Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). The term “multiple sclerosis” refers to the multiple areas of scar tissue — often called “lesions” — that develop along affected nerve fibers and that are visible in MRI scans. The literal meaning of “sclerosis” is “pathological hardening of tissue.”
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. As the attack progresses, the myelin sheath becomes inflamed and gradually is destroyed, leaving areas of patchy scar tissue (sclerosis) that disrupt the electrical impulses between the brain and other parts of the body.
It can cause problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
The cause of MS is unknown — no one knows what sets off the immune reaction that leads to MS lesions in the first place. But it is thought that some combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental causes is necessary to trigger the disease
Some researchers suspect the immune attack is triggered by certain kinds of viral infections. Others point to low vitamin D levels as a contributing cause. Cigarette smoking is also known to raise the risk of developing MS.
Common and Uncommon MS Symptoms
The nerve damage that occurs in MS can lead to a broad range of symptoms, depending on what part of the central nervous system has been attacked. MS can affect numerous areas of the brain, as well as the optic nerve — the nerve that transmits signals from the eye to the brain — and the spinal cord
It’s often said that no two people with MS have exactly the same pattern of symptoms. In addition, an individual’s symptoms can change or fluctuate in severity over time.
Some common early symptoms of MS include visual problems, difficulties with balance and walking, numbness and tingling, and heat intolerance.
Other common symptoms include:
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Muscle spasticity
- Problems with thinking and memory
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep problems
Less common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- Breathing problems
- Difficulty moving arms
- Difficulty reading facial expressions
- Diminished fine motor control in hands
- Diminished sense of taste or smell
- Hearing loss
- Hypersensitivity to touch
- Itchy skin or altered sensations
- L’hermitte’s sign
- “MS hug”
- Pseudobulbar affect
- Sensitivity to cold
- Speaking problems
- Swallowing problems
- Trigeminal neuralgia
In many cases, MS symptoms can be treated, sometimes with medication and sometimes with a form of rehabilitation, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, or cognitive therapy. People with MS who are depressed can often be helped by psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes that are beneficial for depressed people who don’t have MS.
Even when treatment can’t alleviate an MS symptom entirely, it can often reduce its severity.
The Challenge of Diagnosing MS
MS is generally diagnosed on the basis of a person’s history of symptoms, along with the results of a variety of medical tests, which may include:
- A neurologic evaluation of physical movement and coordination, vision, balance, and mental functioning
- Blood tests to rule out other conditions
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect brain lesions typical of MS
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to obtain cerebrospinal fluid, which may contain substances more likely to be found in people with MS
Diagnosing MS early is critical so that treatment can begin early, with the goal of slowing the progression of the disease.
However, no single test can definitively diagnose the disease, and MS symptoms mimic those of a number of other conditions.
In addition, symptoms of MS and their severity vary widely from person to person. Symptoms can also come and go from one day or week to the next, as well as change gradually over time.
Who Gets MS?
Most people who are diagnosed with MS have no known risk factors. Approximately 20 percent of people with MS have a family member who has it, but even having an identical twin with MS increases the risk by only 20 to 40 percent. So even though having a family history of MS raises the risk somewhat, MS is not considered a genetic or hereditary disease.
Some other risk factors for MS include being a woman, vitamin D deficiency, obesity, having an autoimmune condition, smoking, exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus, having multiple concussions during adolescence, and living further away from the equator.
While anyone can develop MS, many of those who have it share the following characteristics:
- Age The majority experience their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40.
- Race Caucasians have long been believed to be more than twice as likely as other races to develop MS. But the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials calls this belief into question.
- Gender MS is two to three times more common in women as in men.
- Climate MS is five times more common in temperate climates — like the northern United States, Canada, and Europe — than in tropical climates.
- Genes People whose close relatives have MS are more susceptible to developing the disease, but there is no evidence the disease is directly inherited.
- Certain autoimmune diseases. You have a slightly higher risk of developing MS if you have thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease.
- Smoking. Smokers who experience an initial event of symptoms that may signal MS are more likely than nonsmokers to develop a second event that confirms relapsing-remitting MS.
Other causes include,
This artificial sweetener is one of the leading causes of MS, as it has the capability of burning the myelin sheath. If you have a history of consuming this sweetener, you must stop immediately or the treatments will not work. There are numerous cases cited in the literature (and of my own patients) whose MS symptoms disappear once they stop consuming aspartame.
- MSG And Other Foods Containing Glutamate
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is prepared by the hydrolysis of wheat gluten, which is about 25% glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid which is the neurotransmitter responsible for excitatory signals in the brain. However, its production in the body is tightly controlled since in excess it is highly toxic to brain cells. Studies have shown that MS patients have higher levels of glutamate in their cerebrospinal fluid during relapses of the disease, and elevated glutamate levels in some types of MS brain lesions, as well as in normal-appearing white matter.Dr. Daniel Pelletier, a senior study author and a renowned MS expert from the Yale School of Medicine discussed glutamate and its role in MS at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Annual Meeting in 2016, and numerous studies have been done showing the connection between MSG and glutamate-containing foods causing MS and brain cell death.
Glutamate is found in processed foods such as MSG and any product that lists these terms as ingredients: “hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, protein isolate, soy protein isolate, whey protein isolate, maltodextrin, malt extract, sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, modified food starch and soy protein concentrate.” Thus it is imperative you avoid these foods which could easily produce glutamate toxicity and certain brain cell death, leading to MS and various other nervous system diseases.
- Electro-Magnetic Radiation / Frequencies (EMR’s And EMF’s)
Prana, the vital life force, is the cosmic energy which permeates not only the Universe, but all the cells and organ systems of our body. It is composed of soma, agni and marut. Soma is the vibration from the moon, agni is derived from the sun’s warming rays and marut is that element which governs the movement of soma and agni.
Exposure to Wi-Fi, cell phones and computers mix in and pollute the prana as it enters the adhipati marma point at the top of the head. Every organ, gland and the cellular system are dependent on a full supply of prana in order for them to function at full capacity. These EMR’s and EMF’s mix in with the prana, as both are found in the space element, and travel down the same paths as the prana, down through the shushumna nadi (the vibrational channels down the spine) and now this toxic prana is delivered to the cellular system, disrupting its function.
- Low Fat Diets
Some of our patients developed MS after following diets which were too low in fats, containing no milk, ghee, butter or cholesterol. Keep in mind the nerve tissue and myelin sheath are made from cholesterol, which is why diets containing no cholesterol can literally dry up the brain and nerve tissue. This is especially true if the patient is already Vata prakriti by nature and are following a low fat diet.
Vata is one of the three fundamental elements in nature (the other two are Pitta, relating to the elements of fire andwater, and Kapha, relating to earth and water). Vata represents the elements of dryness, quickness, and coldness. Thus, these people are born with a preponderance of this element and tend to exhibit symptoms of dryness, or lack of unctuousness, over their lifetime. Because they have inherited this tendency towards dryness, they must make a concerted effort throughout their lives to keep the body (fatty nerve tissue included) unctuous, both on the inside and outside (see below). In the same way, they can go out of balance quickly if they are exposed to too much coldness or too much movement, by rushing through the day, over-exercising, going to bed late and running themselves ragged, creating an overabundance of Vata in the physiology.
Ayurveda offers the safe and effective form of therapy for Multiple Sclerosis. Still, MS symptoms can negatively affect quality of life. Suicide rates among patients with MS are higher than average. So for improving the quality of life in MS patients, along with Ayurvedic therapies Psychological counseling should also be incorporated.
In Ayurvedic system this may be considered as Snayusadam with Nadibalakshayam. As per expert’s opinion, we have to consider this as Vatavikaram with Nadisadam. Ultimately the Dhatus get damaged. Demyelination indicates,
- Majjadhatukshaya]- Decreased Majja causes Asthisoushirya (osteoporosis), Bhrama (giddiness) and Timiradarshana (dimness of vision).
- Kaphakshayam- Decreased Kapha causes Bhrama, empty feeling of Sleshmakshaya (Kapha depots in the body), Hridrava (palpitation) and Sandhishaithilya (laxity of joints).
- Ojakshayam- Decreased Oja is due to anger, hunger, constant thinking, grief, exertion etc. leading to phobias, loss of strength, excessive thoughts, sensory disturbances, loss of complexion, confusion, increased dryness of the body and exhaustion.
In Ayurveda, this condition is seen as an energy disorder of the body. Improper digestion and assimilation of food leads to the formation of toxins and their accumulation in the body. These toxins cause blockages and obstruct the movement of certain body energies, resulting in neuro-muscular disorders.
Ayurvedic treatment for Multiple sclerosis involves the removal of toxins and restoration of digestive fire with the use of herbal remedy. Proper diet and lifestyle changes are also recommended in addition to herbal concoctions to ensure proper functioning of the nervous system.
ie, Langhana therapies to remove ama and dosha accumulation.
If possible Ayurveda suggests using strong purifying methods (Shodhana) such as Pancha Karma to remove the dosha + ama deposits in the body.
If this is not possible then Shamhana therapies can be used with the person over a long period of time. Shamhana therapies are preferable when the patient is too young, too old, too weak, too debilitated, or lacking financial means to perform strong Shodhana therapies each year for three or four years.
The primary form of Shamhana therapy is lifestyle or Dinacharya. Ayurvedic lifestyle includes dietary rules and daily schedules. Here are the lifestyle, Shamhana, guidelines for when Vata dosha is causing the pathology.
In Ayurveda, diseases are believed to occur, due to an imbalance of dosha. There is no direct correlation to MS in Ayurveda classics; however it can be understood as mentioned below,
- Dhatu paka (can be co-related to the autoimmune factor) caused by Pitta vata / Vata Pitta Manda / Prakshina kapha (Causing aggravation of Vata and Pitta, leading to drying up of Kapha)
Line of treatment:
- Balancing the vata, pitta, strengthening Kapha, correcting Agni (digestive system and cellular metabolism – Dhatwagni), strengthening Ojus (Immune system)
The treatment modalities include Panchakarma, External therapies, Internal medications, Activities, Advice of food and lifestyle changes.
- Panchakarma – Virechana, Basti, Nasya
- Externally – Abhyanga, Udwarthana, Shiro Dhara, Kashaya Seka, SSPS, PPS, Chandana Avagha,
- Internally – Deepana – Carminative
- Pachana – Digestives
- Vatanulomana – Balancing vata
- Rasayana – Rejuvenators
On the basis of Physician’s Yukthi and patient’s condition medicines should be selected for doing therapy. Over use of Ushna and Snigdha guna are found to be having Anupashaya especially ushna promotes degeneration. Along with the treatment schedule advise therapeutic Yoga, Pranayama, meditation, Physiotherapy etc. These have predominant benefits in the results.
- Improving on the intake of water preferably warm water and foods which aid easy digestion.
- Timely regular wholesome meals in a conducible non-disturbing atmosphere
- Lifestyle changes: specific to the individual’s constitution, nature of work and geographical conditions.
- Additional Treatment
To increase our immunity we need to increase our ability to digest and assimilate what we eat. We also need to eat things that we can digest and assimilate. This is the basic starting point. An anti-ama diet (toxin reducing diet) is often needed before proceeding with a long term nutritional program. It is indicated for the treatment of MS.
This requires a strict diet of no animal products and no stimulants. Regular meal times should be established.
Diet recommendations for Multiple Sclerosis
1. Take a balanced wholesome diet.
2. Eat organic food and totally avoid processed food.
3. For cooking purpose, use olive oil or coconut oil.
4. Snacks in between main meals should consist of fresh fruits, green leafy salads, legumes and nuts.
5. The best immune boosters include sweet potatoes, carrots, pineapple, papaya, mango, guava, banana, grape, hazel nut, walnut, apple, cashew, kidney beans, green beans, lentils, yogurt, avocado, pumpkin, garlic, ginger, spinach, oats, wheat germ, turmeric, safflower oil.
- Lifestyle recommendations for Multiple Sclerosis
- Start the day with a glass of luke warm water as soon as you leave your bed. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of fresh water in a day. Remove coffee from the diet, black or green tea can be taken up to 200 ml per day, not more.
- Do all measures to reduce stress. Find best stress reducing activities like Yoga, Tai chi, Meditation or self-hypnosis and practice them regularly to manage stress and reduce your pains.
- Sleep regularly: Sleep for at least seven hours each night so that your mind can be refreshed and your body can have the time it needs to repair tissues and joints.
- Manage your time. Fatigue is a common sign of MS. So there are chances that you will try to complete too much work when you are feeling well. It will leave you feeling even more fatigued and stressed afterwards. Try to pace yourself.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can cause inflammation in the body, which can activate the immune system leading to progression of MS. Avoid eating between meals. Avoid sweets and chocolate. If you eat sweets eat them after the mid-day meal when they will do the less damage
- Reduce or stop all forms of alcohol from the diet
- Stop smoking cigarettes. If the patient is smoking more than 5 per day then a gradual reduction over one to two months is required. Abrupt stopping can cause a relapse or attack
In summary, the current evidence of the Ayurvedic clinical trials suggests that Ayurvedic treatments, life style and dietary modifications plays a key role in MS prevention and provide increased life expectancy. Both Ayurvedic and modern knowledge should be incorporated to execute a better treatment protocol.