Complementary Medicine in Multiple Sclerosis

Are you diagnosed with MS and confused about how complementary approaches can help you?

Throughout this article, we will discuss the use and availability of Complementary Medicine (CM) in patients with a chronic disease such as MS.

What is Complementary medicine? 

Complementary medicine is a unique approach.

A patient receiving complementary treatments is not only treated for the specific condition they have but also for their general health conditions, both mental and physical. The holistic approach includes, in addition to their diagnoses, also a reference to the lifestyle, diet, and behavioral and thinking patterns typical of the patient.

Through a holistic approach and a variety of body and mind treatments, complementary medicine might help strengthen the body, improve the immune system, and assist in all areas of life: digestive weakness, migraines, obesity, attention and concentration problems, and depression. For some people with MS, complementary treatments can even ease some of the milder MS symptoms.

People who live with Multiple Sclerosis are well-known recognized consumers of complementary medicine. Acupuncture, yoga, relaxation, dietary supplements, or massages will not cure Multiple Sclerosis. Still, there is evidence that when combined with conventional therapies – some may help alleviate the symptoms, provide control, and improve quality of life. There are several main treatment groups: 

  • Traditional Chinese medicine (which includes acupuncture, herbs, etc).
  • Ayurvedic medicine (meditation, massages, and nutrition).
  • Mind-body medicine- focusing  on the mind-body interaction. It includes relaxation techniques, biofeedback, yoga, tai chi, prayers, and spiritual practice.

This category may also include behavioral techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

  • Touch treatments include chiropractic, osteopathy, massages, reflexology, and more.
  • Nutritional Treatments- a specific and personalized  eating plan, including a variety of  nutritional supplements like Omega 3, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 
  • Energetic treatments – magnet therapy or sound energy, healing, reiki, bioenergy, etc.

Is there any recommended approach?

Not all these approaches are recommended for all patients as there are different degrees of disabilities as well as many different symptoms that vary from person to person. In the BelongMS app, some patients are discussing complementary MS treatments. They report that special diets, mind-body therapies, and other practices make them feel better. Some even claim that their vitals improved than when they were first  diagnosed with MS.

Scientific research on complementary medicine

Conventional medical procedures are thoroughly examined and regulated by the health authorities. On the other hand, most Complementary approaches have undergone very little scientific research to evaluate their safety and prove their effectiveness. Some treatments may be beneficial and entirely safe for a person with Multiple Sclerosis. In contrast, others may pose a hazard by interacting with other drugs, induce untoward side effects, or over-stimulate the immune system.

What should be checked before starting any complementary therapy?

. Before starting a treatment, it is advisable to consult, inquire, and ask questions about the nature of the procedure, its effectiveness, the risks, side effects, and costs. It is important to know that some of these approaches might be costly and usually not covered by health insurance funds and supplementary and private insurances When you have all the information you need, consult your medical team about the options and decide whether the expected benefit outweighs the risks.

Nutritional supplements

Nutritional supplements are part of the dietary treatments category. Heli Rostoker, a certified dietician who accompanies BelongMS app users, explains vitamin D’s benefits as a possible supplement for MS patients.

Vitamin D also called the “sunshine vitamin,” can be produced in the body, unlike other vitamins that we obtain from food or supplements. Vitamin D is vital for both the immune system and bone health.

Research shows that the further away from the equator, the higher the risk of MS. Because sunlight is the most effective source of vitamin D in the body, it is believed that exposure to sunlight may offer some protection against MS

There is increasing evidence suggesting that vitamin D is associated with both the risk and the prevention of  MS. Yet, it is essential to note that the effect of vitamin D supplementation on MS activity has not yet been adequately studied. Further research is needed to understand how vitamin D supplementation might affect MS.

Remember, our body can create vitamin D in the skin due to sun exposure. A short  exposure of several minutes per day to sunlight is required (time depends on skin color, seasons, hours of the day, etc.).

Vitamin D is also a fat-soluble vitamin and can be consumed by eating high-fat vitamin D foods such as egg yolks, oily fish (salmon, for example), and fortified foods such as milk and yogurt.

MS patients can discuss this issue with their healthcare team to decide whether vitamin D levels should be checked and how to maintain optimal vitamin D levels.

Is there a special diet for MS Treatment? 

Heli Rostoker also says that there are no exact recommendations regarding a specific diet plan for people with Multiple Sclerosis today.

However, clinical studies demonstrate that a balanced diet combined with a healthy and active lifestyle may improve various clinical metrics and quality of life.

Certain nutrients such as curcumin, vitamin D, and omega-3 have been extensively studied and play an essential role in regulating oxidative stress. Another powerful and beneficial antioxidant is melatonin, which is naturally produced in the pineal gland in the brain from the essential amino acid tryptophan.

This amino acid must be obtained from food because the body does not know how to produce it. Foods rich in tryptophan include soy, nuts, almonds, grains, chicken and turkey, oily fish like salmon, eggs, and milk.

The polyphenols found in vegetables, fruits, wine, and tea, are also known antioxidants. Incorporating these components into the daily diet may be beneficial for immune system function, reduce inflammation, improve various symptoms of MS, and improve quality of life.

We strongly recommend you always obtain your attending Doctors consent before initiating any changes in your diet or activities and before consuming non-prescribed medications.

This content is provided for your general education and information only. It does not necessarily reflect Belong’s views and opinions. Belong does not endorse or support any specific product, service, or treatment.

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