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Condition - Focus on multiple sclerosis

By Debbie Paddington Dip ION

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the brain and the spinal chord.  Inside your brain and spinal chord there are two types of matter, grey and white. The white matter contains nerve fibres that are coated with myelin. Myelin allows for the smooth, high-speed transmission of electrochemical messages between the brain, the spinal cord and the rest of the body. In MS, the myelin is damaged, causing nerve messages to become slow or blocked completely, resulting in diminished or lost function. MS is an autoimmune disease, which means that it’s the body’s own immune system that is attacking the myelin.

Symptoms

Because nerves in any part of the brain or spinal cord may be damaged, patients with multiple sclerosis can have symptoms in many parts of the body. These symptoms include: muscle spasms, numbness, loss of balance, constipation, poor co-ordination, frequent need to urinate, eye discomfort, muscle pain, depression and fatigue.

Possible Contributory Factors

Having certain infections– a variety of viruses have been linked to multiple sclerosis. Currently, the greatest interest is in the association of multiple sclerosis with Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis. Candida species infection may be associated with increased odds of MS.

Latitude – the farther away from the equator a person lives, the higher the risk of MS.

Having certain other autoimmune diseases –you're very slightly more likely to develop multiple sclerosis if you have thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease.

Having a family history–if one of your parents or siblings has had multiple sclerosis, you have a one to three per cent chance of developing the disease.

Dietary recommendations

Increase fruit and vegetables,as they are a good source of antioxidants; make sure you get at least five servings a day.

Include nuts and seeds and oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, as they are an important source of omega 3 essential fatty acids.

Drink six to eight glasses of filtered water daily.

Eat a diet rich in fibre, particularly from whole grains, including oats, brown rice and quinoa. Flax seeds are also a good source of fibre and essential fatty acids. A tablespoon of flax seeds over your cereal in the morning may ease constipation.

Drink green tea, as it contains antioxidants.

Use healthy oils for cooking, such as coconut butter.

Limit the amount of red meat in the diet; instead include chicken, turkey, fish, tofu or beans for protein.

Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas and sugar.

Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol and other stimulants.

Eliminate all suspected food allergens, including dairy, wheat, gluten and soya.

Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods, such as biscuits, crackers, cakes, processed foods and margarine.

Supplement recommendations

Vitamin D – several studies have suggested that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may have a protective effect and lower the risk of developing MS. Other studies suggest that for people who already have MS, vitamin D may lessen the frequency and severity of their symptoms.

Antioxidant complex –may help to reduce the damage to nerves by free radicals.

B vitamins– important for a healthy nervous system.

Omega 3 fish oil– helps manage the body’s natural inflammatory response and is important for the brain and nervous system.

Starflower oil– may be important for a healthy nervous system

Calcium and magnesium– may be important in the development, structure and stability of myelin.

Olive leaf– has been traditionally drunk as a tea for many years due to its potential benefits to health.

Probiotics – help to support a healthy digestive system.

Rhodiola– helps relieve the symptoms of stress.

Devil’s claw– helps reduce muscle aches and pains.

Lifestyle

Aim to take as much regular exercise as possible– regular aerobic exercise may help improved strength, muscle tone, balance and coordination, and help with depression. Swimming is a good option for people who are bothered by heat.

Get plenty of restfatigue is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis, and although it's generally unrelated to your activity level, resting may make you feel less tired.

Keep cool– multiple sclerosis symptoms often worsen when your body temperature increases.

Relieve stress– because stress may trigger or worsen signs and symptoms, try to learn to relax. Activities such as yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation or deep breathing may be helpful.  


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