Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
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Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects about 250,000 Americans and is about twice as common in women as in men. This disorder affects the myelin sheath (insulation around the nerve). The breakdown of the myelin, called demyelination, results in impairment of the function of the nerve with presenting clinical symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Dr. LeVine first proposed a hypothesis in 1992 that multiple sclerosis was caused by the hydroxyl free radical found in excess within the myelin sheath. Other investigators have further documented that oxidative stress is very high during active progression of multiple sclerosis when compared to those individuals whose multiple sclerosis is in remission or when compared with normal controls. Several other studies have demonstrated strong evidence that the underlying cause of multiple sclerosis is oxidative stress.
There have not been many clinical trials using antioxidants in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, because of the growing evidence of the involvement of oxidative stress in this disease, there will surely be future clinical trials using antioxidants in these patients.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body is essentially attacking itself. One's own immune system attacks the myelin sheath around the nerve and causes an inflammatory response. It is actually the oxidative stress caused by this reaction that is damaging the myelin sheath. The clinical course of MS is definitely varied. Some of my patients progress rapidly and are wheelchair bound or bed bound within a few short years. Other patients actually have a fairly normal life and will go years before they have any kind of a set back.
Why is this disease so varied? The most logical explanation is that some individuals have a stronger immune system and more potent antioxidant defense system than others. This is why I strongly recommend that my MS patients begin a very aggressive nutritional supplement program as soon as they have had the diagnosis of MS. I feel this gives the patient the best chance of having a more benign course of their disease.
I was taught in medical school that autoimmune diseases were the result of an overactive immune system since the body was essentially attacking itself. Consistent with my training, almost all of the medical therapies that physicians offer patients with an autoimmune disease are based on this premise. This is why most of these patients are placed on chemotherapeutic medications, which primarily suppress the immune system. Medications like Methotrexate, Plaquinil, and Immuran are just a few of the potent medications that are used. Corticosteroids like Prednisone are also used not only because of its strong anti-inflammatory qualities but also because they suppress the immune system. However, in MS these medications have not shown much success.
Since specializing in Nutritional Medicine, I have seen amazing results in my patients with autoimmune diseases who are using an aggressive nutritional supplementation program. My only explanation for such unbelievable results in my patients is the fact that they are not dealing with an overactive immune system, but rather a confused immune system.
The immune system is intended to be our reliable protector. It is always checking for self (one's own body) while it is looking for non-self (any foreign substance or abnormal cell). When the immune system finds a virus, bacteria, or foreign body it destroys and eliminates it from the body. However, in autoimmune diseases the immune system actually attacks itself rather than a foreign substance. If it attacks the joint space, a person is diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis. If it attacks the bowels, it manifests as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. When the connective tissue is attacked, a person might end up with scleroderma or lupus. If the myelin sheath around the nerve is the target, multiple sclerosis (MS) ensues.
In the case of autoimmune diseases, I believe one's immune system is not able to distinguish self from non-self. Being confused, the body is essentially destroying itself. Along with the traditional treatments, I recommend my patients with MS begin an aggressive nutritional supplement program. In doing so, I am not only building up their NATURAL antioxidant defense systems, but also I am building up their own NATURAL immune system. I find this helps my patients on both sides of the disease.
I believe their immune system becomes less confused and begins to recognize "self" again. This means the immune system more readily identifies outside invaders--not attacking "self" as much. In addition, my patients' antioxidant defense system is also built up to balance out the tremendous number of free radicals being produced. This brings the root cause of the damage--oxidative stress--back under control. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that I place my patients on the most potent antioxidant combination available.
Am I promoting alternative medicine? Absolutely not. I never take my patients off of their medications until they've experienced significant improvement. Nutritional supplementation is always used in tandem with their present medical regimen. They not only tolerate their medications better, but I believe the nutritional supplements actually enhance the pharmaceutical effect of the drugs.
My goal is to have patients improve so much that their neurologist or primary care physician is able to decrease or eliminate some or all of their medications. I can't emphasize this enough. No one should stop taking the medications that have been prescribed to him or her by the specialist. Almost all physicians desire to get their patients off of these potent and potentially dangerous medications. However, this decision must involve the personal physician.
I find it interesting that the most recent three or four medications being used to treat MS actually build up the immune system rather than suppressing it. Medications like Avonex, Beta Serone, Copaxone, and immunoglobulins all build up the immune system. Still they are not only very costly, but have detrimental side effects. Many of my patients are not able to take these medications. High quality nutritional supplementation accomplishes the same goal. It is building up our immune system, while at the same time building up our antioxidant defense system. My patients also tolerate these supplements with no long-term problems. This supplementation program can be used in patients taking any of these drugs.
In my practice and with multiple sclerosis patients, I am seeing amazing results. Several patients are not only maintaining their present level of function, but several patients are also gaining strength and function. Though not all of my patients have responded to this aggressive nutritional program, the earlier in the course of the disease they start, the better the chance of a favorable response.
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