Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of many systemic, inflammatory autoimmune diseases that have now been identified. Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, instead of focusing on defending us from external invaders such as bacteria and viruses. The past 60 years have witnessed a huge increase in the incidence of autoimmune disease. There are many theories as to why, but environmental factors such as nutritional-poor diets, infections and exposure to toxins appear to be important considerations. In MS the immune system preferentially attacks the covering of nerves in the central nervous system or CNS. Muscle weakness/spasm and other neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, headache and balance problems are the result. We see many patients with autoimmune diseases at Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford. Our effective dietary, nutritional, lifestyle, acupuncture and Chinese herbs treatments are designed to reduce the inflammation found in these conditions. As a result, our patients often report a reduction in symptoms and more energy. Why not call us today if you’d like to get your health back on track.

Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmunity: What It All Means

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is defined as a systemic, inflammatory autoimmune disorder. Autoimmunity involves a loss of normal immune function. Whilst our immune systems should normally protect us from invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, in autoimmunity the immune system instead turns on the body, attacking various body tissues and organs as if they were invaders.

MRI scan of brain showing demyelination associated with multiple sclerosis
MRI scan of brain showing areas of demyelination (white patches)

In MS autoimmunity, the immune system preferentially targets the myelin covering of nerves and, to a lesser extent, the nerves themselves. This inflammatory activity (termed demyelination) usually takes place within the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system (CNS), but negatively affects nerves throughout the body.

Because myelin is essential for the maintenance of normal muscle tone and strength, demyelination leads to increasingly weak and flaccid muscles, including in the limbs.

Along with muscle weakness, MS nerve damage also often leads to other symptoms, such as:

  1. Muscle cramping and spasticity
  2. Numbness and tingling in the limbs and elsewhere
  3. Blurred vision, double vision and eye pain
  4. Difficulties with balance and walking
  5. Trigeminal neuralgia (severe facial pain) and facial muscle weakness
  6. Bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction
  7. Gut disorders, such as IBS and constipation
  8. Heat intolerance
  9. Pain
  10. Fatigue
  11. Cognitive and mental-emotional disturbance, including depression, anxiety, stress, as well as problems with concentration, memory, attention span, speech and abstract reasoning.

In practice, symptoms can be vague, self-limiting and perhaps separated by years of symptom-free existence. It’s this vagueness that often makes MS hard to diagnose and indeed sufferers may go undiagnosed for years. Various tests, such as MRI scans, evoked potentials and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid are brought to bear to try and diagnose the condition or rule it out.

What Causes Multiple Sclerosis? Who Develops It?

As with all autoimmune disease, multiple factors are probably involved in the onset of MS, including a role for both genetics and environmental factors.

older male person looking pensiveThere’s good evidence that non-genetic, environmental factors play an important role. For example, areas further away from the equator tend to have a higher incidence of MS. Additionally, there’s a fairly low concordance rate between monozygotic (identical) twins. Conversely, there are racial differences in incidence, suggesting that genetic factors have a definite role to play.

Amongst environmental factors, infection and retained infection may play a role. There are suggested links between MS and the epstein-barr virus (involved in glandular fever), though more research is required to confirm or disconfirm this.

As with other autoimmune disorders, there is a strong association of MS with low levels of vitamin D. We know that vitamin D has an important role in immune system regulation. Higher levels of circulating vitamin D in the blood appear to be associated with a lower incidence of MS.

MS, as with many other autoimmune diseases, affects females more than males. About 60% of sufferers are female, compared to 40% male. Onset of the disease is often between 20 and 40 years of age. Onset after 50 years of age occurs, but is more unusual.

‘Leaky gut’ or increased gut permeability is an increasingly important focus in autoimmune research. Leaky gut means that substances which should stay in the gut, including toxins, bacteria and partly digested food particles etc, instead leak through the gut wall and enter the blood circulation. There are many reasons why this might happen. Irrespective of cause, the immune system is said to recognise these substances as foreign. This provokes an immune and inflammatory response. It’s believed that repeated episodes of gut leakiness can create the potential for a disordered immune response, i.e., autoimmunity. More research is required to work out the precise mechanisms and consequences of leaky gut. However, it’s looking likely that leaky gut is one important consideration when thinking about the causes of autoimmune disease, including MS. Increasing scientific evidence suggests that Chinese herbs as well as specific dietary changes can have a profound effect on restoring a compromised gut barrier or helping to protect one which is intact.

The Progression of Multiple Sclerosis

Close up of wheelchair wheelThe majority of patients with MS initially experience the relapsing/remitting form of the disease. This is where acute flare-ups are interspersed with periods of relief, sometimes lasting months or years.

The aim of conventional medication such as interferon beta-1a or Avonex is to slow progression of the disease, hopefully reducing further flare-ups and disability. Although there’s evidence that these medications can help with symptom control in relapsing/remitting MS, the evidence suggests they only have a modest effect on prolonging the time to disability. Moreover, they carry significant risk of serious side-effects.

Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Dietary, Lifestyle and Other Care: How Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford Can Help

MS is above all characterised by inflammation. Indeed, inflammation underlies all autoimmune disease.

Your Hertford chiropractor is highly-trained (five year full-time degree) and fully qualified to examine you, including through use of standard neurological tests to determine the status of your nervous system. Normally, however, you’ll come to us having already received your MS diagnosis.

Choose wellness not illnessAll of the care we offer is designed to reduce the inflammation found in MS. In reducing inflammation, we would hope in turn to see a reduction in your symptoms.

It’s important to realise that neither we nor anyone else can cure MS, or any other autoimmune disorder. However, the safe and gentle treatment strategies Advance Clinic offers could potentially reduce the inflammation found in your condition, and therefore your symptoms. It’s even possible that you might be able to reduce the dosage of your medication, though this should always be done in consultation with your GP or other medical specialist.

Our essential care approach strategies include:

  1. Acupuncture therapy
  2. Chinese herbs
  3. Dietary, nutritional and other detailed lifestyle advice based on functional medicine principles

In combination, these have proved to be effective in our work with patients presenting with a range of conditions, including autoimmune conditions.

Happy women sitting in a field meditatingIt’s believed that about 25% of the risk of developing autoimmunity is due to genetic or inherited factors. 75% of the risk is due to various environmental factors, such as nutrient-poor diets, chronic emotional stress, poor sleep, ongoing gut and other infections, as well as exposure to environmental toxins.

Even if you are diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, the scientific evidence and our experience with patients points to positive changes in diet, nutrition, stress levels, sleep and exercise as factors in reducing symptoms and improving health more generally.

Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford offers you quality dietary, nutritional and other lifestyle advice and support to help you make improvements to your health, including reduction of any pain and discomfort you’re experiencing.

Our solid diet and lifestyle advice is reinforced with high-quality acupuncture care and Chinese herbs. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can potentially help reduce your symptoms:

  1. Picture of acupuncture needles being inserted into skinBy reducing pain and inflammation – both are commonly found in autoimmune disease, including MS.
  2. By helping to balance immune system activity – more research is required, but more recent findings suggest that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can boost weakened immunity but also moderate overactive immune responses, as in autoimmunity.
  3. By helping reduce the mental-emotional impact of MS, whether it be anxiety, depression, stress, brain fog, poor memory or difficulty processing thoughts.

Why not contact Advance Clinic today. We’re here to help you take the next step to good health.

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