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Do These Treatments Work for MS?

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Bee stings, cobra venom, and hookworms are things you usually avoid -- unless you have multiple sclerosis. Then, you might be willing to try them to help ease your symptoms. And what if recycling stem cells or going gluten-free could fix your immune system? Would you give it a go?

Let's separate the science from the wishful thinking.

Some lifestyle approaches, such as exercise, have been proven to help with fatigue, depression, memory, and bladder control. Others, such as vitamin D supplements, show promise but are still being tested. Acupuncture, a centuries-old form of Chinese medicine, shows mixed results.

Your best bet is to stick to your treatment plan. Don't stop taking your medication. Talk to your doctor about any complementary medicine or alternative treatment you want to try, especially since it may affect how your drugs work. Together, you can decide if it makes sense and won't do more harm than good.

Stem Cell Therapy (HSCT)

The goal behind a hematopoietic stem cell transplant is to reboot your immune system to stop it from attacking your nervous system.

Researchers take special undeveloped cells from the blood or bone marrow of people with MS, then knock out their immune cells with low doses of chemotherapy and radiation. When the saved stem cells get put back into their bodies, they start making new immune cells that hopefully won't go after myelin and brain tissue.

The results are promising: 41 of the people studied for 2 years said their symptoms were greatly improved. After 4 years, more than half of them had no relapses. That was 80% of those in the study.

Larger, controlled studies and clinical trials are now underway.

Gluten-free Diet

In some people, the protein found in wheat can trigger celiac disease. That's also an autoimmune disorder. But research doesn't show a link between it and MS.

Unless you're sensitive to gluten, don't pass on the pasta and bread just yet. There's no science to suggest giving up these kinds of foods will ease your MS symptoms.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

You may have seen this in movies when scuba divers get "the bends." You sit in a small, sealed chamber breathing pure oxygen. Because the pressure inside is up to three times more than normal air pressure outside, you can breathe more into your lungs. This extra oxygen may help your body heal.

It works as a treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning, bubbles in your bloodstream, burns from fire and heat, and wounds from diabetes and radiation. But not for MS. Several studies found no evidence to support its use and little need for more research.

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