M.S. symptoms are caused by patches of “demyelination” (scarring) in the central nervous system and, depending on which nerves are scarred, movement, touch and sensation may be affected. M.S. is a very variable condition, but early symptoms often include tingling sensations or numbness which may affect a hand or foot – sometimes described as “walking on cotton wool”.
Other common symptoms are blurred or double vision, weakness or clumsiness of a limb, giddiness or lack of balance, disproportionate fatigue and the need to pass water frequently or urgently. Sometimes these symptoms simply disappear, never to be experienced again, but they may recur and worsen in a series of “attacks” that may end in serious disability.
Researchers have been looking for the causes of M.S. for years, so far without success. It could be that a virus causes the inflammation of the myelin sheath, or inherited factors could be to blame. Complementary practitioners have linked M.S. to weakness of the nervous system which may be caused by stress, shock, infection or toxic metals.
There is no conclusive test for M.S. and it often takes time. Orthodox physicians treat symptoms as they arise, using a number of techniques. Steroid drugs may be given to treat the condition as a whole and these can stabilize symptoms by tackling inflammation. Other drugs are often prescribed to treat individual symptoms, such as muscle relaxants for spasms and analgesic drugs if there is pain. Physiotherapy is also an important technique in the mainstream management of M.S.
Causes of MS
Latitude. MS is much more prevalent in temperate climates, but unknown in the tropics. If you emigrate from a high risk to a low risk country before age 15, you inherit the low risk. After age 15, you carry the risk with you.
Environmental agent in childhood. The above suggests that there is some environmental element at work during the first 15 years of a child’s life.
Dairy/Western Diet. Dairy produce and a Western diet are eaten in countries where MS is most prevalent.
Viral Infection. Many people with MS had a viral infection in childhood such as glandular fever. Throat infections are common too.
Trauma. Many people with MS had a physical or psychological trauma prior to getting MS.
Genetic Predisposition. People with MS have a particular genetic type. MS is also higher in families where MS already exists. The strongest link is mother to daughter.
How can we help?
If your physician has prescribed steroids, do not stop the treatment without medical supervision.
Advising on a treatment for M.S. is complicated because the condition can be aggravated by many factors, such as poor nutrition, stress, weak elimination, toxic metals, or weakness in the nervous system. Also, assessing the improvement is not easy as spontaneous remissions are part of the pathology of M.S.
You have to do many things at the same time to treat MS nutritionally. Some approaches have been around for decades; others are newer. The most effective way of dealing with MS encompasses all of the following:
The Swank Low Saturated Fat Diet
Professor Roy Swank started his low saturated fat diet for MS as long ago as the 1940s in North America. Swank looked at the epidemiology of MS and noticed that MS was high in countries -or areas of countries – where a large amount of animal fat was eaten. By contrast, it was low in countries where the consumption of animal fat – especially dairy produce – was low. The Swank Diet started out with just reducing saturated fat, but later also advocated a high polyunsaturated fat/low saturated fat diet.
The Omega Factor – Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
A flurry of interest in sunflower seed oil and linoleic acid started in the early 1970s following an article in The Lancet. Soon after, evening primrose oil (Omega-6 EFAs) became the favoured supplement as it contained GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which was more easily metabolised than linoleic acid on its own. The key players in this were Professor E.J. Field and Dr David Horrobin. Around this time, Professor Michael Crawford was also alerting people to the importance of fish and Omega-3 EFAs in the treatment of MS. MS is lowest in areas where a lot of fish is eaten.
Pioneered by the late Roger MacDougall, it started out with just cutting out the gluten grains -wheat, barley, oats and rye. It went on to cut out sugar and saturated fat, and to include specific supplements. With all its various modifications, the Roger MacDougall diet is still going strong today, though many are now on the more rigorous Stone Age Diet.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
In recent years, the nutritional picture for MS has become more complex and taken on board the importance of:
- Candidiasis, Leaky Gut Syndrome and Malabsorption.
Free radicals and the role of Antioxidants.
Breach of the blood-brain barrier. (The blood-brain barrier is a membrane which protects the brain from the general circulation and prevents toxic substances from getting through. It is generally agreed that in MS, the blood-brain barrier is breached. This allows components of blood which are toxic to myelin to get into the cerebro-spinal fluid.)
The role of weak blood vessels in MS.
The importance of certain nutrients vital in MS e.g. vitamin B12.
The need for therapeutic doses of nutrients.
Taking account of all these inter-connected factors, the current nutritional treatment for anyone with MS needs to include dietary changes as above together with:
Nutrient Status Test and Supplementation
MS sufferers tend to be low in many nutrients, especially Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, other B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and selenium. These deficiencies may be due to problems with absorbing nutrients properly from the gut (see Malabsorption below), together with an inadequate diet. Once deficiencies are found, the missing nutrients need to be taken to make up the shortfall. But this will only work if the gut is healed so the nutrients can be absorbed properly.
Candidiasis, the proliferation of a fungus in the gut, is widespread in MS and related to all the following points. This has to be treated, as everything else seems to stem from it. Like the Japanese say: “Illness starts in the gut”. The treatment for candidiasis includes:
A very strict diet with the avoidance of yeast, bread, pastries, sugar and other sweeteners, fermented foods, alcohol, white flour in all forms, malted products, citrus fruit, milk and dairy products, processed and smoked meat and fish, melons, ripe bananas and grapes, mushrooms, peanuts and pistachios and any products containing these nuts (as they can contain mould), processed foods, steroid drugs, coffee and tea. The anti-candida diet is hard to follow, but is worth persevering with as the benefits can be great.
Probiotics. As people with MS are advised to avoid milk yoghurt, it is better to use probiotics from other sources.
Anti-fungal remedies. These include garlic, propolis, grapefruit seed extract, caprylic acid, pau d’arco tea, Pseudowintera colorata, aniseed and barberry.
Avoiding mildew, mould and damp in the environment.
Leaky gut syndrome is very widespread in MS sufferers and possibly affects everyone with the condition. Semi-digested protein particles get through the leaky lining of the gut wall. These toxic substances circulate in the blood, clog tiny capillaries throughout the body, and cross the blood brain barrier to the brain and spinal cord.
They trigger an immune response, inflammation and all manner of unpleasant symptoms. These include poor absorption of nutrients and therefore nutritional deficiencies and their consequences, food sensitivities, abnormal red blood cells, free radical formation, liver stress, and feeling generally fatigued and ill. Many people with MS have all these symptoms but don’t know why.
The causes of leaky gut need to be found and dealt with. These usually include candidiasis (where the fungi have punctured the gut wall), an imbalance of gut flora, bacteria, alcohol intake, frequent use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, gluten (found in wheat, barley, oats and rye), and parasites.
Up to 70% of people with MS have problems in absorbing nutrients properly. So digestive nutrients (see SUPPLEMENTS below) are needed to get the full benefit from food and supplements.
Food sensitivity is another common problem in MS and appears to be linked to leaky gut. You can become sensitive to virtually any food, no matter how “healthy” it may seem. So bell peppers, for example, can be culprits alongside the more usual suspects of wheat, caffeine, tannin, sugar, alcohol, etc. Once food sensitivities have been identified, it works best to give the offending foods up completely.
In addition to doing all of the above, it is wise for someone with MS to also take specific supplements at therapeutic doses. Although there are some slight variations, there is a high degree of consensus on what supplements to take, shared between people with MS in the UK, USA and Canada.
The number of supplements recommended is vast and will vary client to client
A full list is below and where possible, why these supplements are recommended.
Clients should NOT attempt to take all the supplements listed and should seek advice.
- Supplement Function Dosage
Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil (Starflower Oil) Anti-inflammatory, helps regulate
immune system, anti-viral. 4 – 6 gms a day
Fish Oils (EPA and DHA)
Additional EPA and DHA can be
obtained from flaxseed oil. Needed for normal functioning of
brain and nervous system and
production of myelin. 2 – 5 gms a day
Multivitamins and minerals For general health. Once or twice a day (depending on brand)
Vitamin B12 Needed for a healthy myelin sheath,
nervous system and bone marrow.
Deficiency can impair processes of
the immune system. 100 – 480µg in spray form under tongue
or weekly injections of 1000µg or more.
B12 injections are usually given
at a GP’s surgery, often by a nurse
Vitamin B Complex Needed for a healthy nervous system
and as co-factors for EFAs. 50 – 100mg a day
Vitamin B6 Needed as a co-factor for EFAs. 50 – 100mg a day
Vitamin B3 Relaxes the blood vessels, improves
circulation, regulates blood sugar. 500mg a day
Folic Acid Needed for healthy nerve function. 800µg a day
Vitamin D Low vitamin D and lack of exposure
to sunlight is believed to be a cause
14 400 i.u a day
Vitamin A (in the form of halibut
or cod liver oil) Beta-carotene
(pro-vitamin A) can be taken as a
vegetarian form of vitamin A. Benefits the lining of the digestive
tract, helps fight infection. 1 capsule a day, not exceeding 7,500i.u
Vitamin A or 25,000i.u beta-carotene
Vitamin C Needed for a healthy immune system,
tissue repair and is an antioxidant. 3 gms a day. The buffered form is
Vitamin E Antioxidant. Up to 1000i.u a day
Calcium Needed for the healthy functioning of
nerves and muscles. Works in synergy
with magnesium. 800 – 1200mg a day
Magnesium Metabolism is dependent on magnesium,
helps produce cellular energy, needed for
nerve impulse transmission. 600 – 800mg a day
Zinc Needed for EFA metabolism. 15 – 50mg a day
Copper Needed for the maintenance of the
myelin sheath, and to make the
antioxidant enzyme SOD. 0.75 – 2µg a day
Selenium Antioxidant. Also needed by the immune
system and for prostaglandin production. 100 – 200µg a day
Manganese Involved in many enzymes in energy
metabolism and is essential for fatty acid
synthesis. 20mg a day
pycnogenol, grape seed extract Antioxidant 50mg 3 or 4 times a day
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Antioxidant 300-500mg a day
Betaine Hydrochloric Acid
with pepsin As many as 70% of people with MS have
abnormally low hydrochloric acid secretion,
which is needed to digest protein. 6 – 8 capsules a day, with meals
Pancreatic Enzymes Aids digestion. Take with the above
Acidophilus Keeps gut flora healthy. 1 – 8 capsules a day (depending on brand)
Full Spectrum Amino
Acid Complex Amino acid blood levels have been found
to be low in MS patients. 8 capsules a day away from food
L-Glutamine Helps protect against and heal leaky gut.
Most important nutrient for mucosal lining
of small intestine and colon. Also a brain
fuel. 500mg a day away from food
L-Phenylalanine Precursor of some neurotransmitters. 500mg a day away from food
NADH (dinucleotideadenosine) Relieves fatigue and boosts energy,
improves alertness, concentration and
mental clarity. 5mg twice a day
Ginkgo Biloba Increases blood flow to the brain
and extremities. 600mg a day
Co-Enzyme Q 10 Helps with energy release from cells. 120mg a day
Other supplements taken to treat MS include: Bee pollen, lecithin, octaconosol, ginseng and MSM.