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A Case of Multiple Sclerosis

by June Butlin(more info)

listed in medical conditions, originally published in issue 45 - October 1999

I first met Sonya three years ago when she consulted me regarding her health and lifestyle. She was a happily married, thirty-two year old mother of three children, and had been practising iridology for the past ten years. She was aware of healthy living and nutrition, but was unable to follow her own advice, and took her health for granted. In the past years she had smoked and drunk excessively and ate readily available, processed, nutrient deficient foods. She was hyperactive and found it impossible to relax, had digestive problems, a heavy menstrual cycle, a fiery temper and continuous cravings for sweet foods.

She worked hard to follow the holistic programme that I presented to her and she started to feel more emotionally stable, relaxed and physically healthy. But one morning, two and a half years ago, she woke up with numbness in one of her hands. This feeling extended down her forearm, and when she bent her head forwards, numbness and tingling travelled down her spine into her legs. She visited her GP who told her that it would go away in time. However, the numbness and tingling continued to worsen, and her worries heightened. Eventually Sonya had an MRI scan, which confirmed her worst fears, that she had Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease. The name describes the anatomical pathology as the myelin sheaths deteriorate to sclerosis, which are hardened scars or plaques, in multiple areas. The myelin sheath surrounds, protects and insulates nerve cells in the central nervous system; its key function is to facilitate the transmission of nerve impulses. When the scarring takes place the nerve fibres can no longer conduct electrical impulses normally. The symptoms vary according to which nerves are affected, but would include muscular weakness and paralysis, abnormal sensations, double vision, lack of co-ordination and balance, and emotional disturbances.

The causes of MS are not clearly defined, but some viruses are implicated, such as rabies, herpes simplex and measles. The virus precipitates an auto-immune response in which the body's natural defence system, the cytotoxic cells, treat the myelin tissue in the brain and spinal cord as a foreign substance, and destroy the myelin-producing oligodendrocytes, which results in the scarring. Other causes may be a low functioning immune system, and unknown genetic factors, since relatives of affected persons are eight times more likely than others to develop the disease.

The course of the disease is extremely variable, and after an attack there is usually a period of remission in which the symptoms temporarily disappear, but may return at a later date when a new series of plaque develops.

Sonya was offered corticosteroid drugs, but declined as she felt that they would affect her already depleted immune system. She asked me for advice and I explained that there had been some success in the early stages of Multiple Sclerosis using nutrition and other therapies.

The greatest area of research is on essential fatty acids, which can help to regenerate the fatty myelin sheaths. The main types of fats needed are omega 3 fatty acids, which are derived from cold water fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring and flax seed oils, and which are important in nerve transmission and myelin production. Omega 6 fatty acids, derived from nuts, seeds and cold pressed oils, are also significant. These are rich in linoleic acid, producing prostaglandins which have anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing properties. These essential fats can also help to decrease platelet aggregation, preventing toxic substances such as bacteria, viruses and heavy metals from entering through the blood brain barrier into the cerebral spinal fluid, and damaging the myelin sheaths. Nutrients to enhance the fatty acid pathways are the minerals magnesium and zinc and the vitamins, B6, B3, and folic acid. A low saturated fat diet can also help to retard the disease process and reduce the number of attacks.

MS sufferers also appear to have a reduced capacity to detoxify free radicals, which can damage the myelin sheaths. One of the reasons for this is the ineffectiveness of the body's natural anti-oxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase. Useful nutrients to prevent this occurring are selenium and vitamin E, to prevent lipid peroxidation.

Other useful nutrients in multiple sclerosis are B12, which is needed for the formation of myelin, vitamin C for its anti-oxidant effect, ginkgo biloba, an antioxidant which improves blood flow and gotu kola, a nervous system tonic.

Sonya decided to take the nutritional advice and we fine-tuned her existing, quality, wholefood diet. A 75:25% raw food to cooked food diet was followed, eliminating meat, dairy, gluten, caffeine, tannin and all fermented products. Oily fish and sunflower oils were increased and supplements of omega 3 and 6 oils were taken daily. Other supplements included a multi-vitamin and mineral, magnesium and vitamin C, with tinctures of ginkgo biloba and gotu kola.

Sonya also reassessed her priorities in life and made a major decision to give up her iridology practice to allow more time for herself and her family. She needed space to nourish her spiritual self to prevent any insidious, negative, and stressful feelings about her illness. A brave decision!

She also followed a gentle exercise plan, bathed in lavender, chamomile, bergamot and marjoram oils, and had hot and cold showers to stimulate her nervous system.

As there is no definitive cure for Multiple Sclerosis it is very difficult to know when, and if, another attack will occur. However, Sonya believes that she is one of the 10% whose MS is benign as she has not had an attack in the eighteen months since being diagnosed.

References

Dungon, Swank R.L. The effect of low saturated fat diets in early and late cases of Multiple Sclerosis. The Lancet, 336 (8706) 37-39, 1990.
Link between Multiple Sclerosis and Cow's Milk, Am J Med Science, 220 421-430, 1950; and The Lancet, 11 1061-6, 1974.
Murray, Michael and Pizzorno, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Prima Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-7615-1157-1.
Williams, Sue Rodwell. Nutrition and Diet Therapy, Mosby Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0-8151-9273-8.
Tortora and Grabowski. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, Harper Collins College Publishers, 1996. ISBN 0-673-99354.
Cornell, Susie. The Complete MS Body Manual – A handbook of effective natural treatment for people with Multiple Sclerosis and those who care for them, Under Pressure Publications, 1996. ISBN 0 9527830 0 2 Tel: 01245 268098.

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About June Butlin

June M Butlin PhD is a trained teacher, nutritionist, kinesiologist, aromatherapist, fitness trainer and sports therapist. She is a writer, health researcher and lecturer and is committed to helping people achieve their optimum level of health and runs a private practice in Wiltshire. June can be contacted on 01225 869 284;  junebutlin@btinternet.com

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