By: Esther Vasa
This article should in no way be considered as complete and comprehensive. These are just my observations. I am only listing the problems and deficiencies and possible tips to help people with MS in general. I have no interest in anything other than educating people and those that are fighting Multiple Sclerosis actively.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease of the central nervous system that destroys the myelin sheaths. Research so far has neither concluded the underlying cause of the disease nor found a remedy for this. Most researches point to genetics or viral infections as the probable cause. All the disease modifying drugs so far help with slowing the progression and/or reducing the relapses. Nothing should discourage us because there are ways to fight Multiple Sclerosis actively with proper medical treatment, diet, supplements and an active lifestyle. Please follow your neurologist's recommendations and not a co-fighter's. Start off on the disease modifying drugs (DMDs) as needed! Our bodies are different and the ways our bodies fight a disease are different. Do not base your decisions based on somebody's fight against MS. There is no one size fits all in the world of MS.
Most patients that I have discussed with have indicated the problems below:
- Severe inflammation, numbness and tingling
- Coordination Problems
- Muscle Spasms
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Intestinal Gas
- Bladder Incontinence
- Blurry or Double Vision
- Poor Digestive System
- Gluten Intolerance
- Lack of energy
Slightly less mentioned or noticed problems are:
- Sexual problems
- Slurry speech
- Memory problems
- Cognitive Problems
- Inability to multi-task
B-Complex especially B6 & B12
Less observed deficiencies:
- Vitamin K (K1+K2)
Tips to fight the above problems and deficiencies:
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Let us first take a look at the digestive system. A poor digestive system has a direct impact on the immune system and on the bowel movement. It also indicates lack of healthy flora in the gut. This is a result of taking antibiotics to fight viral infections. This should tell you why viral infections could potentially be one of the causes for MS. I have had various infections in the past of the throat, larynx, ear and pharynx etc. I can see what the antibiotics have done to me over a period of time. Healthy flora can be replaced back into the digestive system through supplements by taking complete probiotics in combination with digestive enzymes. Healthy flora feeds on healthy fiber and that is where intake of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds come into play. Also you could supplement fiber by using Psyllium husk or Isapgol (as it is most commonly called in India). Lack of good bacteria in the gut means, growth of unwanted bacteria in the intestines. When you promote good bacteria, the bad bacteria naturally get less room for prospering. For a healthy immune system, a healthy digestive system is a MUST, per my observation!
INFLAMMATION: Coming to inflammation, this can also be addressed through diet and supplements. The first best tip is to get ample rest! Incorporate vegetables and foods that are rich in anti-oxidants that fight inflammation. The list of vegetables that have anti-inflammatory properties are: Onions, leeks, spring onions, garlic, ginger, curcumin (turmeric), berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries etc.,), herbal teas (Chamomile and Rosemary especially), walnuts, pineapple (enzyme bromelain has anti-inflammatory properties), papaya (papain helps in digestion and elimination), cantaloupe, melons, grapes, walnuts, artichokes, apples, carrots etc., (all the colored fruits and vegetables). Some herbs like boswellia and white willow bark might help too. Check out Dr. Weil's food pyramid with anti-inflammatory foods. The foods rich in anti-oxidants will stop damage to your cells and tissues caused by free radicals in your body. Free radicals in your body promote inflammation and cause degenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis. Reduce or even stop this by incorporating diet rich in anti-oxidants and by taking supplements like Krill Oil (rich in Omega 3 oils like EPA and DHA), Vitamins C & E etc.,
MUSCLE SPASMS: For muscle spasms, lack of coordination and seizures please do take treatment and probably try the tips listed here. Include stretches in your routine, walk if you can, ride a bike (stationary or regular), and lift small weights. Take some time to stabilize if you notice that you are shaky. If you are in a position to do Yoga or Pilates, do. Practice and don’t give up!
UTI: For UTIs, do drink a lot of water and include cranberries in your diet. I have noticed that when the digestive system settles down, the UTIs sort of reduce. I think when one gets constipated, the E.Coli bacteria prospers and then proceeds into the Urinary Tract. If you correct your digestive problem, then the chance of you getting UTI is reduced. D-Mannose helps fight UTI. Check the blogpost on D-Mannose. Also, cinnamon helps fight UTIs. It is a powerful anti-microbial agent that can also kill E. coli and other bacteria.
BLADDER INCONTINENCE: For bladder incontinence, I would like to recommend a link provided by Rebecca Hoover, author of Intelligent Peron's Guide to Beating Multiple Sclerosis. This focusses on Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles.
VISION PROBLEMS: For vision related problems, along with your treatment for MS, I think one needs to eat foods high in Beta-Carotene (Peppers, lettuce, Kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, carrots, turnips, parsley, basil, sweet potato etc.,). Also time and again feast on foods high in lutein (Squash, broccoli, orange and most foods that are high in beta-carotene also are rich in lutein). If these foods are not sufficient, take supplements upon discussing with your doctor.
GLUTEN INTOLERANCE: Stay away from gluten as best as you can. Avoid wheat, rye, barley, oats and any foods with gluten. If you are into oats, buy gluten-free certified oats. Please check the labels carefully for any additives that may have gluten. I would suggest you to stay away from any canned and processed foods also as it helps to go gluten-free easily. While genetics is widely spoken of as one reason for MS, the high concentrations of MS sufferers are found in the areas where gluten intake is high. I do not undermine the possibility of genetics as one cause of MS, however! But just an observation that makes me wonder. As for me, avoiding gluten was one best thing I have done in my life to help improve my overall health.
FATIGUE: For fatigue and lack of energy, include high protein snacks at a few times during the day. Also, you may want to check with your neurologist on ways to fight fatigue. Gabapentin seems to help fight inflammation, numbness and also fatigue.
INSOMNIA: Inability to sleep well through the night could be due to many reasons. Discuss with your doctor and make sure it is not related to severe problems like asthma and sleep apnea. Your diet can help you in sleeping tight through the night. Foods that you consume all through the day and in the night do have an impact on your sleep. If you are a smoker, quit smoking as nicotine acts as a stimulant. If you consume alcohol, try reducing its intake or you better stay away from it completely to help you with continued sleep. Caffeine also acts as stimulant and so do not consume caffeinated drinks from the afternoon. Keep your bed room dark as this keeps the neurotransmitters that govern sleep at right levels. Enjoy a good, healthy well balanced meal with a right combination of complex carbohydrates and proteins a few hours before going to bed as opposed to right before going to bed. You can enjoy a few cups of chamomile tea or oolang tea or basil/tulsi tea from the afternoon. These are rich in bioflavonoids that fight inflammation and promote healthy good night sleep. Try maintaining right body weight and stay fit.
COGNITIVE PROBLEMS: Cognitive problems can be managed by staying organized. It might be a good idea to create lists of tasks to be done and follow-up through reminders.Try solving puzzles, crosswords and brain teasers to keep your brain sharp. A cognitive reserve can help delaying progression of Multiple Sclerosis, in general.
SEXUAL PROBLEMS: For sexual problems, please discuss with your doctor for finding out what the actual problem is and for correcting the underlying reason. Communication is the key in maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse. Vitamin B3 is vital for synthesizing those sex harmones both in men and women. For men, zinc seems to be a required mineral for proper prostrate functioning. For women, the problems could range from PMS to menopausal symptoms. You can fight PMS by using right combination of foods rich in B6, Vitamins C & E, Magnesium and exercise. For menopause symptoms, avoid too much caffeine, completely avoid alcohol and very spicy foods. Practice Kegel exercises, take calcium supplement and try staying active from all fronts.
DEPRESSION: One could end up in depression for various reasons. The most common causes are the loss of a loved one, unemployment, changes in marriage state or any situation that is not favorable. When a situation like this occurs, it is common to be in blues for some time. Find activities of interest to you. What best works for me is reading my Bible, communing with God, spending more time with family, taking walks, talking to a cheerful friend, singing songs of joy and resting well. During times like this, your neurotransmitters especially serotonin goes out of balance. You might want to discuss with your doctor to correct this imbalance during your times of depression. Do not bank on comfort foods that are loaded with sugars and saturated fat; doing so will only aggravate your depression symptoms. Foods that fight inflammation also help fight depression. Enjoy walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, fresh fruit juice, avocados, fish like salmon, anchovies and sardines, vegetables and bask in the sun or take D3 supplements.
DEFICIENCIES: The most notable deficiencies are Vitamin D3, B12, Omega 3 and Magnesium. On the less common deficient side I noticed Vitamin K (K1+K2) and Calcium. I think deficiency in Magnesium and B-Complex cause tingling and numbness. For those deficiencies recognized by you and your doctor, please take supplements as necessary. I take D3-B12-Omega 3 (regularly) and Magnesium-Calcium-C (occasionally).
As always, stay healthy, live happy, laugh everyday and make the best out of your life as it is a pure gift from the hand of God. The supreme one is our ultimate source of strength and wisdom. Look up to Him for everything!