How easy or difficult is it to follow the OMS recommendations?

October 31, 2018


piechart showing steps of program

The OMS retreats can be seen as a “multi-modal health intervention”: it is meant to change multiple health behaviours at the same time. These health behaviours include diet, exercise, meditation, sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation, and smoking cessation (if applicable).

Little is known about how people with MS engage with multi-modal interventions.

Do they take up all these recommendations at once? And how do they go with following the recommendations in the long term?

To answer these questions we interviewed 18 people (5 men and 13 women) with MS 3-5 years after they attended an OMS retreat.


Our results (just published here) indicated that almost everyone attempted to make the recommended changes immediately after the retreat.

Many had already made changes in their health behaviours before the retreat, based on the OMS book or website. All participants said the retreat was useful for information gathering, decision making, attitudinal changes, and practical strategies regarding health behaviours. They said it was a very positive experience that provided a sense of hope for the future and control over wellbeing.

At the time of the interviews, 3-5 years after the retreat, the diet recommendations were still followed most of the time by the majority. However, many indicated that when eating meals out of the home (at restaurants, work, friends) they struggled to follow the recommendations and would eat some non-recommended food. The majority was still supplementing with vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, and found these the easiest recommendations to follow.

In contrast, most really struggled with recommendations that were seen as “time-consuming” such as exercising and meditation. Very few were exercising or meditating the recommended amount, and there an episodic, stop-start pattern was common. Especially work and family responsibilities would often take priority. Fatigue and other MS symptoms, or (fear of) injuries, also prevent people from exercising regularly.

woman running

Practical tips that may help you with healthy behaviours from our study and the authors:

  • Getting advice from a trained physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can help in finding the right exercises for you and preventing injury.
  • Create a plan for how you can fit exercise and/or meditation into your daily routine, sacrifice time you spend on activities that do not benefit your health (e.g. watching tv, social media).
  • Make a plan A, B and C so you are always able to do some level of exercise and/or meditation, no matter how much time or energy you have.

writing in a planner

  • Active transport, e.g. walking or cycling, may be a time-efficient way to increase your exercise.
  • Having support from friends, family and healthcare providers is very important. Ask those around you to support you. Try to connect to supportive people on the OMS forum.
  • Self-monitoring (e.g. keeping a food diary, exercise log, or using a step counter or smart watch) can give you useful insights into how you are tracking and what strategies work for you.
  • Have a look at some delicious OMS recipes here for some new inspiration!


Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments!


Dr Claudia Marck and Emma Barnard

11 thoughts on ‘How easy or difficult is it to follow the OMS recommendations?

  1. This is a great post. I went to the retreat 4 years ago. My biggest problem is my healthy food regime. With lots of fibre and vegetables every day it makes my stomach very bloated and gassy. My doctor says to stop having my homemade green smoothies, homemade OMS muesli and flaxseed oil on toast with marmite for breakfast, but I feel this is such a healthy start to the day, that I don’t want to give them up. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Fran,
      Some people who experience bloating have a reaction to FODMAPs so it might be worth looking at eating more veg that is low on the FOMAP index and eating fewer of the foods that are high.

      There are four groups and it may be that you find one group in particular more problematic.

      High FODMAP examples – beans, brussel sprouts, sweetcorn (see the link for a longer list)

      Low FOMAPs examplea- tomatoes, cucumber, spinach, bell pepper, green beans, sweet potato

      We wouldn’t suggest fully following FODMAP without a dietician or nutritionist (particularly when you are also following OMS recommendations) but it might be worth keeping a food diary and making a note of foods that make you more bloated. But this way you might be able to keep eating lots of fruit and veg without the side effects you are currently experiencing.

      Secondly, make sure you are getting a good balance of soluble fibre vs insoluble fibre and drinking enough water. Oatmeal, nuts, beans, apples, and blueberries have soluble fibre where as seeds and skins of fruit as well as whole-wheat bread and brown rice have insoluble fibre. Also, raw veg can be harder to digest so might be worth making sure you steam veg before eating.

      I hope this helps!

  2. I have been following the plan for 3 years.

    For me the exercise is the toughie, it only lasted a few monthes.

    I am always meaning to get going, but have not done so.

    I do great with daily meditation and eating a vegan diet with seafood. Sun not so good in the fall winter.

    I have to do better! My husband and I have a plan, but I welcome any suggestions.
    I should do better with supplements I try to eat the oils.

    I travel a lot and eat a little bit wrong, I will have dessert that is off the plan but not s saturated fat dessert.

  3. Great post & good timing for me. I went to Ammerdown in June and had a great time. It really reinforced my belief that OMS would be best for me. I am following OMS strictly, but am feeling a bit of a downer just now 🙁 as I don’t have any demonstrable evidence that it is making any improvements and loved ones don’t really notice any improvements. My walking remains weak; 10k in a day is do-able but a major challenge. I have RRMS, diagnosed in March 2017 and been following OMS since June 2017. I know everyone is different and OMS is optimum after 3 to 5 years. Any words of inspiration gratefully received!

  4. Hi Ian,

    I’ve been following strictly OMS since September this year and haven’t seen any improvements. I’ve never attended retreats (hope I’d do one in the future). However, my understanding is that the diet and everything else halt the progression of the disease rather than definitive cure.

    Just be confident that you are doing the right thing and live seriously healthier life.


  5. Hi Ian
    I understand how easy it is to get discouraged, especially when everyone around you wants you to eat the same food as them. You can feel a bit isolated. Also with everything else we need to be doing ( exercise, meditation etc) it can feel like having an extra part time job! I started on OMS (RRMS diagnosed March 2018) in April this year, and felt overwhelmed and discouraged by July. I’ve been back on the program for the last month and for me it is really making a big difference in general wellbeing. I feel much better when I stick to the program. Remember to rest when you need to and stay on your healthy path because you are looking after yourself in the way that is best for you.
    This is a healthy lifestyle for everyone, not just us!

  6. Hi Ian

    Great to hear that you found out about the Program early on after diagnosis. As you say it is early days, however the main aim is to slow or stop the illness progressing in the long term, so hang in there. The fact that your walking was affected very early suggests that you may have a spinal cord lesion or two that is hitting the nerve pathways to your legs. These can be quite slow to reverse. It might help to do some additional work on your legs, such as with a vibration exercise machine which will help to build muscle, but also potentially help make some new pathways to go around the damaged nerve pathways. More exercise will also help your energy levels if you have a lot of fatigue.

    Stay with the Program though Ian. There is every chance you can make a big difference to how things progress and live a healthy and happy (not to mention long!) life…

    Be well


  7. Hi Ian-I met you at Ammerdown-I think you are amazing for following the OMS plan strictly from the first day you discovered it-By doing this you have clearly shown the disease you mean business !.This alone gives you a tremendous chance of wellbeing and you have only been following it for a relatively short time.
    I hope you won’t let your spirit become deflated -your spirit is trying to help you heal every second of every day and you are doing everything possible to assist it.Don’t forget what Craig said-( aswell as -“Good- Good”)-he said in the film “The Connection”- while you are meditating-your body is carrying out genetic engineering.We have no idea what miracles the body is carrying out when we give it what it needs(ie the OMS programme).Since Ammerdown I have been looking at the mental aspect of MS.Ive been learning how my thoughts, language ,mood affect my body/residual symtoms.I am currently reading “Breaking the habit of being yourself” by Dr Joe Dispenza.What an eye opener to the mind body connection.I thought I understood the mind body connection but this chaps story research/help/explanation is amazing.You might want to see his you tube interviews or even read his book.His writings have made me realise the effect of my words-thoughts -emotions-on my body.As well as the daily meditations I ve realised the power of what I think and say.I,m beginning to be very careful what I say/think/feel.
    Dispenza ‘s philosophy has prompted me to be vigilant about what I say/feel about my body.I noticed you mentioned your” walking was weak “You walked 10,000 steps-how amazing is that-maybe you could re phrase your statement and praise your spirit and your- body for such an amazing feat.Don’t let those negative demons rob you of your power by undermining your achievements-whatever they may be.KEEP PRAISING YOURSELF AND TELL YOURSELF HOW WONDERFUL YOU ARE EACH DAY.
    Take care of yourself
    Look up Dispenza
    Love to you and Anne-Marie

  8. Wow Michelle! – Great to hear from you and thanks for this! To be honest I probably needed to give myself a bit of a shake! Life’s really not too bad – it’s just not perfect; which is frustrating but normal. I’m starting to pick up a bit now but will definitely get into Dispenza )odered on Amazon!). Hope you and Steve are well. It’s great what he’s doing for OMS. Hope you can make it to Edinburgh next year; would be great to catch-up! AM is doing great, thanks.


  9. Dr Jelinek – I feel like I know you; I talk about you every day! I’m really grateful for your reply; it means so much to me.
    I had a rough couple of weeks but stayed loyal to OMS throughout. Since starting OMS this was the first break in a period of slow but steady improvement. I’m feeling a bit better now so hopefully normal service will resume. My gym has a vibration machine so I will give it a go as you suggest. Thanks so much – for everything!

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