At its heart, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) is a positive lifestyle program based on rigorous scientific research that offers the real potential for people with MS to improve and in some cases recover.
Developed by Professor George Jelinek, after his own diagnosis in 1999, and refined as further medical evidence has been published, the OMS approach has already been adopted by thousands of people around the world with great success.
Ground-breaking research from 2012 showed that people who attended a residential retreat to learn about this lifestyle approach were on average 20% better physically and mentally after five years. This kind of result is unprecedented in MS research and their health and wellbeing improved considerably in contrast to the general trend in MS, throughout the world, of steady, but inevitable decline.
As an organisation, OMS is actively presenting this evidence-based hope to the widest possible audience from the global MS community as soon after diagnosis as possible. It is our passionate belief that addressing lifestyle issues quickly after diagnosis can dramatically improve the lives of people with MS. Our goal is to ensure that everyone is aware of the potential for recovery and can then make informed choices for their own future.
Overcoming MS seeks to address the way in which MS is managed, empowering people with MS to manage their own health through making lifestyle modifications – much like one would in heart disease. We seek to provide evidence-based information and practical tools to educate and support people in making these simple but impactful lifestyle adaptations.
What we do
The OMS Recovery Program is a regimen of diet and lifestyle management that has been shown to improve the health and lives of people with MS.
The key elements of the OMS Recovery Program are: a diet very low in saturated fats (plant based diet with seafood); Omega-3 supplementation; regular exercise; stress management including daily meditation; Vitamin D through sunlight and supplementation. Medication may also be required as recommended by an individual’s neurologist, but not in all cases.
However bleak a diagnosis of MS might seem, in fact there is hope for a brighter future. While a medical cure is still a long way off, the prospect of halting or slowing the progression of MS is already within reach. As with other chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, it has been shown that a lifestyle-based approach can stop the disease from progressing. People with MS can get better. Overcoming MS…is possible
The Overcoming MS charity provides free books in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, organises events and webinars for people with MS, provides information through its comprehensive website and regular contact, blogs, podcasts and social media to support people following the program. The team reply to queries and there is a thriving supportive community including over 80 OMS Circles to support people with MS locally.
Lifestyle changes to help people live well with MS.
Experts believe that vitamin D is important because exposure to sunlight can reduce the incidence and severity of MS. When the sun's UV rays hit the skin, they produce vitamin D, a hormone that is important for good health generally, but particularly for people with MS, because it dampens overactive immune responses and also protects brain cells.
In many parts of the world, sunlight is too scarce to produce enough vitamin D, so supplements are needed. Research has shown that people with MS have lower levels of vitamin D, and also that vitamin D levels are lower during MS relapses.
We recommend that people ask for a vitamin D level test immediately upon being diagnosed with MS. Many people find that their first test shows a very low level. It should ideally be above 150nmol/L (nanomoles per litre). If very low, it can be brought up quickly with a one-off megadose of vitamin D followed by regular capsules. Research shows large doses are safe and actually necessary to raise Vitamin D levels quickly.
OMS encourages diet recommendations that are scientifically researched and play an important role in managing MS and preventing its progression.
The Overcoming MS diet is a plant-based diet that also includes fish. It aims to significantly reduce saturated fat intake while increasing the intake of healthy, omega-3 fats.
Several long-term studies show a close connection between saturated fats and the development and progression of MS. People with MS who avoid saturated fats, such as those from meat and dairy but consume unsaturated fats, such as those from fish and flaxseed oil, typically have reduced progression of the disease – and in many cases experience minimal effects from it.
Exercise is vital for just about everyone, but it is especially important for people with MS.
Direct evidence shows that exercise:
- In people with mild MS – improves fitness and function
- In people experiencing moderate to severe disability – maintains function
- In people with significant disability - improves muscle power, exercise tolerance and mobility-related activities (such as walking)
Studies show that exercise improves mood and general well-being in people with MS, and that walkable distance increases with regular treadmill training. Interestingly, some benefits of exercise in MS are more pronounced in women.
There is also indirect evidence that exercise may be helpful:
- By boosting two proteins that help repair neurons in MS, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF), exercise helps repair neurons in MS.
- By preventing cognitive decline. Those who exercise the most show the least amount of brain shrinkage
- By improving mental health
Exercise can also improve ongoing physical problems caused by MS:
- Movement exercise has a better effect on spasm and increased tone than stretching
- Core postural strength helps correct balance problems that threaten stability
- Muscle strength protects from injury
- Exercise counteracts the effects of deconditioning
Cure v Recovery
There is currently no cure for MS, although research groups all over the world are working diligently to find one. Neither OMS nor the OMS 7-Step Recovery Program should ever be represented as a cure for MS. The OMS 7-Step Recovery Program is a scientifically-researched, evidence-based-diet-and-lifestyle-modification program designed to improve health outcomes and quality of life for people with MS.
Website link: www.overcomingms.org