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Let's Talk about Multiple Sclerosis



Multiple Sclerosis (“MS”) is a chronic, inflammatory and central nervous system disease that impacts the structure of myelin sheaths, which are the surrounding covers of the axons, and axons in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves (Pizzorno, Murray, & Joiner-Bey, 2016). If you refer to the picture above, a healthy neuron is on the right and a damaged neuron is on the left. When neurons are damaged, there are problems sending and receiving signals throughout the body.


MS typically appears between the ages of 20 and 55, and it is more present in women than men. It is more prevalent in people who have a Northern European heritage than those who live closer to the equator, which indicated that vitamin D levels play a role in the progression of the disease (Mahan & Raymond, 2017. The development of the disease has a genetic and environmental component.


What are complementary interventions for MS?

  • Diet evaluation with a nutritionist

  • Stress management (mind-body, yoga, meditation or breathing exercises)

  • Exercise (light intensity)

  • Massage therapy

  • Sleep hygiene

  • Supplementation


***It is important to inform and work with your doctor when introducing complementary interventions to help manage your symptoms.***



One supplement worth noting is vitamin D3 (Taylor, Moses, Paul, Suarez & Rametta, 2015). As stated above, people located closer to the equator have a lower risk of developing MS than those in higher latitudes. When measuring vitamin D levels in MS patients, it has been noted that levels tend to be less than normal. A number of studies have linked Vitamin D deficiency to autoimmune disorders, indicating that vitamin D has a bigger role in the body and immune system than just building strong bones (Bowling, 2009).


When purchasing supplements, always review the brands ahead of buying them. You are looking for reputable brands that are free of common allergens, artificial colors and flavors. The form of vitamin D is D3 not D2, as it is more potent and stable

It can come in capsules and liquid form. Often one may see D3/K2, this is an effective combination for bone health and acceptable to take unless otherwise directed by medical professional.


The goal is to have a serum level above 40 ng.mL and below 80 ng.mL. One may need to start with 2,000IUs, daily and some may need to start with 50,000IUs weekly (under medical supervision and recommendation). The best and safest way to determine dosage is to work closely with your doctor and a nutritionist.


Of course, you can get vitamin D is through sunlight. But during the winter months, the sun rays are not strong enough to activate the synthesis of vitamin D, so supplementation is recommended. If you are already deficient, you may need assistance through supplementation to raise those levels, as sunlight alone might not be enough to get you out of deficiency.


Caution when supplementing with vitamin D


It is recommended to monitor your vitamin D levels with your doctor for a few reasons:

  1. You want to make sure you are taking a supplement that is effective.

  2. You may need to adjust your dosage along the way.

  3. You do not want to have a buildup of vitamin D in the blood, which can lead to toxicity.

  4. Check for interactions with current medications. Vitamin D has been known to interact with warfarin, steroid medications, seizure drugs to name a few.


If you want to watch an inspiring success story, Dr. Terry Wahls has an amazing TEDex Talk describing her journey with MS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc


References


Bowling, A.C. (2009). Vitamin D and MS: Implications for Clinical Practice [PDF]. Clinical Bulletin: Information for Health Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Clinical-Bulletin-Vitamin-D-and-MS_-Implications-for-Clinical-Practice.pdf


Kilpatrick, T. (2018, October 24). What causes multiple sclerosis? What we know, don’t know and suspect [Image]. The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/what-causes-multiple-sclerosis-what-we-know-dont-know-and-suspect-105491

Mahan, L. K., & Raymond, J. L. (2017). Krause’s food & the nutrition care process. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Pizzorno, J., Murray, M, & Joiner-Bey, H. (2016). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine. St. Louis, MO. Elsevier


Taylor, B., Moses, H. Paul, F., Suarez, G. & Rametta, M. (2015 ). Treatment of multiple sclerosis – relationship between vitamin D and interferon B-1B. European Neurological Review, DOI: http://doi.org/10.17925/ENR.2015.10.02.124



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