Chronic diseases that do not enjoy good results from traditional medicine usually respond very well to natural therapies. This is not about “curing” the disease but improving the quality of life. In natural health care, you treat the patient, not the disease. With that in mind, there are some reasonable nutritional approaches to MS.
There are approximately 350,000 people in the United States with MS. A number of studies have shown that certain nutrients, while not offering a cure, may help improve function and quality of life in MS patients. There are a number of studies that look at vitamin D levels and their relationship to the disease. A review of studies published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy (Jun 2006; 40: 1158 – 1161) concluded that vitamin D supplementation may reduce the chances for developing MS and may also reduce the incidence of exacerbation in patients who already have MS.
One study published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis (2009; 15(1): 9-15) found that vitamin D had a protective effect in women and that higher serum vitamin D levels were associated with a reduced chance of developing the disease and reduced disability in those who already had the disease. A population-based study published in the Journal of Neurology (Volume 254, Number 5 / May, 2007) found an association between low serum vitamin D and the level of disability in MS patients. The authors recommend testing for vitamin D insufficiency, and supplementing where needed as part of the clinical management of MS patients. Another cross-sectional study that was published in the journal, Multiple Sclerosis (2008 Jul 24; [Epub ahead of print]), found that serum vitamin D levels may be inversely associated with relapse rates in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.
Antioxidants have also been studied. In the journal Biological Trace Element Research (1990;24:109-117) a study was published that looked at the antioxidant status of MS patients. The authors of the research state that studies have shown MS to be associated with low selenium levels and antioxidants like glutathione peroxidase (a selenium dependent enzyme) and antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E are of value to MS patients. Indeed, MS patients had higher levels of peroxidation metabolites (ethane and pentane) than healthy controls, according to research appearing in The Nutrition Report (September 1992;10(9):70). Also, during times of exacerbation, the ethane and pentane levels are higher. In another study that appeared in Biological Trace Element Research, 18 MS patients and 13 healthy patients (used as a control) were given 666 mg of vitamin C, 80 mg of vitamin E and 2 mg of sodium selenate, three times each day. The study found that MS patients had much lower glutathione peroxidase levels than the normal controls and that the supplementation drastically increased levels of the enzyme with no side-effects.
Vitamin B12 and its role in MS have been researched. A review article appearing in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (1992;55:339-340) looked at MS and B12 deficiency. While MS is clinically different from a B12 deficiency, both conditions are involved with demyelination. The article notes research that shows MS patients to have macrocytosis (a condition found with B12 deficency). While not a cause, B12 deficiency may be an aggravating factor. A study appearing in the Archives of Neurology (August 1991;48:808- 811) found low levels of vitamin B12 in MS patients. The Journal of Neuroimmunology (1992;40:225-230) notes that MS patients seem to suffer from macrocytosis and high homocysteine. The author believes that there is more than a casual link between vitamin B12 deficiency and MS.