Multiple sclerosis affects around 2.5 million people worldwide and is diagnosed in more women than men, commonly aged between 20 and 50. It is a progressive autoimmune condition, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the protective coating (called myelin) around nerve cells. This slows the communication between brain and body so that the body is unable to react in time. When the myelin is badly damaged, people with MS can have altered sensations in the body, losing control of vision, muscles, and balance.
The nervous system is a series of networks throughout the body that transmits communications from the brain to all organs, tissues, and muscles. The immune system in MS damages the myelin sheath that covers nerves anywhere in the body, causing symptoms that vary from person to person, day to day, fluctuating in severity and over time. This can make it hard to understand, live with, and diagnose MS.
Commonly, the first signs of MS include extreme fatigue, stumbling, tingling and altered sensations, eyesight problems and slowed thinking. Early treatment can help slow progression, and may even facilitate remission.
Symptoms can include:
There are 3 main types of MS:
As with all autoimmune diseases, the precise cause is not clear, however, research has confirmed that a complex interplay between genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers (epigenetics) is implicated in autoimmune conditions. Triggers can also include viruses and other infectious agents, and it is common to find gastrointestinal disturbances such as intestinal hyperpermeability, and gut flora dysbiosis in people who develop MS.
A large 2022 study revealed the leading trigger of MS to be the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) commonly known as glandular fever, or mononucleosis, which after infection resides permanently in immune B cells in a dormant state and can be reactivated with little or no symptoms.
Other triggers / risk factors for developing MS are:
Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.
These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.
Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected.
The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.
Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).
Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.
Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.
Multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be difficult, as no single test can tell positively if you have MS or not, and early symptoms can mimic other conditions. Often people see many practitioners, GPs, optometrists etc. who may suspect MS but cannot make a diagnosis.
A 2019 study suggests that up to 25% of people are incorrectly diagnosed with MS, with symptoms similar to B12 or copper deficiencies, some genetic conditions, and other diseases of the myelin sheath and structural abnormalities.
The McDonald criteria is a diagnostic guide used by clinicians to clarify the likelihood of a patient having MS, and rule out conditions with similar symptoms. It requires 2 or more clinical attacks / relapses along with 2 or more lesions identified by MRI in the spinal cord or brain.
MS tests may include:
Conventional treatments of multiple sclerosis in Australia provide management of symptoms as part of a plan developed by your healthcare professionals that may include a multiple sclerosis specialist. Generally, this involves the use of medications including:
Rehabilitation may be part of the treatment plan to learn to adapt to altered mobility or levels of function, such as physiotherapy, and speech pathology.
Finding the correct medicines can take time and be frustrating, and there can be significant side effects meaning that close monitoring is required to ensure safety, even if carefully directed by an MS specialist. These treatments can relieve the effects of some symptoms and may slow progression, however, they often don’t treat the root causes or contributing factors that drive MS. This is why many people with MS are dissatisfied with conventional drug therapies and prefer managing multiple sclerosis naturally.
People seeking a natural treatment for MS often find that the functional medicine approach benefits them, because it involves treating the whole person. Thorough investigation from a functional medicine practitioner will seek to determine what led to the development of symptoms in the first place. Whether the triggers are food, mould exposure, smoking, or chronic stress, your functional medicine practitioner can help uncover and address those issues naturally, gently and effectively.
Treatment strategies are tailored to the patient to improve healthy myelination of nerves, reduce inflammation, decrease autoimmune activation, increase energy and improve mood, and peripheral sensation. Other strategies include healing the gut, improving the diversity and makeup of microbial gut flora species, testing and removing heavy metals, mycotoxins and increasing immune resilience. Natural treatment options that can support a person with MS may include:
In addition, your functional medicine specialist will be mindful of optimising immune resilience for SARS-CoV-2 infection and long COVID symptoms.
These strategies can prevent further damage and slow or stop progression for as long as the patient maintains the regime.
In our personalised six-month program, your practitioner and your health coach will give you the guidance, support, care, and encouragement you need to get better. We can help with a range of chronic health conditions, from autoimmune conditions like MS, to digestive disorders, women’s health concerns, and more.
Are you ready for a personalised, natural functional medicine treatment? Our unique model of care was designed with you in mind. Find out how below, then book a call today!
Yes, MS is genetically inherited, however, having the genes does not mean that those genes will be ‘turned on’, or that you will develop MS.
In functional medicine, we say ‘the genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger’.
This reflects a complex interplay between your genes and different triggers from viruses to heavy metals, food intolerances / allergies, and many others that trigger the development of MS.
Even if you do develop MS, or any autoimmune condition, there are natural ways to manage the condition effectively and gently.
Yes, the body’s own immune cells attack the fatty coating on the outside of the nerves, called myelin.
MS specialists now recognise that with at least one of the triggers - Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) - that part of the virus is so similar in structure to the molecules of the myelin, that the body attacks these cells by mistake. This is called molecular mimicry and occurs in other autoimmune diseases.
Improving your body’s immune resilience can be done by ensuring you remove the triggers that burden it.
Providing the nutrients for optimal functioning that can help reduce flares, and ensuring your body has the cofactors for making myelin can help repair some damage. This can all be done with natural functional medicine strategies alongside the support of your MS specialist.
Diagnosis of MS is difficult as there is no definitive test that can confirm if you have MS, or not. In Australia, the Mc Donald criteria is used as a diagnostic guide by clinicians to clarify the likelihood of a patient having MS, and rule out conditions with similar symptoms.
It requires 2 or more clinical attacks / relapses along with 2 or more lesions identified by MRI in the spinal cord or brain.
No, MS isn’t a virus, but it can be triggered by a virus such as Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) however, only in people that already have the genetic predisposition.
Yes, if you're looking for a naturopath who can work alongside your MS specialist, our functional medicine MS naturopaths in Melbourne at Melbourne Functional Medicine can help. We consult from our beautiful clinic space in South Melbourne, or we can arrange telehealth for you to save time and stress in travelling.
Our functional medicine naturopaths help patients manage multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions daily with multiple sclerosis naturopathic support. Read some of our success stories.
Managing multiple sclerosis naturally may be possible by seeking holistic support from a functional medicine specialist.
Our functional medicine naturopaths use a range of strategies to:
Other strategies include healing the gut, improving diversity and makeup of microbial gut flora species, testing and removing heavy metals, mycotoxins and increasing immune resilience.
If you’d like to learn more, call Melbourne Functional Medicine today to book a free discovery call.
Nobody can guarantee that anything can be cured or reversed, however depending on how long you have had MS, and how much damage has been done, it can certainly be improved, or slowed, and the progression can sometimes be stopped.
Identifying and removing the triggers is the first key strategy, as no amount of supplementation, herbs or medicine will be as effective as removing what is precipitating the damage in the first place.
Then reducing inflammation, restoring digestive health and addressing nutrient deficiencies that may be a result of poor diet and absorption would be the next strategy.
Providing the body with the building blocks for making the myelin sheath of the nerves, and improving the conductivity of the nerves would be next, followed by improving energy, mood, eye health or those symptoms that are most important to you.
If you would like to learn more about the holistic approach to your health and multiple sclerosis, or how a functional medicine practitioner working alongside an MS specialist can help you, call Melbourne Functional Medicine for a free discovery call.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.