We all know someone affected by multiple sclerosis, as it affects 1 in every 340 people in Canada. This is the highest rate in the world. MS is classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. It attacks the protective covering of the nerves, which is called myelin, causing inflammation and often damage. MS is anything but a routine disease and has unique effects on every individual. It’s unpredictable and can be extremely physically and emotionally taxing. I have three close friends who are living with MS and I feel compelled to help in any way I can, which in my case is through my blog.
The MS Society of Canada has been researching and helping those affected by the disease for 70 years now. They have recently released the MS Wellness Toolbox that has me so super jazzed because I think it’s something we can all learn from.
What is the Wellness Toolbox?
Those who are living with MS have a variety of options including pharmaceuticals, certain treatments, specialized diets and exercise. While I can’t even begin to understand the science behind some of the medical treatments now offered, I can speak to the wellness solutions that have proved to be beneficial for several people living with MS. These innovative wellness solutions are ones we can all learn from and help spread the word about.
As I mentioned before, MS is very unique to each individual living with the disease. However, when it comes to managing the disease through diet and wellness, there are a few key things that everyone has been shown to benefit from. This is what the MS Wellness Toolbox is.
Move your Body
A little bit of exercise goes a long way. There are a variety of activities, both aerobic and strength training, that can be tailored to suit the unique needs of people living with MS. In particular, pilates and yoga are emerging as one of the most effective exercises because it can be individualized for almost anyone living with MS. The key is not to get obsessive about exercise but just to move as much as you can and as often as you can.
Speak to your healthcare provider. This can be your doctor, physiotherapist or another qualified professional about what types of physical activity is best for you.
If you aren’t currently physically active, start at a low intensity and perform exercises for a shorter amount of time. From there, you can gradually increase your duration, frequency and intensity to one that’s right for you.
Swim (this includes an aqua-fitness class)
Lift weights or use your own body weight
Use resistance bands
Overcoming some possible barriers
Becoming and staying active is tough for anyone, let alone those living with MS. Here are a few tips to overcome some of these barriers. If you have:
Start slowly – you will eventually begin to feel energized
Rest afterwards – allow for ample recovery time that your muscles need to get strong
Have a positive attitude and go easy on yourself – it’s easy to become defeated if your workout didn’t go as planned or if you’re simply not feeling up to it. Each day will be different and the simple act of trying is in itself so powerful.
Ask your healthcare provider if it’s safe to start or continue an exercise program
Try everything! Perhaps a certain activity or piece of equipment will work really well for you. You never know until you try.
Little or no access to a fitness facility
With all the free online workout videos, working out at home is easier than ever. You don’t need a bunch of equipment or a personal trainer to get in shape. Just a pair of comfy clothes and your own body weight will work wonders.
Incorporate exercise into your everyday routine. Such as walking to the grocery store or around your neighbourhood or doing stretches while you watch your favourite TV show.
Feed your Health
Study after study is showing us that eating well has a greater impact on our overall wellbeing over anything else. If you are just starting from scratch, I would encourage you to check out some of my recipes for some inspiration on how to get started.
Our bodies are incredible machines, capable of astonishing strength, intelligence, learning and much more. Food is the fuel we need to provide to this machine of ours and we need to make sure it’s of high quality to keep it running at its optimal capacity. This means more whole foods containing the right amount of carbs, fats and protein that are right for you.
It can be so hard to decipher what’s right for your body. Our world has this confusing way of throwing us a new curveball of food or diet-related information everyday. Experiment to see what works for your own body. See if any of the following helps you feel better, more energized and happier:
Eliminate gluten from your diet
Eliminate dairy from your diet
Eliminate processed sugar from your diet
Consult a naturopath and consider getting a food sensitivity test done
Drink at least 2L of pure water each day
Eat whole foods as much as you can and avoid processed foods
It takes time to incorporate any change into your life, so be patient with yourself if you “fall of the wagon” along the way. All that matters is that you get back on that figurative wagon.
Look beyond the Traditional
While having a great medical team behind you is necessary and extremely helpful for most living with MS, it doesn’t hurt to look beyond this traditional group so long as the communication lines remain open. Try a holistic approach to healing, including:
Many some find it helpful to share their struggles and victories with other people. Chatting amongst a group who share similar stories is the most common, but it’s not for everybody. Having an outlet to express frustrations and triumphs is so healthy for your mental wellbeing. You can try writing in a diary, confiding in family or friends, going to therapy, and even starting your own blog! The act of sharing not only releases you emotionally but also helps others who might be going through a similar situation. Sharing is caring 🙂
Cut yourself some Slack
It’s great to have goals and standards for yourself, but we all have to be mindful and patient with ourselves when things don’t go as planned. Easier said than done, I know. You may have really great days where you’re full of positivity and energy. But the bad days inevitably creep in too. Try incorporating one or all of the following:
Never compare yourself to anyone else’s journey
Create realistic standards for yourself
Each morning, quickly list three things you are grateful for
Put yourself first
Spread the Word
If we were to rewind just 20 years ago, there would have been no disease-modifying treatments for MS. Thanks to research and organizations like the MS Society of Canada, there are now 14 different and effective treatments. However, since it is such a unique disease, it is up to the individual and their healthcare providers to determine which one works best for each case.
Holistic approaches like the MS Wellness Toolbox is one of the many options available. But since it’s self-directed, you can start applying many of these tips right this second. I love that we are moving back to holistic approaches as a society and that there is more help than ever before. Know that you are never alone on this journey, and that help & support is always at your fingertips. There are MS Navigators are who are trained to help you with information and support depending on what you need. They’re a fantastic free resource, able to discuss anything from research to treatment options. This is a great place to start when looking for resources 🙂
You can help spread the word to family and friends just by sharing this article. It’s a simple act but an effective and important one to help our friends living with MS.
Love, peace & wellness