Wellness Series: Foods that can help with Bowel, Bladder, and Fatigue Symptoms of MS

Merely Me Health Guide
  • I wish to preface this series with a statement that there is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis.  At the present time there is no medication or treatment which will make MS totally disappear.  But as MS patients we can up the ante for good health in using a multi-faceted approach. Food and diet may be used as part of this global approach to increasing overall good health.   It is a well known fact that what we eat has a great effect upon our well being.  One of the ways one can cope with this disease is to have a healthy diet.  But in no way would I ever suggest that any food or diet can ever cure your MS.  Healthy foods are just another tool in our arsenal to combat illness. 

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    The following are symptoms or possible side effects of having Multiple Sclerosis and foods which may help to decrease or prevent these ailments. 


    1.  Urinary Tract Infections:  There is a good chance that if you have MS, then you will experience some sort of bladder problem in your future.  Some may experience urinary retention, increased frequency and urgency, leaking urine and even incontinence.  If you have MS and bladder issues, especially trouble with fully emptying your bladder, it is likely that you are also more at risk for a UTI.


    When I was first diagnosed and learned of these issues, the first thing I did was to buy some cranberry juice.  Urine which is more acidic is less friendly to the bacteria which cause such infections.  It is important to drink enough for it to be most effective in preventing infection.  According to Miranda Hitti in an article entitled, "More Cranberries, Fewer Urine Infections," it is important to drink 8 oz of cranberry juice a day to gain the most benefit:  "Drinking 8 ounces of cranberry juice more than doubled the protection against infection compared with drinking 4 ounces, according to a recent study by Kalpana Gupta, MD, MPH, of Yale University, and colleagues from the University of Washington and Rutgers University."


    And did you know...according to Michelle Turcotte who wrote an article called, "Food for Thought:  10 Foods to Increase Your Brain Function" cranberries are also associated with improvements in balance, memory and coordination. 


    Other foods which may be helpful in preventing or fighting urinary tract infections include:  Celery, garlic, live yogurt, papayas, blueberries, and beets.  (Source:  DK Complete Guide to Healing Foods by Amanda Ursell)


    2.  Constipation:  Along with bladder issues, a person who has MS may also have bowel problems as well.  One of my first symptoms of MS was chronic constipation which I wrote about in this essay called, "Everybody Poops." 


    What foods can help?


    • Prunes and figs
    • Apples and berries
    • Whole wheat breads and pastas
    • Lentils and peas
    • Beans
    • Carrots, Kale, and Cabbage


    Most dietary guidelines suggest that you ingest 25-30 grams of fiber a day for a healthy diet.


    The other important prevention for both bladder and bowel problems is to drink enough fluids. 


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    How much is enough?  The web site, My Food Diary, provides a way to find out: 


     "... a simple equation to help adults figure their fluid needs is that for every pound of body weight, you need about half an ounce of fluid intake per day.  For instance, if you weigh 140 lbs., simply multiply 140 by .5 to estimate your daily fluid needs in ounces, then divide by eight to estimate your fluid needs in cups per day, rounding up to the nearest full cup.  [example:  140 x .5 = 70 ounces; 70 ounces divided by 8 = 9 cups of fluid per day]"


    Usually this does average out to be the 8 -10 glasses a day we have always heard about.


    3.  Fatigue:  Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.  The National MS society estimates that:  "Among people with MS, 76% indicate that they experience fatigue at least twice each week."  As I have stated at the beginning of this article, there are no foods which will cure your fatigue but there are definitely foods you can eat which will give you more energy.  Among them are:


    • Pineapple: This fruit is rich in Manganese and Thiamin which also help to metabolize carbohydrates which in turn, gives you more energy.
    • Almonds:  This power packed snack can not only decrease your appetite between meals, but is also both a source of healthy fat and protein.  And as we all know protein is essential for energy.
    • Oatmeal:  Oatmeal is digested slowly and releases sugar into the bloodstream gradually thereby keeping blood sugar levels more constant and steady.  This slow absorption reduces the chance for tiredness.
    • Beans:  Specifically chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and soybeans are excellent sources of low-fat protein which helps to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
    • Oranges and Grapefruits:  These fruits and/or their juices provide a hefty supply of Vitamin C which helps you to absorb iron. 


    (Sources:  CBS Early Show's dietician Keri Glassman and Amanda Ursell's "DK Complete Guide to Healing Foods)


    This series will continue with discussions about other healing foods and particularly those which can help with both mood and cognitive issues quite often present for those of us who have MS.  If you know of any foods which have helped you with your MS symptoms please do leave a comment or suggestion here.  We always appreciate your insights and experience.


Published On: February 09, 2009