Beneficial Alternative Options for MS Patients.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Alleger, Irene
Pub Date: 02/01/2012
Publication: Name: Townsend Letter Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group Audience: General; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 The Townsend Letter Group ISSN: 1940-5464
Issue: Date: Feb-March, 2012 Source Issue: 343-344
Topic: NamedWork: Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally: A Self-Help Guide to Living with MS (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Graham, Judy
Accession Number: 282825233
Full Text: Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally: A Self-Help Guide to Living with MS by Judy Graham

Healing Arts Press; One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont 05767

[c] 1989, 2010; softcover; $19.95; 372 pp.

Much has changed in the treatment of MS since Judy Graham first published Multiple Sclerosis in 1989. The biggest change is in the introduction of various drug therapies; unfortunately, as with most drugs, they come with side effects and their effectiveness has been minimal. The new book includes many non-drug remedies, most of them well established and safe. The sheer number of possible treatments for MS speaks to the cloud of unknowing that surrounds this illness. There are as many theories as to the cause as there are specialists, and their theories range from environmental factors to oxidative stress to infection. One of the most striking features of MS is its geographical distribution; it is five times more prevalent in northern latitudes and almost unknown in tropical areas. This has led to a promising clue of vitamin D deficiency. However, as with most autoimmune diseases, MS will probably include several factors.

Nutritional doctor Ray Strand thinks that oxidative stress may be the major cause of MS, and has achieved good results using antioxidants. The diet is very important, and there are several used by most MS patients. The Best Bet Diet is essentially a Paleolithic diet consisting mostly of lean meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits. Foods to be avoided include gluten, dairy, legumes, and sugar. Probiotics are used as well as many supplements. High-dose vitamin B12 has proved beneficial for many MS patients.

The author devotes an entire chapter to vitamin D, since it has now been proved beyond a doubt that this vitamin is critical to MS. Ashton Embry, PhD, a Canadian geologist who devised the Best Bet Diet after his son was diagnosed with MS, believes that it is a disease of long-standing vitamin D deficiency. In 2004, another researcher, Dr. Kassandra Munger of the Harvard School of Public Health, published a study of nearly 190,000 women showing that those who took vitamin D supplements were 40% less likely to develop MS. She also found that a diet high in vitamin D was not enough alone to provide the same protection as supplementing. Vitamin D helps to regulate immune function and prevent autoimmune disease through its role in T cell development and differentiation. It suppresses the proliferation of T1 helper cells, which are involved in autoimmune activity in MS. Vitamin D is also a powerful antioxidant, combating oxidative damage to the central nervous system.

Essential fatty acids (fish oil) are important in MS, as they are required for the growth, repair, and maintenance of nervous system tissue. Professor Roy Swank studied the low-fat diet for many years and concluded that MS patients did much better on a low saturated fat diet, also taking supplements of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Some new and promising research on progesterone shows that this hormone not only has profound neuroprotective effects, but may possibly promote the formation or restoration of myelin, the insulating material that wraps around nerve fibers, and the destruction of which signifies multiple sclerosis.

Exercise is another critical part of the MS regimen. Because fatigue is often prevalent with MS, the gentler forms of exercise such as yoga, tai chi, and Pilates are recommended. Many studies have now shown that exercise can help alleviate some of the symptoms of MS, and can have "an overriding positive effect on walking ability." Along with exercise, physical therapy has been found of significant benefit to MS patients, as it improves movement, strength, balance, and coordination. A study done at Cardiff University (Wales) in 2000 found that those who had physiotherapy had improved mobility, walked better, and felt a greater sense of well-being and mood compared with those who did no exercise.

Under this section of "Physical and Complementary Therapies," there is an oddly placed chapter wherein the author explains in a general way how complementary therapies may be helpful to MS patients. She mentions a number of holistic practices such as acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, applied kinesiology, and botanical medicine as alternatives that patients may find useful. A recent addition is cannabis (marijuana), which has now been proved to be quite effective in improving symptoms of pain, spasticity, and spasm, as well as elevating mood.

In a final chapter on "Alleviating Specific Symptoms," the author gives many tips on warding off exacerbations or "attacks," as well as dealing with bladder problems, depression and low mood, vertigo and vision problems, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

Judy Graham's own positive experience of stabilizing her MS many years ago through experimentation, diet, and research is the backbone of her books. This new and updated version should be read by every MS patient. It's obvious and sensible to use the many safe and effective alternatives along with the new drugs, and there is renewed hope for multiple sclerosis patients in this book with its comprehensive guide to many possible treatments.

"A person with MS should not rely solely on one of the current drug therapies to ensure they will not progress to severe disabilities ... In most cases, one has much to gain and little to lose in trying the various therapies that Judy has chosen to include."
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.