Monday, August 27, 2007

Multiple Sclerosis: Traditional and Alternative Treatments and Research, Part III

In Part III of our series on MS, we look at what’s been going on in the world of research and treatments. Always work with your physician and other practitioners before embarking on a new regime. As we talk to folks with MS, it is clear that because the way this disease affects each individual, it is difficult to say for certain which therapies will help. Everyone seems to agree, though, that the basics that apply to health in general, apply when you have MS, too. Eat well, sleep, exercise, do what it takes to stay on top of stress.

What is also clear from our intensive review of MS over these past weeks is that treatments can include medications, chemotherapy or even a new MRI devoted to neurological imaging. There are a host of approved drugs for multiple sclerosis. Many physicians prescribe steroid medications to patients with MS to reduce the inflammation of the nerve tissue. According so some reports, chemotherapy can be used as a treatment for certain patients as a way to interfere with the immune system that is attacking itself.

Research on multiple sclerosis continues at a strong pace, as the incidences of new cases remain steady in the U.S. One interesting development we read about is the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the neurological imaging of the disease. As the disease is mapped with more and more accuracy in an individual, science can help unravel and possibly predict with greater confidence where symptoms might appear next, giving patients and physicians a leg up in anticipating treatments that could mitigate those symptoms. These techniques can also measure MS lesions and damaged areas to determine if they are growing and at what pace.
Other developments around the country include looking for markers, trace elements in the blood that indicate multiple sclerosis is becoming active. Discovering the marker in a common blood test will enable physicians to diagnose and treat the disease in its earliest stages.
Researchers are now testing oral versions of the medications that typically exist in the form of self-injections, which are difficult to sustain over time. If proven to be effective, these oral alternatives will make it easier for patients to take their medicine, increasing the odds of successful treatment.

Researchers will be conducting upcoming trials on medications designed to control the malfunctioning T-cells that attack the covering of the nerve fibers resulting in multiple sclerosis. Medications that can control the T-cells will stop the development of the disease.
On the alternative treatments front, there is also plenty of interesting research and practice. Naturopathic physicians may use a variety of therapeutic modalities ranging from conventional drug therapy to diet and nutrition, homeopathy, physical medicine, acupuncture, and the use of plants or botanical medicine while treating the whole person, not necessarily the "disease".
Dr Thomas Kruzel, a naturopathic physician, writes extensively about these areas. Diet, he writes, is “one of the cornerstones of treatment for multiple sclerosis.” He talks about Roy Swank M. D. and how his research shows that diets low in fats cause the illness to go into remission and the symptoms to diminish. The research also shows that for patients following this diet have lower disease progression rates than those who do not. He asserts that many patients are able to lead normal lives with just dietary changes alone. For more on the Swank Diet go to

Homeopathy is another alternative that many with multiple sclerosis follow. It is not necessary to have a diagnosis in order to prescribe homeopathic medicine. It is the symptom pattern presented by the patient that is most significant, as symptoms are seen as a way that the body is trying to heal itself. Symptoms are manifestations of the disease. Everyone who has MS has some cluster of symptoms in common, but because everyone is also a unique individual, many have unique symptoms.

Herbal treatments also work with symptoms rather than a named disease. Medicines derived from plants and herbs are considered less toxic to the body and therefore can help alleviate symptoms without creating new ones.

Hydrotherapy is an ancient form of therapy that faded away for some period of time. It is being revived by naturopathic physicians as a means to oxygenate the blood, increasing circulation to tissues, the brain and essential parts of the body. Hydrotherapy also increases white blood cell count which is needed for healing to occur. With the use of hot and cold applications of water, this process also enhances repair of tissue damaged by the disease, helping to reverse the damage to the delicate tissues. Lastly, hydrotherapy increases the rate of cellular metabolism, creating more optimal functioning.

Acupuncture is more well-known as a treatment in many parts of the U.S. than some of the above alternatives. It stimulates the body own healing processes through the insertion of slender needles into key points on the body. It is often used in conjunction with some of the above therapies.

There are naturopathic physicians practicing in every state, although only a handful of states license them. At Capabilities, we have trusted referrals in Colorado for traditional and alternative practitioners. Please contact us for more information on these resources.

Tell us what treatments are working for you or a loved one with MS. Sharing experiences makes things more manageable for many with this and other conditions. Your comments might inspire someone to investigate something new that might just work.

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