Elkalhii-Wilhelm S, Sippel A, Riemann-Lorenz K, Kofahl C, Scheiderbauer J, Arnade S, Kleiter I, Schmidt S, Heesen C.

Background: Persons with Multiple Sclerosis (pwMS) follow individual strategies to cope with this highly heterogeneous disease. As surveys show, lifestyle habits play an important role in pwMS. However, little is known about individual experiences of pwMS with different lifestyle adjustment strategies.
Objective: This study aims to describe and understand individual experiences of pwMS with lifestyle adjustments. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 50 pwMS in Germany. Criteria for inclusion were age ≥ 18 years and a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Data were analyzed inductively and deductively according to a six-step thematic analysis. Results: The three main themes for experience-based lifestyle adjustments were: 1) nutrition and supplements, 2) exercise and physical activity, and 3) stress management. Influencing factors on the decision-making process such as active disease management, information and advice, desire for mental health and social support, and the wish for self-determination were identified. Impacts of starting or maintaining lifestyle habits included, for example, MS-specific, general, and mental health benefits, the development of coping strategies, social support, and barriers that led to a termination of lifestyle adjustments. Conclusion: This study provides a rich and nuanced amount of experiences of pwMS with lifestyle adjustments and leads to three important conclusions: 1) Further research is warranted to better describe the perceived effects of lifestyle habits on MS symptoms and progression, in particular with regard to nutrition and stress reduction; 2) patient education in MS should include the available evidence on lifestyle management and 3) patients need to be actively supported in changing their lifestyle behavior.

PLoS One. 2022 May 27;17(5):e0268988.

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