Melissa is working with MS Plus dietitian, Jady Lam, to create a tailored diet plan to help her better manage her MS symptoms. MS specialist dietitians are able to empower clients to live well with MS and other neurological conditions.
‘I needed to make sure I’m fueling myself nutritionally, which has been especially helpful with managing fatigue.’
Melissa is working to finish her psychology internship, requiring an extension on what is usually a two-year program.
‘MS has changed what I can and cannot do to complete my internship. I have reduced my working days from four to two days and reduced my client load, as I am battling with MS fatigue, which triggers cognitive symptoms.
‘What I was finding was that because of my fatigue I just wasn’t feeling my body properly, so I was probably exacerbating my fatigue because I wasn’t eating the right balance of foods.
‘What I wanted to know from Jady was, what does a meal plan look like for me each day? How do I make sure when I feel flat, I don’t start reaching for those foods we tend to when we lack energy, but that may now be exacerbating my MS?
So can I still eat chocolate?
Melissa first reached out to the Plus Diet & Nutrition service after listening to a podcast about diet on the MS Plus website, which has a host of educational resources.
‘I listened to an MS plus podcast on nutrition before getting in touch and my first appointment with Jady was really beneficial.
‘Jady explained that now my central nervous system messaging is probably not as effective as it used to be so it requires more energy and I need more of certain foods that will provide better fuel for my body.
‘I just found Jady’s advice found really practical. Instead of cutting out whole food groups or being told that you can never eat this or eat that, which is just an additional stress that you don’t need, she gave me practical advice that is tailored to my specific symptoms.
‘Not only she did she steer me in the right direction, but she gave me the comforting assurance that I could still eat chocolate!
‘Every day for me is just a choice about where I put my energy.'
Exercise is also a critical component of managing MS, in addition to being essential to general health and wellbeing. As Melissa discovered, sometimes exercise can look a little different after a diagnosis.
‘I was very fit and healthy and active prior to my diagnosis and I’ve had to reduce the intensity and frequency of my exercise, which has been very challenging for me.
‘I’m also seeing a trainer, who’s a friend of mine, and he has checked out the resources on the MS Plus website to make he’s providing the right kind of exercises for me,’ Melissa says.
‘The information there has been validating for him and is also building on his existing knowledge i.e. exercise guidelines like how much strength training per week, reducing cognitive decline, what to do around building cardio fitness for people who experience fatigue or heat sensitivity, that has all been really helpful for us.
‘I’m slowly starting to get my strength and stamina back in part through exercise and it’s an important part of my overall wellbeing as well. As a result of working with me, my trainer has become very interested in the link between exercise and neuroplasticity and cognitive health.
‘Making sure I have support has been really helpful, including sharing my MS journey and seeing what is going on with others, sharing my own journey and helping to educate people about this condition.’
Another recent win for Melissa was completing the MS Walk, Run + Roll fundraising event, which is held each May.
‘I was determined to complete the MS Walk, Run + Roll this year. I did it and my husband and I also managed to raise $2,600. I had thought I would run it, but I had to walk the 4km trail – which itself was a great win for me. Rather than seeing what I couldn’t do, I focused instead on what I managed to achieve.’
It’s so important for me to keep moving forward, to do things that are important to me; my psychological practice, spending time with my husband, hopefully travelling again soon. It’s nice to know I’m still living the life that I want, that it still has meaning.
‘I know now I can accept this, it can be a treated and managed and I can get close to where I want to be – to a fuller active life,’ Melissa says.
‘MS is part of me, it’s not all that I am.’
To chat to an MS dietitian, exercise physiologist or physiotherapist, phone 1800 042 138