How MS and Appetite Are Connected
Having multiple sclerosis can impact your appetite – some people experience an increased appetite; while others feel less hungry. There are several reasons for this. Let’s examine some of the most common factors that impact appetite, as well as some solutions.
Medications and Hunger
Medications used to treat MS have the potential to increase or decrease your appetite, either due to direct actions or side effects. For example, if you are taking a medication which makes you feel nauseous, your appetite will diminish.
Many people who suffer from MS need steroids frequently or continuously. If you are taking steroidal medications to reduce inflammation and discomfort you are very likely to experience an increase in appetite. If this increased appetite is causing undesirable weight gain, consider these tips:
- Check with your health care provider to see if other medication options are available for you.
- Fill up on healthy, bulky foods instead of junk foods. Fresh fruits, whole grains and vegetables are great choices.
- Keep simple, easy to reach for, healthy snacks on hand. Nuts are a terrific option. Eating a handful of nuts is satisfying and supplies healthy fats which may reduce inflammation and discomfort associated with your illness. Melon is another good choice. It is low in calories and rich in healthy antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Melon is also filling and hydrating.
- Consider eating six small meals a day to avoid feeling ravenous.
- Consume lots of liquids.
The Impact of Stress
Sometimes an increase or decrease in appetite is due to the stress of living with MS. People living with MS are more than twice as likely to experience a major depressive disorder than the rest of the population, and anxiety and insomnia are often present. Eating to relieve anxiety and depression is common. If limited energy, mobility and lack of sleep occur, you may eat to “feel better” or relieve boredom. Meanwhile, some people lose interest in food when struggling with anxiety and depression.
If you believe that changes in your appetite are due to changes in your mood; seek professional help. Anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medications may be needed. Counselling may be beneficial. Learn how to manage stress and meditate, and seek spiritual guidance if you belong to a faith community.
Self-help programs, including online support groups, are an excellent option. By regaining control of your emotions, you will find that your appetite will “normalize” and even more importantly, you will begin to feel like yourself again. Living with MS is hard; but you do not have to go it alone.
Fatigue and Appetite
In addition to emotional fatigue caused by insomnia, depression and stress; you are very likely to suffer from physical fatigue. If you are exhausted, you may not have the energy to prepare food or even eat. A holistic approach to relieving fatigue is necessary. Do you need help with chores? Can you delegate a person or group of people to help out with things like buying groceries?
Are you able to prepare meals? Try taking advantage of prepared meals or simple foods, such as sandwiches. If your community offers low cost home delivery of meals for people with medical challenges, take advantage of the service. These are just a few of many options to consider which may make preparing meals and eating less tiring.
Next page: drinking, constipation, malabsorption, and eating challenges.