Multiple Sclerosis: Eroding health

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According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are approximately 2.3 million individuals worldwide affected by MS. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of marked erosion of the protective coating around nerves, and/or degenerative lesions on the brain. As with any condition such as this, we need to ask “why.”

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that has many scientists in a quandary. There are diverse theories and suspected causes, however, definitive etiologies are elusive. Some of the popular notions include genetic, environmental and infectious factors. The likelihood is that it is a combination of factors that coalesce against the once seemingly healthy individual.

Another hypothesis is inflammation, which seems to be the hallmark of the disease. There are many causes of inflammation, but does the disease cause the inflammation, or is the inflammation a precursor to the disease? That question still needs answers.

There are many suspected environmental factors of noninfectious origin that are proposed as risk factors for MS. Toxins take center stage. There are several occupational exposures to certain toxins being investigated as triggers. Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum, cadmium and arsenic seem to be the worst. Sources of heavy metal exposure include: vaccines, pesticides, herbicides, chemical spills, mercury amalgam, lead-based paint, smoking, eating foods contaminated with metals, living near a landfill, or working in a job that requires handling metals.

Vitamin D seems to be a factor, especially since it appears that the farther the regions are from the equator, the greater the incidence of MS. Vitamin D is needed by more than 30 different tissues in the body — including the brain and immune system.

Another factor is Essential Fatty Acids. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are needed to make myelin — the protective coating over the nerves, as well as nerve cells. Actually, EFA’s are converted to cholesterol, which is what is needed for the brain and myelin. In fact, 20% of myelin is cholesterol. Cholesterol is also needed for communication through the body’s wiring (synapses) from brain to body part, and back to the brain again. If you start interfering with your body’s ability to produce cholesterol, you put the brain, nerves and other tissues at risk.

In two studies cited in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Dec 2000 found that saturated fat, animal fat and cholesterol were found to be protective, not damaging. And high intake of omega-6 and trans fatty acids (margarines, vegetable oils) were associated with increased risk of MS.

It is important when evaluating the “why” of MS to look not only at risk factors, but what can be done to help. Good fats, vitamins (especially B-vitamins), minerals and protein are essential to encourage healthy development of myelin and nerve cells everywhere in the body, as well as for healthy immune function. The definition of degeneration (MS is a degenerative disease) is when you are breaking down faster than you are rebuilding. Make sure you are providing the building blocks needed for healthy tissue so you don’t erode faster than you rebuild.

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Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’Alene clinic. Visit Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Carling can be reached at (208) 765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.

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