Our Biggest MS Triggers and How to Manage Them

Multiple images of speech bubbles and triggers that include smell, sight, hearing and sunlight.

Ugghh...not another flare. When you are living with MS, it is not always easy to avoid triggers that set a flare in motion.

Triggers and flares can differ from person to person. Sometimes flares may be mild. Other times they are severe. Old symptoms may worsen. Or brand-new ones may pop up. The unpredictability of it all can be a lot to take.

We asked our MultipleSclerosis.net community how they manage triggers that make their MS worse. Here is what they told us.

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I am finally learning to say no to things that trigger my symptoms and no is a complete sentence. - Multiplesclerosis.net community member
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Community Poll

Which has helped most with managing stress?

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The stress factor

“Avoid stress,” your doctor says. If only it was that simple, right?

Sure, stress can put extra pressure on anyone. But for those living with MS, it can make things so much tougher. Stress can be taxing on your body – both physically and emotionally. Stress has a way of compounding everything, exacerbating your MS symptoms. So now you are not just dealing with the stress of a situation but the symptoms that stress brought about.

But let’s be real for a moment – completely avoiding stress is not practical. However, there are ways you can minimize stress and its impact on your health.

Instead of avoiding all stress, try avoiding unnecessary stress. Take a break from people or situations that cause angst. Turn off social media. Delegate household chores so everything does not fall on you. Having a stress management plan in place can help. To keep stress in check, also try incorporating activities, like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises.

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A brown bear with it's head on a pillow is sleeping inside a jean pocket. There are snore lines coming out of it's mouth.

“Eliminate every possible ounce of stress from your world. It is not easy but if you can build your own ‘pocket’ of peace, I highly recommend it.”

– MultipleSclerosis.net Community Member


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Community Poll

Which is your biggest heat-related trigger?

Multiple images of speech bubbles and triggers that include smell, sight, hearing and sunlight.

Beating the heat

For those with MS, it can be hard to stay cool when temps start rising. From hot weather to saunas to fevers – it can all cause temporary fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms. After cooling down, these symptoms may cease.

So how do you keep your cool? Pass on steamy activities, like hot yoga and hot tubs. When the temps tick up in summer, stay indoors if possible. Wear light-colored clothing. Use fans and cooling wraps. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

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A fan is spinning back and forth.

“On really hot days, I tend to stay inside in air conditioning with an extra fan on. I usually only go out early in the morning or later at night.”

– MultipleSclerosis.net Community Member


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Nutrition know-how

Could staying away from certain foods help MS symptoms? Some in our community say yes. Many have found that following a healthy diet and avoiding certain foods can help ward off flares and ease MS symptoms.

There are a number of different diet regimens out there that may support those living with MS. How do you choose? Talk with your doctor to see what may work for you before starting any new nutrition program.

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bread and sugar with red NO signs on top

“I completely avoid sugar, gluten, vegetable oil, and high carbohydrate foods. I have been relapse free for five years and counting.”

- MultipleSclerosis.net Community Member


Multiple images of speech bubbles and triggers that include smell, sight, hearing and sunlight.

Taking on triggers

The simple truth: some triggers can be easily avoided. Others? Not so much. Not sure what your triggers are? Start by tracking your symptoms and activities to see if there are any patterns. By knowing your triggers and developing workarounds when possible, you can help reduce your chance of experiencing a flare-up.

Multiple images of speech bubbles and triggers that include smell, touch, cold, and hot
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Community Poll

Have you tried dietary changes to manage MS symptoms?