Daniel J Crisafi, ND.A., MH., PhD
My husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Do you think it is possible to treat this disease using natural methods?
The natural approach, more specifically the naturopathic approach, does not seek to treat the disease – whether it be multiple sclerosis or any other disease. Rather, it seeks to correct any excesses or deficiencies that play a role in triggering the disease. So, to answer your question more precisely, using a natural approach can be very effective in helping individuals affected by multiple sclerosis to live a normal life.
The purpose of this article is not to give you a specific intervention protocol - each individual is different - but to offer some ideas that will, hopefully, help your husband - and anyone else afflicted with his disease - understand how certain lifestyle changes can help them live an active life for a long time.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the myelin sheath that covers the nerves and ensures nerve transmission is damaged. Since this interference affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, individuals can suffer from a variety of neurological symptoms of varying intensities - depending on the severity of the disease.
Classic symptoms include tingling or numbness in the extremities, decrease or loss of feeling, impaired balance and gait and blurred vision. MS is diagnosed based on the patient’s symptom history and through various tests including magnetic resonance. Only neurologists can diagnose the disease with certainty. According to the Canadian Multiple Sclerosis Society, Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world.
Is MS an Auto-immune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system destroys its own cells in the same way as it would attack cells from a transplant donor or destroy an intruder such as a bacteria or virus. Conditions regarded as autoimmune diseases include MS, Crohn disease, Lupus and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to name a few.
Two points are worth noting here. First, to say that a disease is autoimmune does not explain why the immune system attacks its own tissues. Indeed, the immune system "selectively" attacks its own tissues as if they were intruders - it only attacks one type of tissue. The question should then be "Why does my immune system not recognize my myelin?" Second, it is quite plausible that MS is not an autoimmune disease at all. Indeed, various official bodies suggest that MS is "regarded" as an autoimmune disease. We're not one hundred percent sure.
MS and Diet
Notwithstanding what some may say to the contrary, diet plays an important role in the development of the disease as well as in outbreaks of MS. Multiple sclerosis often occurs in spurts during which existing symptoms intensify and new symptoms can appear. Many clinicians as well as people with MS have found that dietary factors seem to trigger these outbreaks. Stress also plays a clear role.
Some researchers have established that diet plays a very important role in any clinical approach to MS. The work of two European doctors and researchers are especially worth noting. The first is the Swiss doctor Catherine Kousmine. Many have had an indirect contact with Kousmine, the author of "Sauvez votre corps” (Save your body) by consuming Budwig Cream, a healthy breakfast that gained popularity some thirty years ago. What many are unaware of is that Dr. Kousmine wrote a book titled "La Sclérose en plaques est guérissable" (Multiple Sclerosis is Curable) in 1989. This book, now out of print, is available online in French at www.Kousmine.fr.
Another researcher and physician who tackled multiple sclerosis is Dr. Jean Seignalet. This French doctor, a transplant pioneer, dedicated an entire chapter to MS in the 5th edition of his book "L'alimentation ou la troisième médecine" (Nutrition – the Third Medicine). Dr. Seignalet’s ideas were echoed by Jacqueline Lagacé in her book “The End of Pain: How Nutrition and Diet Can Fight Chronic Inflammatory Disease." As Dr. Seignalet said:
"... nutritional change, which is not dangerous and causes no deficiencies, is worth trying systematically." (P. 256)
What dietary changes?
Regarding MS, the most conclusive studies suggest several important parameters in the diet. Here, in summary form, is the outline.
Begin any dietary change program with a period of detoxification which includes a restrictive diet. In her book on multiple sclerosis, Kousmine recommends a light diet consisting of only fruit for three days so the intestinal flora can be rebuilt. Rather than following such a restrictive eating plan, I would recommend a week-long diet of exclusively vegetables (cooked, raw or juiced) fruit, millet (boiled or as a breakfast cereal) and almonds. Portions should be determined based on the patient's activity level, track record and their ability to follow this eating plan. Ideally, this type of eating plan should be under the supervision of a health professional.
Kousmine and Seignalet correctly identified the role of poor intestinal flora in the development of this disease. Dr. Kousmine recommends dietary changes that will help rebuild the intestinal flora. Given the state of "probiotic" science at the time Kousmine wrote her book, her recommendations may seem antiquated. Nevertheless, Kousmine and Seignalet were right to target the state of the microbiota. Thus, taking probiotics during the program is a necessity.
We must follow a hypotoxic diet, in other words, a diet with fewer artificial chemicals and possible allergens. Seignalet, unlike Kousmine, recommended the elimination of most grains, including wheat, corn and rice. For many people, this plan, like the Paleolithic diet, is difficult to follow. As for myself, I ask my patients to eliminate gluten grains (wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, rye and sometimes oats) but grains such as rice, buckwheat and corn are permitted, with caution. In Dr. Seignalet’s eating plan - as in the one I recommend – dairy products are also eliminated. As for Kousmine, she recommended limiting dairy consumption to low-fat cheeses such as quark. Eating large quantities of vegetables is encouraged and sugar consumption is reduced to a minimum, if not eliminated entirely.
We must eliminate saturated fats (and trans fats) and reduce our consumption of animal fats except for omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Meats should be lean and fried foods should be eliminated entirely. A significant number of studies link fat consumption - especially saturated fat – to an increased incidence of MS. Some authors go as far as to recommend a vegetarian diet to reduce any saturated fat. The recommendations of Kousmine and Seignalet do not go that far.
Food sensitivities can play an important role in the development or severity of MS. Drs. Dominique Rueff and Jean-Pierre Willem clearly emphasized the role of these hypersensitivities or food intolerances in the development of autoimmune diseases. Thus, it is important to determine if such food intolerances exist either by following a hypoallergenic diet or through immunoglobulin analyses.
Some dietary supplements should always be taken when dealing with MS. Dr. Kousmine recommends taking B vitamins from the moment the disease is diagnosed. Kousmine also recommends vegetable-based, cold-pressed oils containing omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. However, new studies show that it is mainly omega-3 DHAs (needed for growth and to repair the nervous system) and EPAs (anti-inflammatory) that help support people with MS. An omega-3 supplement with about equal levels of both DHA and EPA will be useful.
Meanwhile, phospholipids play an important role in the health of the nervous system. These phospholipids are essential components of cell membranes. Studies undertaken in the 1990’s emphasized the link between phospholipid damage and MS. Due to a lack of interest, phospholipid research was virtually abandoned. It was not until the early 2000’s that they returned to the forefront of biochemical research on multiple sclerosis. Researchers found that autoimmune reactions could indeed be due to impaired cellular phospholipids. As far back as 1989, Dr. Kousmine was recommending a phospholipid supplement for her patients with MS. Taking a phosphatidylcholine (or lecithin) supplement can be used in this kind of approach.
Other supplements have also proven useful, such as magnesium, n-acetyl cysteine and vitamin D. These should be prescribed based on the needs of the individual.
Some researchers have linked the onset of multiple sclerosis with the presence of dental amalgams. Indeed, amalgam (fillings as they are commonly called) contain about 50% mercury. But some believe that dental mercury may, under certain circumstances, escape from the amalgam and be absorbed into the system where it could damage the central nervous system. A Swedish study showed that cerebrospinal fluid in all patients with MS had mercury levels up to 7.5 times higher than individuals without MS. Hair analysis also revealed that people with MS usually have a higher level of mercury in their tissues than healthy subjects.
Some studies, though controversial, have shown that replacing amalgam fillings with composites (dental materials that do not contain mercury) caused the symptoms of some patients to improve significantly. If this option is chosen, it should be done by a dentist who is familiar with the protocols for safe removal.
Apart from amalgams, increased mercury levels can also come from ingesting certain types of fish, chemicals or pesticides.
Multiple sclerosis is a serious disease for which conventional medicine offers only symptomatic support. While this support has increased the mobility of countless individuals, it does not address its root cause. The natural approach is designed to address the possible causes of MS by working on various factors that can either trigger or aggravate the disease. It also seeks to allow the body to repair itself - and repair its myelin – as much as is possible by placing it in an environment that promotes healing. Both approaches, far from being antagonistic, are complementary and should be part of any rational approach to help people with this debilitating disease. I conclude by leaving the floor to Dr. Kousmine ...
"The treatment proposed in this work is applied causative ... Even when applied late, as we did, it provides results that are excellent for their regularity." (P. 233)
Kousmine, Catherine La Sclérose en plaques est guérissable Éd. Delachaux & Niestlé (1989)
Rueff, Dominique L'Immuno-nutrition François-Xavier De Guibert Éd. (2007)
Seignalet, Jean L'alimentation ou la troisième médecine, François-Xavier De Guibert Éd. (2004)
Willem, Jean-Pierre Les Intolérances Alimentaires Gut trédaniel Éd. (2012)
Ahlrot-Westerlund, B. Mercury in cerebrospinal fluid in multiple sclerosis, Swed J. Bill. Med. 1:6 (1989)
Qin J, Goswami R, Balabanov R, Dawson G. Oxidized phosphatidylcholine is a marker for neuroinflammation in multiple sclerosis brain J Neurosci Res. 2007 Apr;85(5):977-84
Roy A. Garvin Elevated Phospholipid Transfer Protein in Subjects with Multiple Sclerosis Journal of Lipids Volume 2015, Article ID 518654