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You are here: Home News Articles Natural Ways to Fight Multiple Sclerosis

Natural Ways to Fight Multiple Sclerosis

Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), resulting in infectious mononucleosis, which primarily effects adolescents and young adults, more than doubles the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life. Elevated serum levels of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibodies can be seen in multiple sclerosis patients decades before the clinical onset of disease. Lyme infection while hard to diagnose by Western Blot test is also associated with MS.

Cerebrospinal fluid from multiple sclerosis patients commonly contains varicella zoster virus DNA. The use of immune suppressive therapy could more easily lead to viral reactivation and to the development of viral diseases in multiple sclerosis patients.

Ask 10 different people with MS what the disease feels like and you will likely get 10 different answers. Those touched by it never know how it will feel, even though each rough patch is part of the same animal. Depending on where the attack occurs and how severe the scarring, this progressive autoimmune disease may manifest as numbness, paralysis, memory and cognitive function problems, blindness, bowel and bladder issues, fatigue, muscle spasms, painful sensations, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms.

How can MS vary so much within and between individuals? MS affects the brain and the central nervous system (CNS), and the CNS pretty much controls everything we say, do, feel, see, and think. With MS, the immune system goes haywire and begins attacking the healthy insulating tissue (myelin) that protects the axons in the brain.  When MS strikes it might cause balance or coordination problems one day; another day it may affect your memory or your vision; a month later, you may temporarily (or permanently) lose the use of your legs.

Almost 500,000 people nationwide have MS. In fact, a new person is diagnosed every hour. No one really knows what causes it, but theories abound. Some researchers suggest that a common virus like measles or herpes or even the flu may be responsible; others say a person can be born with a genetic predisposition to react to something in the environment, which will trigger an autoimmune response.

In searching for a cause and a cure, researchers look for common denominators among patient groups—and more than a few exist. This is what they know: MS strikes twice as many women as men; it prefers Caucasians between the ages of 20 and 40; it is more prevalent in geographic areas above 40 degrees latitude.

Alternative therapies step beyond Western medicine into the realm of holistic neurology, and you’ll find a broad view that looks beyond the MRI to examine the whole person. Dr. Forsythe says he gets the best results from his MS patients by emphasizing diet, exercise, and stress reduction. “As I moved beyond Western medicine to incorporate a more comprehensive view of the patient, I realized that the patient’s quality of life improved,” Forsythe says.

Dr. Forsythe believes it’s important to figure out what causes inflammation in the body, because the immune system in MS patients overreacts to it. Some fairly simple tests that analyze sweat, hair, stool, and urinary samples—as well as more sophisticated and expensive blood tests—may provide the clues to discovering any hidden food allergies. Avoiding foods that cause an allergic, inflammatory reaction helps keep the immune system in balance. Hair analysis to reveal heavy metal toxicities is often helpful.

Even without biochemical testing, the average person can do a bit of sleuthing to determine which foods cause problems. In general, saturated fats and trans fats are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 fats modulate the immune system. According to Forsythe, “Just moving from processed foods to whole foods may alleviate cognitive clouding, fatigue, and inflammation caused by common things like gluten.”
Most alternative practitioners believe diet is key. Some contend eliminating any proteins that could mimic the proteins in the body will halt the autoimmune response. That usually means cutting out most meats, any gluten-containing grains, dairy, eggs, and sugar. Those with MS should monitor their food intake and eliminate any foods that might cause tingling, fatigue, or other symptoms.

Forsythe believes that people with MS who follow a balanced diet could still benefit from supplement use. “Supplements have become necessary because the nutrient quality of our food isn’t adequate anymore,” he says. Supplements may also be necessary because some people with MS have trouble assimilating nutrients from the food they eat.

Dr. Forsythe recommends the following supplements and vitamins:

• B-Vitamins (B-complex 100 mg; B12 lozenge 1,000 mcg) aid normal functioning of the nerves and brain, maintain the myelin sheath, support the nervous system, and help battle fatigue. B12, which may be beneficial if your levels are low, is found in eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, and dairy. • Vitamin D (600 IU) alters immune function in a way that may slow progression. Some studies suggest vitamin D, with its ability to bolster the suppression side of the immune system, might actually prevent MS by shutting down autoimmune responses sooner. Vitamin D is found in fish and natural sunlight. • Evening Primrose Oil (1,300 mg) may also help support immunosuppression; it is also healing for the digestive system, and it contains antiviral properties. • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil concentrate, 2,400 mg) may slow the progression of MS and create fewer exacerbations. Found in wild salmon, cod liver oil, and elsewhere. • Magnesium (take at twice the ratio of calcium) helps relieve stiffness, cramping, and soreness.

Dr. Forsythe says using alpha lipoid acid (ALA) can be beneficial to MS patients but not a lot of case studies have been done using supplements and vitamins. “As most of you know, this is because there is little incentive to do research on supplements since they cannot be patented. So, it's nice and surprising when nutritional research is done in the United States as in the case of scientists from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Portland, Oregon, who tried to learn more about the role of ALA in Multiple Sclerosis.”  

ALA is a powerful antioxidant. Thirty-seven multiple sclerosis subjects were given alpha lipoic acid 1200 mg a day for 14 days. The results were positive. ALA was able to lower levels of two markers for multiple sclerosis called MMP-9 and CAMP-1. The researchers say, "ALA may prove useful in treating multiple sclerosis by inhibiting MMP-9 activity and interfering with T-cell migration into the CNS." MMP-9 is a matrix metalloproteinase substance which is high in multiple sclerosis patients. MMP-9 has been implicated in the pathogenesis of cancer, autoimmune disease, and various pathologic conditions characterized by excessive fibrosis. The fact that ALA was able to reduce it is a positive indication.

Although this study in no way says ALA will be a cure or long term benefit for those with multiple sclerosis, it does open the door for further exploration. I think the dose of 1200 mg is extremely high, and I would not recommend more than 50 mg a day of R-Alpha Lipoic Acid for long term use.

Another study which was completed in 2005 on ALA in MS, had also shown to beneficial for MS patients. ALA is an antioxidant that suppresses and treats an animal model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. The purpose of this study was to determine the pharmacokinetics (PK), tolerability and effects on matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAMP-1) of oral Alpha Lipoic acid in patients with multiple sclerosis. Thirty-seven multiple sclerosis subjects were randomly assigned to one of four groups: placebo, Alpha Lipoic acid 600 mg twice a day, Alpha Lipoic acid 1200 mg once a day and Alpha Lipoic acid 1200 mg twice a day. Subjects took study capsules for 14 days. The study found that subjects taking 1200 mg Alpha Lipoic acid had substantially higher peak serum Alpha Lipoic acid levels than those taking 600 mg and that peak levels varied considerably among subjects. The study also found a significant negative correlation between peak serum Alpha Lipoic acid levels and mean changes in serum MMP-9 levels. There was a significant dose response relationship between Alpha Lipoic acid and mean change in serum sICAM-1 levels. The case study conclude that oral Alpha Lipoic acid is generally well tolerated and appears capable of reducing serum MMP-9 and sICAM-1 levels. Alpha Lipoic acid may prove useful in treating multiple sclerosis by inhibiting MMP-9 activity and interfering with T-cell migration into the CNS.

Exercise is also important. Forsythe says,  “Exercising your brain recruits different nerves. Changing up the type of exercise you are doing can enhance function.” In general, sending signals from the brain out to the body to connect those neuropathways will keep you mobile.

One caveat: Heat can intensify MS symptoms (though it is not thought to progress the disease or create more damage). Swimming is a great way to exercise without overheating. “It’s an incredible cardiovascular workout, is easier on the body, and helps minimize overheating substantially. Also practicing yoga helps work every single muscle in the body.”
Most MS patients recall that their diagnosis came during a particularly stressful time in their lives. Just as stress is thought possibly to trigger the disease, it can also cause MS to progress in those who already have it. MS doesn’t care if there’s dinner to get on the table, a 2-year-old to be taken to day care, and a stack of papers a mile high to sort through on your desk. Fatigue, one of the more common MS symptoms, only adds to the stress.

Massage therapy, body talk (a form of neuromuscular feedback), hypnotherapy, and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) helps achieve emotional balance while maintaining a hectic career in the publishing industry. Alternative therapies have been an empowering tool to become more connected with one’s body.

At the end of the day, the secret to managing MS isn’t really a secret at all. Good health requires MS patients to commit to a balanced low-fat diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction. Until there is a cure,  MS patients must remain vigilant about maintaining their strength and mobility in a body that is under attack.

Multiple Sclerosis MS Human Research Update, Lipoic acid in multiple sclerosis: a pilot study.
Multiple Sclerosis. 2005 Apr;11(2):159-65. Yadav V, Marracci G, Lovera J, Woodward W, Bogardus K, Marquardt W, Shinto L, Morris C, Bourdette D. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Portland, OR

The opinions expressed in the newsletter article belong to the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Century Wellness Clinic and Cancer Screening & Treatment Center of Nevada. The information provided at this site and specifically newsletters are for informational purposes and are not intended for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional

The information contained in this Health Report is intended for education purposes only. It is intended to complement—not replace—the advice provided by healthcare providers.

Lisa Marie Wark is currently a free lance writer and is a business development consultant with a concentration in medical spas and alternative clinics. Currently she is President of MedSpas, a business development firm that provides physicians the necessary business tools to help them build or expand their practices into medical spa facilities. Wark was formerly an anchor and financial reporter for ON24 Financial News in San Francisco. In 2001, she was promoted to the main female anchor of three financial news broadcasts, covering a broad range of financial sectors and industries.

 

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