Four out of five people with MS experience fatigue. It can impact your ability to work, study, socialise, exercise, and generally live life.
Talk to a sample of pwMS and you’ll hear a lot of thoughts about the best way to tackle your fatigue, but there’s no guarantee that what’s worked for someone else is also going to work for you.
And if you’re experiencing fatigue, you probably don’t have the energy to try a bunch of different options to find the one that might work for you.
Thankfully, a team of researchers from the University of Melbourne have put in the effort and identified some steps you can take to reduce the impact of fatigue.
SNAP to attention
Their number one finding was that pwMS who had a higher SNAP score were less likely to have fatigue when the researchers followed them up after two years. So what’s a SNAP score?
SNAP stands for Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol Consumption and Physical Activity. To get a high SNAP score, you need to be a person who:
- doesn’t smoke
- eats a balanced diet
- doesn’t drink much
- gets plenty of exercise
Those four look like a very familiar story. It’s the shopping list of ways to avoid a whole host of illnesses, but how do you start making change?
Smoking has strong links to both MS development and worse MS outcomes. If quitting is on your to-do list, we would highly recommend doing all you can to take that step.
On the positive side, because cigarettes are strongly linked to many diseases and poor outcomes, there’s also often a lot of support available to help you to quit.
The precise resources available to help vary depending on where in the world you live. Do some searches, talk to your doctor, get help where you can.
If you’re investigating whether following the OMS Program is for you, you probably know OMS recommends a plant-based, wholefood diet that is rich in omega-3 (either from seafood or supplementation), while excluding dairy and minimizing saturated fat intake.
One of the most important things to remember when making any dietary changes is to give yourself space to fail. If you’re experiencing fatigue, your life is already challenging. Adding new ways of cooking and eating isn’t easy.
Start small – choose one meal or snack in a day to change and build on that.
Be kind to yourself – we share meals with people we love and our food is tied to our identity and culture. Some things will be harder to change than others and that’s okay.
Don’t make perfect the enemy of good.
This is another area where culture, community and local health guidelines will all have an impact on your alcohol intake.
It’s also a subject where, depending on where you live, there could be resources to help you to drink less – talk to your doctor to find out more.
Move. Every day.
When you’ve been slammed by fatigue, doing some exercise probably feels like the last thing you want to do. However, doing something – a walk around the block, five minutes of stretches, any movement – is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Most importantly, exercise helps to fight fatigue – really.
The evidence behind the OMS Program shows that exercise is important too. So much so that there’s a whole bunch of resources ready for you to investigate.
OMS understands that balance, coordination, spasticity and bladder weakness can all be part of the mix for pwMS. They thought about all of that when they designed their exercise resources so it’s already tailored, just for you.
The results of the recent study from the NEU at the University of Melbourne back the OMS approach of lifestyle factors preventing significant fatigue and improving outcomes for those with MS.
You can click here to read the full paper.