

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