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Finding Natural Treatment Options for Multiple Sclerosis

Written by Brittani Sponaugle and updated on May 13, 2016
Finding Natural Treatment Options for Multiple Sclerosis

In the United States, non-conventional methods of treatment to disease fall under what is called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Over 77% of patients suffering with multiple sclerosis turn to CAM at some point to find extra support, relief or as an attempt to get away from pharmacology altogether.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic and progressive neurological disease that destroys the protective fatty tissue (myelin sheath) that surrounds nerve cells. When the protective armor is gone, large amounts of pain, discomfort, disability and a slew of other challenging and unpredictable symptoms occur.

It is also an autoimmune disease people which sets the immune system into overdrive effectively destroying both the bad cells like bacteria and disease and the good cells that we need to live healthy lives. So the goal is a bit counterintuitive here as overstimulating the immune system to “get better” can actually lead to adverse effects for those with MS.

MS is not the same for everyone. It’s a very individualized experience with symptoms ranging from brain atrophy, incontinence, weakness, vision problems, headaches, digestive issues, nerve pain, speech impairment and unfortunately the list goes on.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classifies complementary and alternative medicines into five categories: Whole Body Medicine, Biological Medicine, Mind-Body Medicine, Energetic Medicine and Body Manipulation Treatments. We will unpack each of these here, along with some natural western treatments and traditional eastern approaches.

Western Approach to Treating MS

The westernized approach to dealing with natural treatments for MS is a little different than the herbal, mind-body-soul, diet-oriented ways of the east (which have - thankfully - permeated our pharmacologically dependent Western ways). There are, however, some non-conventional natural treatments that are underway with promising results for MS patients.

Fecal Transplant

Fecal transplants are typically a remedy associated with the superbug clostridium difficile or C. diff. It’s often antibiotic resistant which led medical researchers down an unlikely avenue.

A fecal transplant is about as it sounds, feces with a certain cocktail of microflora, introduced into the colon of someone who has a gut microbiome that just isn’t working in their best interest. Infact, a study on gut flora found that the gut microbiome, “plays a key role in shaping the immune repertoire and plays an important role in disease susceptibility.” So could a balanced gut slow disease progression, alleviate symptoms or even prevent MS from developing in the first place?

More and more research is being done on the link between what some call leaky gut syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Leaky gut implies an imbalanced gut where the bad bacteria break down the intestinal wall and cause it to “leak” bad microbes and toxins into the surrounding body cavities. Once the wall lining is broken, these microbes can trigger overwhelming immune responses. And, unfortunately, even healthy intestinal microbes can turn rogue causing distress at a moment’s notice. Additionally, MS patients seem to have higher concentrations of inflammation inducing bacteria called Archae and lower concentrations of anti-inflammatory bacteria called Butyricimonas.

So then the question is, what can be done to heal the gut and potentially change the course of the disease?

You got it, fecal transplants. With high success in treating patients with c. diff, fecal transplants studies have shown hope for restoring health to an ailing body.

Helminthic Therapy

Since we’re talking about relatively gross ways to feel better (hey, do what it takes, right?) let’s discuss the idea of parasitic worm therapy.

Gut flora obviously plays a crucial role in the health of anyone, but especially the health of someone suffering from MS. So medical pioneers are leaving the arena of traditional pharmacology and headed towards... a small white worm’s eggs.

A probiotic treatment that is made up of Trichuris suis ova (non-infectious porcine whipworm eggs) puts a stop to abnormal immune function and inflammation so typical of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Say, what?

The MS pharmaceutical market made over 12.5 billion dollars in 2010 according to Espicom, a research firm. But what if going au naturel - by eating worm eggs - could cost little to nothing, with no side effects and increased well-being? They just might.

Experts say, “If these trials prove successful, treatment with parasitic worms—known as helminthic therapy—could provide a simple, cheap, natural and controllable treatment for the debilitating condition, which affects 2.5 million people world-wide. “

Box Jellyfish Venom

Should you was out into the Indo-Pacific Ocean begging to get stung? No. But promising research shows that the venom from this nearly 100% translucent sea anemone could provide a first line of defense against the progression of MS. Stichodactyla toxin, known as Shk toxin, blocks specific potassium channels that are known to dysfunction in patients with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.

Hormone therapy treatment

For the childbearing aged women out there suffering from MS, pregnancy, of all things, can actually improve your symptoms. University of California neurologist Rhonda Voskhul says, "Pregnancy involves a fetus, which has half of the father's proteins on it. So it's half foreign. In order to not reject that half-foreign fetus, the mother's immune system shifts." And it’s in this shift that researchers determined the hormone estriol as a big player in protecting otherwise susceptible nerve fibers.

For men, testosterone treatment has shown cognitive improvement and reduced brain atrophy - but no reduction in lesions.

Recommended dose: 8/mg per day of estriol and 10/mg per day of testosterone

Biological Medicine

Over 88% of people who use CAM treatment methods for MS turn to biological medicine for relief. This includes herbal supplements like gingko biloba, nutritional supplements like Vitamin D and mineral supplements like Calcium.

Obtaining these nutrients through food is preferable because of the vitamins and minerals in capsules are synthesized. So for instance, if you need Vitamin C, in pill form you’re getting ascorbic acid. If you get it from nature you’re getting bioflavonoids, the entire Vitamin C complex which makes it more effective.

Of course, if you can’t naturally source these supplements, at least check to make sure that vitamins are in vegetarian pill capsule and don’t contain any unnecessary fillers like gum arabic and color additives (chlorophyll is best). Also make sure that your minerals are chelated, making them more bioavailable to you.

Vitamins

Vitamin D

Many patients that have multiple sclerosis may suffer from a deficiency of Vitamin D. In a 2014 study published in JAMA Neurology, researchers found that, “higher serum 25(OH)D levels robustly predicted a lower degree of MS activity, MRI lesion load, brain atrophy, and clinical progression during the 5 years of follow-up.”

In layman speak: higher levels of Vitamin D can lessen the frequency of attacks (or exacerbations) and can help reduce the onset of new MRI lesions. Reduced levels of Vitamin D in the system also put patients at higher risk for developing osteoporosis, a common complication of MS. Bone health is crucial for those with this disease because decreased physical activity, reduced exposure to sunlight and frequent steroid use are common plights of patients.

If you’re unsure of your Vitamin D levels, contact your doctor for a simple blood test to confirm your levels. If levels are low, consider amping up your diet with fish, liver, milk fortified with Vitamin D and processed cereals (although the latter is not ultimately recommended.) Obtaining nutrients via food versus through a supplement is preferred however, and getting your daily D from the sun - well that’s good for the body and the mind.

Recommended dose: 600–800 IU for adults of Vitamin D3

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are the one group of omegas that most people don’t get enough of. Since our bodies don’t produce omegas on their own it’s crucial that we get them through our diet.

A deficiency in Omega-3 isn’t good for anyone's health, but for someone suffering from MS it could be a huge set back. Omega-3 deficiency presents itself with worsening symptoms of mental deterioration, tingling of the hands and feet, immune dysfunction, tissue inflammation and motor incoordination.

Research shows that patients with increased levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, “exhibited significantly reduced levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), a factor correlated with disease progression.”

Omega-3 rich foods include fish (like sockeye salmon and sushi), olive oil, dark leafy greens, nuts, hemp, or flax. Make a yogurt parfait in the morning with some nuts, hemp and flax; you’ll get some Omega-3 and probiotics which are good for gut health, another leading factor in alleviating symptoms and progression of MS.

Recommended dose: Start taking 2-3 tablespoons of organically grown cold-pressed flaxseed oil and see a reduction in symptoms within just a few days.

Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10

This supplement has been shown to have some benefits for individuals that suffer from neurological disorders. As with many of these supplements, this has not been studied when it comes to MS patients, but this is a supplement that is generally considered safe and well tolerated by users.

Recommended dose: talk with your doctor

Vitamin B12

B12, also known as “the red pill”, is thought to increase quality of life for those who suffer with MS. A complication of MS can be pernicious anemia which stems from a serious deficiency of B12. Your doctor can give you a shot for an immediate boost (and it bypasses the stomach which makes it more bioavailable). Find B12 naturally in liver, fish, eggs, milk and cheese.

Vitamin B12 boosts energy, can restore nerve functioning, improve cognitive function and is the only vitamin that contains essential minerals as well. It’s recommended to take B12 sublingually as it absorbs better into the body, but if you have to take a pill make sure to take calcium with it so the body can properly use it.

Antacids can interfere with the ability to utilize B12 and B12 can interrupt the course of antibiotics. So make sure you talk with your doctor about supplementing.

Herbal Supplements

St. John’s Wort

St. John’’s Wort can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It has a tendency to make you feel a little drowsy so be careful of extra fatigue. Also talk to your doctor before you decide to take St. John’s Wort with other MS meds like SSRI’s (Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft) or benzodiazepines like Xanex or Klonopin.

Apitherapy (Bee Venom)

Bees are more important that many think. Not only do they keep the world as we know it, their little bee-ways of producing venom, wax, pollen and honey lend tremendous benefit to people suffering from serious diseases and allergies.

Bee venom, or the substance released when you’re stung, contains melittin, dolapin and apamin which all have been used to improve communication between nerves and reduce inflammation for diseases like fibromyalgia, tendonitis and MS. Treatment by bee sting is known as apitherapy.

The powerful anti-inflammatory effects of melittin and adolapin in bee venom - along with apamin, improve nerve transmission and are being used to effectively treat fibromyalgia and tendonitis.

Although apitherapy still has a long way to go before it’s scientifically proven as a treatment in the U.S., twelve countries in Europe have officially recognized bee venom as a drug to help with inflammation. And, sometimes a personal account or many may be enough inspiration to give it a whirl.

Recommended dose: depends, some do as many as 80 stings a day

Dandelions

Dandelions have actually been used as traditional medicine in Native American, Arabic, and Korean medicine. Some research has been found that it can help to promote your immune system’s health and reduce fatigue. Other studies have found that it offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This is another herbal remedy that has sat by the wayside of researchers specifically examining how this could assist those that have multiple sclerosis, but many users find it helpful.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms aren’t just tasty (and good as a burger substitute) they actually have amazing medical benefits stored away in their tiny fungus molecules. The FDA finally recognized the cancer-fighting agents of turkey tail mushrooms, allowing trials to be conducted for the purpose of reducing tumors, and eliminating free-radicals (which is also huge in slowing the progression of MS). Reishi mushrooms are also known to fight free radicals, encourage the degradation of toxins and to help the liver metabolize more effectively. But these two mushrooms are used to stimulate the immune system of those undergoing chemotherapy, so talk to your doctor first.

Not surprisingly, one of the most common MS drugs Gilenya is actually derived from the cordyceps mushroom. Gilenya works by suppressing the parts of the immune system that are hyperactive. So what if you skipped the expensive drug and went straight for the source? You can.

Cordyceps mushrooms, along with lions mane (to improve mood and memory), the aforementioned turkey tail, reishi can be used as supplements, in teas, or eaten raw (although they don’t taste that great) to help treat MS and alleviate symptoms.

Kratom

Kratom has offered a natural pain management to patients who experience chronic pain - for centuries. It’s so effective as a analgesic, that people trying to sever their addiction to opiates use kratom in lieu of methadone during detox. Kratom contains mitragynine, a chemical that can alleviate muscle aches and pains, reduce coughs and stop diarrhea. In small doses, Kratom can be used as as stimulant.

Unlike pharmaceutical pain meds, there are little to no side effects and it’s completely natural and (for now) legal.

Recommended dose: It depends on what you are using it for, what strain it is and where you get it

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is a pretty well-known Chinese medicine treatment that has traditionally been used for a wide variety of conditions. Historically, ginkgo is thought to increase cognitive function in dementia patients, but no studies have shown this to be true for MS patients - yet. However, ginkgo does offer platelet activating factor (PAF) a substance that may inhibit the activity of certain immune cells involved in blood clotting and inflammation.

Recommended dose: 240 or 360 milligrams of ginkgolide B

Cranberry Supplements

Unfortunately, 90% of MS patients suffer from frequent urinary tract infections (UTI’s). They shouldn’t be taken lightly, though. Complications from UTI’s and MS can lead to dementia like symptoms and more serious problems like kidney infections and kidney stones.

And some researchers think that a UTI can actually trigger a relapse. So what can be done to prevent the infection? Cranberries. At least sometimes. Studies done to explore the correlation between cranberries and urinary health have been done - but many have been poorly done.

So the results are this: will cranberries hurt you? Only in large doses for a long period of time. Will they help you? According to Oxford Journal, “Cranberries contain 2 compounds with antiadherence properties that prevent fimbriated Escherichia coli from adhering to uroepithelial cells in the urinary tract.” There’s also evidence to suggest cranberry can kill certain bacteria.

So, yes, cranberry can help. Just remember that cranberries won’t treat an active infection - you’ll need a course of antibiotics for that.

Recommended dose: 1- 10oz of juice concentrate (not the Ocean Spray cocktails in the juice aisle), or 6 powdered capsules

Catnip

Yeah, we’ve discussed a lot of weird treatment options here and this one is no different. The get-your-cat-crazy plant can actually get-you-less-pain, too. Catnip has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce flare-ups and make the pain subside for a while., although testing in humans is scarce, animal trials are promising.

Recommended dose: not known or tested

Licorice

Licorice root and licorice root extract have been used to treat stomach ulcers, inflammation and viral conditions. It may even have neuroprotective properties, but not enough research has been done to say that conclusively.

Recommended dose: not known or tested

Cannabis

A taboo subject, but one that needs to lose the stigma because the health and medical benefits are too great.

Everyone has an endocannabinoid system, it’s like a endocrine system or nervous system but it’s less talked about. Scientists are just now beginning to understand the importance of this system for eliminating disease, maintaining homeostasis in the body and activating receptors throughout that have long gone dormant.

Our bodies produce their own endocannabinoids, but in most cases, we don’t produce enough to keep our system in balance. That’s why obtaining cannabinoids (the chemicals - both psychoactive and non-psychoactive) from the cannabis plant is so important. It’s like being anemic and needing a supplement of iron to get better.

Not only does cannabis play a crucial role in maintaining cellular and subcellular homeostasis, it is an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, neuroprotective, anti-spasticity treatment, an appetite stimulator, a pain reliever, cancer fighting agent, antiepileptic, an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety med. It’s also used to treat insomnia and one of it’s prime treatments is autoimmune diseases.

A study from the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology shows that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can actually slow the progression of clinical multiple sclerosis. And many patients of MS turn to cannabis to find relief in their daily symptoms.

Recommended dose: it depends on how you ingest it (oil, flower, edibles, enema, or topical treatments)

Spices

There are quite a few spices that can be wonderful in helping your body deal with your MS symptoms naturally, but some of the main ones used are turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. These can be available as supplements, or you can just try to add them into your daily meals when cooking.

Eat Healthy

This whole section is dedicated to a healthy diet and nutrition, but what are the overarching food philosophies that can help treat MS?

  • Stay away from processed foods and eat organic, GMO-free foods when you can; processed foods can damage intestinal lining which can lead to leaky gut syndrome and evoke sensitive food allergies or food intolerances
  • Consider limiting dairy
  • Stay away from empty carbs like soda and polyunsaturated fats like margarine, vegetable oil, fried foods high in trans-fatty acids
  • Cook with spices like turmeric, ginger and cinnamon
  • Try to avoid aspartame
  • Let go of MSG (and the fried chinese food that usually goes with it)

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is - but it isn’t. Luckily, there are a few popular diets tailored to MS patients that have seen amazing results: Wahls Protocol and the more controversial Swank diet. Following a mediterranean diet has also shown promising results.

Antioxidants

There are two different schools of thought on antioxidants and multiple sclerosis treatment. On one side of the coin, antioxidants play a critical role in hunting down free radicals in the body and destroying them. An uncontrolled population of free radicals in the body can lead to major diseases like cancer, heart disease, chronic nerve damage, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.

A National Institute of Health study on antioxidants and MS in 2011 found that, “… oxidative stress plays an important role in pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis. This finding, also, suggests the importance of antioxidants in diet and therapy of MS patients.”

So what’s the other side of the coin?It just so happens that antioxidants also stimulate the immune system which is already hyperactive in patients with autoimmune diseases like MS. The idea is to get the immune system to stop attacking itself and if we wake it up and scream in it’s face, well that seems counterproductive.

But wait. Here’s something else to consider: glutathione (GSH) is a brain antioxidant that plays a major league role in - you guessed it - getting rid of free radicals. It is usually consumed as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a precursor to glutathione.

Some studies suggest that an impaired synthesis of glutathione actually contributes to neurodegenerative diseases, while others seem to think that, “GSH depletion would precipitate oxidative damage in the brain, leading to neurodegenerative diseases.” One study says GSH, an antioxidant, makes an already existing condition worse, while the other finds that an GSH imbalance actually leads to the condition.

So, what gives?

Let’s just say that eating your healthy dose of vegetables and fruits everyday full of antioxidants (and other amazing nutrients) isn’t going to harm you, at all, ever. However, taking supplements of antioxidants to increase free radical elimination could cause some unwanted side effects, so talk to your doctor, do your own research and make an educated decision from there.

Mineral Supplements

Selenium

In a western region of Finland researchers noticed an alarming number of cattle with muscular dystrophy, the same region that high-concentrations of people with MS are living. They found that the lack of selenium in both the cattle and the people’s diet could be contributing to the proliferation of disease in the area.

Selenium is a mineral antioxidant, and as discussed above, antioxidants could be really good - or really bad for MS patients. Most of us already get the FDA recommended daily amount of selenium in our daily diets. It can be found in seafood, organic meats, legumes, cereals and whole grains, and dairy.

There just isn’t enough research yet to be conclusive so, talk with your doctor before you add a selenium supplement to your daily regiment.

Recommended dose: Low doses of 20 to 55mg per day

Calcium

Calcium is a crucial to stave off osteoporosis, and unfortunately MS promotes an environment friendly for this bone disease. As the most abundant mineral in the human body, ensuring appropriate daily calcium intake not only helps to strengthen bones, it helps regulate many body processes.

Recommended dose: 1,000mg daily

Zinc

Zinc is another common mineral found in the body, and it plays an important role - for most. In people with multiple sclerosis taking in too much zinc can be dangerous and lead to a copper deficiency which can lead to something called copper deficiency myelopathy, a neurological disorder that mimics the symptoms of MS. If your doctor determines that you don’t have the appropriate level of zinc for your MS make sure you stick the the recommended daily amount.

Recommended dose: 11mg for men and 8mg for women

Eastern Approach to Treating MS

Whole Body Medicine

Whole body medicine emcompasses not only functional remedies, but a system of belief that combines both energy practices and a lifestyle conducive to promoting health.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda is one of the oldest traditional healing systems in the world with it’s roots in the Indian subcontinent. It’s main principle is: to live healthy, you must be harmonious with the universe in mind, body and spirit. Some traditional Ayurvedic medicinal practices have since been incorporated into Western medicine, so there is some overlap. Below are some of the traditional ayurvedic medicines that can benefit MS patients greatly.

Amrit Kalash

Also known as, Maharishi amrit kalash, Maharishi-4 or MAK-4, is a food supplement that can possibly contribute to heart health, improved immune health, reduced fatigue and is thought to slow the progression of MS.

Ashwagandha

Although some claim that ashwagandha can benefit those with MS, the limited research available shows that this supplement may actually stimulate the immune system posing a potential risk to MS sufferers. A study done in 2004 does show that ashwagandha can reduce symptoms of chronic pain and swelling in patients with osteoarthritis, so the potential for relieving symptoms is there just be mindful if you begin to experience negative effects after starting this herb.

Chyawanprash

While some MS patients say that Chyawanprash is beneficial for their symptoms, it’s important to know that this Ayurvedic herb can actually increase immune activity to aid in fighting off protection. In the same breath, it can be immunoprotective which would benefit MS patients.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Astragalus

Astragalus is an ancient chinese medicine that could produce adverse effects for MS sufferers as it’s known as an immune stimulating plant. It is sometimes used in treatment of fibromyalgia, cancer, anorexia and fatigue. There is not enough conclusive information about astragalus yet to determine whether or not it is effective in treating MS.

Ginseng

Ginseng is another, rather famous, Chinese herb that is traditionally used as medicine for a wide variety of conditions. This is a popular treatment for multiple sclerosis symptoms. It’s important to note that large doses of this herb can cause some unpleasant side effects. These include rash, insomnia, diarrhea, nervousness, irritability, and hypertension.

This is definitely one of the natural treatments for multiple sclerosis that you should speak with your pharmacist or doctor about when taking to ensure that you’re not putting yourself at more risk when compared to the benefits that you may see from this natural herbal treatment. They can help you to better pinpoint exactly what the right dosage you should use before you start putting yourself in danger of taking too much that you see these negative side effects.

Burdock Root

Burdock root is a common traditional chinese medicine used for it’s anti-inflammatory properties and as a circulatory aid around the world. It has also been found to harbor some antioxidants and tumor-fighting agents, especially for those with pancreatic carcinoma. IT should be noted that some people have an allergic reaction to burdock which would cause an inflammatory response and thus make MS symptoms worse.

Gotu Kola

Sometimes referred to as Brahmi, gotu kola is used as a tonic around the world to treat dermatitis issues, digestive trouble, inflammation, helps to restore cognitive function and nervous system balance.

Huo Ma Ren (Chinese Hemp Seed)

In traditional chinese medicine hemp seed is known as one of the 50 fundamental herbs. Huo Ma Ren is used largely to aid in digestive issues, but is also used as a laxative and a medicine to help restore nervous system function.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is one of the more unconventional natural treatment methods out there. The two founding principles are: “like cures like” and the “law of minimum dose”. Like cures like implies that a disease can be cured by a homeopathic substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people. And, the law of minimum dose states that the lower the dosage of medication, the better it will work

There is a long list of homeopathic remedies that can be beneficial to patients with MS, but no treatment plan will be the same. Homeopathic practitioners highly individualize the substance plan to be delivered. Here are a few that deal with anti-inflammatory and anti-spasticity.

These include: Causticum, Gelsemium, Oxalic Acid, Phosphorus, Natrum muriaticum, Argentum nitricum, Conium, Plumbum metallicum, Cannabis indica, Nux vomica, Zincum mettalicum and Tarentula Hispania.

Mind-Body Medicine

A harmonious mind and body is key to maintain a healthy life. The mind is powerful enough to make us ill when we are not ill, and to keep us down when we are trying to resurface. Focus your mind on well-being and health while you treat your body to the same.

To ensure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.

- William Londen 

Meditation

Mindful meditation takes practice, and it takes patience, but the reward is priceless. “Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older,” biologist Hans Seyle once said. Meditation can reverse the effects that stress have on the body if practiced regularly.

Meditation is particularly useful for those with MS because they face many challenges, emotionally, physically, psychologically, socially, financially and personally that can induce great amounts of anxiety, depression and fear. “Mindfulness training can help those with MS better cope with these changes,” meditation and MS study author Paul Grossman says.

Furthermore, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn discovered an enzyme called telomerase that can protect and rebuild telomeres, a component of our cell that is responsible for dividing, and a key factor in aging. Cortisol, a hormone released when we’re under stress, reduces the effect of telomerase and therefore reduces the ability of telomeres to do their job effectively for as long. “While oxidative stress and inflammation – the physiological fallout of psychological stress – appear to erode telomeres directly, “ the BBC article on stress concludes.

And here’s the science on why meditation works.

Art therapies

Some modern psychotherapists use art therapy as a way to open the flood gates to the inner battles of the mind, body and soul. Even if you’ve never painted, crafted, sewn or played music a day in your life, art therapy can be for you.

It may be difficult to hold onto a paintbrush some days, or to a pair of scissors to cut out magazine pictures for your vision board, but remember you are capable of persevering and can reap the rewards of trying in spite of adversity. Art therapy is also a way to release pent up stress - in a way which words may fail you.

Yoga

Yoga is an awesome way to work on regaining control over your balance, to improve mobility and to strengthen muscles that may be feeling a bit weak. The best part about yoga is you go at your own pace in your own way. In a wheelchair? That’s fine, there is yoga for you. Having trouble with tremors? It’s okay, just work on your breath. Yoga will help you connect with your body at every level to nurture it back to health.

Dr. Allen Bowling, a neurologist who has studied alternative treatments to multiple sclerosis for over 30 years, says this of yoga: “Yoga is relatively inexpensive, generally safe, and may potentially improve multiple sclerosis symptoms. One rigorous MS clinical trial found that yoga decreased fatigue. Other studies in MS and various other medical conditions have reported improvement in anxiety, depression, fatigue, bladder function, pain, spasticity, weakness and walking.“

So there you have it. Oh, and the National MS Society teamed up with yoga instructors to create a yoga for students with MS teacher training program.

Energetic Medicine

Not to get all hippy-dippy, but energetic medicine has powerful therapeutic effects. It combines conscious and skilled models of healing to reach a patient on all emotional and physical levels of well-being.

Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese energetic medicine used to embrace the life force within each and every living thing. Reiki practitioners seek to reduce stress and increase relaxation by nurturing the life force through use of their hands, and own personal energy reserve.

If your energy force is low you are less able to resist sickness, but when it is high and flowing, you can push illness away.

Patients with MS are often combating complications from their disease, and as such energy can be pretty limited. A case study shows that reiki therapy can decrease lethargy by 90%, depression by 80%, cognitive problems by 78%, motor problems by 75% and pain by 73%. Those are some promising numbers.

Reiki symbols are also used to generate energy and then harness it for healing purposes.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional chinese medicine focused on life energy, called chi (qi), that runs along pathways in our body called meridians. Through using needles to pinpoint or unblock trouble spots in the chi flow, acupuncturists can help treat and even diagnose ailments in the body. An acupuncture chart shows the pathways which practitioners follow during treatment sessions.

In Tianjin, China, Xingnao Kaiqiao (XNKQ) acupuncture is a common treatment for multiple sclerosis. The Xingnao Kaigiao methods regulate and harmonize zang-fu organs, reinforce the function of liver and kidney, and improve motor function. And in the west, studies have found that acupuncture can increase quality of life, reduce fatigue and reduce relapse symptoms as well.

Acupuncture isn’t for everyone, the idea of laying down and getting needles put in your skin can sound frightening - and rightfully so. Acupressure follows the same principle as acupuncture, but practitioners use their fingers instead of needles to produce similar results.

Qigong

Another popular CAM treatment hailing from traditional chinese medicine is qigong, which essentially means to cultivate energy. It is a medicinal system of healing, revitalization and balance. Qigong isn’t a treatment option that you go to only when you’re feeling ill, it’s a daily practice that increases stamina, balance and peace along with improving the condition of the circulatory, respiratory and nervous system.

Many people, like Ruth Goodard, who suffer from MS rely on qigong to “find their feet” again, regain energy and find increased mobility.

Manipulative Body Based Medicine

The last CAM category contains two forms of treatment that are more common in the west, but have their foundations in the east.

Massage

Massage is used worldwide to help relieve pain, eliminate stress, increase circulation and digestive tract function, heal injuries and increase relaxation. All of which are highly beneficial to patients with MS.

Manipulating the soft tissues of the body, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue) the body releases endorphins (the feel good hormones) like serotonin, dopamine and small amounts of adrenaline which contribute to the healing process. Not to mention the benefits of having unkinked muscles, some down time from hectic life and a little TLC given to your body.

Chiropractic Medicine

The last CAM treatment to discuss is chiropractic medicine. Those with MS are unfortunately faced with many musculoskeletal issues which can leave them in chronic pain, immobile or weak. Chiropractic medicine seeks to manipulate or adjust the way bones and muscles are sitting in order to relieve symptoms.

A study done with patients suffering from MS and chronic venous cerebral-spinal insufficiency show that by manipulating C1 and C2 (cervical discs 1 and 2) patients had significant reduction in pain associated with subluxation (misalignment of the spine).

And, according to healing hands chiropractic, after two years of treatment, many MS patients saw a reduction in lesions, while some saw no new occurrence of lesions at all.

Conclusion

While CAM treatment methods may not be heavily endorsed by conventional doctors, most doctors do not see harm in embracing CAM without rejecting pharmacological treatments. Always speak with your doctor regarding any new alternative therapies you start so they can ensure your current medication will not be affected in anyway.

About the author

    Brittani Sponaugle

    Brittani is a content marketer and web designer with over 5 years of experience across many industries. She spends her free time traveling, studying natural medicine + nutrition, mushroom hunting, learning how to cook worldly dishes, and doing photography.

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