Fatigue in multiple sclerosis is one of the most life-altering symptoms of the disease. Now the findings of a new study indicate that it is possible to prevent and treat fatigue by targeting certain risk factors.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, fatigue is a problem in about 80 percent of people with multiple sclerosis. Its cause is not understood, and so considerable research has been focused on what’s behind this challenge.
How to fight fatigue in MS A team of researchers from Australia explored the relationship between fatigue and various factors, which are noted below. Participants were recruited from the Internet via social media and the overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org website.
The participants completed a 163-question survey that asked about demographics, use of medications and supplements, lifestyle factors, and disease profile. Data from 2,138 individuals (mean age, 45.5 years; 82.3% were women) were evaluated.
About two-thirds (65.6%) of the participants screened positive for clinically significant fatigue. Here’s what the experts found when they crunched the numbers: Modifiable factors (those over which you have control) associated with greater fatigue included the following:
Use of disease-modifying drugs currently or previously increased odds of fatigue by 1.5 times compared with no use
Overweight or obesity increased odds of fatigue by 1.7 and 2.9 times, respectively
Low level of fish consumption (less than once/week)
Low consumption of alcohol
Modifiable factors that can help reduce fatigue included:
Exercise, moderate to high participation
Eating fish three or more times a week
Having never smoked
Moderate alcohol use
Use of flaxseed oil, omega-3, or vitamin D supplements reduced the odds of fatigue by more than half
In fact, the authors noted that the best way to fight fatigue was with high levels of exercise—vigorous activity three times a week or mild, moderate, or vigorous exercise over seven days was associated with nearly three times less likelihood of screening positive for fatigue.
Nonmodifiable factors found to be linked to significant fatigue included older age, being female, being unmarried (separated, widowed, or divorced), having several children, longer period of time with MS diagnosis, being retired because of disability, and lower level of education.
Bottom line It’s well established that physical exercise is beneficial for people who live with multiple sclerosis, even though it often is the last thing they feel like doing. However, efforts should be made to incorporate enjoyable physical activities into one’s daily routine or at least three or more times a week.
As this study suggests, there are other lifestyle factors that have a significant impact on fatigue in multiple sclerosis. Even though the particulars of diet were not discussed in the report, previous research has indicated some general guidelines, such as focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding refined/processed foods, watching fat intake, and possibly avoiding gluten can be beneficial and considered a more healthful approach.