Multiple Sclerosis – natural treatment
Multiple Sclerosis – natural treatment
Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmunity – Functional Medicine
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It causes inflammation and destruction of the myelin sheath, the protective covering that surrounds nerve fibre’s. Our Perth clinic specialises in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and autoimmunity. There are many natural treatment that vastly improve multiple sclerosis.
When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve signals slow down or stop. MS is usually an episodic disorder, with episodes lasting for days, weeks or months, alternating with remissions (periods of reduced or no symptoms). Episodes may be triggered by infection, hot baths, sun exposure and stress. Some people may not get remissions, and instead get progressively worse.
MS affects women more than men, and is mostly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. It is the most common neurodegenerative condition affecting young people.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
Like any autoimmune disease, the aetiology is unknown, but it is thought to be an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. An infectious agent (e.g. virus) may be a triggering factor. As with any autoimmune disease, one of the main areas to get right is the compromised intestinal permeability and gut dysbisois. Addressing these factors can considerably improve the patient and dramatically reduce the amount of relapses.
Using an Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet is also recommended, an elimination diet avoiding commonly reactive foods is required, this was what made the Wahls protocol successful. We often find key nutrient deficiencies and impaired genetic pathways in patients we work with. Commonly vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc and other vitamins associated with methylation are lacking.
- Family history / genetic predisposition
- Female, aged between 20 and 40
- Living in northern latitudes for the first 15 years of life
- Northern European, North American or Scandinavian ancestry
- Infectious agents (e.g. virus): possibly a trigger for MS; more than 90% of MS patients have high IgG levels in the brain and CSF (Gilden, 2005), indicating the presence of an infectious agent. However, to date, no specific agent has been found. Measles, herpes, Epstein-Barr and varicella are all being investigated as possible suspects.
- Hygiene hypothesis: proposes that the lack of exposure to microorganisms and infections due to improved hygiene, vaccinations and antibiotics have altered the human immune system so that it responds inappropriately to harmless substances leading to autoimmune & allergic disease. A study shows that parasitic infections may play a cause in the progression of MS, it suggests that regulatory T cells induced during parasite infections can alter the course of MS. (Ann Neurol, 2007)
- Vitamin D deficiency: due to reduced sunlight exposure. Vitamin D3 acts as a selective immune system regulator and inhibitor of autoimmune disease. People living in northern latitudes have an increased risk of developing MS. Studies show that vitamin D has a protective effect on the risk of developing MS (Munger et al, 2004)
- Smoking: increases risk of developing MS and is associated with more severe manifestation of the disease. Stopping smoking is associated with a slower progression of disability
- Gut dysbiosis and intestinal permeability:
- Many MS patients suffer from digestive disorders such as poor digestive enzyme production, poor digestion of fats and proteins, and suboptimal absorption of various nutrients, including vitamin B12.
- Intestinal dysbiosis appears to be a common factor in individuals with MS. Normal gut flora is insufficient while pathogenic micro organisms, e.g. Candida albicans contribute to gastrointestinal dysbiosis.
- Research has shown that patients who have MS who are treated for yeast infections and bacterial overgrowth of the gastrointestinal tract, including SIBO experienced significant improvement in their MS symptoms.
- Environmental toxins such as heavy metals and organic solvents
- Stress and / or trauma
Signs and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Symptoms are variable and depend upon the location and severity of the attack. They may include:
- Dizziness and loss of balance
- Muscle spasms or tremors
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness, tingling or abnormal sensations
- Difficulty with movement and coordination
- Difficulty with bowel and bladder control / incontinence
- Impaired cognitive function (concentration, memory, judgement etc)
- Mood changes
- Hearing loss
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Sexual dysfunction (e.g. impotence)
NATURAL TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
- Investigate and treat intestinal permeability, parasites, fungal infections, bacterial overgrowth, SIBO and any viral infections
- Ensure methylation in balance, investigate MTHFR polymorphisms
- Balance immune system / reduce TH1 dominance
- This includes identification and avoidance of food allergens to reduce immune activation
- Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
- Promote repair of myelin sheath and improve nerve function
- Assess nutritional status (especially B12 and D3)
- Support nervous system / manage stress
- Support detoxification – often impaired with poor methylation
Diet plan guidelines for Multiple Sclerosis
- Identify and avoid food allergens
- Allergies to certain foods may play a role in the development or exacerbation of MS. MS is most prevalent in areas where consumption of wheat gluten and milk are high.
- Components of some foods (e.g. gluten) may act as triggers to the immune system, causing it to begin an inappropriate autoimmune response similar to the body’s autoimmune response to bacteria and viruses.
- One study reported a strong link between MS and coeliac disease (Rodrigo et al, 2011). However, as celiac disease can only positively identified in the late stages, it may be prudent for patients to go on a gluten-free diet even in the absence of confirmed coeliac disease.
- Milk has long been suspected to play a role in the development of MS. Research has shown a highly significant correlation between consumption of liquid cow’s milk and the prevalence of MS. There is a weaker correlation however between MS and the consumption of butter and cream, and no correlation between MS and cheese consumption (Malosse et al, 1992)
- One theory is that the milk protein, butyrophilin, mimics a particular protein affiliated with human myelin, which may trigger an autoimmune response to myelin. Indeed, this immunologic cross-reactivity has been demonstrated in the laboratory in rodents that have MS.
- Given these findings, we also recommend our patients follow an Autoimmune diet that avoids all common allergens, gfollowing the priciples of the AIP diet or similar.
- Fresh, whole food, high-fibre, unrefined diet low in sugars, refined grains, unhealthy fats and processed foods
- Emphasise anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant foods: oily fish, turmeric, berries, ginger, fruits and vegetables, green tea, etc.
- Emphasise healthy fats (needed for proper nerve function): avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, olive oil, oily fish, eggs.
- Animal fats to be from organic and/or grass fed animals only
- Increase intake of lecithin-based foods: Increased consumption of lecithin-based foods may also assist in providing the building blocks to restore and strengthen myelin sheath integrity. Soy lecithin granules and sunflower seed meal are recommended here as food supplements.
- Increase probiotic foods: yoghurt, fermented vegetables
- Increase immune supporting foods: garlic, mushrooms
- Detoxification diet:
- A detoxification protocol can be very useful in auto-immune disease to support proper gut and liver function
- Detoxifying the gut is useful to expel pathogenic organisms, repair the gut wall and inoculate with beneficial organisms
- Liver detoxification is helpful to help the body detoxify, especially when there is a history of heavy metal or toxic exposure
- Heavy metal detoxification may also be indicated
- Ensuring methylation and the gut are optimized must be achieved prior to detoxification
Supplement considerations for Multiple Sclerosis
- Omega 3 EFAs – to reduce inflammation and provide neuroprotection
- Phosphatidyl choline and phosphatidyl serine – neuroprotective
- Choline – needed for myelin sheath integrity
- Broad-spectrum antioxidants: e.g. alpha-lipoic acid, n-acetyl cysteine, resveratrol, CoQ10, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, etc. In particular alpha-lipoic acid is useful in neuroprotection.
- Glutamine – if needed to repair gut mucosa
- B6, folate, B12 and iron: needed for regeneration of myelin via methylation pathways: If deficient, supplementation is recommended
- D3 – depending on status
- Probiotics – to support healthy gut flora and proper immune response
- Immune modulators – echinacea, astragalus, hemidesmus, reishi/shitake, cat‘s claw
- Anti-inflammatory – turmeric, ginger, boswellia, bupleurum, cat‘s claw, feverfew
- Antioxidant / tissue repair – gingko, hawthorn, gotu kola, grape seed
- Improve nerve function – gotu kola, bacopa, gingko
- Support nervous system – scullcap, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower
Lifestyle / Physical measures
- Stress management techniques are essential: gentle exercise, yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques
- Adequate sunlight exposure
- Avoid exposure to environmental toxins, including tobacco
- Acupuncture may be beneficial
- Massage essential for maintaining flexibility and reducing spasticity, as well as improving well-being
- Physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE NATURAL TREATMENT OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS – PERTH CLINIC
Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune disease that has a number of underlying factors that must be addressed with patients. Clinically we find that the majority of MS patients when first presenting to us have poor gut health, either parasite or bacterial overgrowth, significant intestinal permeability or SIBO.
In addition, viral infections, the regular ingestion of foods they are intolerant to, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and blocks in the methylation and detoxification cycle are key areas that require investigation.
At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine we have experience with patients who are living with MS.
If you or a family member are suffering with Multiple Sclerosis we would love to hear from you. What treatments have improved your health the most? Have you had your gut tested and found bacterial overgrowth or uncovered SIBO in your small intestine? What dietary changes have you made? Please leave a comment below.