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Multiple Sclerosis: Alternative Treatments - Topic Overview

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS). So far, the only treatments proved to affect the course of the disease are disease-modifying medicines, such as interferon beta. Other types of treatment should not replace these medicines if you are a candidate for treatment with them.

Some people who have MS report that alternative treatments have worked for them. This may be in part due to the placebo effect. The placebo effect means that you feel better after getting treatment, even though the treatment has not been proved to work. Some complementary therapies may help relieve stress, depression, fatigue, and muscle tension. And some may improve your overall well-being and quality of life.

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Some people think that certain things may increase the risk of having an attack of MS, including:

  • Dietary deficiencies.
  • Sensitivity to foods and environmental toxins (including mercury amalgam in dental work).
  • Sensitivity to stress and trauma.
  • Viral infection while at a young age that causes a permanent, partial breakdown in the immune system.
  • Blockage in the veins that drain blood from the brain.

Many people who have MS also experiment with their diets, in part because there are many claims about the effectiveness of certain diets and nutritional supplements in the treatment of MS.

  • The Swank Diet recommends low intake of saturated fat [maximum of 3 tsp (15 mL) a day] and high consumption of polyunsaturated fat [up to 10 tsp (49 mL) a day for very active people].
  • Evening primrose oil, the most widely used herbal supplement in MS, has not been shown to provide any significant benefit in controlling the disease.
  • Many practitioners recommend dietary supplements of large doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).
  • Vitamin B12 has been proposed as a key substance that should be injected (intravenously or intramuscularly) in very large doses.
  • Magnesium supplements are believed to reduce spasticity. But this theory has never been proved.
  • Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by a small gland (pineal gland) in the brain. One theory suggests that MS may be associated with dysfunction of the pineal gland and lower-than-normal levels of melatonin, which may disrupt the immune system. It has been proposed that higher melatonin levels (obtained by taking melatonin supplements) may protect against MS relapses. But his theory has never been proved.
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