Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most baffling of all diseases – we know very little about what causes it and what factors influence its progression and outcome. MS begins with localized inflammatory damage of the myelin sheaths surrounding the nerve fibers due to an attack by the immune system. The resulting damage interferes with nerve impulses and can lead to symptoms such as muscle weakness, loss of vision, and a variety of other neurological impairments.
Although considered an autoimmune disease, it is not clear what causes the immune system to attack nerve sheaths. Researchers have been studying a possible viral trigger, but this would not explain why MS is more common among those who live in northern latitudes and uncommon in those near the equator. Additionally, scientists are unable to explain why there are so many different forms of MS, why some people have transient symptoms that never return, while others experience cycles of exacerbation and remission. In some people MS is relentless, leading to complete disability and death.
A drug called beta-interferon has become the conventional treatment for MS patients, especially those with the remitting variety. It can slow the progression of the disease, but is expensive and produces unpleasant side effects. Really effective medical treatment is still not available for most patients. I like to work with patients who have MS because of its variability and potential to go into remission, as well as its responsiveness to stress reduction, mind/body treatments and changes in lifestyle.
These are a list of suggestions I recommend for my new patients to experiment with, so give it a try and see what works best for you.
- Decrease protein toward 10 percent of daily caloric intake. Replace animal protein as much as possible with plant protein.
- Eliminate milk and milk products, substituting other calcium sources.
- Eat organically grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible as well as organic products made from wheat and soy.
- Eliminate polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils, all foods (such as deep-fried foods) that might contain trans-fatty acids. Use extra-virgin olive oil as your main fat.
- Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, walnuts, or flax and hemp seeds.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Eat ginger and turmeric regularly.
- Take acidophilus culture and psyllium if constipation is a problem, or use the ayurvedic herbal bowel regulator, triphala.
- Take my antioxidant and daily multivitamin formula and a B-50 complex vitamin, and a multi-mineral supplement daily.
- Take 5 grams of soy lecithin granules daily (store this in the refrigerator).
- Take 30 milligrams of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) two or three times a day.
- Do some kind of light aerobic exercise on a regular basis. Choose something you enjoy but do not push your self to the point of exhaustion.
- Visualization, meditation, and hypnotherapy can redirect your mental energies in positive directions.
- Experiment with traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine from qualified practitioners.
Andrew Weil, M.D.