Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Fatigue

Is fatigue a symptom of Multiple Sclerosis? What can you do to reduce fatigue? Read more here – BelongMS blog

Fatigue as a symptom of MS

One of the most prevalent MS symptoms is fatigue. It is known that 80% of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) suffer from fatigue. Fatigue occurs throughout the disease process. Symptoms of fatigue are unrelated to the severity or duration of MS. Fatigue is usually accompanied by muscle weakness, brain fog, or sleepiness. Numerous people with MS experience sleeping disorders, including insomnia. But some people with MS might feel fatigued even after a good night’s sleep. Heat intolerance can also induce fatigue.

What is fatigue?

Contrary to what some people may think, fatigue is not just feeling tired. Instead –  

  • Fatigue is a lack of energy that does not allow one to continue with day-to-day activities. 
  • It is not relieved by sleep and can significantly impact different aspects of quality of life.

This dissonance causes many patients who face fatigue to feel not understood by people most close to them.

What are the factors that cause fatigue in MS patients?

There are several theories on what causes MS-related fatigue.

  • One theory is that MS patients use more parts of their brain to do regular tasks; their brain works harder, which causes fatigue.
  • Another theory says that fatigue is related to the activation of the immune system. The level of the chemical messenger cytokines is high in patients with MS and may cause fatigue. 
  • It has also been suggested that fatigue is related to reduced electrical transmission in the brain.

The social effect of fatigue

Fatigue may impact different aspects of quality of life. Researchers investigated a possible link between social life and physical and mental health among MS patients. The study entailed 183 participants who completed a survey at the beginning of the trial and 2.5 years later.

Results indicated that: MS symptoms, mainly fatigue, and pain, significantly impacted sociability. More engagement in social activities and positive social support was linked to better psychological and physical health.

Coping with fatigue 

There are several ways to deal with fatigue:

Improve sleep quality by exercise

According to Michal Sakal, a physical therapist who accompanies BelongMS app users, people with MS who experience gait or balance problems might be shy of any form of physical activity. However, to improve sleep quality, one does not have to run marathons or spend hours at the gym performing complicated exercises that require balance and agility. There are indications that short strength training sessions a few times per week might do the trick.

Sleep quality is fundamental for everybody but especially for people with MS because of its associations with other MS symptoms, such as fatigue. Therefore, people with MS are encouraged to engage in physical activity according to their capabilities and preferences.

Try to change a diet

Several diets have been researched in the context of multiple sclerosis.

 Heli Rostoker, a certified dietician who accompanies BelongMS app users, mentions that diets rich in consumption of green leafy vegetables, meat, eggs, and fish), vegetables (besides root vegetables), olives, and olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil (cold-pressed), are recommended.

 People should avoid processed foods, including industrial and refined oils (soybean oil, cotton, sunflower, etc.), sugar, grains, soy, and legumes. 

Be a part of a supportive community

Some Belong users who discussed this issue within the community groups suggested remedies that worked for them, such as physical activity throughout the day and moving as much as possible. Some recommended drinking Chinese green tea, meditation, and taking vitamin D. No caffeine and no stimulation. Other suggestions include medical cannabis, prescribed by the attending Drs.

However, don’t suffer in silence if your MS symptoms worsen and they worry you by disrupting normal daily activities or affecting your quality of life. Talk to your medical team about it.

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This content is provided for your general education and information only. It does not necessarily reflect Belong’s views and opinions. Belong does not endorse or support any specific product, service, or treatment.

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