What is Multiple Sclerosis – causes and symptoms

27 Aug
2014
By Max Jones

Multiple sclerosis is a disease or neurological disorder which affects the nerves of our brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis is often called MS and is found to be an autoimmune disease. In MS, a person’s own immune system attacks his body. Basically, it attacks the protective sheath (myelin) which covers our nerves. Multiple sclerosis is often found in young adults in whom myelin damage obstructs the communication between brain and rest body parts. There is no strict multiple sclerosis diet prescribed for treating the disease. The signs and symptoms depend on the amount of damage and the affected nerves.

Basically, there is no cure prescribed for multiple sclerosis but treatment may help in speedy recovery from its attacks. Let us have a look at some facts about MS.

Multiple sclerosis facts

  • MS is a chronic condition and there is no cure for the disease
  • Around 2 million people worldwide are affected by multiple sclerosis and can still lead a normal life
  • It affects the nerves which controls thinking, feeling, seeing, smelling, moving and tasting
  • Globally, there are more than 2.3 million people who are affected by MS
  • Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease and it does not spread from one person to another
  • MS is a silent disease that is characterized by invisible symptoms like blurred vision and chronic pains.

What causes multiple sclerosis?

There is no exact cause of multiple sclerosis. In MS, myelin is destroyed which protects and coats nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. The message travelling along the nerve slows down due to the damage. MS is not contagious and research says that some factors are involved in the development of Multiple sclerosis. Epstein Barr virus is a slow acting virus which remains inactive for several years before leading to the development of Multiple sclerosis in genetically susceptible people. Genes play some role in getting MS. Having more than one family member diagnosed with MS could increase the chance of getting MS by sharing of DNA. Having vitamin D deficiency in the body which is derived from sunlight and diet could also be contributing factors in MS. Smoking cigarettes not only enhance the chance of developing multiple sclerosis but also increase the rate of progression of one’s multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis symptoms

MS is a disease which can affect any person of any age. People may experience different symptoms during attack. The attacks can last for weeks or months. Some of common symptoms are:

  • Feeling numbness sensation in muscles
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Problems in walking
  • Constipation and leakage in stool
  • Incontinence
  • Vision loss or double vision
  • Itching
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Shaking
  • Erectile dysfunction or decrease in sex drive
  • Muscle stiffness or spasms
  • Speech and swallowing problems
  • Memory loss

Facing more than one symptom does not mean that you developed Multiple sclerosis. One must consult a doctor as symptoms might be related to MS.

Multiple sclerosis diagnosis

Because Multiple sclerosis is a neurotic condition, a neurologist would diagnose and treat the condition. The symptoms come and go and a single test cannot determine the cause of the disease. An examination of nervous system can be done to show reduced nerve function in any area of body and this includes:

  • Abnormal nerve reflexes
  • Decrease in ability to move body parts
  • Loss of other nervous system functions

Examining an eye would show:

  • Abnormality in pupil responses
  • Problem with inside eye parts
  • Changes in eye movements

Some tests which can be done to diagnose multiple sclerosis include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Lumber puncture
  • Functional system
  • Evoked potentials tests
  • Expanded disability status scale

Treatment for multiple sclerosis

There is no cure for MS, but some treatments are available that may slow down the disease. Medicines and steroids can be taken to decrease the severity of attacks. One can try physical therapy and speech therapy. Planned exercises will also help in the course of the disorder. It is recommended to follow a healthy lifestyle with a good nutritional diet. Research says people who experience fatigue- sign of MS can benefit from a vegan diet.

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is not totally a vegetarian diet. People following vegan diet do not eat meat, fish, poultry; generally anything made from animals. Soaps, shampoos, egg, dairy products, curd, milk, leather, honey, silk, fur, wool and cosmetics made from animals are avoided by vegans. A vegan diet is full of fruits, vegetables, green leaves, grain products, nuts and legumes.

Vegan diet plan

  • Proteins – Good protein-rich foods are: chickpeas, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, green vegetables, oatmeal, corns, walnuts and almonds. Alcohol, sugar and fats should be avoided as they do not contain proteins.
  • Fats – Vegan diets are cholesterol free and contain less saturated fats. The diet is good for people having multiple sclerosis. Also, the risk to get heart diseases and cancer comparatively declines. Foods like oils, nuts, seed butter and coconut are high in fat and so should be consumed in limited amount.
  • Calcium – Calcium is needed by everyone and at every stage of life to develope strong bones. Foods which are preferred include green veggies, tofu made up of calcium sulphate, broccoli, beans and calcium fortified soy milk.
  • Zinc and iron – A vegan diet also encourages large quantities of zinc and iron which are present in foods like grains, nuts and legumes. Green vegetables like lettuce and spinach are also rich in iron. Some iron rich foods include: peas, lentils, black beans, raisins, chickpeas, soya beans and watermelon.
  • Vitamins B12 and D – One can consume supplements or multivitamins prescribed by health experts to increase the supply of vitamin B12 in the body. Yogurts, fortified soy, rice milks and fortified nutritional yeasts are good sources of vitamin B12. Whereas sunlight is the biggest source of vitamin D. Some non-dairy milk porducts and fortified orange juice are good sources of both calcium and vitamin D.

Cereals, toast, lentil soups, spaghetti, macaroni, popcorn, apples, rice pudding, pumpkin casserole, vegetarian baked beans and scrambled tofu are some more foods preferred by vegans.

Advantages of vegan diets

Going vegan has a lot of benefits related to health. Studies suggest a plant-based diet may be helpful in reducing symptoms of Multiple sclerosis.

  • Consuming nuts and whole grains and avoiding dairy products and meat improves cardiovascular health. Heart attack and strokes can also be prevented by following a vegan diet.
  • Eliminating foods coming from animals will terminate all dietary cholesterol from the meal. It helps in lowering blood pressure and also preventing type2 diabetes.
  • Studies revealed that people who are struggling from an early stage of prostate cancer switched to vegan diet and it helped to stop the progress of cancer.
  • Vegan diets also help in preventing cataract and other eye diseases.

Not only this, a vegan diet can also help to prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, colon and breast cancer.

Conclusion

Multiple sclerosis is a neurotic condition affecting the nerves of brain and spinal cord. There is no strict MS diet prescribed for curing multiple sclerosis but the study says following a vegan diet could be the best option for people with Multiple sclerosis. A vegan diet has so many health benefits and vegans remain on strict vegetable diet, excluding products of animal origin. One must follow vegan diet to remain protected from several diseases.

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Max Jones

A compulsive reader and a writer with a diploma in nutrition and diet. In my free time I love to explore my city while I promote pedal-biking.

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