Natural Approaches to Multiple Sclerosis
MS or Multiple Sclerosis used to be exclusively a condition seen in women within a particular age range, but now it is spreading further into the male population and reaching people at a very young and very old age. So what is this disease about and what can we do? Multiple Sclerosis is a devastating illness and can take away the very life of a vibrant, healthy individual with very little warning. The difficulty is that MS really is just a name given to a condition that develops within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) where the protective and highly useful myelin sheath that surrounds delicate nerves begins to inflame and scar tissue replaces the damaged sections which are called sclerotic plaques. There are generally numerous lesions that occur, hence the term multiple.
But how does this actually begin? In fact, there can be a number of triggers that might explain this degenerative condition, and I have found it much easier to bring about improvement in women than in men. Is this because I see men much later in the progression of the condition, or do hormonal issues have something to do with the condition? The latest research indicates that Multiple Sclerosis seems to have a presence of autoantibodies due to some overstimulation of the immune system which then begins an autoimmune cycle. This causes the initial inflammation and the resultimg removal or deterioration of the integrity of the fatty tissue sheath that surrounds many of the central nerves.
Is it possible that a physiologically normal immune system expresses an aberrant response due to an aberrant stimulus? Here is an interesting statement from the New England Journal of Medicine:
"Since immunization of normal animals with certain self-antigens in an adjuvant induces autoimmune diseases, it follows that autoreactive T cells must be present in normal animals. Indeed, B cells and T cells that recognize insulin or myelin basic protein can be isolated from persons without diabetes or multiple sclerosis, respectively." — Kamradt T, Michison NA. New England Journal of Medicine 2001: 344(9): 655-664.
What this is saying is that the very cells that are auto-antigenic (challenge our own healthy tissue) are present in all people. The very definiation of autoimmunity indicates that these cells are activated by a certain trigger, which must be a combination of two separate and unrelated events that trigger the immune system and the autoimmune response. So autoimmunity may be caused by a primary lesion and also immune dysregulation. Then depending on conditions, this process could get out of control.
One key thing to realize is that cellular recognition in the body (and the action of the immune system against invaders) is based on protein recognition. A pathogen that remains in the body over time can evolve to resemble the host, therefore immune response to one will affect the other. This is a concept known as molecular mimicry, where antibodies to viruses and other stimulants cross react with uninfected host cells, which will lead to post-infectious autoantibody production. We have seen this in the case of polio. The polio virus reacts with acetylcholine receptors, while the papilloma virus reacts with insulin receptors. The rabies virus also reacts with insulin receptors while Klebsiella pneumoniae reacts with the Human Lymphocyte antigen. In other words, all these viruses can also react with normal receptor sites because they mimic the appropriate body chemicals that would attach to those sites. In trying to root out the offending virus, the immune system will also destroy perfectly normal tissue in a case of "friendly fire" because it cannot distinguish between the virus and your own tissue.
There also is the possibility that certain cells, or perhaps all cells, go through developmental changes that will make them similar for a time to bacteria, fungi, or viruses, which will then also make them susceptible to your own immune system. And since the immune system learns by experience, the experience may be training it for an autoimmune process down the road.
When looking nutritionally at MS patients, Vitamin D, calcium and copper deficiencies seem to be much more common that in the general population. It has been known that MS occurs more often in individuals living in areas far from the equator where less sunlight is available. To handle this, it is crucial to maintain a low antigenic diet rich in fish and to address bowel flora dysbiosis as the first step in all MS cases. This makes absorption of essential vitamins and minerals more effective. I also will remove all artificial sweeteners, and substantially increase essential fatty acid intake with Standard Process Super EFF and Tuna Oil which can provide all the building blocks for the myelin sheath, which is structured from fat.
But there may be more possibilities here than simply looking at the immune system. Granted, this is an immune disorder, but let’s suppose the immune system is not dysfunctional. What would cause the immune system to go after a cell? Aberrant behavior, degeneration of the cell or structural deformity. These are the traditional reasons your immune system would try to eliminate a cell. So what would cause the cells of the myelin sheath to sustain one of these transformations?
In each case, nutrition may be the answer. Let’s say that you have lived on a low-fat diet for months or even years (which, by the way is substantially more popular among women than men), perhaps to the point where your digestive system cannot even break down fat in the diet. Or perhaps you are taking some type of pharmaceutical that blocks the absorption of a certain percentage of fat (assuming you are eating the recommended amount of fat in your diet concurrently). Or maybe your gallbladder is not functioning at the top of its game and your ability to secrete healthy bile in sufficient quantities for fat absorption has been compromised for some time. Or perhaps you are chronically dehydrated, not drinking enough real water for your blood quality. When dehydrated, the body will try to offset the dryness of the arteries by lining them with additional cholesterol as a lubricant and buffer. It will also do this in the case of chronic high blood pressure.
In each of these cases, your body will attempt to cannibalize anything necessary to secure the essential fats that are needed for body function. For instance, all your sex hormones are made from fat... your corticosteroidal hormones (anti-inflammative hormones) are made from fat... even the synthesis of Vitamin D in your body requires fat. So where is your body to get fat from if there is not sufficient available in your daily diet? Well, the myelin sheath would be a good source, and its’ possible that the removal of essential fats from these cells will distort them structurally, and create damage in such a way that makes them vulnerable to bacteria, inflammation and toxins. And if at the same time, your adrenal glands are depleted from stress, or from the same lack of essential fats, then the hormones that would control any inflammatory response in your body, are not available.
So where to start. Well, my suggestion is to first get some really effective testing done for essential fatty acid levels. There are a few labs in the U.S. that can do this type of testing, and this can really give you a good indication of where you stand. This can really help you in determining what types of essential fats are the best for you, and in what quantities. Once you have supplemented your essential fats correctly for one month, get tested again and see what the result is. If there is no improvement, then there is a reason why fats are not being processed correctly.
So step two. Why would essential fats not be processed correctly. First your digestive enzyme levels may be a factor. Secondly, if you are eating predominantly sugar and carbohydrates in your diet (which you shouldn’t be as indicated above), then your body may become sugar-dominant, meaning it will consistently use the available sugars for energy and simply store whatever essential fats are taken in. As long as there are available sugars, the fats just keep getting shunted into storage. The third possibility is that your liver and gall bladder are insufficent. Inositol may be one solution, since it biochemically helps to process stored glycogen into available glucose as needed. Inositol is also amazingly helpful for any nerve issue such as sciatica or neuralgia. Choline is another biochemical aid as it is a key component in the synthesis of healthy and effective bile. But nothing beats cleaning out the liver and the gallbladder with a good comprehensive herbal cleanse over a period of 2 to 4 weeks. It may be just the thing to get your essential fats back on track.
The next possibility is that there is difficulty absorbing essential fats from the bloodstream into tissue. Soy Bean Lecithin may be the answer. It is a cholesterol antagonist aiding fat transportation and emulsification. However, this should not be taken without added calcium if in fact you have a calcium deficiency condition as well. But, getting the fat into the cells can be the result.
Another possibility for cellular damage is free radical activity, often due to poor nutritional habits. Herbs and foods that are highly antioxidant such as Green Tea, Grape Seed Extract, Whole Vitamin C and Whole Vitamin E can all be helpful. At the same time Ginkgo, Bilberry and White Peony can help to maintain healthy microcirculation and reduce inflammation of the nerves. Echinacea angustifolia and Rehmannia are excellent for modulating an autoimmune response. Inflammatory modulators that should be included are Meadowsweet, Bupleurum, Hemidesmus and potentially Boswellia.
When dealing with any autoimmune condition, it is essential to not only support the nutritional base for the body, but also to rebalance any systems or functions that have been compromised at any point in the experience of the individual. This is especially important if any contributing triggers to the commencement of the autoimmune situation can be identified. By resolving these, the immune cycle may be reduced.
But more than anything else is to eliminate stress. The more stress the individual experiences, the weaker the adrenals will be, the more the immune system will be burdened and the more inflammation will occur. Stress is not just emotional, but can come from severe temperature changes, environmental exposures, toxic metals or agents, bacterial or viral illness or physical injury. Essentially anything that might challenge the immune system, or elicit an inflammatory response.
Handling Multiple Sclerosis is a life-changing experience. Calmly evaluate your life experience and try to find a pattern that would explain the development of this condition. Often the answer, when you discover it, will be what you already knew.