Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the nervous system in
which communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted.
Its effects can range from relatively benign in most cases to somewhat disabling
to devastating. The symptoms may mysteriously occur and then disappear. In the
worst cases, a person with MS may be unable to write, speak, or walk.
Approximately 350,000 Americans have MS.
During an MS attack, inflammation occurs in areas of the white matter
(pale-colored nerve tissue)of the central nervous system in random
patches called plaques. This is followed by destruction of myelin, the fatty
covering that insulates nerve cell fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin
allows for the smooth, high-speed transmission of electrochemical messages
between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. When myelin is
damaged, neurological transmission of messages may be slowed or blocked
completely, resulting in diminished or lost function.
Signs and Symptoms
MS is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms.
Weakness in motor skills and loss of muscle coordination
Tingling, numbness, dizziness
Loss of bladder control
Memory loss, problem-solving difficulties
What Causes It?
The cause of MS is unknown. Theories include a childhood virus that primes
the immune system for an attack against myelin in early
Who's Most At Risk?
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for
First-degree relatives with MS
Age between 20 and 40
Living in the northern latitudes for the first 15 years of
North European, North American, or Scandinavian ancestry
Immune response genes
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you or someone you care for are experiencing symptoms associated with MS,
you should see your health care provider. Your provider will take a history of
clinical symptoms, check for neurological problems, and refer you for lab tests,
such as a cerebrospinal fluid exam and agar gel electrophoresis, and imaging
procedures, such as a computed tomography scan (CT scan) and magnetic resonance
The primary goal of a treatment plan is to reduce the severity of attacks
through the use of certain medications and to extend the individual's physical
functioning for as long as possible.
Your provider may prescribe the following medications.
Steroids with anti-inflammatory properties to reduce severity of
Beta interferon to decrease myelin destruction, reduce frequency and
severity of attacks, and slow progression of disease
Immunotherapy, antigen-targeting, cytokines, and remyelination are
experimental therapies that may alter the course of the
Surgical and Other Procedures
Surgery may be used to treat severe and disabling tremors or to reduce severe
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
A comprehensive treatment plan for MS may include a range of complementary
and alternative therapies.
Eat a diet high in protein and anti-inflammatory oils (nuts, seeds,
and cold-water fish); orange, yellow, and dark green vegetables; whole grains in
Avoid food allergens such as wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, citrus,
tomatoes, corn, chocolate, fish, and peanuts—eliminate
these foods, then reintroduce one at a time, watching for reactions. Many
individuals with MS are sensitive to foods that contain gluten.
Eliminate refined foods, alcohol, caffeine, saturated fats (animal
products), and additives (MSG and aspartame)
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the
Omega-6 oils (borage, evening primrose, black currant oils) 1,500 mg
two to three times per day. Include zinc (30 mg per day) and selenium (200 mcg
B-complex vitamins, especially B12 (1,000 mcg per day) and
B6 (100 mg per day), and minerals, such as calcium (1,000 mg per day)
and magnesium (500 mg per day)
Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg twice per day), vitamin E (400 IU per day),
and coenzyme Q10 (100 mg twice a day)
Herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms. Herbs are generally available
as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol
extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp per cup of
water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20 minutes).
Use one to two of the following: hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) 200 mg
two to three times per day, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) 120 mg two times per
day standardized extract, especially with cognitive impairment, quercetin (100
to 250 mg three times per day), especially with food sensitivities.
Combine the following herbs in equal parts to nourish the nervous system and
prevent constipation: oatstraw (Avena sativa), skullcap (Scutellaria
laterifolia), lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), lemon balm
(Melissa officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), and
horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Drink two to three cups tea daily or take
30 to 60 drops tincture twice a day.
Combination remedies may be used for fatigue, spasm, and to help rid the body
Acupuncture may be used to alleviate symptoms.
Massage is important for maintaining flexibility and reducing spasticity, as
well as improving the overall sense of
About 70 percent of patients experience attacks and remissions, and about
half of these undergo a chronic, progressive worsening after about 10 years. Ten
to fifteen percent of patients experience a chronic, progressive worsening of
the disease from the initial onset. Fifteen to twenty percent of patients follow
a benign course. Most MS patients live for 30 years or more, many still working
Patients need lifelong monitoring, especially during
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Review Date: March 2000
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Gary Guebert, DC, DACBR, Login
Chiropractic College, Maryland Heights, MO; Peter Hinderberger, MD, PhD,
Ruscombe Mansion Community Health Center, Baltimore, MD; Anne McClenon, ND,
Compass Family Health Center, Plymouth, MA; Terry Yochum, DC, Rocky Mountain
Chiropractic Center, Arvada, CO.
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of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or
otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
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guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
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practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed