Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition of the central nervous system affecting the brain and spinal cord. MS is life-long and is characterised by inflammation and destruction of the protective fatty tissue, called the myelin sheath, which wraps around neurons in the brain and spinal cord. The distraction is called demyelination.

The name “Multiple cclerosis” was derived from two main characteristics of this disorder:

  1. “multiple” different symptoms and disabilities resulting from “multiple” affected areas of the brain and spinal cord
  2. “sclerosis” means thickening or hardening and is related to the “sclerosed”, or scar-forming areas often referred to as lesions or plaques. These are the area of inflammation, injury, and destruction of neurons.

MS Society estimates “there are over 130,000 people with MS in the UK, and that nearly 7,000 people are newly diagnosed each year (ref).” In the US, between 750,000 and 1 million people over the age of 18 are living with MS (ref). Worldwide, more than 2 million people have multiple sclerosis (ref).

Types of MS

There are 4 main types of Multiple sclerosis based on the disease progression of disability and the presence of relapses or acute attacks.

4 Subtypes of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis and Its Symptoms – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Subtypes-of-Multiple-Sclerosis-Four-major-types-of-MS-have-been-proposed-based-on-MS_fig5_305681128 [accessed 23 Jun, 2022]

Signs and symptoms of MS

Multiple sclerosis is a very complex disorder. The symptoms, their severity and the level of disability vary from person to person. Multiple sclerosis may progress and regress unpredictably. Most people with MS have periods of relatively good health, which alternate with episodes of worsening symptoms. Unfortunately, over time MS gradually worsens (ref).

Type of multiple sclerosis

Osmosis, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The most common early symptoms of MS are:
  • problems with vision such as blurred vision or double vision
  • problems with the sensory system including numbness
  • tingling or pain in parts of the body
  • weakness in one or more limbs
  • muscle spasms
  • clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • walking and balance may be affected
  • fatigue
  • dizziness or vertigo, and/or
  • bladder problems

Excess heat such as warm weather, a hot bath or shower, or fever may temporarily make symptoms worse (ref)(ref).

Who is at risk from MS?

Women are three times more likely to develop MS compared to men and the average age at the onset is 30 years old. MS is more common in Caucasians (especially of Northern European descent), it’s relatively rare in Asians and rare in some ethnic groups (4).

Additionally, having one autoimmune condition makes a person more likely to develop another one(s). Some studies show that women with MS are more likely to have psoriasis, thyroid disease, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (5). Therefore, it’s important to take steps to address the underlying root cause(s) of autoimmunity and to balance the immune system so that it doesn’t attack different tissue in the body resulting in another autoimmune disease.

Cigarette smoking also increases the risk of developing MS.

What causes MS?

Although the causes of many autoimmune diseases remain unknown, a person’s genes in combination with infections and other environmental exposures are likely to play a significant role in disease development.
It’s understood that three things are required for autoimmunity to develop.

  1. Genetic predisposition
  2. Environmental factors which are the triggering events (e.g. bacterial or viral infections, food intolerances, toxins)
  3. Intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut)

In terms of environmental factors, viruses such as Epstein Barr, herpes, or retrovirus play a role in genetically susceptible people (ref). They don’t cause Multiple Sclerosis per se (not every person with the mentioned viruses develops MS), but they can cause neuroinflammation, and make some people more prone to develop MS if other predisposing factors happen to co-exist.

Additionally, people with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop MS and other autoimmune conditions. Symptoms also appear to occur more frequently and are worse in people with MS who have vitamin D deficiency (ref).

Is MS treatable?

At the moment there is no cure for any autoimmune condition, including MS. Also, there isn’t a treatment that is effective for everyone. Conventional treatment of MS includes corticosteroids, immune-suppressing medication, and measures to control the symptoms.

An alternative approach, which can be done alongside medications, is finding and addressing the root cause (the trigger of MS) along with balancing the immune system and calming down the inflammation. By doing so, it’s possible to lessen the severity of the symptoms, or even resolve them.

Nutritionist for multiple sclerosis – my approach

Even though MS is not curable, there is a lot you can do to improve the situation, regain a better quality of life and take back control of your health. By changing the way you eat and live, by nourishing your body and brain it’s possible to improve (and in some cases resolve) the symptoms (ref). As a nutritionist specialising in multiple sclerosis, I can help you improve your diet and modify your lifestyle so that you have the best chance of healing and creating lasting wellness.

There are multiple variables that will need to be looked into and addressed, including:

  • Chronic stress
  • Sleep issues
  • Food intolerances and sensitivities, reactive foods
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • “Leaky gut” and gut health
  • Viral, bacterial, yeast, and parasitic infections
  • Toxins, pollutants, heavy metals, molds
  • Hormonal imbalances

What to do if you suspect MS

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned earlier it’s best to speak to your doctor. Because symptoms vary widely, and because they come and go, doctors may not recognise the disorder in its early stages. Therefore it’s important to describe all the symptoms to your doctor, especially if these symptoms are not present when you visit.

MS diagnosis consists of neurologist evaluation, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and sometimes additional tests. Diagnosing MS is complicated because no single test can positively diagnose it. Other possible causes of the symptoms may need to be ruled out first too. But when MS is suspected, the nervous system is thoroughly evaluated during a physical examination.

Where to start?

If you’d like to find out more or have any questions, please book a 30-min free inquiry call. I’ll help you make sense of your condition and honestly advise you about changes that need to be made for you to start reclaiming your health. As a nutritionist specialising in multiple sclerosis and an AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) coach, I can help you improve your diet and modify your lifestyle so that you can improve your quality of life and achieve lasting wellness.

MS client testimonial

Luigi - multiple sclerosis nutritionist client

Luigi

“Before coming to see Anna, I was on a keto diet for my Multiple Sclerosis and not doing it quite right. Because I was just following internet advice and wasn’t doing the diet/protocol with a professional, I was left feeling funny, weak, short of breath and we found I was too far in ketosis!
Anna helped me rebalance my diet, so I get all the nutrients and variety needed to not only be healthy, but to ensure I stay on top of my MS!
She checked my bloods, gave me advice on supplementation and also checked my gut for any imbalances. We also discovered why I was loosing so much weight!
I am much happier and healthier now I have seen Anna. Anna helped me understand so many things that are crucial for good nutrition, diet and overall health. She is a great listener and person to work with and would be happy to work with her again.”