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MS and hydration

By Matt Cavallo

My wife and I were battling bad flu-like symptoms. We had tried everything. We drank all the tea. We took our supplements. We drank plenty of fluids. Nothing was working. We had heard from friends about IV hydration therapy and decided to give it a try. We called a company and they sent over a licensed professional to infuse the hydration IV. The IV was mixed with a saline solution and vitamins. 

The interesting thing is that my wife’s IV took longer than mine even though it was the same size and hers was started before mine. When I was asked, I was told that my IV may have dripped faster because I was dehydrated. 

I have bladder dysfunction related to multiple sclerosis. As a result, I tend to drink less than I should to stay hydrated to cut down on my frequent bladder trips. As it turns out, I am not alone. According to recent research, bladder dysfunction occurs in at least 80 percent of the people living with MS. 

One of the myths of bladder dysfunction is that drinking less water will help. People with bladder dysfunction tend to drink less because of the increased risk of accidents or increased trips to the bathroom. However, not drinking enough water can lead to other urinary problems, such as urinary tract infections, and lead to concentrated urine, which is dark and can irritate your bladder. Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration. 

Hydration is important for people living with MS. Hydration actually helps regulate your bladder and bowel movements. Proper hydration can also help with injection site reactions and side effects from medications. Being hydrated also makes it easier to start an IV. My skin was tough and sensitive when the hydration IV was being started because I wasn’t properly hydrated. 

Hydration plays a role with one of the most stubborn MS symptoms, fatigue. Did you know that the more dehydrated you are the more fatigued you feel? A 2012 study showed that vigor, fatigue, perception of task difficulty, concentration, and headache, were adversely affected by small changes in hydration. 

The same study also concluded there is a link between fatigue and dehydration caused by MS patients lowering their water intake because of bladder issues. Yes, it is a big enough problem that a medical study was conducted to show the correlation between dehydration with MS patients and fatigue. Staying hydrated can help with MS-related fatigue and other symptoms. Drinking the right amount can also help with MS-related bladder symptoms.

So those of you out there that are suffering in silence because it is hard to talk about problems that involve bathroom activities, just know you are not alone. This is something you can and should talk to your neurologist about. 

As an aside, if you feel that cannot talk to your neurologist about problems in the bathroom or the bedroom, then you may want to consider a new neurologist. You have to be able to have these difficult, sometimes embarrassing, conversations with your healthcare providers.

Make an effort to track your hydration. Do you feel better on days you are fully hydrated versus the ones you are not? If you are worried about your MS-related bladder problems try not to drink more than the recommended amount, around eight eight-ounce cups of water, a day. Also try achieving hydration early in the day so the liquid works its way through your system long before bedtime. Make an effort to stay hydrated and you may notice a change for the better.