Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Because nerves are delicate, highly sensitive structures, they are sheathed in a protective material known as myelin. In a person with MS, the myelin degenerates, leaving section of the nerves bare and vulnerable. If nerves are damaged and scarred over, the areas of the body that are controlled by the affected nerves will malfunction. Although MS is not a common disorder, it does strike more frequently than most other neurological diseases, and in recent years, the percentage of cases has increased. It's estimated that between 250,000 and 350,000 Americans currently suffer from MS. Multiple sclerosis can develop at any age, but onset usually occurs between the ages of twenty and forty. About two-thirds of MS victims are women.
The course of MS is highly individual and depends mainly on which nerves are affected and on the extent of the damage. Nevertheless, the disease does exhibit some general symptom patterns. Multiple sclerosis always occurs in cycles of flare-ups, called exacerbations, and remissions. The first attack and the exacerbations that follow may consist of nothing more than some blurred vision or unexplained fatigue. Because the symptoms are vague and disappear after a short time-sometimes after just days-and because a person may spend years in remission, MS often goes un-diagnosed in these extremely early stages. Exacerbations get progressively worse, however, and when a person experiences more obviously alarming symptoms like facial paralysis, weak or numb limbs, or slurred speech, it's likely that a doctor will investigate the possibility of MS.
How the disease moves on from this stage varies from person to person. Some people will go into complete, lifelong remission. Just as rare is the case in which the disease hits with more force, causing significant, lasting damage after the very first attack. The vast majority of sufferers fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. Many will recover from the first major exacerbation and will experience only mild recurrences every ten years or so. Some will suffer from more frequent relapses that slowly become more severe and leave permanent disability in their wake. As the decades go on, a person may have trouble with movement, balance, and coordination and eventually develop the classic staggering gait. In the advanced stages, there may be blindness, incontinence, paralysis, or difficulty breathing. Because MS affects the brain's functions, many sufferers also experience mood alterations, swinging up to euphoria and then plunging down into a deep depression.
Why the sheaths of myelin degenerate in some people remains a mystery, but there's no shortage of theories. The prevailing hypothesis is that MS is an automatic disorder in which white blood cells mistake myelin for an invader and attack it. Another popular theory is that MS is caused by a virus or another latent infection, and indeed, the symptoms of MS are similar to those of some viral infections-so similar that doctors are often not able to distinguish a viral attack from MS in its early stages. Possibly, MS is caused by a combination of these factors, and the virus somehow causes the formation of antibodies that attack myelin.
Although multiple sclerosis is appearing with increasing frequency in the United States, the disease is rare in Eastern and developing countries and in the tropics. Any time this kind of geographical discrepancy occurs, it makes sense to investigate lifestyle and environmental factors as potential causes. Also, MS occurs more frequently in higher latitudes. High-risk areas include the northern United States, Canada, Great Britain, Scandinavia, Tasmania, and northern Europe, as examples. The reason for this is unclear, although studies show that people who had a higher sun exposure between the ages of six and fifteen have significantly reduced risk of the disease. This may have something to do with vitamin D from sun exposure.
It's well known that extreme stress and poor nutrition can bring on an exacerbation, so it's quite possible that they also contribute to the onset of the disease. Environmental toxins, especially heavy metals, can produce symptoms similar to those of MS and may damage both DNA and myelin. And in the case of allergies, food allergies or sensitivities appear to be a factor for some people with this condition. Many researchers are currently looking into the relationship between an allergy to wheat or dairy and the incidence of MS. One must also look at the possibility of toxic metal accumulation, such as mercury, as a causative or aggravating factor. Good digestion is important, as there is a link between autoimmune diseases and mal-absorption. Several nutritional deficiencies, especially of essential fatty acids and vitamin B12, are critical, as they are involved with a healthy myelin sheath.
Compounding the frightening symptoms of MS is the inability of many patients to receive a definitive diagnosis, especially in the early stages of the disease. Doctors can perform spinal taps, testing the cerebrospinal fluid, or do MRI scans to look for abnormal antibodies and myelin damage, but because MS may cause damage much like that from a virus or other autoimmune disorders, the tests are often inclusive. In most cases, a diagnosis is made only when all other possibilities are ruled out.
If you have MS or MS-like symptoms, it's critical that you find a good specialist and work closely with him or her. Despite the common perception, many people with MS live long, productive lives. Disabilities caused by severe attacks, when they happen at all, often occur several decades after a diagnosis and can often be managed quite well. It is crucial that you also work with a holistic doctor to address the underlying reasons for your illness. We have had several patients with MS remain relatively symptom-free by following a comprehensive natural approach, as described in this section.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements shown to
help Multiple Sclerosis - MS:
The Prescription for Natural
Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Prescription #1 Omega 3 - LifeSource Products - See All of our Omega 3 – Fish Oil Products.
Take as directed on
bottle. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and are required for healthy
nerve functioning. Studies show this to be a great help when taken properly.
Prescription #2 Vitamin B12 - LifeSource Products
Take 1,000 mcg of
the sublingual form daily. Vitamin B12 is involved in the formation of the
myelin sheath, and we find B12 helpful for people with this condition.
Prescription #3 Multivitamin – High Potency – LifeSource Products - See All of our Multivitamin Products.
Take as directed on
the container. It contains a base of the nutrients needed for healthy immune
and nervous systems.
Prescription #4 Phyto Greens -
Super Greens - LifeSource
Products - See All of our Phyto
Take as directed
daily on an empty stomach. These naturally occurring plant chemicals have
been shown to have a balancing effect on the immune systems of people with
Prescription #5 Enzymes – Super Enzymes - LifeSource
Take 1 to 2 capsules
of a full-spectrum enzyme product with each meal. Enzymes help you to digest
food more efficiently and lessen autoimmune reactions. Protease enzymes can
be taken between meals to reduce autoimmune complexes and inflammation.
Prescription #6 Borage Oil
Take 300 to 500 mg
daily. It is found in evening primrose and borage oil. GLA is a fatty acid
that has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Prescription #7 Vitamin E - LifeSource
Take 400 IU of a
mixed complex daily. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant.
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Multiple sclerosis occurs in cycles of remission and exacerbation. Symptoms may occur singly at first, but late on, they usually appear in groups of two of more.
- Deep fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Impaired speech
- Facial paralysis
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs
- Loss of balance
- Poor coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Staggering gait
- Bowel and bladder incontinence
Doctors aren't sure what causes MS, but the leading theories are listed here.
- Chronic infection (viral, bacterial, candida)
- Long periods of extreme stress
- Stress hormone imbalance
- Poor nutrition (especially vitamin D deficiency)
- Environmental toxins
- Toxic metals
- Food allergies
- Free radical damage
Eat meals and snacks made with whole, unprocessed foods. Try to prepare meals yourself so you know what goes into them. Buy organic products as often as possible.
Have several helpings of deeply colored fresh fruits and vegetables every day. These foods are high in antioxidants, which fight free radical damage to your cells. They're also high in fiber, which will keep your colon free of wastes and will help you avoid constipation.
Essential fatty acids reduce inflammation of the nerve fibers and strengthen myelin. Eat fish from a clean water source three or more times a week, and have a tablespoon of flax seeds or flax seed oil every day.
Lecithin may also help to strengthen the myelin sheath. Good sources include tofu and other soy products, bean sprouts, and cabbage.
To reduce stress, add whole grains, wheat germ, and brewer's yeast to your meals. The B vitamins in these foods are calming to the nervous system.
Foods to Avoid
Reduce your exposure to chemicals and pesticides by eating organic foods. Do not eat junk food or packaged food that contains artificial flavoring, colorings, or preservatives.
If you're allergic to any food, you need to find out now. You should make it a priority to look for allergies to gluten (what and other grains) or dairy, but corn, yeast, sugar, peanuts, soy, and eggs are also common sensitivities.
Eliminate inflammatory foods from your diet that may make your nerve damage and muscle problems worse. If you've stopped eating red meat and dairy, you've already made great strides toward this goal. You should also avoid other foods that are fatty, fried, or greasy.
Keep up your resistance to infection by restricting your sugar consumption. If you're feeling well, the occasional treat is fine, but for the most part, you should avoid colas, sweet baked goods, candies, cakes, and other items made with refined sugar.
If you want to fight MS, you need all the nutritional support you can get. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which deplete vitamins and minerals from your body and worsen inflammation.
Frequent short-term fasts will help you cleanse your body of toxins and will give you a lighter, more energetic feeling. During periods of remission, try a juice fast once a month. Be sure to supplement the fast with a wide variety of fruit and vegetable juices and broths.
Fasting during exacerbations is not recommended, as you need to keep up optimum nutrition at those times. Instead, supplement your regular healthful diet with lots of vegetable juices.
- Gingko biloba has potent antioxidant activity for the nerves and improves circulation. Take 60 to 120 mg twice daily of a standardized product containing 24 percent flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) balances the stress hormones. Take 1,000 to 3,000 mg daily.
- Take a super green food supplement, such as chlorella or spirulina, or a mixture of super green foods, each day for detoxification and pH balance. Take as directed on the container.
- DHEA is a stress hormone that is helpful for many autoimmune diseases. Have your levels tested, and if they are low, start with 15 mg daily under the supervision of a doctor. Higher doses of up to 100 mg are sometimes necessary.
- It is important to avoid stress, so keep a stash of calming herbal teas on hand. Skullcap, hops (Humulus lupulus), and passionflower are all good choices.
- Gentle exercise will keep your muscles in good shape, improve circulation, keep your digestive system regular, and help you release stress. Swimming and walking are especially helpful for MS patients, as are stretching exercises.
- Rest whenever you feel the need. If you think you might be getting ill or experiencing the beginning or an exacerbation, get to bed right away and stay there for a few days. You might be able to head off the worst of the symptoms.
- Don't forget that tobacco smoke is an environmental toxin best avoided.
- Consult with a holistic dentist to make sure there are no chronic root canal infections, mercury-filling problems, or other dental issues that may be triggering the immune system.
- Get 15 minutes of sunlight exposure daily.
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