What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease characterized by destruction of the myelin sheath—the coating that insulates and protects neurons. This demyelination causes disruptions in neural communication and potentially neuronal death, leading to disability.
MS may follow several disease courses, the most common of which is relapsing remitting. Relapsing remitting MS is characterized by clearly defined acute attacks followed by periods of remission.
Natural interventions such as vitamin D and essential fatty acids may help relieve inflammation and improve symptoms of MS.
What are the Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis?
- Genetic predisposition
- Viral infection (eg, Epstein-Barr virus)
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Hormonal imbalance
- Exposure to organic solvents
- Food sensitivities
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
Note: Symptoms of MS vary widely, depending on the location of affected nerve fibers. Symptoms may include:
- Numbness or tingling in limbs
- Impaired vision
- Muscle weakness, clumsiness
- Loss of balance, dizziness, potential nausea and vomiting
- Bladder dysfunction
- Changes in memory, reasoning, and spatial perception
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis?
Note: There is currently no cure for MS. Treatments include therapies to calm acute attacks, slow or modify the disease course, and alleviate symptoms. Several experimental therapies are currently being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Therapies for acute attacks:
- Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange to remove inflammatory factors and antibodies)
- Disease-modifying therapies:
- Beta interferons to reduce inflammation and slow disease progression
- Glatiramer acetate, an immunomodulator
- Immunosuppressant drugs (eg, mitoxantrone)
- Monoclonal antibodies (eg, natalizumab)
- Dalfampridine, a potassium channel blocker, to increase the ability of nerve cells to conduct impulses
- Symptom management may include:
- muscle relaxants
- medications to reduce fatigue
What are Additional Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis?
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Cognitive rehabilitation
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Swank low-fat diet
- Hormone therapy
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Multiple Sclerosis?
- Vitamin D. As vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for MS, supplementation may be helpful. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that MS patients taking vitamin D had fewer relapses and less inflammation.
- Essential fatty acids. Omega-3 (ie, DHA and EPA) and certain omega-6 (ie, GLA) fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve some symptoms of MS.
- Antioxidants. Oxidative stress may play a role in the pathogenesis of MS, and MS patients tend to have low levels of the endogenous antioxidant glutathione peroxidase. Supplementing with selenium, vitamin E, vitamin C, and/or N-acetylcysteine may boost glutathione peroxidase levels for potential benefits.
- Lipoic acid. Lipoic acid has been shown to inhibit the activity of ICAM-1, a protein believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of MS. Supplementation with lipoic acid reduced ICAM-1 levels and T-cell migration into the central nervous system in patients with MS.
- Vitamin B12. Patients with MS may be deficient in vitamin B12. Supplementation has been shown in several studies to improve symptoms and the clinical course of the disease in patients with MS.
- Biotin. Biotin (vitamin B7) has demonstrated positive effects in patients with MS. Studies showed high doses of biotin improved measures of MS-related disabilities in some patients.
- Other natural interventions that may benefit patients with MS include coenzyme Q10, ginkgo biloba, green tea, and curcumin.