Author: Jen Martin, Master Certified Health & Wellness Coach
April 10, 2020
Fatigue is very common in multiple sclerosis (MS) and can be quite severe—a physically crushing and mind-numbing exhaustion. It stems from a combination of the disease itself (primary fatigue) and other factors like medications, poor sleep habits, depression, or inactivity (secondary fatigue). In this article we will explore natural ways of combating fatigue and increase energy levels.
Many of the same factors that cause fatigue for anyone are even more likely to make you feel tired and worn out when you have MS. And there are additional MS-specific issues, such as warm temperatures and MS medications, that you might not realize are contributing to your fatigue.
Overwhelming exhaustion can still settle in despite adopting the best fatigue-prevention habits. Still, adjusting your lifestyle to prevent MS-related fatigue is worthwhile and can have significant benefits.
Scientific data has shown that eating like our paleolithic ancestors did, has tremendous benefits of managing MS and reversing symptoms, healing the body from the inside out. Take it from me, I have proven this to be correct and true. This process heals the gut microbiome, which improves your overall health, healing the whole body, not putting a bandaid on the symptom.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle
The same lifestyle strategies that can prevent your MS-related fatigue are also useful in treating it. These practices can also help you maintain a sense of consistency, be more productive, and give you back time you might otherwise spend in bed.
Keep the Temperature Cool
MS symptoms worsen when your core body temperature rises, which is called the Uhthoff phenomenon. You may notice that your MS fatigue worsens during a hot bath, a summer stroll outside, or when you have a fever. In fact, hot temperatures are associated with worsening of many MS symptoms.
Get Your ZZZs
Some MS symptoms, like tingling legs, pain and the increased need to urinate, can interfere with your sleep. You can improve the quantity and quality of your sleep by practicing healthy habits, such as:
You may also want to use a phone app that tracks your sleep, the quality of your rest, and how you feel when you wake, so you can determine if naps could be interfering with your nighttime sleep.
If you are waking up at night to urinate, consider talking to your doctor about medication to treat your bladder spasms.
Stress can contribute to fatigue—especially if you already have a condition that predisposes you to fatigue, like MS. Take the time to carefully think about the stress in your life and to eliminate or at least minimize some whenever you can.
If you find that stress is really impacting your MS fatigue, you can also seek professional help. Such as working with a Certified Health & Wellness Coach who specializes in MS, cognitive-behavioral therapy with a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist can be useful in helping you manage your stress in a healthy, adaptive way.
Recognize and Manage Depression
Depression can be a major problem in MS. And depression often contributes to fatigue. Symptoms include changes in appetite or sleep, irritability, and a feeling of hopelessness or guilt.
Make sure to discuss your depression with your health care team, because it is treatable. Health or Life Coach, counseling and/or medication (if severe) can help your depression and may alleviate your depression-induced fatigue as well. It's best practice to treat depression or other symptoms naturally.
Exercise can improve MS fatigue. You can work with your health care team (Neurologist, PT, Health Coach) to devise an exercise plan that works best for you.
A program may include, but not limited to:
Or arm exercises and stretches while you lounge with your partner in the evenings.
Muscle strengthening, toning, and cardiovascular exercises within the limits of your ability (and balance) are safe in MS.
Holistic Remedies for Combating Fatigue
Although no drug or supplement can cure MS, some treatments may help people slow the disease's progress. Other therapies can significantly reduce symptoms or prolong periods of remission.
Activities that have been found to improve MS-related fatigue include:
Deep belly breathing
Yoga, which combines meditation, breathing techniques, and exercise, is often a good way to stay active without exhausting yourself.
Reflexology, a form of massage in which pressure is applied to the feet, hands, or other parts of the body, can promote a sense of well-being.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, fatigue can come on suddenly. Or it may linger for months on end. If you are being treated for your MS and still experiencing fatigue, be sure to take it easy on yourself.
And don't hesitate to seek the support and help of your loved ones. They care about your well-being and will be there to help and support you through this.
Using Your Energy Wisely
You may need to think ahead as you budget your energy each day. This can be tricky, but once you get into the flow of your routine, conserving your energy can be a smart way to battle your fatigue.
A few ways to best utilize your energy include:
Keeping It Simple
Minimizing chaos & drama in your life can prevent distraction from stealing your energy. Ideas like de-cluttering your house and workspace, making your home an inviting, warm, and zen space along with breaking down tasks into manageable steps can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Getting help from an occupational therapist can give you an extra pair of eyes as you work together to devise an efficient home and work environment based on your limitations and needs.
A Word From Master Certified Health & Wellness Coach Jen Martin
When you have MS, you need to be kind to yourself and to acknowledge that your fatigue is part of your disease, it doesn't define you. MS can make it harder to do anything—move, think, and feel—because nerve communication is impaired and slowed. Experts now believe MS fatigue is more than just physical exhaustion. It often encompasses mental fatigue too, commonly known as "brain fog."
Take it from me, I experienced chronic fatigue first hand for over a year and half. It encompassed everything in my life. It came out of nowhere and hit me head on....
If you are experiencing unusual fatigue, you should talk to your Neurologist right away. You could have an infection, another condition (such as anemia), or you may have early signs of an MS exacerbation.
It usually takes a number of strategies to tackle your MS fatigue, but it can be done with dedication and daily effort. Don't lose motivation or get down if your strategies sometimes fail you, and you simply need to take a "lay on the couch and sleep" day.