Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s central nervous system. More specifically, MS affects the neurons found within the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Over 25,000 Australians have been diagnosed with MS, and approximately three times as many women are affected by the condition compared to men.
The role of genes, the microbiome, and environmental ‘triggers’
Autoimmune diseases are generally characterised by chronic inflammation and a loss of tolerance to self-antigens. The cause of MS (like other autoimmune diseases) is not well understood, however, it appears that there is often a genetic component. Individuals with a variation in the ‘MHC class ll’ genes have a significantly increased risk of developing MS. In addition, vitamin D deficiency can further exacerbate the risk.
Your body’s microbiome is comprised of your own cells and their genomes (genetic material), and ALSO many other microbial organisms and their genomes. In fact, these microbial cells outweigh the human cells in your body by a ratio of approximately 3:1. Microbial organisms may affect human health as they are metabolically active organisms, and therefore able to interact with our own genes. Numerous studies are finding links between the composition of the human microbiome and the prevalence of autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune disease is often triggered by external factors. It is very common that we see a link between a significant life event and/or illness and the onset of the disease. For example, ‘triggers’ of autoimmune disease may be environmental such as exposure to toxins, and/or viral and bacterial infections (such as epstein barr virus – glandular fever), stress (physical or psychological), food reactions, nutrient deficiencies, and hormonal influences.
While the cause is not yet definitively determined, research projects are underway to help uncover the possible causes and their mechanisms.
First and foremost, our Naturopaths and Integrative Doctor carefully examine your individual case. We understand that each and every person has a different experience of Multiple Sclerosis. Our Naturopaths assess your medical history and listen to your concerns. In almost all cases, we utilise comprehensive pathology testing to establish your current ‘biochemical dashboard’. This means that your naturopathic treatment is as individualised as your biochemical makeup.
From here, treatment aims may include:
Chronic inflammation is the underlying driver of autoimmune disease. To reduce inflammation on a biochemical level, our Naturopaths focus on balancing cytokine biology. Cytokines are substances that are released by certain immune cells, with the potential to have an affect on other cells in the body of those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There are pro-inflammatory cytokines (those that promote inflammation) and anti-inflammatory cytokines (those that regulate inflammation). In order to reduce inflammation, it is important to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, while increasing the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. We can assess many inflammatory markers through pathology testing. Nutrient therapy, including supplementation with high quality omega 3 fatty acids and specific antioxidants, can have a positive effect on cytokine biology. As well as this, dietary and lifestyle modifications are imperative to keep inflammatory cytokines at bay in the long-term.
Gut health is important in all autoimmune conditions. Multiple Sclerosis has been linked to impaired intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’). Leaky gut is a condition characterised by damage to the cells in the lining of the digestive system. This means that antigens can ‘leak’ through the gut lining into the bloodstream, further aggravating the immune response. Studies have shown that people with MS show differences in gut bacteria composition compared to people without Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Our Naturopaths use proven treatments to repair the gut mucosa, restore levels of healthy bacteria, eradicate pathogenic bacteria (diagnosed by comprehensive stool analysis), and enhance nutrient absorption.
Psychoneuroimmunology is a new field of study that investigates how mind states, such as excessive worry, overt anger, pain or anxiety can end up disrupting immune function by triggering an influx of stress hormones and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Stress can be linked as a potential trigger to many health conditions. It may then come as no surprise that mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, exercise or tai chi have been shown to reduce inflammatory markers in the body. Our Naturopaths can recommend specific mindfulness therapies for you and assist you in implementing these strategies into your daily life. As well as this, certain nutrients and herbs can support the adrenal glands and the nervous system to cope with the physiological effects of stress. Learn more about the Naturopathic Approach to Stress Management.
Further to this, supporting nerve health and function and cellular detoxification are also important in the natural treatment of MS.
If you have any questions about treatment, we encourage all new clients to book in for a free 15 minute discovery call with one of our Naturopaths. We would be humbled to work with you. Phone (07) 5458 4800 to book an appointment or contact Integrated Wellness Clinic here.
We would love to see you in our Brisbane Naturopath Clinic, Gold Coast Naturopath our Sunshine Coast Naturopath Integrative Medicine Clinics in both Mooloolaba and Caloundra. Our Mooloolaba Clinic also offers the care of an Integrative Doctor. Alternatively, no matter where you are, we can offer naturopathy services by phone or skype consultations and provide nutritional supplementation and pathology testing advice.