Although in general doctors are baffled at the exact causes of multiple sclerosis (MS), there are certain factors that lead to the chronic and progressive disease. Multiple sclerosis damages the myelin sheath in the central nervous system (CNS). In people with MS, once the myelin sheath deteriorates, nerve function is lost. In turn, the body will attack other parts of the CNS, including the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord.
People who suffer from multiple sclerosis don’t have it easy. Many of the signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis include deep fatigue and weakness, numbness and tingling, dizziness and balance problems, cognitive problems, vision issues, pain, bladder problems, bowel problems, depression, tremors and seizures, hearing loss, and speech problems.
Multiple sclerosis is considered a rare condition, but it is one of the more common neurological diseases. It is estimated that 250,000 and 350,000 Americans suffer from multiple sclerosis. There are about 200 new MS cases every week in the U.S.
Top 10 Possible Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
As mentioned, the exact cause of multiple sclerosis is somewhat of a mystery. That said, there are various theories about MS causes. One common concept is that multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. Basically, your white blood cells will think that your myelin sheath is the bad guy, and will attack it. The following are the top 10 possible causes and contributing factors associated with multiple sclerosis:
1. Viruses or other infections: Various studies have suggested that certain viruses can damage the myelin sheath and potentially lead to the development of multiple sclerosis. There have also been viruses isolated from cultures in MS patients. Viruses most associated with multiple sclerosis include Epstein-Barr and measles. Other viruses include human herpesvirus 6, parainfluenza, scrapie virus, and subacute myelo-optico-neuropathy virus. Cerebrospinal fluid will surround the spinal cord and brain. This fluid in most MS patients contains an elevated level of antibodies. It is also possible that having one or more virus can trigger an autoimmune response like MS.
2. Candida: Candida is also linked with multiple sclerosis, according to some research. In a study published in the journal Nature in 2012, researchers from Switzerland found that Candida albicans is associated with the development of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. Many symptoms of systematic candida are similar to MS, including persistent fatigue, constipation, numbness, depression, and concentration problems. Treatment of candida can therefore help control MS symptoms. Some candida treatment includes high-potency probiotics, oil of oregano, and herbs like garlic, wormwood, and pau d’arco.
3. Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D deficiency is considered very common in MS patients. In fact, population and clinical studies have both linked low levels of vitamin D with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis. A cohort study published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis in 2009 found that 84% of 199 MS patients were deficient in vitamin D. Human studies have also linked vitamin D lower rates of MS and fewer inflammatory cytokines (proteins that help regulate cell signals). By contrast, high levels of vitamin D are linked with a lower MS risk. Mice studies have also found that vitamin D3 can help prevent MS.
4. Environmental toxins: Environmental or industrial toxins are linked with triggering multiple sclerosis. In a study from 2010, Purdue University researchers found that an environmental toxin called acrolein may contribute to the cause multiple sclerosis. Acrolein is found in air pollutants like tobacco and auto exhaust. For the study, acrolein was high in about 60% of the spinal cord tissue in mice with similar conditions to MS. Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College also found in 2014 that multiple sclerosis may be triggered by a common foodborne bacteria called epsilon toxin.
5. Food allergies: Food allergies or sensitivities appear to be a factor for some multiple sclerosis sufferers. Severe MS symptoms are associated with food allergens. Since multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, food allergies and sensitivities may be triggered when the immune system is overactive. Common food allergies or sensitivities include dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Food allergies can be tested using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or a food elimination diet, while sensitivities can be determined with bio-analysis with bio-energetic test, bio-meridian test, or a meridian stress assessment test.
6. Toxic metals: There is also an association between toxic metal accumulation and multiple sclerosis. In particular, mercury is thought to be a cause or an aggravating factor in the development of MS. A study published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research in 2012 found that mercury levels are higher in multiple sclerosis patients. As a result, high serum mercury levels increase the development of MS. It is recommended to consult with a holistic-oriented dentist to make sure mercury fillings are not triggering immune system reactions, infections, and neurological disorders like MS.
7. Free radical damage: Free radicals are molecules or atoms that have an unpaired electron. As a result, they are considered highly reactive and unstable. They may form from inflammation, alcohol, smoking, stress, and a diet high in processed food. In a study published in the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta in 2011, researchers suggest that free radicals play a key role in the various processes that lead to MS. In theory, antioxidants like vitamin E may prevent tissue damage and improve the survival of MS patients.
8. Stress and hormonal imbalance: Scientific evidence has long shown that stressful life events are linked with a significant increase in a risk of MS. A study published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis in 2006 suggests that MS patients should avoid high-stress situations. In particular, the number of stressors a person experiences is associated with a lower risk of MS. An imbalance of the stress hormone cortisol is also related with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis.
9. A diet high in saturated fat: Diet is also thought to play a role in the development of multiple sclerosis. Although some evidence fails to link saturated fat intake with multiple sclerosis, other studies have connected MS and the consumption of animal fat and meat. In a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 1998, researchers found a positive correlation between animal fat and an increased risk of MS. By contrast, a diet high in fruits and vegetables was linked with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis. More omega-3 fatty acids like flaxseed or flaxseed oil also help to strengthen the myelin sheath and reduce inflammation of nerve fibers.
10. Smoking: The chemicals in cigarettes are also correlated as a possible cause of multiple sclerosis. A study published in the journal Archives of Neurology in 2009 suggested that cigarette smoke has an influence of the progression of MS—the study included 1,465 MS patients with average age of 42-years-old.
Who Gets Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Certain people are at greater risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Women are more likely to be affected with multiple sclerosis than men; about two-thirds of MS sufferers are women.
MS can affect people of any age, though most cases present themselves between the ages of 20 and 40. Some evidence also suggests that there is a genetic link with multiple sclerosis. Your risk of MS increases by fivefold to tenfold when you have a parent of sibling with the disease.
Studies have also found that geographic and racial factors lead to MS. A dietary link of MS suggests that it more common among African Americans than Asians and black Africans. It also generally affects Caucasians of Northern European descent. The condition is also more common in populations further from the equator. As a result, those living in a high MS risk area include Canada, Great Britain, the northern U.S., northern Europe, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Scandinavia.
Multiple Sclerosis Risk Factors
There are also other risk factors that can lead to the development of multiple sclerosis. It is also thought that people living in a high-risk area also increase their risk if they live there before the age of 15. On the other hand, those that move to a high-risk area after age 15 appear to have a lower risk of MS.
There is also a link between the month of birth and the risk of multiple sclerosis, according to various population studies. The research found a greater risk of MS in births after May, and a lower risk of MS in those born after October. It is also interesting that when the mother has low vitamin D levels during the winter months there is a higher risk of MS, but there is a lower risk when vitamin D is high during the summer months.
How to Treat MS Naturally
It is important to understand multiple sclerosis causes to help determine proper treatment. What is the treatment for MS? It will often focus on speeding up the recovery from attacks, managing MS symptoms, and slowing the progression of the condition. Medical treatment used for multiple sclerosis attacks include corticosteroids and plasma exchange. Treatments for modifying progression of MS include interferon beta cytokines, glatiramer acetate, dimethyl fumarate, fingolimod, and teriflunomide.
There are also plenty of natural MS treatments. For example, omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil help to reduce inflammation and improve nerve function. Other alternative treatments for MS include yoga, meditation, massage, acupuncture, proteolytic enzymes, passionflower, vitamin C, B complex vitamins, and a diet low in saturated fat and high in vegetables.
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