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Multiple Sclerosis: An Integrative Approach

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and neurodegeneration of the brain and spinal cord. MS is a disorder that causes demyelination resulting in destruction of the protective lining of nerves causing neurologic dysfunction. Symptoms of neurological dysfunction may present as the following, but are not limited to:

  • Weakness and/or numbness in limbs

  • Tingling of the limbs

  • Tight band like sensation around trunk or limbs

  • Motor and/or sensory impairment of limbs

  • Impairment of swallowing and speech

  • Vertigo

  • Depression

  • Vision changes

  • Problems with balance and coordination

  • Heat or exercise intolerance

 

The 4 main types of MS include:

Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS): This type of MS Consists of a rapid and sudden onset of neurologic dysfunction. CIS may or may not progress to MS, however 80% of patients presenting with a CIS ultimately are diagnosed with MS.

Relapsing-remitting MS: The most common form in patients (85%). Usually presents in women under the age of 40. Consists of repeated attacks of neurologic dysfunction. New symptoms present over 24-72 hours, stabilize for a few days or weeks then improve spontaneously over 4-12 weeks. There is complete or incomplete recovery interspersed by periods of clinical stability.

Secondary Progressive MS: Patients initially have relapsing-remitting MS and then develop a progressive worsening of symptoms, this usually occurs 10-20 years after onset of disease.

Primary Progressive MS: Comprises 10-15% of patients. Patients have a steady decline in neurologic function from disease onset, without acute attacks. Patients are more likely men older than the age of 40.

Even within these four types of MS disease progression can be extremely variable and the root cause of the illness is ultimately whole body inflammation, leading to nerve inflammation and immune function dysregulation.  As an autoimmune disorder the condition is multifactorial and causes of inflammation can include an array of sources: environmental triggers, dietary influences, intestinal permeability, social/psychological stressors, chronic infections, hormonal imbalances, and genetic susceptibility.

An Integrative Approach to Multiple Sclerosis:

The integrative approach involves eliminating environmental exposure to and accumulation of heavy metals, pesticides, flame-retardants, plasticizers, and solvents that we are exposed to through air, water, and food. Addressing pro-inflammatory dietary influences such as food allergies, food intolerances and nutrient deficiencies that can shift the body towards chronic systemic inflammation putting incredible strain on the body’s immune system.  Healing intestinal permeability that results from ingesting inflammatory foods or pesticides. Finding effective stress management is an integral part of treatment. Chronic stress leads to chronic low-grade inflammation, which contributes to cellular dysfunction and immune dysregulation. Eliminating chronic microbial infections that are common in autoimmune disorders. These infections can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, which results in an exhausted, overworked immune system. Restoring proper hormone balance can lessen the inflammatory burden on the body and help decrease immune response. Therapeutic correction of hormone imbalances can have profound anti-inflammatory benefits. The most essential part of treatment is focusing on decreasing nerve inflammation and restoring the protective coating of the nerves.

Treatment approaches may include:

General foods to incorporate:

  • Plant based, organically sourced, non-GMO, fermented foods, high fiber, healthy fats

  • Aside from the “clean eating” above, there are specifically beneficial diets that you can be on based on your individual symptoms and unique physiology.

 

Nutrition and supplementation to heal intestinal permeability, establishing a healthy microbiome, and treating chronic microbial infections:

  • Determine and eliminate food allergens.

  • Specific supplements that address your individual issues.

 

Supplements to support neuroprotection and inflammation.

  • Botanical medicine

  • Anti-oxidants

  • Fatty acids

  • Vitamins and minerals

  • Inflammation modulating supplements

 

Lifestyle Changes to manage stress, decrease inflammation, increase oxygen and support overall wellness.

  • Yoga with pranayama breathing, hyperbaric oxygen, regular exercise, meditation, tai chi and qi gong.

  • Decreasing environmental exposures and supporting detoxification pathways.

  • Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

 

Pharmaceuticals

  • Include steroids, immune suppressants (cyclosporine, azathioprine, methotrexate), immune modulators (interferons, glatiramer acetate), and immune modulating antibodies (natalizumab).

  • Currently pharmaceuticals for MS are not specific for immune reactions against nerve tissue, nor do they stimulate regeneration of previously damaged tissue.

 

Regenerative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis

Regenerative medicine therapies using multipotent stem cells have a growing body of evidence to support their efficacy in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Stem cells are cells that have the ability to self-replicate into other cell types. The specific stem cells being used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis are autologous, mesenchymal stem cells found in your body’s own bone marrow and adipose tissue. These multipotent stem cells also referred to as adult stem cells can derive cells from the same germ layer generating similar tissues.  More specifically adipose tissues have been shown to have a higher content of mesenchymal stem cells compared to bone marrow as well as demonstrating superior differentiation ability, the growth of new blood vessels, and immune modulatory effects.

Mesenchymal stem cells have been shown to regulate both the innate and adaptive immune systems, which become overactive in autoimmune conditions. They also release protein messengers that directly block inflammatory signaling. Modulating inflammation is a key component in the treatment of all autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. In multiple sclerosis the over activation of the innate and adaptive immune systems start attacking the cells that make the protective coating of the nerves, decreasing their ability to communicate and function. Mesenchymal stem cells not only stop the attack they provide the cells that differentiate and regenerate a new protective coating restoring function.

The benefit of using regenerative medicine in the treatment of multiple sclerosis is that there is targeted immune function regulation, potent inflammation modulation, and tissue repair. This is a powerful therapy that does work by simply managing symptoms, but effectively treats the root cause of illness. Regenerative medicine is a piece of the puzzle and works best in conjunction with a complete treatment plan including diet, lifestyle and the above recommendations.

It is important to get evaluated by a health care professional as soon as possible if you are experiencing or have experienced any of the above symptoms. Also, be sure to consult a health care provider before starting any of the above recommendations.

Reference:

Riordan, Neil H, et al. “Non-Expanded Adipose Stromal Vascular Fraction Cell Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis.” Journal of Translational Medicine, vol. 7, no. 1, 2009, p. 29., doi:10.1186/1479-5876-7-29.

Gimble, Jeffrey M, et al. “Clinical and Preclinical Translation of Cell-Based Therapies Using Adipose Tissue-Derived Cells.” Stem Cell Research & Therapy, vol. 1, no. 2, 2010, p. 19., doi:10.1186/scrt19.

“Multiple Sclerosis (MS).” Shibboleth Authentication Request, 18 Jan. 2018, www.dynamed.com.proxy.heal-wa.org/topics/dmp~AN~T116285/Multiple-sclerosis-MS.

Vasquez, Alex. Integrative Rheumatology and Inflammation Mastery. InflammationMastery.com, 2014.

Pizzorno, Joseph E., and Joseph Katzinger. Clinical Pathophysiology: a Functional Perspective: a Systems Approach to Understanding and Reversing Disease Processes. Mind Pub., 2012.

Photo © VSRao, available under Creative Commons CCO.

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