Because of the varied nature of the disease among sufferers the following suggestions are general.
Have yourself checked for mercury poisoning.
The most common source of this is dental amalgam. Make sure you go to a practitioner who knows what he or she is doing. Removal of mercury fillings can actually release poisonous mercury vapours into the air and back into your system. While some people make a miraculous recovery after their removal, others can deteriorate rapidly. It is worth having yourself tested for mercury sensitivity before deciding on the wholesale removal of your fillings.
You may also want to check how many of your fillings are producing a negative current. Hal Huggins suggests that those with predominantly negative currents are more likely to develop MS. Jack Levenson, president of the British Dental Society for Clinical Nutrition, can advise about tests for mercury sensitivity through his own practice or put you in touch with a practitioner in your area. Contact him at No 1 Welbeck House, 62 Welbeck Street, London W1M 7HB tel: (0171) 486 3127.
Root out any food allergies.
At the top of the list are milk and gluten products (Human Nutri Appli Nutri, 1984; 38a: 417-20; Med Hypotheses, 1986; 19: 169-78; Lancet, 1974; ii: 1061-6), although Patrick Kingsley said this only accounts for 20 per cent of food induced MS in his practice.
Also included are tannin, caffeine and citrus fruits, as well as foods from the nightshade group potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers. Cocoa products are also suspect since there is evidence that when it is introduced into an area, MS incidence rises sharply (Ann Allergy, 1987; 59:76-9). Also have yourself checked for candida.
Cut out fats.
There is plenty of evidence that a low fat diet slows deterioration (Lancet, 1990; 336: 37-9; Nutrition, 1991; 7(5): 368-76), while a high fat diet seems to be a large dietary influence on MS (Arch Neurol, 1994; 31:267-72; Arch Neurol, 1970; 23:460-74; Am J Med Sci, 1950; 220:421-30). The fact that there is a very low rate of MS in Japan and that the disease is practically unheard of in Africa is often given as testimony to the dietary fat theory.
When eliminating fats you will need to be scrupulous about reading labels and cutting out anything with hydrogenated oils, margarine, shortening and aim to reduce your intake of saturated fat to less than 5 g per day.
Check for nutritional deficiencies.
Boost your levels of B12 (see box page 3), magnesium, B6 and folic acid, selenium, zinc and vitamin C, which are most often low in MS victims.
Where the diet it naturally high in marine foods, seeds and fruit oil such as Japan MS is rare. Myelin is made up of lipid and unsaturated lipids predominantly oleic acid. Omega-3 deficiency interferes with lipid elongation and can permanently impair the formation of normal myelin (Nature, 1963; 10: 523-30), so supplementation with omega-3 may prove useful (Nature, 1967; 215: 821-3; Br J Clin Pract, 1986; 40: 365-7). If you are taking high levels of omega-3, be sure to take additional vitamin E.
Taking supplements of fish oils is also recommended (Lancet, 1981; i: 1153-4, Neurology; 34: 14411-5), though trials have shown mixed results (Upsala J Med Sci, 1990; 48:173-87).
Seek out alternative therapies.
There is plenty of evidence that alternative therapies can work (J Holist Nurs, 1996; 14(2)115-29).
In Tibetan herbal medicine, Padma 28, a formulation of 28 different herbs, has been scientifically shown to work (Phytother Res, 1992; 6: 133-6) as has Ginkgo biloba (Rev Neurol (Paris), 1992; 148: 299-301).
Dr Kingsley finds that homeopathy helps patients whose MS may have been precipitated by shingles, herpes or chickenpox.
WDDTY columnist Harald Gaier also recommends using the following three homeopathic remedies, in addition to any dietary changes.
Buthus australis: 10DH, 26 drops midday on alternate (even numbered) days; and Thallium metallicum 10DH 26 drops midday on alternative (odd numbered) days; Argentum metallicum 10DH, 13 drops morning and evening, daily.
Consider self help groups or relaxation exercise.
Depression and anxiety can form a vicious circle in MS sufferers. Therefore, it is wise to seek emotional support as well as relaxing hobbies which might keep one supple and balanced (such as yoga). Evidence of the efficacy of "talking cures" is good.
Therapy can help in supporting patients through whichever treatment(s) they choose (Alt Ther Health & Med, 1996; 2(5): 70-4) and to gain control over uncertainty, dependency and physical and emotional decline (Soc Sci Med, 1993; 37(3): 315-29).