Analogous to a black out in the city, neurological disorders can gradually erode the physical body, thereby leading to a complete failure and loss of functionality of the human system. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one such debilitating inflammatory and auto-immune disorder in which, the body’s own immune system attacks and damages the myelin sheath, which acts as a protective covering for the axons of the neurons and aids in increasing the rate of transmission of nerve impulses.
It affects about 2.1 million people all across the world as per the records of National Multiple Sclerosis Society and is most often accompanied by slurred speech, vision impairment, loss of coordination of movement, bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction, cognitive abnormalities like learning and memory deficits, mood and anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, etc.
The fact that the brain is made up of billions of interconnected neurons covered by a myelin sheath makes multiple sclerosis an enormously complex disease and this in turn, makes it an extremely difficult task to come up with one single treatment to cure MS. Hence, a multi-dimensional approach is required to improve the quality of life of a patient suffering from MS. Listed below are some of the ways that can help a patient cope with the symptoms of MS.
Ways of Curing Multiple Sclerosis
Drugs like glatiramer, fingolimod, beta interferons like avonex, extavia, etc., used for treating multiple sclerosis aim at preventing further destruction of myelin sheath by suppressing the immune system, consequently slowing down the progression of the disease.
Corticosteroids like prednisone and methylprednisolone are used to decrease the number of attacks of MS by reducing the inflammation of the myelin sheath. Other medications like amantadine, botox, cymbalta, nydrazid, etc., are used for treating general symptoms like fatigue, bladder dysfunction, depression, tremors, etc., respectively.
Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cells are self-renewing cells that possess a remarkable ability of differentiating into specialized neuronal cells that migrate to the site of injury and promote the repair of myelin sheath by giving rise to new cells. Even though, the lesions formed by damaged myelin sheath activate stem cells, they prevent the stem cells from entering the injured site and rectifying the damage.
Hence, implantation of stem cells and promoting the migration and maturation of stem cells into the lesions for neuronal repair has become a great research of interest for the scientific community. In a Greek study published in the journal “Neurology”, researchers followed a group of 35 patients and an observation after about 11 years of transplantation have shown that stem cell transplants had the potential to reverse neurologic deficits and slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis.
Foods to Fight the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
In patients suffering from MS, the blood brain barrier ruptures, thereby allowing reactive immune cells like T-lymphocytes to move into the brain tissue from the blood stream. These immune cells produce inflammation promoting chemicals that attack the myelin sheath and the myelin producing oligodendrocytes, thus destroying the machinery that promotes the repair of myelin sheath. Hence, anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, cinnamon, honey, turmeric, cherries, etc., block the inflammatory response of the immune system and consequently curb the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Foods rich in omega – 3 fatty acids like fish, flax seeds, avocados, nuts, etc., and foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits, melons, papaya, kiwi, broccoli, etc., can aid in the stabilization of the neuronal membrane and the regeneration of the lost myelin sheath. Also, whole foods, fruits, green leafy vegetables, eggs, soy based foods, etc., enriched with B vitamins and vitamin D promote nerve cell repair.
Regular exercise not only keeps the symptoms of stress at bay, but also promotes sleep, thus enabling patients with multiple sclerosis to cope with symptoms like insomnia and broken sleep patterns. Exercise has a profound effect on the functioning of the brain by promoting the synthesis of a neurotrophic factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is often found to be deficient in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.
BDNF aids in neurogenesis, a process in which neuron stem cells differentiate and migrate to different brain regions that are damaged. It helps in the regeneration of new neurons and most importantly aids in the repair of damaged neurons, which is one of the most prominent causes of multiple sclerosis. Exercise can also aid in strengthening and increasing the range of motion of muscles and joints, thus restoring the ability to move by correcting the loss of coordination and balance in patients with MS. Hence, regular exercise not only keeps your body fit, but it also carries tremendous amount of benefits for improving the functionality of the brain.
Considering the hormonal fluctuations that women undergo through their lifespan that takes them through a roller coaster ride of emotions, women are more prone to MS than man. Hence, it is very important to manage stress, anxiety and depression through relaxation techniques like meditation, visualization, yoga, tai chi, prayer, etc.
Also, consumption of herbal teas like green tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea, ginger tea, etc., can produce a soothing and calming effect on the mind and reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, which can otherwise worsen the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Get Adequate Sleep
Multiple sclerosis has been associated with many sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy, nocturnal leg spasms, etc., with about 80% of the people suffering from MS experiencing unusual fatigue as one of the most troubling symptoms, resulting from the scaring and loss of nerve cells. Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University have stated depression and sleep disturbances to be one of strongest contributors of fatigue in MS patients.
Hence, cutting back on caffeine and replacing caffeinated drinks with fruit and vegetable juices and hot fluids, enables a patient to get a good night sleep that in turn reverses the symptoms of MS like memory loss, chronic fatigue and mood disorders. Even though, daytime naps had been considered bad for health by many studies since it casts a threat to nighttime sleep, a recent study conducted at Harvard University has suggested many benefits of napping in reversing cognitive decline.
Power naps for about 20-30 minutes in the afternoon in a quiet and a cool place will not only provide a fresh burst of energy and bring relief from fatigue but is also known to increase cognitive faculties like alertness, memory, learning abilities and gives enough time for nerves to recuperate. However, the benefits of a power nap disappear if it is taken for more than forty minutes, since sleep inertia sets in, which impairs a person’s ability to concentrate on mental and physical task.
In addition to promoting your overall health, lifestyle changes involving consumption of a well balanced diet and regular exercise can help you deal with both, mild and severe symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Every patient suffering from MS experiences a unique set of symptoms depending upon the brain area that has been damaged and hence he/she may respond differently to different treatments used to cure MS. Therefore, it is important to inform your doctor about any of the aforementioned remedies that you adapt and follow those which are most suitable for treating the severity of your condition.