Self-Care Through Healthy Eating Habits

We know that the best strategies for treating MS involve the early and continued use of disease-modifying therapies AND incorporating healthy lifestyle interventions including regular exercise, healthy diet, and quality sleep.

Knowing which eating patterns are best for overall brain and body health is important. There is not one specific diet that controls MS, but eating a diet like the Mediterranean diet that is good for our heart – rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains – is also good for our brains. The Mediterranean diet has consistently been demonstrated to provide a degree of protection against major chronic degenerative disease. It’s associated with reductions in overall mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet is also associated with improved longevity. And it has been shown to be effective against depression and cognitive decline.

During stressful times, many people struggle with maintaining their healthy eating habits. Food is often used as a coping mechanism. However, this pattern can lead to other health concerns like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes and any perceived emotional benefits are short term. It can be helpful to pause, recognize the emotion that is triggering your desire to eat, and try an activity more suited to that emotion than eating.

Registered Dietician Holly Sullivan gives several great examples in the Fall 2020 issue of InforMS “Food for Thought” such as calling a friend to vent or listening to an audio book. Physical activity like taking a walk or a solo dance party to your favorite song could give you the break you need to reconsider an unhealthy food choice. If you can, think about the times when you’re most likely to reach for comfort foods ahead of time and make a list of possible alternative activities before you’re in a situation that could lead to unhealthy choices. It is difficult to come up with alternatives when you’re in the thick of it, but thinking through the possibilities beforehand and maybe even making a written list you can refer to can help.