Fatigue & nutrition
Most people with multiple sclerosis experience fatigue, and many people describe fatigue as their most troublesome symptom. As you hit an energy slump this can have you reaching for the high sugar snacks and caffeinated drinks in an effort to keep going. These "comfort" foods and drinks give you a short energy boost and buzz, followed quickly by an even worse energy slump. So they are not a good option.
There are better ways to handle that lack of energy from a dietary point of view.
A recent study showed that people with multiple sclerosis experienced less fatigue if they ate well.[i]
Below are some ideas to help you to continue to eat well when you are feeling tired and experiencing fatigue.
Energy food tips:
- Follow the healthy eating guidelines and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, seafood and good quality carbohydrates.
- Surround yourself with healthy snacks which are within reach. Stash your snacks in your car, in your desk at work, in your home pantry and fridge / freezer.
- Remember fruit is a great, portable fast food.
- Damage control and minimise temptation by removing sugary snacks such as biscuits, cakes, sweets, chips, crisps and junk foods. Restock with wonderful, delicious, healthy options.
- Ensure you have adequate water intake. Being even slightly dehydrated will make you more tired.
- Eat breakfast.
- Eat adequate good quality proteins.
- Eat good quality low GI complex carbohydrates to keep your blood sugars steady. The rate at which sugars are released from foods is called the glycaemic index (GI). Low GI foods include: multigrain bread, brown rice, chickpeas, lentils, apples and natural yoghurt. These will provide you with a slower, more sustained energy release. Check www.glycemicindex.com for a list of foods and their glycaemic index.
- Speak to your GP and check your iron levels and thyroid function, as if these are low they will have a direct effect on your energy levels.
- Speak with your GP or a dietitian to discuss possible vitamin B supplements. B vitamins are essential for energy production.
- Maintain a healthy weight as best you can as being over or underweight will make you feel tired.
- Big meals can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish, so eat small meals more often.
- Caffeine is a stimulant. For many people drinking coffee or energy drinks will keep them awake at night, and of course, if your sleep is affected you will be more fatigued. Everybody is different, and some people tolerate caffeine better than others, but as a general rule, if you are a coffee drinker then avoid caffeine after midday.
Top 5 healthy snacks to keep close:
- Trail mix of nuts and seeds
- Veggie sticks / crackers and hummus / beetroot dip / tahini
- Lightly toasted nut balls/ bliss balls / protein balls (see the recipe section)
- Loaded yoghurt - add one tablespoon of LSA (ground linseed, sunflower and almond mix), lecithin, plus berries of your choice.
Top 5 quick nutritious meal ideas
- Beans / avocado / sardines on wholemeal / wholegrain toast.
- Jacket potato and tuna.
- A soft boiled free range egg on its own or on top of great grainy bread.
- Soup or a vegetable juice.
- Sushi rolls.
Energy saving food prep ideas:
- Use online grocery shopping.
- Cook in bulk when you feel less fatigued and freeze for use at a later date.
- Accept help from friends, family and home help.
- Keep your freezer full of ready, nutritious meals.
- Organise the kitchen to keep commonly used items close to hand.
- Keep the kitchen as cool as possible.
- Cook at times of the day when energy levels are higher.
- Sit rather than stand to prepare and cook meals.
- Get all the ingredients and utensils together before starting to cook.
- Make use of equipment or labour-saving devices where possible, such as electric mixers, can openers and knives.
- Use ready-prepared foods such as prewashed salads and ready cut frozen vegetables.
- Use wire baskets in pans rather lifting heavy pans.
- Invest in a one-pot cookery book to save on washing up.
- Use a slow cooker to prepare warm, delicious, simple meals.
- A trolley is useful to avoid extra walking and carrying in the kitchen and when serving.
- Soak dishes rather than washing up straight away.
- Consider a good quality meals delivery service.