Disseminated sclerosis - Multiple sclerosis

Chronic degenerative disease. The myelin sheaths (protective fat sheath surrounding nerves) are gradually degraded. The brain and spinal cord are affected leading to tiredness, paralysis, loss coordination, and perhaps loss of cognitive abilities.

Disseminated sclerosis (DS) is one of the diseases that occur more often in countries with a temperate climate than in warmer countries like Japan. The disease most often starts between the ages of 25 and 30 and women are more exposed than men.

Persons that get DS are often ambitious and have high demands for themselves. They are often stressed out and can be strained by traumatic events and relationship problems from the past, and not seldomly they are depressed.

Nerve cells have offshoots which send nerve signals to their neighbouring cells. Most of these offshoots are surrounded by a protective layer of fat called a myelin sheath. This fat sheath is the one being attacked in the case of DS. The sheath is dissolved, and inflammation and hard scar tissue which destroy the nerve occur.

The symptoms vary a lot in character and severity from one person to the next. It especially depends on which nerves are being attacked. The attacks can begin with light dizziness, pains behind the eyes and visual disturbances, prickling or tingling in the arms and legs, or muscle weakness which will disappear again after a period which can be of both short and long duration.

After this, more violent attacks with cerebral paralysis and loss of coordination can occur. There are often problems with regulating body temperature and often the centre which controls urination and defaecation is affected. Many patients suffering from DS experience concentration- and memory problems to some extent. Others develop indifference towards their condition. In some people the disease can progress to become more and more disabling, while, in other people, it stops at a certain level. Paralyzed muscles cannot be retrained.

Disseminated sclerosis is believed to be multifactorial, i.e. it has several causes. A hereditary genetic predisposition has been established by means of twin studies, but not all of those gentically predisposed develop sclerosis. The disease has been proved to be affected by the environment. Poor nutrition can also be contributory. DS has something in common with Alzheimer's disease in that homocystein is accumulated in the brain. Its symptoms also resemble those of heavy metal poisoning which also can be one of the causes, e.g. mercury seeping out from amalgam fillings. Moreover, many DS patients suffer from nickel allergy.

A viral attack is high on the list of possible causes. This is due to the fact that DS patients compared to others have much higher levels of antibodies against the measle virus in their blood. Research has shown that the immune system of these people constantly react to such an infection. If it has arrived via natural contamination or if it is caused by a belated reaction to a measle vaccine has not been established.

Other kinds of vira have also been found in DS patients, but they do not necessarily have something to do with the disease. Most probable is the theory that DS is an auto-immune disease, i.e. a disease in which the body's own immune system for unknown causes has been wrongly coded into attacking the myelin sheaths of the nerves. Much research has shown that DS patients have a reduced ability to neutralize free radicals.

Recommendations

General advice on disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle can be found in the library article "General Advice - for healthy as well as for ill ones" in the VitaHealth section under Focus Articles. You can also test your health by taking our "Health Check".

Even though it does not lie within our reach to cure DS completely, it is possible to turn the degenerative course around and achieve a high degree of symptom relief. It may take some assistance from one or more experienced therapists; but you can do a lot yourself. Having your blood level of homocysteine measured is a good idea (it should be below 7 mmol/l) as this substance can damage your nerves. Also have your levels of the vitamins B12 and -B9 (folic acid) measured as these two substances contribute to reducing the level of homocysteine.

Regular exercise has shown to have a beneficial effect on the mood and on your physical ability, but it does not reduce the extent of your tiredness and exhaustion.

Eat healthily with lots of vegetables. Eat food with a low content of fat. Avoid saturated fats like butter and margarine. Reduce your consumption of animal protein. You can with benefit eat fish as often as 3 times a week. Avoid sugar and empty calories. Step up a broad daily supplement of vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids. Especially a deficiency in vitamin D and selenium has been connected with sclerosis.

The Swank diet
Towards the end of the 1940s, Dr. Roy L. Swank developed a diet for treatment of disseminated sclerosis which has been helpful to a great many people. The Swank diet consists of avoiding animal fat, red meat, and dairy products as far as possible. The diet in itself, however, cannot cure sclerosis but at best it can reduce the number of attacks and there degree of severity. A book has been published about this diet: "The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book" by Roy L. Swank and Barbara Brewer Dugan. Doubleday 1987. ISBN: 0385232799.

Be examined for heavy metal poisoning, fungal infections, and food intolerance by a competent therapist. You can start yourself by excluding cow's milk. There are examples of early homeopathic treatment having had a good effect on DS, but the disease process must not be too advanced.

Have your teeth cleaned of amalgam fillings and hidden inflammations. Avoid tobacco smoke; both your own and that of others. Make sure to exercise daily or have daily retraining of paralyzed muscles. It can be problematic, however, as the muscles tire quickly. Avoid stress and quick changes in temperature.

Eat more turmeric. Some studies indicate that the substance curcumin (which can be found in the spice turmeric) has some nerve protecting abilities which may inhibit the development of sclerosis. Turmeric also is a constituent of curry.

Warnings

Sclerotic patients can be very sensitive towards even the smallest doses of vitamins and other dietary supplements. If you want to experiment yourself you should use very small doses at a time.

You must not try to stimulate you immune system since it is probably already overreacting.

Remarks

Infants who get too small amounts of vitamin A in their diet have an increased risk of developing DS.

Also see "Food intolerance", "Mercury poisoning", "Amalgam removal - Mercury removal", and "Heavy metal poisoning".