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Multiple Sclerosis
Facts, Disease Nutritional Support Strategies

Multiple Sclerosis Facts and Statistics

Leonard Flynn of Morganville, New Jersey, considers himself lucky. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1988, the organic chemist believes he is healthier now than he has been in years. To prove it, he climbed Mount Scenery, a peak on the island of Saba in the West Indies that has more than 1,000 stony steps cut into its steep side. "If there's one thing that people with MS have problems with, it's steps," he says. "I wouldn't have been able to do that earlier."

He attributes his improved health to a low-saturated-fat diet that some studies suggest slows the course of this disease. He also takes the same antioxidant nutrients thought to protect against cancer and heart disease: vitamins C and E, selenium, and beta-carotene, the yellow pigment found in carrots, cantaloupe and other orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Plus he eats lots of fatty fish, mostly sardines, salmon and water-packed tuna, [Note: foods that are high in essential fatty acids] and relies on cold pressed sunflower oil and safflower oil for additional fat. [excerpt from the book "Healing with Vitamins" by the Editors of Prevention]

Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive disease caused by the gradual destruction of the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to paralysis and incontinence. Symptoms may be active briefly and then resume years later. Attacks vary considerably in severity and frequency from person to person.

MS has strong genetic association since relatives of affected people are eight times more likely than others to contract the disease. The cause of MS remains unknown, but the most widely accepted cause is thought to be an autoimmune disorder; where the body defense system treats the myelin in the central nervous system as foreign, and gradually destroys it. The condition has strong genetic association since relatives of affected people are eight times more likely than others to contract the disease. Also, women are slightly more at risk of having MS than men. Sixty percent female versus forty percent male. About two-thirds of MS cases have an onset between ages 20 and 40.

The demyelination that occurs in MS has also been seen to be caused by certain viral infections, although a viral cause for MS is still highly debated.

Environment also appears to make a difference. High altitude areas, both the northern and southern hemispheres, seem to have the highest frequency of MS patients. There were 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 in the higher latitudes and only 5 to 10 cases per 100,000 in the tropics [Agranoff, et al. "Diet and the Geographical Distribution of Multiple Sclerosis." Lancet. V.2. (1974) p.1061-1066.

Since there is no cure, patients should adopt a positive outlook. Certain drugs may be prescribed to alleviate acute symptoms, but the side effects of these drugs make long-term usage dangerous.

A significant number of people with MS have some degree of malabsorption. A significant number of people with MS may have some degree of malabsorption. In one study, forty two percent of MS patients were shown to have fat malabsorption, forty two percent were shown to have high levels of undigested meat fibers in their feces, twenty- seven percent had abnormal sugar absorption, and twelve percent had malabsorption of vitamin B12. [Gupta, et al. "Multiple Sclerosis and Malabsorption." American Journal of Gastroenterology v.68. (1977) p.560-566]. Malabsorption is an important factor since it can cause multiple subclinical nutrient deficiencies even when dietary intake is carefully executed.

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Multiple Sclerosis Nutritional Support Strategies

Effective help is available now for people with Multiple Sclerosis. The traditional approach is medications and physical therapy, but now a massive amount of nutrient research validates the effect diet and supplements can have for the body to heal. Lifestyle changes can also make a big difference.

Our Nutrient Associations, Lifestyle Changes, Medical Options and Precautions provides many of these alternatives for the management of multiple sclerosis.

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