What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions occur when the body’s immune system mistakes its own tissues for foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. The confused immune system springs into action, seeking out to destroy the “invaders” in the tissues.
In the case of multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the fatty substance that protects your nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This attack results in nerve damage, which can slow signals that travel along the nerve fiber and cause problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and more. 
Who is affected?
Anyone can be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but it is more common in women than men.  Women are also more likely than men to have a relapsing form of multiple sclerosis, which means your symptoms flare up and then stabilize in episodes.  The condition is generally diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. 
Doctors aren’t sure about what causes multiple sclerosis, but believe that a combination of genetics and environment are responsible.  Other factors like climate, smoker status, and other medical conditions may influence your level of risk as well.
What happens in your body?
Common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:  
- Numbness, weakness, or tingling in one or more limbs, typically on one side of your body at a time
- Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
- Vision problems such as blurred vision, partial or complete vision loss, pain during eye movement, or prolonged double vision
- Slurred speech
- Problems with sexual, bowel, or bladder function
Not everybody has the same symptoms, and not all individuals with multiple sclerosis have the same severity of the condition. Experiences of the condition also depend on which nerve fibers in the body are most affected in each individual.
Some people have what is called primary-progressive multiple sclerosis, which is when symptoms gradually and steadily arise. But most people have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, which is when symptoms develop over a few days or weeks and then disappear for months or years.  Up to 70 percent of people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop secondary-progressive MS, which involves a steady progression of symptoms, sometimes with and sometimes without periods when these symptoms disappear (also called remission). 
How do I know if I have MS?
It is important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible to make sure that the condition does not worsen. The best way to do this is by visiting your doctor and, if possible, getting a referral to visit a neurologist, a doctor with specialized training in treating multiple sclerosis.
No one test can diagnose multiple sclerosis, but some ways that your doctor can assess whether you have the condition is through assessing your medical history, and conducting a physician examination, blood tests, spinal tap, MRI, and evoked potential tests.
How is it treated?
There is no known cure for MS, but integrative interventions have shown to reduce pain and discomfort and improve quality of life by slowing the condition’s progression and easing the severity of symptoms. 
Integrative interventions offer a holistic approach to treatment. Instead of just conventional medicine, integrative treatments combine conventional medicine with nutritional tools, mind-body medicine, and manual medicine for a holistic approach to treating MS.
For those new to integrative medicine, learn more here
Many people with multiple sclerosis find that certain medications work for them and others do not. So, in order to find an effective conventional treatment, people with multiple sclerosis often work with their doctors to determine which medication works best with their body and needs.
With the right medication, it is possible to manage symptoms like inflammation and prevent the rapid worsening of the condition. Before starting to take any medication, be sure to ask your doctor about possible side effects. And if you notice any of the side effects once you start your treatment, let your doctor know as soon as possible.
Examples of conventional treatments:
Research shows that gentle, low-intensity mind-body treatments can help MS patients with mobility, mood, decreased pain, and more. There are a wide variety of mind-body treatments for multiple sclerosis, ranging from deep breathing to aqua-therapy.
When living with chronic pain, engaging in regular movement and exercise may feel difficult and unnecessary. But doing so can actually improve your symptoms.
Before starting a physical exercise regimen, consult with your doctor about what might be the best activities for you and your body.
Examples of mind-body medicine:
Tai chi, a mind-body exercise that originated from China, incorporates slow, gentle movements with breathing exercises. Research conducted by the Hartford Hospital found that tai chi brings emotional wellbeing, improved strength, and improved balance to individuals with chronic pain.
Yoga comes in many different styles, often engaging both the body and the mind through controlled breathing and stretching. A study conducted by researchers of the American Academy of Neurology demonstrated that patients with multiple sclerosis who participated in yoga classes or exercise classes showed significant improvement in fatigue.
Stress and multiple sclerosis are closely connected to each other. A study demonstrated that mindfulness programs produced significant improvements in anxiety, depression, cognitive psychosocial abilities, and overall functioning.
Manual treatments are administered by certified clinicians, using physical pressure and stimulation on the body to reduce lupus symptoms. Treatments can vary in intensity and incorporate other elements such as heat and aromatherapy to enhance relief.
Examples of manual medicine:
Licensed massage therapists use different techniques, like shiatsu, hot stone, and Swedish massage, to provide temporary pain relief. A study conducted by researchers in Canada found that patients with multiple sclerosis had improvements to wellbeing due to their massage therapy.
Physical therapy can help with physical strengthening, mobility, and overall functionality. A study conducted by researchers in Germany found that physical therapy techniques have the potential to improve multiple sclerosis patient needs and individual outcome.
Osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT, is a form of manual therapy used by osteopathic physicians (DOs). A study from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that multiple sclerosis patients who received osteopathic manipulation had significant improvements in fatigue and depression.
Nutrition plays a crucial role in your overall health, and is a tool you can use to combat joint damage, reduce inflammation, and manage other multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Just like with conventional, mind-body, and manual medicines, there is not one ideal treatment for every MS patient. When selecting nutritional tools to treat your condition, it is best to consult with your doctor or work with a dietitian, naturopath, or nutritionist to find out the best diet for you.
Examples of nutritional tools:
Vegetarian and vegan diets have shown to promote gut health, which may have an anti-inflammatory impact. A study found that low-fat, plant-based diets showed significant improvements in fatigue management.
While some foods can help reduce symptoms, other foods may trigger them. An elimination diet, which is an eating plan that eliminates certain foods or food groups believed to be causing negative bodily reactions, can help you figure out which foods are triggering those symptoms and bring you closer to your ideal diet.
Fruits and vegetables
Beans (like red, pinto, navy, and black beans) are rich in fiber and protein, and are full of both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
This heart-healthy ingredient contains healthy fat, antioxidants, and oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound.
These simple, flavor-rich vegetables are packed with antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and help control cholesterol levels.
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-  Dilokthornsakul P, Valuck RJ, Nair KV, Corboy JR, Allen RR, Campbell JD. Multiple sclerosis prevalence in the United States commercially insured population. Neurology. 2016;86(11):1014-1021. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000002469
-  Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). National Multiple Sclerosis Society. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Types-of-MS/Relapsing-remitting-MS. Accessed July 24, 2020.
-  Who Gets MS? National Multiple Sclerosis Society. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Who-Gets-MS. Accessed July 24, 2020.
-  MS Symptoms. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms. Accessed July 24, 2020.
-  Halabchi F, Alizadeh Z, Sahraian MA, Abolhasani M. Exercise prescription for patients with multiple sclerosis; potential benefits and practical recommendations. BMC Neurol. 2017;17(1):185. Published 2017 Sep 16. doi:10.1186/s12883-017-0960-9
-  Koskie, B. (2020, August 21). Multiple Sclerosis: Facts, Statistics, and You. Retrieved September 12, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/facts-statistics-infographic
The information on this page is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your physician or health provider for your specific needs.