A new lifestyle guide from MS Research Australia (MSRA) offers an expert review and assessment of the latest scientific evidence in nine lifestyle areas relevant to MS, including – smoking, physical activity, diet and nutrition, gut health, supplements, vitamin D and sun exposure, weight and obesity, living with other medical conditions and lipids.

The guidelines equip people with MS and health professionals with tools about lifestyle changes to minimise the impact of MS. These recommendations can helping to manage relapses, disability and improve quality of life. It also seeks to give a much-needed sense of independence, empowerment, and peace of mind in these challenging times.

Dr Julia Morahan, Head of Research at MS Research Australia, says:

“The launch of this unique publication has the potential to impact how millions of people with MS around the world live now.”

Dr Claudia Marck, Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne and one of the authors of the guide says:

“The release of these guidelines couldn’t arrive at a more important time. We know many in the MS community are missing out on their regular check-ups and feeling fearful and disconnected from their support networks. People are struggling to maintain health behaviours and may need extra support to ensure they stay well,”

The guidelines uncover five lifestyle areas where there is very strong evidence supporting a significant positive impact on MS:

SMOKING  Strong recommendation for those with MS not to smoke as it increases the risk of disability progression by 55%, as well as increasing the risk of early death.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY Regular physical activity is extremely important in helping with mobility, fatigue and pain in MS, together with reducing the rate of relapse and a slowing of disability progression.
DIET & NUTRITION Following a balanced diet, eating a wide variety of nutritious foods rather than excluding any key food groups is strongly recommended for people with MS.
WEIGHT & OBESITY Young people who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of developing MS later in life.
VITAMIN D & SUN EXPOSURE Studies have found those living with MS have lower levels of vitamin D in their serum. Preliminary evidence suggests vitamin D may have an effect on the risk and progression of MS. People with MS should maintain healthy vitamin D levels and obtain sufficient levels of sun exposure.

The guidelines conclude that restrictive ‘MS diets’ have very little supporting evidence and should be avoided, and simple changes to lifestyle including a balanced diet and physical activity need to be prioritised.

The expert review did not find sufficient supporting evidence to recommend:

  • Methods to change the microbiome in people with MS
  • Use of any supplements for people with MS

To accompany the guide, MSRA has launched a video series on MS lifestyle tips. On this episode, Dr Yvonne Learmonth discusses the many benefits of physical activity for people living with MS.

The new evidence-based guidelines provide a crucial tool for those living with MS, their families, carers, as well as healthcare professionals.

People living with MS can access the guide ‘Adapting your lifestyle – a guide for people with MS’ here.

The guidelines ‘Modifiable Lifestyle Factors and MS: A guide for Health Professionals’ can be found online here.