Northern Ireland’s Multiple Sclerosis charity

Diet & Exercise

There has been a great deal written in recent years about what we should eat and what we should drink. In a nutshell you should eat and drink what suits you and helps you to keep healthy. That means moderation in all things.

Action MS - Advice on Excercise

MS and Diet

There has been a great deal written in recent years about what we should eat and what we should drink. In a nutshell you should eat and drink what suits you and helps you to keep healthy.

That means moderation in all things. This website sets out same of the basic points about diet with a particular concern for what the person with multiple sclerosis should be looking out for in trying to maintain some degree of balance in a daily diet of food and drink.

Vitamins and Minerals

Of course we all need vitamins But why? Well, the body in its wisdom uses vitamins to make the most of the food we eat. If you must have the biological, scientific facts about vitamins consult a good book or a nutritionist.

But remember, large doses of vitamins taken regularly can be harmful.


Iron is the most well known mineral because without it we may suffer from anaemia that leaves us limp and without energy. The best sources of iron are meat, eggs, beans and green vegetables.

The latter stood Popeye in good stead. But beware of taking iron as a supplement to a normal diet.

A high concentration of iron is dangerous and should never be given to children as a supplement unless prescribed by a doctor.


Calcium is a mineral that is essential in the formation of bones and teeth. The sooner we take calcium the better. It is found in dairy products, fish, beans and green vegetables.

Popeye had the right idea! If you suffer from reduced movement then any loss of calcium from the bones is serious.

Osteoporosis, for example, is a condition which leads to the bones becoming honeycombed and fragile. Food is the best source of calcium as tablets have been shown to be less effective.


Salt is a pressure control mineral – it can keep the various fluids in the body at the right pressure. However the body normally adjusts fluid balance as we eat and drink. So danger comes when we overload with salt.

Action MS - Food and Diet

Then high blood pressure may result and that in turn can lead to heart disease and strokes. Processed foods tend to put our salt intake on the high side so think about it and aim for balance.

Carbohydrates and Proteins


We recognise carbohydrates in two forms – sugar and fibre. The body converts the “starchy” foods we eat into sugar for energy – foods such as bread, rice, pasta, peas, potato, cereals.

So along with fruit and vegetables these are the main energy foods.

The body needs to get rid of waste and fibre helps the digestive and bowel systems to work efficiently – even regularly! Fibre helps prevent constipation and is found in vegetables and fruit.


Protein is a builder and repairer. It helps to restore parts of the body such as skin and muscles.

The main foods that give us protein include steak, chicken, liver, eggs, milk and combinations thereof such as cheese. Nuts, peas and beans, fruits and cereals such as soya, and bread – all these contain protein. But remember the calorie factor.

Eat enough protein to help the body do repairs but not too much otherwise you put on weight!


Fat is a protector. It protects vital organs and also acts as a store for energy. On the negative side it causes obesity and often, in the nicest possible way – chocolate bars, chocolate biscuits, burgers, cream buns ….. yummy things!

So beware. Saturated fat – mostly found in animal products such as cheese and butter – contributes to heart disease when taken in excess.

Polyunsaturated fat – mostly found in cereals and some poultry and fish – contains essential fatty acids which help to build cell walls in the immune system. This building attribute is very relevant when it comes to repairing the myelin sheath, the membrane scarred in MS.

There is extensive literature available on the whole issue of polyunsaturated fat in MS. If you would like more information please contact Action MS on 028 907 907 07 or email



We need approximately two litres a day. It seems a lot but remember there is water in the food we eat. And if you are unable to eat a reasonable amount each day it is important to drink more water.

That need not be a bore as you may choose from a selection of flavoured drinks, tea, coffee, orange iuice. Of course tea and coffee contain caffeine but there is no evidence to suggest that they affect people with MS more than anyone else.


Alcohol is often part of a person’s social life. Moderation is the key-note for as everyone knows the effects of large amounts of alcohol over a period of time can be deadly!

Action MS - Alcohol

As for the person with MS, there is no evidence that moderate consumption of alcohol will accelerate the progress of MS. However the immediate effect of alcohol – unsteadiness, reduced co-ordination, slower reflexes – may be seen in an MS drinker more quickly.

Also alcohol is a depressant and if you are already depressed it may make matters worse, although at the time things may seem rosy! Certain types of medicine mixed with alcohol makes for a dangerous cocktail. So moderation then – know how much you are drinking, drink alcohol in a measured way not in large binge amounts and, don’t drink and drive!


Smoking can damage your health, in particular blood circulation, which in turn is vital to the good working order of the central nervous system. It may also reduce the capacity of blood to take up oxygen and that may leave you breathless.

If MS has reduced your mobility then smoking may increase your chances of developing chest conditions such as bronchitis. Moreover, if you already have trouble with opening the bladder, smoking may add to the problem. Nicotine strengthens the muscle that keeps the bladder shut.

Cooks Comments

Bulk cooking is worth considering The freezer may be just the thing to help you over the days when you really don’t feel like cooking. Try some simple recipes and save energy and if there are children about let them get involved in preparing the meal.

Exercise and Fatigue

Most people think of exercise as a sport that involves some form of strenuous activity. This is only partly true for exercise may also mean doing things gently, regularly and simply.

People with MS need to exercise for strength.

It also helps to sharpen reflexes and maintain balance. So what can the MS person do by way of exercise? Well this will obviously depend on each individual’s condition.

As an example, one simple exercise is to play swing ball with the children – it certainly sharpens the reflexes!

There are many other simple forms of exercise, knitting, pastry making, waxing the car. And to keep the mind alert try keeping up with the action on the latest computer game.

For the house proud there is good exercise in a rigorous vacuuming routine or in picking your way through the weeds in the garden.

Or get on your hobby horse – go dancing, walk in the country and watch the birds or swing at a few golf balls on the local driving range.

Of course for some people there is no satisfaction unless they are in a sweat, breathing faster and deeper and really feeling the pain of a workout! All this amounts to good exercise and there is plenty of choice – weight training, aerobics, swimming, running up and down stairs, wheelchair pushing, a brisk walk.

Never say never – try some form of exercise and feel better.


Often people will say that they don’t really feel like exercise. However once they try it they have more energy and a “clearer” head.

It is suggested too that simple, regular exercise helps to reduce depression.

Be warned! You can have too much of a good thing. Remember to pace yourself. Start slowly, gently and work up a regular routine. The physiotherapist will advise and help you plan exercise that suits you including ideas on how to adapt to change.

Free information booklets

If you would like more information please contact Action MS to request a set of free information booklets.

Need to talk to someone? Call us on 028 9079 0707

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