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Riskier Alternative Treatments for MS


WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD

Bee stings, cobra venom, and hookworms are things you usually avoid -- unless you have multiple sclerosis. Then, you may be willing to try them to help ease your symptoms. But do they work? Are these alternative treatments safe?

Let's separate the science from the wishful thinking.

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Some lifestyle treatments, such as exercise, have been proven to help with fatigue, depression, memory, and bladder control. Others, such as supplements and minerals, are still being tested. Acupuncture, a centuries-old form of Chinese medicine, shows mixed results. The problem is that many of the studies into the effectiveness of nondrug treatments do not meet the high standards for medical research.

Your best bet is to stick to your treatment plan. Don't stop taking your medication. Talk to your doctor about any alternative treatment you want to try, especially because it may interfere with your medications. Together, you can decide if it makes sense and won't do more harm than good.

Bee Stings and Bee Pollen

Ancient Greek and Egyptian medical writing tells of bees used as medicine (apitherapy).

Melittin, found in bee venom, supposedly brings down inflammation related to MS. But one study shows that it doesn't. What's more, bee sting therapy could be dangerous if you have a life-threatening reaction to bee venom.

Skip bee pollen, too. Although it's rich with nutrients, it hasn't been shown to help MS symptoms. And it can also trigger a severe allergic reaction.

Bottom line? Bees don't stand up to 21st-century studies.

Cobra Venom

Can the cobratoxin in snake venom slow down the immune system and help with MS? That's what some people believe.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. While you can find stories of people who say that cobra venom helps ease MS symptoms, you won't find you won't find scientific evidence to support it.

Hookworms

Hookworms are tiny worms that can live in your small intestine and cause problems with your gut, including pain, diarrhea, and anemia. Some people believe that these intestinal parasites might also be able to stop the immune system from overreacting.

One small study of 12 people with MS found that those who were infected with hookworms had fewer lesions than those who weren't infected. In 2012, researchers in the UK began recruiting people with MS for a study to see if hookworms could alter the course of MS. Watch for results in the next several years.

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