A Functional Medicine Approach to Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis , or MS, affects roughly 2.5 million people around the world. It affects more women than men, and is most often diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. And while many people suffer from this condition, there are 4 different types of MS: relapsing-remitting, secondary-progressive, primary-progressive, and progressive-relapsing. About 85% of individuals with MS are diagnosed with relapsing-remitting, the mildest form of MS, characterized by occasional flare-ups in symptoms, or “relapses”. The other forms of MS are characterized by slowly worsening symptoms with or without flare-ups.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. The immune system mistakenly attacks the protective coating surrounding the nerves, known as myelin, slowing down the body’s method of communication. Nerves are important network that allows your brain to communicate with the rest of your body. When the timing of important messages slows down, the body cannot properly react in time. Once the myelin coating your nerves is damaged, your body begins to lose control over muscle function, vision, balance, and the ability to feel various sensations.

How is it diagnosed?

Physical Exam:

A full neurological exam and eye exam should be performed first to look for decreased nerve function.

MRI Scan:

An MRI is the most sensitive and non-invasive method available to detect damaged myelin in the brain.

Evoked Potential Tests:

This is a painless procedure where electrodes are placed on the head and various body parts to measure chemical responses. These responses are recorded and used to determine where the nerve transmission is delayed.

Spinal Tap:

This procedure can help confirm multiple sclerosis and rule out other diseases that might be masquerading as MS. Abnormal oligoclonal bands and IgG index occur in about 90% of MS patients.

Signs of Multiple Sclerosis:

  • Eye pain or blurred vision from Optic Neuritis is usually the first sign

  • Numbness and tingling in face or extremities are the most common symptoms

  • Muscle pain or spasms

  • Muscle weakness particularly in the legs

  • Unexplained fatigue

  • Balance problems and dizziness

  • Bowel and bladder problems

  • Brain fog, depression, and decreased cognition

Conventional treatment for MS

Conventional medicine is only focused on treating symptoms, not on getting to the root cause of the disease. Most medications on the market for MS are designed to slow down the progression of the disease and decrease the number of relapses rather than treat the underlying cause of symptoms.