Note: Do consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Use home remedies just as an adjunct treatment.
Multiple sclerosis, often called MS, is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, the exact cause of this disease is unclear. However, experts believe that the immune system plays a role in multiple sclerosis by attacking myelin, the fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.
Without myelin, the brain and spinal cord cannot communicate properly with the nerves in the rest of the body.
Multiple sclerosis most commonly is first diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40, but people can develop this disease at any age. Women are at a higher risk of developing the disease than men.
Other factors that may increase your risk of developing multiple sclerosis include family history, viral infections, vitamin D deficiency, living in a temperate climate, smoking and certain autoimmune diseases like thyroid disease, Type 1 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease.
There are many symptoms of multiple sclerosis that may appear depending on the location of the affected nerve fibers. In addition, symptoms may differ from person to person.
Common symptoms include numbness or tingling sensations in the limbs, fatigue, muscle spasms, fuzzy or blurred vision, dizziness, loss of bladder and bowel control, urinary tract infections, slurred speech, lack of concentration and balance problems.
There is no proven cure for multiple sclerosis. However, your doctor may prescribe certain drugs to slow the progression of the disease and prevent and treat attacks. Plus, lifestyle changes and home remedies can help speed recovery from attacks and manage symptoms.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for multiple sclerosis.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is beneficial for your health when you are suffering from MS. Its acetic acid content helps your body absorb more vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. It helps keep the body healthy and control infections that may trigger MS flares.
- Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water.
- Mix in a little honey.
- Drink this 2 times a day for a few days.
Ginger can also help you deal with many symptoms of MS. Moreover, it plays a substantial role in guarding against brain oxidative stress and neurological diseases. This means regular use of ginger may even prevent MS.
- Drink up to 3 cups of ginger tea daily. Add 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root to boiling water and steep for a few minutes. Strain and add honey.
- You can also add freshly grated ginger to salad dressings and marinades.
Chamomile is another popular remedy for MS due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
- Add 2 teaspoons of dried chamomileto a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 5 minutes, then strain it. Drink this relaxing tea twice daily.
- You can also try chamomile baths to reduce tension and relax your muscles. Steep a handful of chamomile flowers in a small jar of hot water for 10 minutes. Pour the water into the bath. Soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy this bath a few times a week.
4. Indian Gooseberry (Amla)
In Ayurveda, amla is useful for treating symptoms of MS. It is rich in valuable nutrients and contains a high amount of vitamin C, a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent. In addition, it strengthens the immune system to enable it to function optimally.
- Eat 1 to 2 amla fruits daily. If the fruit is not available, drink 2 tablespoons of amla juice.
- Another option is to have 1 teaspoon of dried amla powder with a glass of water every morning on an empty stomach.
Turmeric is a popular spice with neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate MS symptoms and other autoimmune diseases.
According to a 2011 study published in the journal International Immunopharmacology, the compound curcumin in turmeric has bright prospects for the treatment of MS.
- Include turmeric in your regular diet. You can take about 1 teaspoon of turmeric daily.
- You can also take turmeric supplements, but only under the guidance of a doctor.
Another popular Ayurvedic herb used to treat MS is ashwagandha, also known as withania somnifera or Indian ginseng. This herb helps stimulate the brain and boost immune power. Moreover, it helps reduce symptoms like pain, fatigue, stress and anxiety.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder in a glass of warm milk or water and drink it every morning.
- Another option is to take this herb in supplement form after consulting your doctor.
Note: Consult your doctor before taking this herb as it may activate the immune system. Plus, it might decrease blood pressure and interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure.
7. Ginkgo Biloba
Several herbalists believe that ginkgo biloba is also effective in the treatment of various MS symptoms. It can help fight fatigue, reduce muscle pain and improve cognitive functions.
Most people can safely take ginkgo biloba in supplement form. The standard dosage is 40 to 80 mg 3 times daily. However, as ginkgo biloba may interact with certain medications, it is best to ask a doctor before taking this supplement.
8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a type of omega-3 fatty acid called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) helps improve blood flow, muscle activity, and brain function. In addition, DHA helps protect the central nervous system. Hence it is useful in the treatment of MS.
- Take fish oil supplements daily. You can also take DHA supplements under the guidance of a physician.
- Include more fatty fish, eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, walnuts, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds in your diet to increase your intake of essential fatty acids.
9. Vitamin D
A proper level of vitamin D in the body can help in both prevention and treatment of MS. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to the onset of MS as well as symptom flare-ups. Moreover, the body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and fight osteoporosis, a common MS complication.
- The main source of vitamin D is the sun. Enjoy 15 to 20 minutes of early morning sunlight daily.
- Also, include foods high in vitamin D in your diet. Some good sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, mushrooms, fortified milk, fortified cereals, orange juice, and cod liver oil.
- You can also take a vitamin D supplement to help you get your proper daily dose. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
Note: Those suffering from MS must check their vitamin D level every 3 to 6 months.
Regular exercise will help lower stress, help you be more relaxed and increase energy, balance, and flexibility. In addition, regular exercise helps strengthen muscles and reduce spasticity.
- Do mild exercises like walking, stretching, and strengthening exercises.
- You can also do low-impact aerobics and stationary bicycling.
- Swimming or other water exercises are also good options. Avoid swimming in heated pools, though.
You can exercise on your own or with the help of a physical therapist.
- Avoid getting overheated as it can worsen the symptoms. Regularly drink cold beverages, stay indoors, and avoid hot tubs.
- Do not smoke and reduce your exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.
- Eat small meals at regular intervals to avoid fatigue from eating heavy meals.
- Some people even suggest bee venom therapy for treating MS symptoms. However, before trying this, make sure that you are not allergic to bee venom.
- Dilute ¼ cup of 100% unsweetened cranberry juice with 1 cup of water. Drink it once daily to prevent bladder infections.
- Include yogurt in your diet to get calcium, an important mineral for a healthy nervous system.
- Meditate to reduce fatigue and pain. Meditation involves using deep-breathing exercises that help keep you calm.
- Yoga, tai chi, and listening to music can also be beneficial in reducing MS symptoms.
- Try acupuncture, acupressure, and massage therapy to help reduce pain and induce relaxation.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. David Choluj, MS (Neurologist)
Is multiple sclerosis a life-threatening condition?
Multiple sclerosis is a slow progressing neurological disease, which often results in severe neuro-disability. If the disease is not treated in a timely and proper fashion, it could give rise to a number of serious complications that can even prove fatal.
Is it possible to cure multiple sclerosis?
Currently, we do not have a definitive cure for multiple sclerosis, but we have multiple very efficient drugs called DMT (Disease Modifying Treatments), which can significantly and positively slow down the progression of the disease or even stop the progression of the disease completely.
The first results of trials with stem cell therapy might potentially demonstrate a definitive cure for the disease, but we need more evidence to be able to say so.
Does stress trigger a flare-up of multiple sclerosis?
Chronic stress, anxiety, low mood, and secondary sleep disorder can trigger the activity of the disease. This is primarily attributed to the stress hormone axis overstimulation, which triggers our immune system into a chronic active emergency mode with increased disease activity.
How long does an episode of multiple sclerosis last?
Multiple sclerosis, in its most common relapsing-remitting form, is punctuated by fully or partially reversible episodes of neurologic disability, usually lasting days or weeks.
After typically 10 to 20 years, a progressive clinical course develops in many of the persons affected, eventually leading to impaired mobility and cognition; approximately 15% of patients have a progressive course from the onset.
Does multiple sclerosis affect your behavior and personality traits?
Multiple sclerosis negatively influences the areas of our brain responsible for our cognition, memory, and behavior. With time, the disease presents itself in a similar way as the neurodegenerative disease of classical dementia spectrum.
MS is known to cause significant psychiatric problems and changes in sexual behavior, which can have an adverse impact on marriages and partnerships.
Is it possible to reverse the damage caused by multiple sclerosis?
The damage caused by relapses of MS can be prevented, perhaps reversed, by early treatment followed by sufficient rehabilitation.
What foods can benefit people with multiple sclerosis?
I would recommend mainly rational balanced Mediterranean diet (fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, unprocessed foods etc.) and avoiding strict alternative lifestyle choices, such as veganism, which can have quite catastrophic consequences on the stride of the disease in my experience, caused by a lack of different vitamins and nutrients.
Please provide some additional tips or suggestions regarding multiple sclerosis for the knowledge of our readers.
I would recommend regular monitoring and supplementation of vitamin D mainly, as I see growing evidence of the importance of the vitamin in the pathophysiology of the disease. Supplementation is particularly important for patients who reside in the areas with lower exposure to sunshine, such as Britain and northern Europe, as they generally run low on this vital vitamin.
I would also recommend early active treatment of the disease and its complications, as the disease affects people’s lives in the time of boom of their complex social roles (starting families, the progress of professional carriers, etc.). Timely treatment is essential for maintaining the highest quality of life, for both the patients and their families as long as possible.
About Dr. David Choluj, MS: Dr. Choluj is the Lead Consultant Neurologist for MS at Dementech Neurosciences, the unique private multidisciplinary clinic in the heart of London’s Harley Street Medical District.