You may have heard of MS, but what is multiple sclerosis? What are the causes & symptoms of multiple sclerosis? Are there natural remedies that may help? In this blog we'll answer all this and more!
Multiple sclerosis (MS) impacts 1 million people in the United States alone and an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide. The condition can lead to severe disabilities, but most people living with MS will not experience this level of disability. Lifespans for people with MS are near normal.
The condition impacts a person’s brain and spinal cord, leading to a unique set of symptoms. Your immune system will incorrectly attack your myelin, or the protective covering of your brain and spine.
Over time, scarring and lesions can occur, which is why MS will make it more difficult for the signals from the brain to reach your body. Slowing the progression of MS is possible with a mix of traditional and alternative treatment options.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
MS can have multiple symptoms that many other conditions also present, which can cause sufferers to overlook the early signs of the condition. If you have MS, the most common early signs and symptoms are:
- Balance issues
- Bladder dysfunction
- Bowel dysfunction
- Blurred vision
- Hearing loss
- Memory or thinking problems
- Muscle stiffness
- Speech issues
Symptoms can be sporadic, with some lingering and others coming and going. The condition impacts everyone differently, so you may experience one symptom and then not experience it again for years.
Others will have symptoms that worsen week after week.
Self-monitoring is important because it will allow you to establish a timeline for your symptoms to help your doctor fully understand how MS is impacting your life.
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
A doctor will need to diagnose the condition, and more often than not, the diagnosis will come from a neurologist. The doctor will conduct an exam to check for any nerve function impairment. An eye exam as well as an MRI and spinal tap may be required for a full diagnosis.
Doctors will focus in on the central nervous system to determine if any damage to the system has occurred.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
The risk of MS is increased if a parent or close relative also has MS, but it’s not a hereditary condition. Approximately 0.1% of people are at risk of MS, while this risk is up to 5% if your parent or sibling suffers from MS.
The exact causes of multiple sclerosis is unknown, but it’s an autoimmune disease that causes the body to begin attacking itself, specifically your nerves’ and brain’s protective, fatty coating. While doctors still don’t know why the disease occurs in some people and not others, they have pinpointed some factors that can increase the risk of MS, including:
- Age. Anyone can suffer from MS, but the onset of the disease usually occurs in people between the age of 20 and 40.
- History. If there’s a family history of MS, your chances of having MS increase drastically.
- Infection. It seems that certain viral infections can increase the risk of MS developing, including mononucleosis.
- Sex. Females have a two to three times higher chance of MS than men.
- Smoking. Statistically, smokers that have MS are far more likely to have a recurrence than nonsmokers.
- Vitamin D. A deficiency of Vitamin D is associated with a higher risk of MS occurring.
Climate may also play a role in MS. Multiple sclerosis occurs more often in individuals that live in temperate climates across Europe, Australia, United States and New Zealand.
7 Natural Remedies for Multiple Sclerosis
“Remedy” is a very vague term when it comes to MS because none of the natural remedies available can stop the condition completely, but they help manage symptoms and may slow the progression of the autoimmune disease.
1. CBD and Cannabis
CBD and cannabis are known for being able to help reduce muscle spasms, tightness and pain. One study from 2018 on cannabidiol and its ability to improve mobility for MS sufferers showed very promising signs.
The study found that many of the MS symptoms that impact mobility were controlled with the use of CBD, primarily:
Researchers in the study found that CBD greatly improved the mobility of MS sufferers, but they do note that CBD may cause side effects or issues when taking certain medications.
2. Exercise and Diet
Herbs, supplements and medications may help MS sufferers, but diet and exercise are equally as important. Medical professionals recommend that you engage in the following:
- Strength training. Weakness and fatigue can be combatted with strength training. Weight training, body weight exercises and even resistance bands can help you strengthen your bones and build muscle.
- Stretching. In conjunction with strength training, stretching can help improve a person’s muscular control and mobility. Stiffness and tightness associated with MS can be alleviated with a stretching routine.
- Diet. A proper diet can help you overcome some of the symptoms of MS, including high-fiber, low fat diets. Cranberry juice can help people suffering from MS-related bladder problems, and eating more foods high in vitamin B6, B12, C and D is also equally important.
For anyone suffering from mobility issues, diet and exercise will make maintaining your mobility easier, too.
3. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle is known for its potent protection of the liver. Studies show that milk thistle can help improve the health of and reduce inflammation of the liver. Offered in tincture and supplement form, there are also studies suggesting that milk thistle may help modulate the immune system.
Initial research indicates that milk thistle may improve the effectiveness of many MS medications, leading to better overall results.
DMSO is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and may help with symptoms of MS. One study conducted on 34 pations with MS, found that DMSO could beneficial for patients who don't have a rapidly progressing form of the disease, as it helped with repair of damaged tissues. The treatment was more effective for patients with a remitting course of MS and results varied with a rapidly progressing form of MS, the results were unclear. They did not note any side effects.
DMSO can be used topically for targeted pain and inflammation relief. It also easily travels through tissues therefore helps to increase the efficacy of other ingredients and medications.
Turmeric’s main compound curcumin has been the focus of multiple studies, with many benefits that can alleviate MS symptoms. Curcumin has neuroprotective effects and is a known anti-inflammatory.
A 2011 study on curcumin’s ability to help treat multiple sclerosis found that the spice’s neuroprotective effects and anti-inflammatory properties were able to curb symptoms and may slow progression.
The power of ginseng is well-known, and it has a long list of health benefits. Panax ginseng is often found in nootropics and other supplements because of its ability to improve memory and critical thinking – two things MS impacts.
When used for someone that has MS, ginseng was found to reduce the fatigue that the disease causes.
Caution: There is some evidence that ginseng may be able to stimulate the central nervous system, which may have a negative effect on MS. You'll want to consult with your physician before taking this supplement.
Ginger is known for being a relatively safe ingredient and is tolerated very well by most people. You can purchase the root in the store or sip on ginseng tea to reap its benefits. The use of ginseng as a natural treatment dates back centuries, and in folk medicine, it is shown to reduce:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Stomach problems
Ginger is equally known for its neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that ginseng is a potent anti-inflammatory that is a good addition to any diet. These same properties can help alleviate many of the symptoms that people with MS experience.
The root cause of multiple sclerosis may be unknown, but you can manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis using the natural remedies above. A doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan must be followed to prevent MS from progressing further.
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