This Multiple Sclerosis mini-review looks at the research showing what MS autoimmune disease is, what may cause it, and tips for MS patients on what you might do to help yourself.
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease causing a degeneration of the CNS and particularly the nerves; often described as an autoimmune disease, it has been linked to a loss of butyrate-producing bacteria and higher levels of pathogens in the gut. Almost 1 million people in the USA live with MS.
Nerves are coated in a protective covering called myelin. People with MS experience deterioration of or damage to this myelin sheath and the nerves may then function abnormally.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
These may include:
- Pain; including burning or tingling in different regions of the body
- Impaired memory and poor cognitive function
- Muscle spasms
- Vision deterioration
- Mobility and balance issues
- Slurred speech
- Depression and inability to think clearly
The disease is more common in women, and those aged between 20 and 40.
Possible causes of MS?
Multiple sclerosis is also known as encephalomyelitis disseminata, and is the most common demyelinating disease, in which the insulating cover of nerve cells (the myelin sheath) in the brain and spinal cord is damaged.
The question is ‘what damages them?’ To date it would seem that high levels of attacking T-cells from the innate immune system are the main cause, along with high inflammation around the nerve cells. This is what is called an autoimmune disease – when your own immune system attacks you. But autoimmune diseases all start in the gut.
Several studies have suggested that MS is the result of changes to the microbiome. One 2021 study (1) showed that disease Status showed significant changes in the microbiome and that there were greater levels of pathogens in the microbiome of someone with aggressive MS. Another study showed that the microbiome of an MS patient resembles that of a person who consumed a lot of meat, with a loss of carbohydrate processing bacteria and, especially a loss of the bacteria that produced butyrate, a compound known to be very anti-inflammatory and to activate circyulating vitamin D in the body.
A third study showed that there were particularly low levels of vitamin D in people newly diagnosed with MS. Low levels of vitamin D could double the risk.
Tips to help MS patients?
In the UK, the MS Society has Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers across the country. Having a blood oxygen level of 99% seems to help patients reduce depression and increase activity.
Patients could attempt to rebuild their microbiome, killing pathogens and increasing levels of anti-inflammatory bacteria (with Olive oil, fish oils etc). Several studies have suggested that this could be a good therapeutic area (2). In addition, a Rainbow Diet promotes levels of bacteria that make anti-inflammatory molecules.
The addition of butyrate and vitamin D supplementation may help (there is research with vitamin D slowing progression), while ashwagandha, frankincense oil, cannabis and CBD may help with pain relief. Some patients use Low Dose Naltrexone.
- Gut Microbiome in Progressive Multiple Sclerosis – Laura M. Cox et al, Ann Neurol 2021 Jun;89(6):1195-1211. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33876477/#affiliation-1
- The Gut Microbiome in Multiple Sclerosis: A Potential Therapeutic Avenue; Trevor O. Kirby, Javier Ochoa-Repáraz. Med Sci (Basel). 2018 Sep; 6(3): 69. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163724/