Here I begin a quick three-part series on multiple sclerosis (MS). This is a chronic illness; a degenerative disease with no cure. Yet there has been some suggestion that natural medicine and supplements deserve more of a look. Could they help? Part one will address the disease itself, so let’s get started.
Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease in which inflammation interferes with the brain and central nervous system. It’s characterized by damaged nerve fibers in the eyes, brain and spine. Potentially debilitating, it’s a disease that fools the body into using antibodies and white blood cells to work against proteins in the protective lining of the nerves in your brain and spine. These nerves are, of course, central in vital body signals, including all your muscles and your eyesight.
Its causes are unknown as is as how severe a particular case will be — MS can be a mild illness in one of its 400,000 victims in the U.S., but can cause permanent disability in another. It strikes women twice as often as men, and sets in between the ages of 20 and 50. The mysterious nature of MS means one person will have one attack, the next person will have several attacks but recover, and the next person will have frequent attacks and never quite recover. Even still, another person will have a slow progression over a few decades, eventually leaving them helpless.
Heredity may play a role in MS, as about five percent of those affected have a sibling who’s affected and 15% have a d close relative. Symptoms will vary depending on which nerve fibers are impacted — if it’s those that carry sensory information, you will experience abnormal sensations. If it’s those that signal the muscles, then you will experience symptoms relating to motor skills. As MS progresses, movements can become shaky and ineffective, with muscle weakness interfering with the ability to walk. Speech can become slurred and, late in the disease, dementia can develop. The good news is that most people with MS have a normal life span and 75% don’t end up in a wheelchair. For 40% of patients, their normal activities aren’t disrupted.
Many drugs are prescribed for MS, but they are rarely without side effects. And none are always effective. Corticosteroids, actually, are the main treatment and are given to treat short-term, immediate symptoms. They don’t, though, stop the progression of MS. Are there natural ways to treat this widespread, chronic disease? That question involves a lot of hearsay in the medical world and brings truckloads of cynicism from many experts in the field. But recently, researchers have found good results that suggest we should take another look at what supplements might offer. Stay tuned for more on what supplements have to offer MS sufferers.