Multiple sclerosis - known for short as MS, multiple sclerosis results from damage to the sheaths surrounding the nerve fibres of the central nervous system. Like electric wire without insulation, affected nerves are unable to function properly. Just like electrical wiring, our nerves are sheathed in an insulation material and the name of this substance around our nerves is myelin. During the course of the disease, the body's own white scavenger cells attack the myelin so that the electrical impulses can no longer travel normally. The attacking of the scavenger cells on the sheath around the nerves results in scarring, which is where multiple sclerosis gets it's name from - multiple sclerosis means 'many scars'.
Sufferers of multiple sclerosis may develop poor balance, lack of coordination, weakness, numbness. There may also be tingling or numbness in the extremities, while blurring of vision, poor bladder control, poor bowel control and especially fatigue and depression are other likely symptoms. . They may also become clumsy and develop slurred speech.
The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown and subject to much research. About one person in 2,000 is affected, women are more affected by multiple sclerosis than men. The average age of onset is about 30.
Symptoms usually develop over a period of hours or days. The disease may attack only once, but usually runs a course of relapses (attacks) and remissions (periods of recovery) over many years. Some 40 per cent of cases begin with blurred, dimmed or double vision.
There is no medical cure, but nutritional therapy can make a significant difference to the course of the disease, especially if instigated at an early stage.
Since there can be a number of factors that trigger off MS, nutritional approaches work best if individually designed. Often a food intolerance can aggravate symptoms and this should always be checked out (see the link for the allergies section, further down below).
Most MS patients, however, do seem to have difficulty in metabolizing fats, so a wholefood diet that is low in saturated fats, is an essential starting-point. At the same time, evening primrose oil at around 3g daily, or two tablespoons of linseed oil, will assist many patients; others may improve with the help of fish oil.
The symptoms of MS are similar to mercury poisoning and for this reason it is sometimes suggested that amalgam fillings be replaced. The process must be very carefully carried out, however, if further toxicity is not to occur. Mercury also depresses the immune system. Remember that vitamin E together with selenium protect against mercury poisoning, so take wheatgerm daily, plus cold-pressed plant oils (for example in salad dressings) and consider supplements. (In this respect, vitamin C is not recommended as animal studies indicate that it may actually assist in mercury absorption.)
In a double-blind trial in America, 49 out of 50 MS patients improved substantially after treatment with the amino acid D-phenylalanine, so it is worth trying this for a few weeks (but not if you have high blood pressure). Non-meat food sources include peanuts, sesame seeds and almonds, low-fat yoghurt, oats and wheat, soya beans, peas and fish.
Low intakes of magnesium can produce symptoms similar to MS, such as twitching and muscle fatigue, so plenty of dark-green vegetables and whole cereals are a must. This mineral is also involved in the synthesis of fats and other food constituents - another good reason to increase consumption. Furthermore, it is needed for the manufacture of lecithin, along with B vitamins (especially B6, choline and inositol) and essential fatty adds, found to be seriously deficient in the brains and myelin sheaths of MS sufferers; as a natural emulsifier of fats, lecithin obviously has special significance in the treatment of this disease. Derived from soya beans, it can be bought in granules and sprinkled on foods; take three tablespoons daily. At the same time replace meat portions with soya protein (see the link below for the Healthy Diets further below).
Another nutrient vital to the nervous system is vitamin D. In a few cases, there may be an inherited tendency towards poor absorption or increased need. Young patients may therefore benefit from supplementation at around 10mcg (4001U) along with calcium, together with dietary emphasis on fish and free-range eggs: small amounts of fish-liver oil, especially in winter, are likely to be beneficial. Fresh air and sunshine will be good for all patients.
In some cases, symptoms involving coordination have been lessened on the administration of vitamin B12, prudent in any event for, those on vegan diets.
Since alcohol worsens symptoms it is best to refrain from drinking alcohol. There's good reason for this, because it destroys those B vitamins that MS patients need so desperately and it interferes with the metabolism of unsaturated fats, already a serious problem for people with multiple sclerosis.
Self help - MS sufferers should make sure that their diet is low in fats and high in fibre. Avoid sugar and all sugar-containing items such as chocolate. Do not drink stimulants such as coffee, tea and cola drinks; use fructose (fruit sugar), weak lemon tea, decaffeinated coffee, herb teas and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid pulses (beans, peas, lentils), white bread and pasta, peanuts, salted nuts, hot spices and other such flavourings. Stop smoking and avoid other people's smoke. Cut out all alcohol, especially if your balance is impaired.
What the therapists recommend.
Yoga - Effective breathing, in which the diaphragm is the body's pump, is said to enhance the electrical charge running through the nervous system and stimulate activity. Where muscles are constricted, relaxation and relaxed breathing may help to ease the tension.The stress factor in MS is severe, and yoga provides a force to counter this. The postures, linked with calm mental processes and improved breathing, are said to provide an important stimulus to the patient's use of the affected limbs.
Massage - general massage of the entire body is applied, if possible using slow, rhythmic and fairly deep movements and kneading. Massage of the legs is most beneficial in maintaining some degree of muscle tone and, equally important, abdominal massage helps avoid constipation, which is often suffered by those unable to take normal exercise.
In the early stages, regular treatment - on a daily basis if possible - helps the nourishment and tone of the muscles, and encourages patients to persevere with light trunk exercises. In later stages, when the sufferer is confined to bed, massage of the legs and abdomen continues as long as the patient derives benefit from it.
Naturopathy - This is not a complaint for which self help can be advised, but there may be scope for individual advice on nutrition, to support the nervous system. In recent years, some benefit has been claimed with evening primrose oil capsules - but see a qualified practitioner first.
An orthodox view on multiple sclerosis - The first task of a conventional doctor is to diagnose the disease. As well as performing a thorough neurological examination, including testing skin sensation, muscle power, coordination and reflexes, the doctor may recommend a lumbar puncture. A local anaesthetic is given, and fluid is withdrawn for testing from around the spinal cord through a needle inserted into the small of the back.
Treatment includes courses of steroid injections such as prednisolone or ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone), physiotherapy to maintain bodily function, and occupational therapy to help the patient cope with disabilities.
Although doctors, nurses, therapists and counsellors can help sufferers, there is no orthodox medical cure for MS, but following the more natural route, with natural, unrefined, unprocessed foods should definitely help.
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