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Multiple sclerosis - Known for short as MS, multiple sclerosis results from damage to the sheaths surrounding the nerve fibres of the central nervous system. Like electric wire without insulation, affected nerves are unable to function properly. Just like electrical wiring, our nerves are sheathed in an insulation material and the name of this substance around our nerves is myelin. During the course of the disease, the body's own white scavenger cells attack the myelin so that the electrical impulses can no longer travel normally. The attacking of the scavenger cells on the sheath around the nerves results in scarring, which is where multiple sclerosis gets it's name from - multiple sclerosis means 'many scars'.
Sufferers of multiple sclerosis may develop poor balance, lack of coordination, weakness, numbness. There may also be tingling or numbness in the extremities, while blurring of vision, poor bladder control, poor bowel control and especially fatigue and depression are other likely symptoms. . They may also become clumsy and develop slurred speech.
The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown and subject to much research. About one person in 2,000 is affected, women are more affected by multiple sclerosis than men. The average age of onset is about 30.
Symptoms usually develop over a period of hours or days. The disease may attack only once, but usually runs a course of relapses (attacks) and remissions (periods of recovery) over many years. Some 40 per cent of cases begin with blurred, dimmed or double vision.
There is no medical cure, but nutritional therapy can make a significant difference to the course of the disease, especially if instigated at an early stage.
Since there can be a number of factors that trigger off MS, nutritional approaches work best if individually designed. Often a food intolerance can aggravate symptoms and this should always be checked out (see the link for the allergies section, further down below).
Most MS patients, however, do seem to have difficulty in metabolizing fats, so a
wholefood diet that is low in saturated fats, is an essential starting-point. At
the same time, evening primrose oil at around 3g daily, or two tablespoons of
linseed oil, will assist many patients; others may improve with the help of fish
Low intakes of magnesium can produce symptoms similar to MS, such as twitching and muscle fatigue, so plenty of dark-green vegetables and whole cereals are a must. This mineral is also involved in the synthesis of fats and other food constituents - another good reason to increase consumption. Furthermore, it is needed for the manufacture of lecithin, along with B vitamins (especially B6, choline and inositol) and essential fatty adds, found to be seriously deficient in the brains and myelin sheaths of MS sufferers; as a natural emulsifier of fats, lecithin obviously has special significance in the treatment of this disease. Derived from soya beans, it can be bought in granules and sprinkled on foods; take three tablespoons daily. At the same time replace meat portions with soya protein (see the link below for the Healthy Diet further below).
Another nutrient vital to the nervous system is vitamin D. In a few cases, there
may be an inherited tendency towards poor absorption or increased need. Young
patients may therefore benefit from supplementation at around 10mcg (4001U)
along with calcium, together with dietary emphasis on fish and free-range eggs:
small amounts of fish-liver oil, especially in winter, are likely to be
beneficial. Fresh air and sunshine will be good for all patients.
Self help - MS sufferers should make sure that their diet is low in fats and high in fibre. Avoid sugar and all sugar-containing items such as chocolate. Do not drink stimulants such as coffee, tea and cola drinks; use fructose (fruit sugar), weak lemon tea, decaffeinated coffee, herb teas and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid pulses (beans, peas, lentils), white bread and pasta, peanuts, salted nuts, hot spices and other such flavourings. Stop smoking and avoid other people's smoke. Cut out all alcohol, especially if your balance is impaired.
What the therapists recommend.
Yoga - Effective breathing, in which the diaphragm is the body's pump, is
said to enhance the electrical charge running through the nervous system and
stimulate activity. Where muscles are constricted, relaxation and relaxed
breathing may help to ease the tension.
Massage - General massage of the entire body is applied, if possible
using slow, rhythmic and fairly deep movements and kneading. Massage of the legs
is most beneficial in maintaining some degree of muscle tone and, equally
important, abdominal massage helps avoid constipation, which is often suffered
by those unable to take normal exercise.
Naturopathy - This is not a complaint for which self help can be advised, but there may be scope for individual advice on nutrition, to support the nervous system. In recent years, some benefit has been claimed with evening primrose oil capsules - but see a qualified practitioner first.
An orthodox view on multiple sclerosis - The first task of a conventional
doctor is to diagnose the disease. As well as performing a thorough neurological
examination, including testing skin sensation, muscle power, coordination and
reflexes, the doctor may recommend a lumbar puncture. A local anaesthetic is
given, and fluid is withdrawn for testing from around the spinal cord through a
needle inserted into the small of the back.
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