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originally published in WellBeing (Australia), September 1999

Multiple sclerosis is a modern disease that affects the central nervous system's ability to communicate with the body. Nerve fibres are surrounded by fatty sheaths called myelin which help conduct electrical impulses along nerve fibres. In multiple sclerosis, these myelin begin to deteriorate and scar tissue replaces what is lost. When the impulse hits the scar tissue, it encounters a "road block" so to speak and the impulse gets interfered with. This disruption leads to tingling and feelings of pins and needles in the hands and feet, vertigo, numbness, muscle incoordination, blurred vision, and difficulty walking. In the advanced stages of the disease, there is severe difficulty in walking, speaking, and performing simple physical tasks. Fatigue is another debilitating symptom as well. The disease is known for its "stop-start" pattern: people may go into remission for varying , lengths of time, only to have the disease suddenly return. Each subsequent attack tends to be more severe than the last.


MS, according to medical science, has no known cause. Natural therapy, however, posits several possible causes. Its important to note here that no two cases of MS are alike and that different factors may be in play for an affected person. Part of any successful treatment approach, then, involves ample detective work into what might be the problem(s). Let's take a look at the more well-known possible causes noted by natural medicine.


Gluten intolerance, in particular, has been cited as a major cause. A tough, elastic protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and sweet rice (mochi), gluten is typically difficult for many people to digest, especially as modern cultures have gotten away from soaking and fermenting their grains, a process that "predigests" the proteins in grains, including gluten, rendering them more easy to digest. Soaking and/or fermentation of grains also effectively breaks up nutrient-blocking phytic acid, found in the bran and hull of all whole grains, as well as legumes and nuts. Nutrition writer Sally Fallon explains,"A diet high in unfermented grains like wheat puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism. When this mechanism breaks down with age or overuse, the results take the form of allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion, and candida albicans growth. Recent research links gluten intolerance with multiple sclerosis (Nourishing Traditions 429). Fallon advises that high gluten grains, such as wheat and rye, always be soaked in acidified water before cooking and to avoid modern baked goods (even if whole grain) as they are invariably made from non-soaked grains.
How to soak? Simply place your chosen grain in a pot and add some water; 1 tbsp. of raw vinegar, buttermilk, whey, or yogurt; enough to cover; and leave for at least seven hours.
Celiac and Crohn's disease, both involving food sensitivities, are found in many people with MS (and schizophrenia). Avoiding glutinous grains would be in order if you''re experiencing any difficulties.
Though gluten appears to be a major food factor for many with MS, other foods such as pasteurized milk, refined sugar, and corn are also implicated. For any person with MS, then, food allergy testing carried out by a professional is in order.


Essential fatty acids are typically lacking in those with MS. Found in high amounts in cold water fish, free range eggs, and flax oil, and in lower amounts in dark green, leafy vegetables and whole grains, these polyunsaturated fatty acids help reduce inflammation and maintain the myelin sheaths, as well as modulate the immune system. EFA's, then, are very standard in approaching MS. Supplements of fish and borage oils are typically employed to great effect. Fish oils are high in EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fatty acids heavily involved in brain and nervous function. Borage oil is rich in GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid usually deficient in MS patients. Bodily utilization of EFA's is greatly inhibited by trans-fatty acids. Avoiding all phony fats such as margarine, refined vegetable oils, and vegetable shortening is paramount.
Other lacking nutrients are zinc, magnesium, selenium, manganese, as well as vitamins B1, B6, and B12. B12, especially, is involved in the maintenance and production of the myelin sheath; it is a standard supplement for MS. Nutritional deficiencies are often exacerbated by poor digestion, which leads to poor nutrient absorption from the intestines and contributes to food sensitivities and hyper-immune responses. Digestive enzymes are a must with MS. Again, the need for food sensitivity testing is important.


An overgrowth of the yeast fungus candida albicans in the intestinal tract can lead to a host of problems, including increased food sensitivities and a weakened digestive system. Since candida toxins can affect the nervous system, causing mood swings, depression, and tingling, an overgrowth can only exacerbate MS, or possibly initiate it. Candida overgrowth is caused by several things: excessive sugar consumption (even natural sugars), antibiotic use (which kill the intestinal bacteria that control candida), corticosteroid use, and alcoholism (alcohol is a fermented sugar). Addressing a possible yeast imbalance through dietary restriction of sugar and an antifungal supplement regime (colloidal silver, probiotics, garlic, etc) often improves MS symptoms.


Since MS patients have been found to have high mercury levels in their cerebrospinal fluid, and since mercury is a known poison that affects the nervous system, dental fillings are suspect. If an MS patient (or a person interested in prevention) decides to replace their mercury amalgams, he or she must be careful of the replacing substance, to be sure it also has no heavy metals in it. Its best, here, to seek out the help of a professional trained in biological dentistry. Typically, mercury removal is followed by a detoxification program in which excessive mercury is flushed out of the body. Professional help, therefore, is needed.


As stated before, each MS case is different, therefore, each treatment will be different. Seeking out the help of a professional experienced in nutritional medicine and/or natural treatment of MS is strongly urged as MS is a complex disease. Despite the uniqueness of treatment approaches, some general guidelines can be given.
Diet therapy is important. In addition to food sensitivity testing, as well as proper food preparation and a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, avoidance of all trans and processed fats is imperative. Although some MS researchers claim that reducing the amount of saturated fat in their patient's diets is effective, the body cannot properly utilize EFAs without saturated fats. Coconut oil, raw butter, and tallow or lard from grass-fed animals, therefore, need to have a place in the MS diet. Stopping all refined sugars, food colorings, preservatives, etc is imperative as well. Another substance to be avoided is aspartame, a neurotoxin.
Supplements of EFA's, B complex, B12, zinc, magnesium, and other trace minerals are typical. B12, especially, is strongly indicated. Digestive enzymes are a must as well.
Dr. Hans Nieper of Germany had considerable success treating MS using a supplement called Calcium EAP, along with squalene, a compound found in olive and shark liver oil (Nieper also often used squalene in his cancer programs). It was felt that MS patients were deficient in EAP, a substance required for myelin sheath and cell membrane integrity, as well as nerve impulse transmission. When the supply was restored, myelin sheath breakdown was halted or slowed. IV administration of Calcium EAP is reported to be more effective than oral supplements. Unfortunately, the IV form has not been approved for use in the USA.
Lifestyle changes, including stress reduction and cessation of smoking or drinking, are necessary as well. The role of stress in promoting chronic disease is often overlooked.
Clinical experience shows that the faster one begins appropriate treatment for MS, the better are one's chances of overcoming it. Unfortunately, most people go undiagnosed until the disease is fairly advanced, making treatment more difficult. Listening to your body, as well as practicing prevention by avoiding phony foods and fats and eating a diet of properly prepared, nutrient-dense living foods, is one's best defense against this perplexing modern disease.

Stephen Byrnes is a naturopath. His new book, Diet & Heart Disease: Its NOT What You Think, is available from Whitman Books at 1-800-421-2401, or from his website at http://www.powerhealth.net/.

RECOMMENDED READING Its All In Your Head by Hal Huggins, DDS (Avery Publishing; NY); Know Your Fats by Mary Enig, PhD (Bethesda Press; MD); Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (New Trends Publishing; Washington D.C.). Check your local bookstores for these titles. SOURCES Calcium EAP is available from American Biologics in Chula Vista, California, (619) 429-8200; http://www.americanbiologics.com, or VRP at 1-800-877-2447, http://www.vrp.com

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