Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Because nerves are delicate, highly sensitive structures, they are sheathed in a protective material known as myelin. In a person with MS, the myelin degenerates, leaving sections of the nerves bare and vulnerable. If nerves are dam- aged and scarred over, the areas of the body that are controlled by the affected nerves will malfunction. Although MS is not a common disorder, it does strike more
frequently than most other neurological diseases, and in recent years, the percentage of cases has increased. It’s estimated that between 250,000 and 350,000 Americans currently suffer from MS. Multiple sclerosis can develop at any age, but onset usu- ally occurs between the ages of twenty and forty. About two-thirds of MS victims are women.
The course of MS is highly individual and depends mainly on which nerves are affected and on the extent of the damage. Nevertheless, the disease does exhibit some general symptom patterns. Multiple sclerosis always occurs in cycles of ﬂare-ups, called exacerbations, and remissions. The ﬁrst attack and the exacerbations that fol- low may consist of nothing more than some blurred vision or unexplained fatigue. Because the symptoms are vague and disappear after a short time—sometimes after just days—and because a person may spend years in remission, MS often goes undi- agnosed in these extremely early stages. Exacerbations get progressively worse, however, and when a person experiences more obviously alarming symptoms like facial paralysis, weak or numb limbs, or slurred speech, it’s likely that a doctor will investigate the possibility of MS.
How the disease moves on from this stage varies from person to person. Some peo- ple will go into complete, lifelong remission. Just as rare is the case in which the dis- ease hits with more force, causing signiﬁcant, lasting damage after the very ﬁrst attack. The vast majority of sufferers fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. Many will recover from the ﬁrst major exacerbation and will experience only mild recur- rences every ten years or so. Some will suffer from more frequent relapses that slowly become more severe and leave permanent disability in their wake. As the decades go on, a person may have trouble with movement, balance, and coordination and even- tually develop the classic staggering gait. In the advanced stages, there may be blindness, incontinence, paralysis, or difﬁculty breathing. Because MS affects the brain’s functions, many sufferers also experience mood alterations, swinging up to euphoria and then plunging down into a deep depression.
Why the sheaths of myelin degenerate in some people remains a mystery, but there’s no shortage of theories. The prevailing hypothesis is that MS is an autoimmune dis- order in which white blood cells mistake myelin for an invader and attack it. Another popular theory is that MS is caused by a virus or another latent infection, and indeed, the symptoms of MS are similar to those of some viral infections—so similar that doc- tors are often not able to distinguish a viral attack from MS in its early stages. Pos- sibly, MS is caused by a combination of these factors, and the virus somehow causes the formation of antibodies that attack myelin.
Although multiple sclerosis is appearing with increasing frequency in the United States, the disease is rare in Eastern and developing countries and in the tropics. Any time this kind of geographical discrepancy occurs, it makes sense to investigate lifestyle and environmental factors as potential causes. Also, MS occurs more fre- quently in higher latitudes. High-risk areas include the northern United States, Canada, Great Britain, Scandinavia, Tasmania, and northern Europe, as examples. The reason for this is unclear, although studies show that people who had a higher sun exposure between the ages of six and ﬁfteen have a signiﬁcantly reduced risk of the disease. This may have something to do with vitamin D from sun exposure.
It’s well known that extreme stress and poor nutrition can bring on an exacerba- tion, so it’s quite possible that they also contribute to the onset of the disease. Envi- ronmental toxins, especially heavy metals, can produce symptoms similar to those of MS and may damage both DNA and myelin. And in the case of allergies, food aller- gies or sensitivities appear to be a factor for some people with this condition. Many
researchers are currently looking into the relationship between an allergy to wheat or dairy and the incidence of MS. One must also look at the possibility of toxic metal accumulation, such as mercury, as a causative or aggravating factor. Good digestion is important, as there is a link between autoimmune diseases and malabsorption. Sev- eral nutritional deﬁciencies, especially of essential fatty acids and vitamin B12, are critical, as they are involved with a healthy myelin sheath.
Compounding the frightening symptoms of MS is the inability of many patients to receive a deﬁnitive diagnosis, especially in early stages of the disease. Doctors can perform spinal taps, testing the cerebrospinal ﬂuid, or do MRI scans to look for abnor- mal antibodies and myelin damage, but because MS may cause damage much like that from a virus or other autoimmune disorders, the tests are often inclusive. In most cases, a diagnosis is made only when all other possibilities are ruled out.
If you have MS or MS-like symptoms, it’s critical that you ﬁnd a good specialist and work closely with him or her. Despite the common perception, many people with MS live long, productive lives. Disabilities caused by severe attacks, when they happen at all, often occur several decades after a diagnosis and can often be managed quite well. It is crucial that you also work with a holistic doctor to address the underlying reasons for your illness. We have had several patients with MS remain relatively symptom- free by following a comprehensive natural approach, as described in this section.
Multiple sclerosis occurs in cycles of remission and exacerbation. Symptoms may occur singly at ﬁrst, but later on, they usually appear in groups of two or more.
• Deep fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Impaired speech
• Facial paralysis
• Numbness or weakness in thelimbs
• Loss of balance
• Poor coordination
• Nausea and vomiting
• Staggering gait
• Bowel and bladder incontinence
Doctors aren’t sure what causes MS, but the leading theories are listed here.
• Chronic infection (viral, bacterial, candida)
• Long periods of extreme stress
• Stress hormone imbalance
• Poor nutrition (especially vitamin D deﬁciency
• Environmental toxins
• Toxic metals
• Food allergies
• Free radical damage
Eat meals and snacks made with whole, unprocessed foods. Try to prepare meals yourself so you know what goes into them. Buy organic products as often as possible.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for multiple sclerosis: Immune system imbalance or disease—blood
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, B12)—blood
Essential fatty-acid balance—blood or urine
Amino acid balance—blood or urine
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis
Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal
Have several helpings of deeply colored fresh fruits and vegetables every day. These foods are high in antioxidants, which ﬁght free radical damage to your cells. They’re also high in ﬁber, which will keep your colon free of wastes and will help you avoid constipation.
Essential fatty acids reduce inﬂammation of the nerve ﬁbers and strengthen myelin. Eat ﬁsh from a clean water source three or more times a week, and have a tablespoon of ﬂaxseeds or ﬂaxseed oil every day.
Lecithin may also help to strengthen the myelin sheath. Good sources include tofu and other soy products, bean sprouts, and cabbage.
To reduce stress, add whole grains, wheat germ, and brewer’s yeast to your meals. The B vitamins in these foods are calming to the nervous system.
Food to Avoid
Reduce your exposure to chemicals and pesticides by eating organic foods. Do not eat junk food or packaged food that con- tains artiﬁcial ﬂavoring, colorings, or preservatives.
If you’re allergic to any food, you need to f ind out now. Read the Food Allergies section in this book and follow the elimination diet presented there. You should make it a priority to look for allergies to gluten (wheat and other grains) or dairy, but corn, yeast, sugar, peanuts, soy, and eggs are also common sensitivities.
oy Swank, M.D., a professor of neu- rology at the University of Oregon Medical School, prescribed a special diet for 150 patients with MS. This included the elimination of margarine, hydrogenated oils, and shortenings. Sat- urated fat was limited to 20 grams per day or less. The diet included vegetable oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and 5 grams per day of cod liver oil. Patients were to eat ﬁsh three or more times a week and consume a nor- mal amount of protein. Results showed that 95 percent of the people who
started this regimen and had minimal disability to begin with showed very lit- tle or no progression of the disease over a thirty-year period. Also, people who followed the diet had a death rate signif- icantly lower than a study group with
MS who didn’t follow the diet (31 per- cent versus 80 percent).
Eliminate inﬂammatory foods from your diet that may make your nerve damage and muscle problems worse. If you’ve stopped eating red meat and dairy, you’ve already made great strides toward this goal. You should also avoid other foods that are fatty, fried, or greasy.
Keep up your resistance to infection by restricting your sugar consumption. If you’re feeling well, the occasional treat is ﬁne, but for the most part, you should avoid colas, sweet baked goods, candies, cakes, and other items made with reﬁned sugar.
If you want to ﬁght MS, you need all the nutritional support you can get. Avoid alco- hol and caffeine, which deplete vitamins and minerals from your body and worsen inﬂammation.
Frequent short-term fasts will help you cleanse your body of toxins and will give you a lighter, more energetic feeling. During periods of remission, try a juice fast once a month. Be sure to supplement the fast with a wide variety of fruit and vegetable juices and broths.
Fasting during exacerbations is not recommended, as you need to keep up optimum nutrition at those times. Instead, supplement your regular healthful diet with lots of vegetable juices.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Multiple Sclerosis
Super Prescription #1 Fish oil
Take a minimum of 5 grams daily and up to 20 grams daily. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inﬂammation and are required for healthy nerve functioning. Dr. Swank used 5 grams of cod liver oil in his thirty-year study, while other studies have used up to 20 grams.
Super Prescription #2 Vitamin B12
Take 400 to 800 mcg of the sublingual form daily or receive the injectable form from your doctor. Vitamin B12 is involved in the formation of the myelin sheath, and nutrition-oriented doctors such as ourselves ﬁnd B12 helpful for people with this condition.
Super Prescription #3 High-potency multivitamin
Take as directed on the container. It contains a base of the nutrients needed for healthy immune and nervous systems.
Super Prescription #4 Plant sterols and sterolins
Take 20 mg three times daily on an empty stomach. These naturally occurring plant chemicals have been shown to have a balancing effect on the immune systems of people with autoimmune diseases.
Super Prescription #5 Digestive enzymes
Take 1 to 2 capsules of a full-spectrum enzyme product with each meal. Enzymes help you to digest food more efﬁciently and lessen autoimmune reactions. Protease enzymes can be taken between meals to reduce autoimmune complexes and inﬂammation.
Super Prescription #6 Gamma linoleic acid (GLA)
Take 300 to 500 mg daily. It is found in evening primrose and borage oil. GLA is a fatty acid that has an anti-inﬂammatory effect.
Super Prescription #7 Vitamin E-complex
Take 400 IU of a mixed complex daily. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant.
Gingko biloba has potent antioxidant activity for the nerves and improves circulation. Take 60 to 120 mg twice daily of a standardized product containing 24 percent ﬂavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones.
Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) balances the stress hormones. Take 1,000 to
3,000 mg daily.
Take a super green food supplement, such as chlorella or spirulina, or a mixture of super green foods, each day for detoxiﬁcation and pH balance. Take as directed on the container.
DHEA is a stress hormone that is helpful for many autoimmune diseases. Have your levels tested, and if they are low, start with 15 mg daily under the supervision of a doctor. Higher doses of up to 100 mg are sometimes necessary.
It’s important to avoid stress, so keep a stash of calming herbal teas on hand. skull- cap, hops (Humulus lupulus), and passionﬂower are all good choices.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,
12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Con- sultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Agaricus is helpful when there are symptoms of twitching, muscle spasms, poor coordination, and uncontrolled eye movement.
Alumina is for symptoms of progressive paralysis and confusion and the legs feel very heavy. Weakness and paralysis of the lower extremities may occur. There is delayed nerve conduction. Constipation is common.
Argentum Nitricum is for loss of balance and poor coordination that is progress- ing to paralysis.
Arsenicum Album is for progressive paralysis and burning sensations. The person tends to be anxious and restless.
Causticum is indicated when there is slow, progressive paralysis of the limbs, as well as of muscles that control speech, swallowing, and respiration. There may be numbness of the hands and the feet. Incontinence is common.
Cocculus is helpful when there is progressive paralysis, as well as dizziness when looking at moving objects. The vision is slow to accommodate.
Conium is for ascending paralysis that begins with weakness in the thighs. There is heaviness in the lower limbs. The person drops things easily.
Gelsemium (Gelsemium sempervirens) is helpful when there is great weakness and trembling of the muscles. There may also be numbness of the face and the tongue and double vision. The eyelids feel heavy. The symptoms are better after urination.
Ignatia (Ignatia amara) will help when multiple sclerosis, especially paralysis, comes on after grief. There is twitching and muscle spasms.
Lachesis is for left-sided symptoms, such as numbness or paralysis. Jealousy or anger worsens symptoms.
Natrum Muriaticum helps when there are symptoms of awkwardness, such as drop- ping things. Optic neuritis is usually present, as well as numbness throughout the body. The person wants to be alone and feels depressed. The symptoms may come on after grief. The symptoms are worse in the sun.
Nux Vomica is helpful when there is paralysis, along with muscle spasms, cramps, and twitching. The person is highly driven and irritable and craves alcohol and stimulants.
Phosphorous is for numbness in the hands and the feet. The person has problems with incontinence and vision. There is a craving for ice-cold drinks.
Plumbum is for progressive paralysis and wasting of the muscles. There is a tremen- dous heaviness of the legs.
• Governing Vessel 26 can reduce muscle spasms and strengthen you when you feel faint or dizzy.
• If you feel anxious or depressed, work Lung 1.
• Stomach 36 improves your ability to digest foods and receive the maximum
amount of nutrition from them. It also stimulates a general sense of well-being.
Regular massage is highly recommended for MS sufferers. It will help keep the mus- cles functioning and may hasten recovery time after an exacerbation, and it will also improve circulation and reduce stress.
To stimulate blood supply to the nerves, work the entire spinal area.
Work the diaphragm and the solar plexus to reduce tension and support the cen- tral nervous system.
It’s also a good idea to work the area corresponding to any part of the body affected by MS.
Acupuncture from a qualiﬁed practitioner can be helpful for many of the symp- toms of MS.
Avoid saunas and hot baths. They may sound relaxing, but high heat often aggravates the symptoms of MS. A cool or cold bath or shower, however, will stimulate your blood ﬂow and even lift your spirits.
Experiment with relaxing oils until you ﬁnd a few you like, and then rotate them so that you don’t become immune to the effects of any single oil. Lavender, jasmine, gera- nium, ylang ylang, and rose are all good choices to start with. Use them in any prepa- ration you like.
Make stress reduction a priority. Biofeedback, deep breathing, prayer, and yoga are all good choices.
A diagnosis of MS, or an attack of MS-like symptoms, can be a shock. Professional counseling can assist you as you try to understand your disorder and make sense of its place in your life.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to determine the best remedy for your particu- lar needs. Following are some suggestions. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Keep a bottle of Rescue Remedy in your medicine cabinet, and take some when- ever you feel stressed or when you sense that an exacerbation might be starting.
• Gentle exercise will keep your muscles in good shape, improve circulation, keep your digestive system regular, and help you release stress. Swimming and walking are especially helpful for MS patients, as are stretching exercises.
• Rest whenever you feel the need. If you think you might be getting ill or expe- riencing the beginning of an exacerbation, get to bed right away and stay there for a few days. You might be able to head off the worst of the symptoms.
• Don’t forget that tobacco smoke is an environmental toxin best avoided.
• Consult with a holistic dentist to make sure there are no chronic root canal
infections, mercury-ﬁlling problems, or other dental issues that may be triggering the immune system.
• Get 15 minutes of sunlight exposure daily.