the coming pandemic -- still on the trail
While following up on The Coming PAndemic, Guidance led me by various ways to
the article on multiple sclerosis included below. The similarity of its line
\"This disabling disease now affects an estimated 300,000 Americans, most of whom
are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, a time when they should be at their
healthiest\" was all to obvious a reference as well to the ages and conditions of
the people most affected by the influenza virus of 1918:
\"The influenza virus attacked as many as 1/5 of the world\'s population at that
time, remembering that the world was at the time FAR less urbanized than
currently . The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of
morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and
young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice). An estimated 675,000
Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the
The similarity of other auto-immune diseases such as SARS makes one suspicious
that the nature of the new \'man-made\' pandemic will be or is along the lines of
such auto-immune diseases. Please note in the article the efficacy of
acupuncture in the relief of such diseases as well as keep in mind the
recommendation of herbal remedies such as evening primrose oil for the future.
Multiple Sclerosis: The \'Polio\' of the 90s
MS may officially be incurable.
But that doesn\'t mean it\'s untreatable.
By Jack Challem
Copyright 1998 by Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter™
All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Let\'s Live
Lynn needs a walker to get around her apartment. Teri tools around the
office in a motorized cart. Robert suffers from numbness and has days of
Incredible as it might sound, multiple sclerosis has emerged as the
\"polio\" of the 1990s. This disabling disease now affects an estimated
300,000 Americans, most of whom are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and
40, a time when they should be at their healthiest.
But check in with the national Multiple Sclerosis Society, which pumps
millions of dollars into MS research, and you\'ll hear the official
chant: there is no known cause, and there is no cure. Ignoring this
official sense of resignation, many people have turned to alternative
therapies to treat their MS.
Take the case of Matt Embry, now 22 and a film student in Calgary,
Canada. In June 1995, he suddenly developed severe leg twitches,
problems with balance, and an extreme sensitivity to temperature on his
left side. One month later, a magnetic resonance imaging scan identified
a dozen lesions in this brain and spinal column. The diagnosis was
unmistakable. Matt envisioned life in a wheelchair-and \"almost shut down
and gave up,\" he said.
Matt\'s dad, Ashton, a geologist, started reading everything about MS
that he could get hold of-in books, in medical journals, on the
internet. He quickly realized that few researchers and physicians had
seriously considered the roles of diet and alternative treatments in
controlling MS. Yet such treatments held far more promise than drug
treatments ridden with side effects.
Ashton suggested two therapies to Matt, who was initially skeptical.
First came acupuncture. Amazingly, after 10 acupuncture treatments,
Matt\'s MS symptoms completely cleared-as did headaches, night sweats,
and allergies he had suffered with for years. Although acupuncture, long
a component of Chinese medicine, has made inroads into Western medicine,
no one really understands how or why it works. But work it did.
Ashton also realized that diet had a profound affect on the progression
of MS. He read about Roy L. Swank, M.D., Ph.D., of Portland, Ore., who
had years before developed a low-saturated-fat diet to treat MS. He also
learned that food sensitivities-allergy-like reactions-could aggravate
MS symptoms, and he put Matt on a \"paleolithic,\" or cave-man, diet
consisting of simple and unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables,
fish, skinless chicken breasts, and a little rice, and avoiding all
dairy, gluten, legumes, fried foods, and yeast. In addition, Matt began
taking a variety of supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and such
\"good fats\" as salmon oil and evening primrose oil.
For the past three years, Matt has remained completely free of MS
symptoms. \"I stick with the diet religiously,\" he said. \"It was rough
for the first six months, but then it became easy. Sure, the foods
aren\'t real exciting, but I would rather use my hand to bring these
foods to my mouth than not to be able to use my hand at all.
\"Actually, this is the best thing that ever happened to me,\" Matt added.
\"It changed my whole perspective. I don\'t take as many things for
The Nature of MS
MS is generally considered an auto-immune disease, an allergic reaction
to oneself that eats away at the myelin sheaths wrapped around nerve
fibers. Sclerosis is the medical term for lesion, and in MS multiple
lesions form on the myelin, which is akin to the plastic insulation
surrounding electrical wires. The myelin becomes inflamed and literally
begins to fray, short-circuiting nerve signals and leading to the
disease\'s physical and neurological symptoms.
More women than men suffer from MS, and there is a higher incidence of
the disease in extreme northern and southern climates. People of
Scottish descent seem particularly vulnerable. According to a study at
the University of California, San Francisco, the stress of daily hassles
and major life events can exacerbate MS symptoms.
What makes the immune system turn against its host? Many researchers and
physicians believe a bacterial or viral infection sets the stage for MS,
often years before symptoms appear. In fact, a form of the herpes virus
known as \"human herpes virus 6\" seems to promote MS flare ups, though
most people harbor the virus without developing the disease.
It\'s not that a germ attacks and damages the myelin. Rather, myelin gets
destroyed by an immune system gone haywire and incapable of turning
itself off, similar to what happens in rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
erythematosis. Various types of immune cells migrate to myelin and
attack it, triggering a variety of neurological and muscular symptoms,
including numbness, impaired vision, and weakness.
In fact, the nerve damage characteristic of MS may be far greater than
previously thought. In a study published in the January 19, 1998, New
England Journal of Medicine, Bruce D. Trapp, Ph.D., and his colleagues
at the Cleveland Clinic showed that the disease process actually severs
nerve fibers in the brain, suggesting that late-stage MS may not be
Fats: Too Much of the Wrong Kinds
In his own review of MS research, Ashton Embry stumbled across something
most MS experts have overlooked: that the modern diet, with a lopsided
intake of dietary fats, particularly highly refined fats and oils, may
set the stage for inflammation-and, in some people, MS. Restoring a
balance of fats, such as through a low-or balanced-fat diet, reduces
Why fats? Myelin is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as the
omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain and nerve
development and function.
In the 1940s, Swank theorized that people with MS had been consuming far
too much saturated fat (found in meat). Later, as chairman of the
department of neurology at Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland,
and head of his own MS clinic, he carefully tracked the health of
patients for 34 years. He found that those eating low-fat diets (less
than 20 grams daily) suffered only \"slight\" myelin deterioration and 95
percent survived the study. In contrast, 80 percent of the patients
eating moderate to high-fat diets (25 to 41 grams daily) had a serious
progression of their MS symptoms, with only 20 percent living through
the end of the study.
As significant as his findings were, however, Swank may have overlooked
the larger dietary picture of fats and oils. According to S. Boyd Eaton,
M.D., of Emory University, Atlanta, the ratios of modern dietary fats
bear little resemblance to evolutionary patterns of fat intake, to which
our genes are accustomed. The domestication of cattle has skewed fatty
acid ratios in beef, so there\'s more saturated fat; game meats have a
fat profile resembling that of salmon. In addition, the modern ratio of
omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is about 11:1. In the paleolithic diet,
which people and primates evolved on, the ratio ranged from 4:1 to 1:1,
according to Artemis Simopoulos, M.D., and Jo Robinson, authors of The
Omega Plan (HarperCollins, 1998).
Both families of fats are essential for health and, in addition to their
roles in brain and nerve function, are needed to produce a variety of
immune compounds, such as the hormone-like eicosanoids and cytokines.
Their effects, though, are almost diametrically opposed. High intake of
the omega-6s, such as through the consumption of fried foods and salad
dressings, promote production of inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines.
In contrast, the omega-3s form anti-inflammatory eicosanoids and
cytokines-and have been useful in other autoimmune disorders, such as
rheumatoid arthritis. Another group of fatty acids, the omega-9s (found
in olive and canola oils), also have an antiinflammatory effect.
In a recent article in the journal Neurology , Klaus Lauer, M.D., of
Darmstadt, Germany, noted that large amounts (20-25 grams daily) of
omega-6 fatty acids have been found to reduce the severity of MS in
newly diagnosed cases, but had no affect on long-established cases. In
one study, adding 2-3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oils) as
well helped ease symptoms a bit more, according to Lauer.
Part of the problem, according to David Horrobin, Ph.D., M.B., a fatty
acid researcher and editor of the journal Medical Hypothesis, is that
the modern diet is flooded with poor quality omega-6 fatty acids (in the
form of cooking or frying oils), which seem to overwhelm
delta-6-desaturase, a crucial enzyme. Inadequate delta-6-desaturase
activity limits the conversion of linoleic acid, found in vegetable
oils, to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a highly beneficial and
antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. To leapfrog this problem, Horrobin
often recommends that people take evening primrose oil supplements,
which are rich in GLA and sidestep the sluggish enzyme. Fish or flaxseed
oil capsules, which contain the omega-3 fatty acids, might also help.
Vitamins May Protect, Rebuild Tissue
The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, like most fats and oils, are highly
susceptible to free radicals, unbalanced molecules that oxidize and
damage cells. Free radicals are produced during inflammatory
reactions-they destroy bacteria and, by activating \"adhesion molecules,\"
maintain inflammation. However, chronic or severe inflammation breaks
down normal tissues, such as myelin, and several studies have found MS
patients to have elevated levels of free radical damage.
While antioxidant nutrients are well established for their ability to
quench free radicals, few studies have actually scientifically tested
the use of antioxidants in MS patients. One, described in Biological
Trace Element Research found that a combination of antioxidants (6 mg
selenium, 2 grams vitamin C, and 480 mg vitamin E) did increase levels
of glutathione peroxidase, a key antioxidant enzyme.
There\'s other promising, though indirect, research indicating that
antioxidant nutrients should help ease MS symptoms. Vitamins C and E,
flavonoids (e.g., Pycnogenol®), and vitamin-like alpha-lipoic
acid-all antioxidants-quench free radicals and are well established for
their antiinflammatory properties.
Other vitamins, particularly those of the B complex, may also help
maintain or rebuild myelin in MS patients. Several years ago, E H.
Reynolds, M.D., of King\'s College Hospital, London, measured B12 levels
among many MS patients. Nearly all were deficient in the vitamin, though
they did not exhibit signs of pernicious anemia. Other studies and
clinical experiences reinforce the importance of vitamin B12. In one
study, researchers found that low B12 levels were associated with the
early onset of MS, particularly in patients under age 18.
While vitamin B12 has not become a common therapy for MS, it may be
helpful. Several years ago, researchers at Kyushu University, Fukuoka,
Japan, noted B12 abnormalities in 24 MS patients and injected six of
them with massive doses (60 mg, not mcg) of the vitamin daily for six
months. Visual and auditory symptoms improved, but muscle function did
Folic acid, another B vitamin, might also help in MS. Swiss doctors have
theorized that incomplete breakdown of dietary sugar, particularly
fructose, may yield formaldehyde, a toxic compound that attacks myelin.
Folic acid might block this damage. The apparent association of low B12
and folic acid with MS touches on another possible intriguing cause of
the disease: inefficient methylation.
Methylation, which donates carbon and hydrogen molecules to chemical
reactions, is a key process in the building of new molecules,
particularly deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and new cells. Vitamins B12
and folic acid play essential roles in methylation and DNA synthesis and
the production of new cells. Inadequate levels of these vitamins, or
defects in the body\'s use of them, could impair the growth of myelin and
According to a team of researchers at the Baylor Research Institute,
Dallas, Texas, S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM) might also be helpful,
because it regulates methylation and helps regenerate myelin.
Deficiencies of B12 and folic acid lower SAM production. Because SAM is
an expensive supplement, it may be better trying extra B12 and folic
acid before SAM. In addition, betaine, also known as trimethylglycine,
can boost SAM levels in the body.
Even the geographical pattern of MS may have some dietary links.
MS researchers have long recognized that the incidence of MS generally
increases farther north and south from the equator, correlating to less
sunlight. Sunlight activates the body\'s production of vitamin D, and
people living farther from the equator would, over the course of a year,
make less vitamin D.
This relationship doesn\'t confirm that a lack of vitamin D increases the
risk of MS. But there\'s other tantalizing data. According to a report by
C. E. Hayes, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, vitamin D can prevent experimental autoimmune
encephalomyelitis, the mouse version of human MS.
Another variable appears to be the amount of fish consumed, particularly
by people living at extreme latitudes. For example, along the coast of
Norway and throughout Japan, the incidence of MS is less than expected,
based on latitude. Fish, rich in the antiinflammatory omega-3 fatty
acids, is a major dietary constituent in these areas and may be
protective. In fact, the high incidence of MS among people of Scottish
descent might reflect an interaction between a genetic propensity toward
the disease and a modern diet containing less fish.
For the most part, nutrition research on MS languishes in medical
libraries. Most MS research dollars are earmarked for identifying the
molecular causes of the disease and developing new drugs. Yet it\'s clear
that diet is a powerful influence on the development and progression of
MS. A cure for MS is far from being at hand. However, effective, safe,
and inexpensive treatments do exist.
The Swank Diet for Multiple Sclerosis
The Swank Clinic, located in Beaverton, Ore., specializes in the
treatment of multiple sclerosis. Roy L. Swank, M.D., who recently
retired, developed a low-fat diet to treat the diet. He recommended that
MS patients slash their intake of saturated fat (found in red meat),
cutting total fat intake (from all sources) to 20 grams day, which
should include 1 teaspoonful (5 grams) of code liver oil, rich in
polyunsaturated fatty acids. Swank also recommended a standard
multivitamin, 1,000 mg of vitamin C, and 400 IU of vitamin E daily. You
can contact the clinic by phone (503.520.1050), fax (503.520.1223), or
by writing to the Swank Clinic, 13655 SW Jenkins Road, Beaverton, Ore.,
97005 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope).
It may also be worthwhile increasing your intake of \"good\"
(antiinflammatory) fats while decreasing \"bad\" (proinflammatory). To do
this, reduce or eliminate fried foods, such as fried chicken and french
fries; salad dressings, unless made with olive or canola oils; and beef,
pork, and lamb. Meanwhile, increase your intake of fish (not fried,
though). All fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, though mackerel and
salmon are the richest sources (and wild being better than \"farmed\"
salmon). In addition, use olive oil instead of other vegetable oils.
Finally, take a variety of antioxidant supplements, including vitamins C
and E, flavonoids, carotenoids, and alpha-lipoic acid. - Jack Challem
The information provided by Jack Challem and The Nutrition Reporter™
newsletter is strictly educational and not intended as medical advice.
For diagnosis and treatment, consult your physician.