Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with muscle movement, balance and vision. It is an auto-immune disease that progressively impairs the central nervous system.
Each nerve fibre in the brain and spinal cord is surrounded by a layer of protein called myelin, which protects the nerve and helps electrical signals from the brain travel to the rest of the body. In MS, the myelin becomes damaged. The body`s immune system attacks the myelin, causing a build-up of plaques and the eventual scarring and hardening of multiple nerve fibres. This process is known as sclerosis, hence the name of the disease. Once nerve pathways become damaged, nerve impulses direct the muscle movement to slow down or to stop altogether.
MS usually strikes between the ages of 15 to 60, with most cases occurring between 20 and 40 years of age. It affects women twice as often as men, and is most prevalent in the northern United States, Canada, and upper Europe, where the climate tends to be temperate. Overall, an estimated 350,000 Americans suffer from MS, which is considered to be incurable by conventional physicians, who also have little understanding about its causes.
Types of multiple sclerosis
Around 8 out of 10 people with MS will have the relapsing remitting type of MS.
Someone with relapsing remitting MS will have periods of time where symptoms are mild or disappear altogether. This is known as remission and can last for days, weeks or sometimes months.
Remission will be followed by a sudden flare-up of symptoms, known as a relapse. Relapses can last from a few weeks to few months.
Usually after around 10 years, around half of people with relapsing remitting MS will go on to develop secondary progressive MS.
In secondary progressive MS, symptoms gradually worsen and there are fewer or no periods of remission.
The least common form of MS is primary progressive MS. In this type, symptoms gradually get worse over time and there are no periods of remission.
The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) controls all your body’s actions. When MS damages the nerve fibres that carry messages to and from your brain, symptoms can occur in any part of your body.
There are many different symptoms of MS and they affect each person differently. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- numbness and tingling
- blurring of vision
- problems with mobility and balance
- muscle weakness and tightness
Most people with MS only have a few of these symptoms and it is very unlikely someone would develop all possible symptoms.
Symptoms are unpredictable. Some people’s symptoms develop and increase steadily over time, while for others they come and go periodically.
Periods when symptoms get worse are known as relapses. Periods when symptoms improve or disappear are known as remissions.
In around 1 in 5 cases of MS, the first noticeable symptom is problems with one of your eyes. You may experience:
- some loss of vision in the affected eye – this can range from mild to severe (total loss of vision occurs in 1 in 35 cases)
- colour blindness
- eye pain; usually made worse when moving the eye
- flashes of light when moving the eye
These symptoms are the result of optic neuritis, which is inflammation (swelling) of the optic nerve that transmits visual information to the brain. This normally only affects one eye.
Other visual problems that can occur in MS include:
- double vision
- eye pain in both eyes
- involuntary eye movements (usually from side to side), known as nystagmus
Abnormal sensations can be also a common initial symptom of MS. This can take the form of numbness or tingling in different parts of your body. Muscles in your arms and legs may also feel unusually weak.
Muscle spasms and spasticity
MS can damage nerve fibers in your brain and spinal cord, which can cause muscles to contract tightly and painfully (spasm). Your muscles may also become stiff and resistant to movement, which is known as spasticity.
Around half of people with MS experience pain, which can take two forms:
- Neuropathic pain – caused by damage to the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord. It can be stabbing pain, extreme skin sensitivity or a burning sensation.
- Musculoskeletal pain – not caused directly by MS, but can occur if there is excess pressure on muscles or joints as a result of spasms and spasticity.
MS can affect balance and co-ordination. It can make walking and moving around difficult, particularly if you also have muscle weakness and spasticity.
- You may experience difficulty with co-ordination, called ataxia.
- Shaking of the limbs (tremor) is rare but can be severe.
- Dizziness can happen late on and can make you feel as if your surroundings are spinning (vertigo).
Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
Feeling extremely tired (fatigue) is a common symptom of MS that many people describe as one of the most troublesome. It is estimated as many as 9 out of 10 people with MS will experience episodes of fatigue.
People with MS have reported feeling an overwhelming sense of weariness where even the simplest physical and /or mental activity seems a tremendous struggle to carry out.
Fatigue may be worse in hot weather, after exercising or during illness.
Problems with thinking, learning and planning
Around half of people with MS have problems with thinking, learning and planning (known as cognitive dysfunction) in the early stages of the disease. They may have:
- problems understanding and using language
- a short attention span
- problems learning and remembering new things (long-term memory is usually unaffected)
- problems understanding and processing visual information, such as reading a map
- difficulty with planning and problem solving – people often report that they know what they want to do, but can’t grasp the method of how to do it
- problems with reasoning, such as mathematical laws or solving puzzles
Mental health issues
Around half of all people with MS experience at least one episode of depression at some point in their life.
It is unclear whether the depression arises from the damage to the brain caused by MS or due to the stress of having to live with a long-term condition, or both.
This can also be a problem for people with MS, especially during the start of a relapse, as they are naturally anxious about the return of their symptoms.
Some people with MS can sometimes experience rapid and severe mood swings, suddenly bursting into tears, laughing or shouting angrily for no apparent reason.
Many people with MS lose interest in sex.
Men with MS often find it hard to obtain or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction). They may also find it takes a lot longer to ejaculate when having sex or masturbating, and may even lose the ability to ejaculate altogether. Women may find it more difficult to achieve orgasm.
Bladder problems are common in MS.
These may include:
- difficulty emptying the bladder completely
- having to urinate more frequently
- having a sudden urgent need to urinate which can lead to unintentionally passing urine (urge incontinence)
- having to get up frequently during the night to pass urine (nocturia)
Constipation affects around half of people with MS. They may pass stools much less frequently than normal and find this difficult. Severe constipation can lead to faecal impaction, where a large, solid stool becomes stuck in the back passage (rectum) and begins to stretch the muscles of the rectum, weakening them. This can cause loss of normal bowel control (bowel incontinence), where watery stools leak out.
Although conventional medicine claims that multiple sclerosis is caused by demyelination (the breakdown of the myelin sheath caused by the build-up of plaques), holistic health practitioners maintain that there are many other potential causes, as well. This view is strengthened by the fact that major symptoms of MS can be present even when there is little myelin damage; and, in some cases, major dymelination only produces minor symptoms. What follows is an overview of the other most common potential causes of MS.
Candidiasis: Candidiasis, also known as candida, is caused by systemic overgrowth of a type of yeast, Candidiasis albicans, beyond its normal location in the lower intestinal tract. Left unchecked, candidiasis can greatly exacerbate MS symptoms, as was first documented by William G. Crook, M.D., author of The Yeast Connection. According to Dr Crook, cases of MS in which candidiasis is a factor can be greatly improved once the spread of Candida albicans is halted and then reversed.
Dental Amalgam Fillings: Dental amalgam fillings contain mercury, a highly toxic substance that can be leeched out from fillings in the form of mercury vapours that settle in the body`s tissues and organs. Over time, as mercury continues to accumulate in the body, a host of serious health problems can occur, including MS or symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable from it. People with MS have been shown to have mercury levels in their cerebrospinal fluid that are much as 700 per cent greater than healthy people.
The health problems mercury causes are due to its ability to attach itself to the DNA in the body`s cells and cell membranes, distorting them and impairing their ability to properly function. As this cellular distortion occurs, the body`s immune system acts as if the affected cells are foreign invaders and begins attacking them. In the process, myelin can be destroyed. In addition, the mercury vapours can interfere with the body`s enzyme functions and cause the chronic fatigue that is often a symptom of MS. According to Hal Huggins, DDS, a leader in the field of biological (holistic) dentistry, and a renowned expert in mercury toxicity, many cases of MS have been completely reversed once mercury amalgams are properly replaced and the body is detoxified.
Poor Diet: Since 1950, when Roy Swank, MD, of Oregon Health Sciences University, first discovered that MS patients had higher than normal concentrations of saturated fat intake from the foods they ate, holistic health practitioners have pointed to poor diet as a major potential contributing factor for multiple sclerosis. This is particularly so among people who eat a standard Western diet high in dairy products, meats, and commercially processed foods that contain high amounts of unhealthy, saturated fats, but are low in unsaturated fats containing essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs are vital for the optimum health of both the brain and the nervous system, and are found in fresh fruits and vegetables, oily fish, and olive and seed oils, all of which are often lacking in the diets of MS patients. The lack of such foods and the EFAs they contain can set the stage for demyelination.
Electromagnetic Fields: Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are generated when electric currents flow through wire coils. This type of low-level radiation can cause a variety of health problems because of how EMFs can negatively impact the body`s bio-energetic balance and damage enzymes that regulate growth. EMFs can also negatively affect the body`s pineal gland, as well as upset the balance and production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, both of which are essential for optimum brain and nerve function. Research has shown that MS patients usually exhibit lower than normal levels of both these hormones, as well as calcification of the pineal gland. In addition, EMFs can interfere with the how the body’s cells divide and multiply.
You are exposed to EMFs every time you use an appliance that runs on electricity. These include computers, fluorescent lights, microwave ovens, televisions, and video terminals. Cell phones, electrical poles, and many types of motors also create unhealthy EMF exposure.
Environmental Toxins: Environmental toxins can cause or exacerbate MS in a variety of ways, including impairing and interrupting the body’s metabolic processes. In addition, environmental toxins can act directly to damage the myelin covering that protects nerve fibres. They can also distort cells and cell membranes, triggering an autoimmune response that can cause nerve damage and MS symptoms. Among the offending toxins are chemicals found in commercially processed foods, toxins contained in tap water, carbon monoxide, diesel exhaust, fumes and vapours released from gas water heaters, commercial solvents, aerosol sprays, and chemicals contained in the chipboard and foam used to make furniture and carpets.
Food Allergies and Sensitivities: People with multiple sclerosis often suffer from food allergies or sensitivities, which can greatly exacerbate their MS symptoms. The most common foods that trigger food allergies and sensitivities include coffee and caffeine products, corn, dairy products, food additives and preservatives, fungi such as mushrooms, gluten (a food ingredient in barley, oats, rye, spelt, and wheat), ketchup, milk, sugar, vinegar, wheat, and wine. However, any food can potentially act as an allergy trigger.
Genetic Predisposition: MS is not considered a hereditary disease. Even so, the disease does appear to be related to genetic predisposition. First generation descendants or relatives of people with MS have a 30 to 50 greater risk of developing the disease than people born into families where there is no history of multiple sclerosis. If your relatives have MS, you should be screened as early as possible.
Infections: Infection can greatly exacerbate MS symptoms, and may also play a role in causing it. Researchers, for example, have found that viral infections such as the Epstein Barr Virus, not only reduce the level of essential fatty acids in the brain to levels commonly found in MS patients, but infections can also interfere with the body`s ability to properly utilize essential fatty acids, weakening the immune system and possibly triggering autoimmune reactions that can result in demyelination. Based on such findings, holistic health practitioners warn that people who suffered from viral infections, especially Epstein Barr Virus or mononucleosis (which can be trigged by Epstein Barr) in childhood or adolescence, may be more susceptible to developing MS later on in life.
Other infectious agents known as stealth pathogens may also play a role in the development of MS, as well as exacerbate its symptoms. Stealth pathogens are types of bacteria with cell walls that lack proper structure, giving them the ability to easily transport DNA between the cells of the human body. Stealth pathogens can also fuse together. Both of these outcomes can trigger immune responses that can cause a variety of autoimmune diseases, including MS.
Another type of bacteria that can cause or contribute to MS is Borrelia mylophora. If this bacteria gains a foothold in the body, it can infiltrate the nervous system. In white blood cells` fervent effort to eliminate Borrelia mylophora, the immune system can also destroy surrounding myelin, causing MS. Borrelia mylophora is very similar to Borrelia burgdorferi, one of the causes of Lyme disease, and some researchers speculate that Lyme disease itself is also a cause of MS because of its similar effects on the body’s immune and nervous systems. For more information about the link between MS and Lyme disease, see our Find A Cure – Lyme Disease.
Leaky Gut Syndrome: Leaky gut syndrome is caused by food allergies and/or candidiasis causing a breach in the intestinal wall, allowing toxins to flood into the bloodstream. As this happens, the immune system attempts to correct the problem by launching an attack on these invaders. In the commotion, however, immune cells and antibodies may also attack healthy cells, including those that comprise myelin. The stress placed on the body by “leaky gut” syndrome can exacerbate the symptoms of people who already have MS, and also make people with MS more susceptible to additional pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and unhealthy yeasts.
Nutritional Deficiencies: Even when MS patients follow a healthy, balanced diet, they can often be deficient in vital nutrients because they have difficulty assimilating them. The most common nutrient deficiencies in MS patients are vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, folic acid, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc, along with various amino acids and essential fatty acids.
According to the late Hans Neiper, MS, a pioneering researcher and holistic physician in Germany, lack of calcium AEP, also known as colamine phosphate, can significantly increase the risk of MS. Calcium AEP is required for the body to produce the electrical charges on the myelin surface and on nerve cell membranes that are necessary for proper function of the central nervous system. Lack of calcium AEP not only interferes with the production of these electrical charges, Dr. Nieper maintained, but it also causes cells membranes to become too porous, allowing toxins and immune cells passage into the body`s nerve cells, creating an autoimmune reaction and the destruction of myelin.
Problems with blood flow:
A new and controversial theory is that some cases of MS may actually be due to problems with the flow of blood inside the body.
The idea is that some people may have narrowing of veins inside their brain and spinal cord and the blood supply from the brain and spine has trouble returning to the heart (known as cerebrospinal venous insufficiency).
This could lead to a build-up of tiny iron deposits inside nerve tissue, which may damage the nerves and /or trigger an immune response.
Some studies have found higher-than-expected levels of cerebrospinal venous insufficiency in people with MS, but others have not.
Further research is on-going looking at larger groups of people and using more sophisticated brain imaging scanning.
Stress and Trauma: Many cases of MS are often initially triggered by prolonged emotional stress or physical trauma. Moreover, the initial symptoms of MS will often first manifest at the part of the body that suffered an injury.
Sunlight and Vitamin D Deficiency
Research into MS around the world has shown it’s more likely to occur in countries far from the equator. For example, MS is relatively common in the UK, North America and Scandinavia, but rare in Malaysia or Ecuador.
It’s possible that people living further from the equator are exposed to less sunlight and, therefore, have less vitamin D in their body. Some studies have found a link between lower levels of vitamin D and incidence of MS.
MS patients should emphasize an organic, whole foods diet that is low on saturated fats and includes plenty of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. According to Dr Robert Swank (Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland), who has been exploring the link between diet and MS for more than 50 years, saturated fat intake should be limited to not more than 15 grams each day, which is the equivalent of three teaspoons per day. Ideally, all sources of saturated fats, such as dairy products, meats, and commercially processed and packaged foods, should be avoided. Instead, emphasis should be on foods high in essential fatty acids and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are contained in fresh fruits and vegetables; oily fish, such as bluefish, bass, salmon, sardines, and trout; and olive, flaxseed, safflower, and sunflower oils. For additional benefit, Dr Swank recommends supplementing with between four to 10 teaspoons of unsaturated oils each day.
Other foods to include in your daily meals are:
- mung beans
- mung bean sprouts
- free-range poultry
- organic nuts and seeds.
Foods to avoid:
- dairy products
- commercially prepared and fast foods
- fermented foods
- hydrogenated oils and solid fats
- red meats
- hydrolyzed vegetable proteins
- food additives and preservatives.
Proper nutritional supplementation is essential for MS patients. This includes supplementing with essential fatty acids, especially:
- omega-3 oils such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- evening primrose oil
- flaxseeds and flaxseed oil.Many holistic physicians also recommend oil instillation in conjunction with a chamomile enema. The purpose of the enema, which involves taking chamomile tea into the lower bowel via an enema bag, is to clean out the colon and to relax the intestinal muscles, which can often spasm in cases of MS. Following the enema, 3 tablespoons of either organic, cold-pressed flax, sunflower, or walnut oil is inserted into the colon using a syringe tipped with a catheter. This enables the body to quickly absorb the essential fatty acids the oil contains through the intestinal walls. For best results, both the enema and oil instillation should be administered each night for three weeks. Afterwards, the dose can be reduced to 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons and can be administered three times a week.In addition to essential fatty acids, the following nutrients are also recommended for MS patients:
- beta-carotene and carotenoids
- B-complex vitamins, along with vitamin B1, B3, B5, B6, and B12
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
- folic acid
- calcium AEP
- coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Other helpful supplements include alpha lipoic acid; aspartic acid; dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO); gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA); glutamic acid; glycine; methylsufonylmethane (MSM); and the amino acids carnitine, choline, cysteine, glutathione, and methione. 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan), which aids in the body’s production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, is also recommended for MS patients.
Prescription and non-prescription medication:
What non-prescription and prescription drugs are you taking? Your non-prescription and prescription are partially the reason that you have this illness or disease – you need to get off these medications, but do so only under the guidance of a licensed health care practitioner.
We know that when the body is out of balance, energy doesn’t flow, leading blockages and eventually disease. Here are some things you can do to combat stress and restore balance:
- Go to a Dr. Morter BEST (Bio-Energetic Synchronisation Technique) Practitioner.
- Sign up for Energetic Re-Balancing: 2 practitioners to consider are:
Stephen Lewis, founder of the Aim Program. Find out more by clicking here.
. Find out more by clicking here.
- Consider using Mary Miller’s Iching System Products – ichingsystemsinstruments.com
- Reiki healing is very powerful in releasing stress and emotional baggage. Find a practitioner here.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has had remarkable results in dissolving stress. Find a local practitioner here or go to www.thetappingsolution.com or www.tftrx.com
- Try Hypnotherapy to relax the mind. Find a practitioner here.
MS and Homeopathy: www.homeopathy.ca/articles_det13.shtml
MS and Traditional Chinese Medicine: www.itmonline.org/arts/ms&tcm.htm
Scalp acupuncture in treating MS: acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=31710
Healing Journey for MS with flower essences: www.flowersociety.org/rebeccawood.htm
MS – a natural treatment: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zYX1RFI8gk
Beat MS through diet: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypqaogsfw6k
Acupuncture and homeopathy for MS: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReLarol-uTw
MS, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Part 1: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rpHRpaDBKg
MS, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Part 2: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ubhp_8V_zs
Vitamin D helps prevent Multiple Sclerosis: www.naturalnews.com/031304_vitamin_D_multiple_sclerosis.html
Harvard study suggests Vitamin D may cut risk of multiple sclerosis: www.naturalnews.com/021365_vitamin_D_multiple_sclerosis.html
Vitamin B3 blocks progression of MS: www.naturalnews.com/020482_vitamin_B3_multiple_sclerosis.html
Popular MS drugs don’t prevent disability: www.naturalnews.com/036600_MS_drugs_research_disability.html
Further Information (links and books)
Multiple Sclerosis – A Self Help Guide to its Management – Judy Graham; The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book, Roy L. Swank MD, PhD; Natural Way With Multiple Sclerosis, Richard Thomas; Reversing Multiple Sclerosis: 9 Effective Steps to Recover Your Health, Celeste Pepe.
Linda Cheek – healing diseases such as cancer, immune system disorders, autism, fibromyralgia
Andrea Butje | Aromahead [email protected] – aromatherapy
Carrie Vitt [email protected] – organic food recipes.
David Spector-NSR/USA [email protected] – meditation, stress
Judith Hoad [email protected] – herbalist.
Kath May [email protected] – reiki, tai chi.
Lillian Bridges [email protected] – Chinese medicine, living naturally.
Monika [email protected] – aromatherapy.
Rakesh [email protected] – Ayurvedic Practitioner.