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MS & weight loss: Full guide on how to lose weight with Multiple Sclerosis

Losing weight without trying can be very unnerving, especially if you have MS. Weight gain tends to be more common than weight loss in PwMS, but there are a number of symptoms and medications that can cause fluctuation. Exercise can help build muscle mass after weight loss, as well as improving MS symptoms and mental wellbeing. A carefully considered diet, as well as better quality sleep and lifestyle changes, can help you manage MS weight fluctuations

Why does multiple sclerosis cause weight fluctuation?

There are a number of reasons why MS can cause fluctuations in weight. Symptoms such as fatigue, pain, nausea, body temperature shifts and dizziness can be debilitating, reducing your desire for exercise. Depression, stress and anxiety can also cause comfort eating or reduced appetite leading you to eat too little.

Fluctuations in weight can also be due to MS medications such as use of steroids to decrease inflammation, with weight gain as a possible side effect.

Being underweight or overweight can make some MS symptoms worse, as well as being damaging for your overall health, so read on as we explain actions that are within your control to help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Weight gain  is more common with MS than weight loss, but weight loss and muscle wasting can also occur.

The importance of exercising

You might think exercising is just for those who are looking to lose weight, but eating well and exercising can also be beneficial for people with MS who are losing weight without wanting to. Exercising will help you build muscle mass.

Exercise doesn’t have to be physically draining. If you are experiencing weight loss and weakness then swimming is a good choice, because the water supports your body and doesn’t put pressure on your joints. There are also low impact exercises that you can do, like yoga, tai chi and strengthening exercises.

As well as building muscle mass, exercise has many benefits for people with MS, such as:

Improving MS symptoms

Improving your mood

Boosting your immune system

Releasing endorphins (natural pain relief)

Increasing your energy levels

Reducing stress

Increasing your mobility

What to eat to maintain a healthy weight

In general, weight loss happens when you burn more calories than you consume.

Please don’t think that you should put weight back on by eating junk food, as not only will this be damaging for your overall health, but it can make your MS symptoms worse. You need to eat high quality, nutrient-rich foods, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Read more about the crucial role that fats and oils play with MS.

When looking to gain weight to counteract MS weight loss, try to eat more:

  • Lean proteins, like fish and tofu
  • Root vegetables
  • Dried fruit
  • Cereal bars
  • Avocados
  • Olive and fish oils
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Quinoa
  • Salmon and oily fish

The OMS Recovery Program incorporates MS diet recommendations that are evidence based and play an important role in managing MS and preventing its progression. Diet suggestions like this will help you to maintain a healthy weight, and just look at all the delicious recipes we have to tempt you!

Other treatment options

We can reassure you that most people with MS can manage weight loss or weight gain through making lifestyle changes.

Other treatment options that may also help include:

  • Stress management exercises and meditation.
  • Getting plenty of rest to reduce stress.
  • Making sure you get quality sleep, it is vital for muscle growth.
  • Drinking water after meals so it is easier to fill your stomach with nutritious food.
  • Using bigger plates to encourage more calorie intake.
  • Eating more often — always have healthy snacks like fruit and nuts to hand.
  • Not smoking — as well as being bad for your health, smokers weigh less than non-smokers as their appetite can be suppressed by nicotine.

If you are experiencing unwanted weight loss alongside your MS symptoms, don’t worry — there is so much that you can do to help maintain a healthy weight and look to build muscle. By following the OMS Recovery Program, you will be incorporating all these recommendations to counteract weight loss, while also improving your MS symptoms.

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