Guest post provided by Healthline
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, we begin a journey of educating ourselves about MS. The learning curve is steep and endless, and sometimes it seems as if we are running on a treadmill with no end. That endless treadmill sometimes creates even more stress. We ask ourselves:
What is MS? What causes it? Is there a cure? What medications are available? What is the prognosis? Can I have children? Will I be able to care for myself? What kind of doctors do I need? Will I die?
We have a lot of questions. Sometimes there aren’t always answers.
But there is help.
Beyond the medications and support groups, complementary and alternative medicine offers us techniques to use that are outside the realm of traditional medicine. From acupuncture to yoga to exercise and dietary supplements, these methods can be used in conjunction with traditional medications. According to The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nearly 75% of the MS population uses one form of CAM or another.
It is important to note the following from the Society before beginning any CAM therapy: (For more information, please visit their website.)
“Many people use CAM because they believe that anything sold over-the-counter at a pharmacy or health food store is healthy and harmless. However, unlike conventional medical treatments—which are thoroughly tested and carefully regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—most CAM therapies have undergone very little, if any, scientific study. So some may be completely safe while others may actually pose significant risks—for example, by producing serious side effects or interacting negatively with other medications a person is taking. Fortunately, a greater effort is now being made to find ways to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of various types of CAM.”
Here are a few complementary and alternative approaches to well being:
- Diet – To date, there are no scientifically proven diets for MS. There are anecdotal reports of success with various diets (i.e. gluten-free, The Swank Diet) that have worked for some patients, but in general MS specialists recommend a low-fat high fiber diet for adults.
- Exercise – Any exercise of any kind, within the abilities you have, not only helps with weight control, but also helps elevate your mood, increase your strength, improve bowel function and reduce (yes, reduce!) fatigue. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
- Acupuncture – Eastern medicine has used acupuncture for thousands of years, and now the Western world has caught on. Acupuncture has been reported to help a variety of issues, from pain to balance to fatigue. For further reading on acupuncture, visit Dr. Andrew Weil’s website.
- T’ai Chi – T’ai chi is a Chinese martial art with its roots in Buddhism. Gentler than yoga, movements are slow and smooth with the intent of every move to provide better balance, relieve stress, provide a better range of motion and align mind and body. For further information, check out Healthline’s guide to t’ai chi.
- Yoga – Yoga is a discipline that is very beneficial to patients with Multiple Sclerosis. Poses encourage better balance, strength and flexibility. The big plus about yoga is, with the right instructor (and also DVD), it can easily be adapted to people with MS. Check out Healthline’s page on yoga.
- Swimming – Swimming is a good exercise for people with MS. It sometimes restores a feeling of buoyancy and an ability to walk while in the pool. There are many adaptive swim classes available. Ask your local National Multiple Sclerosis Society, YMCA or any local gym about adaptive swim lessons.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers free wellness classes for a variety of complementary and alternative therapies. Check their website to find your local chapter to find programs offered in your area.
Remember, knowledge is power, and finding the right program to suit your needs may enhance your quality of life while living MS.
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About the Author: Cathy Chester writes for Healthline and several other health websites. Her blog, An Empowered Spirit, focuses on issues for people in midlife, and for people with disabilities, to live a healthy and vibrant life. She is a blogger for The Huffington Post, a Peer Advocate for Teva Neuroscience, and a speaker for The National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Her mantra is to “pay it forward” to others with MS because of the kindnesses she received after her diagnosis in 1987. She lives with her husband, son and their 3 adorable cats.