by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Today many patients diagnosed with chronic inflammatory disease like MS are turning to natural and alternative medicine to treat the symptoms of their disease. Alternative medicine is a term used to describe any and all forms of treatment that has no scientific proof or documented clinical studies verifying it as safe and or effective. Though there may not be scientific verification with clinical studies, there are numerous testimonials that have lead to increased research of alternative treatments. Alternative treatments range from diet and exercise programs to use of acupuncture and massage.
When considering adding alternative treatments to your treatment plan there are 5 basic questions you should ask:
1. What does the treatment involve?
2. How and why is it supposed to work?
3. How effective is it?
4. What are the risks?
5. How much does it cost?
After you’ve answered these questions to your satisfaction and know the direction in which you wish to take your treatment it’s important to sit down and discuss your intentions with your doctor. There are any number of complications that can occur if you withhold information about what you are taking from your doctor. Also, it’s important that you continue your conventional treatment ordered by your doctor. Alternative treatments should always be used in conjunction with your conventional treatment and with your doctor’s knowledge and supervision. Many doctors and researchers recommend you keep a journal documenting in detail any and all changes you experience.
Naturopathic physicians believe that the majority of chronic degenerative diseases including MS are diet related. The increased incidence of MS as well as other chronic diseases coincides with the introduction of processed foods, diets high in fat and refined sugar that has become the typical American diet. There is a significant amount of research that shows this to be factual. Diet is one of the cornerstones of treatment for MS. Dr. Roy Swank has done a great deal of research that shows diets low in fats causes a reduction in symptoms and can put the disease into a period of remission. The most significant finding was that many patients were able to manage their symptoms and live normal lives when they made only the dietary adjustments. Dr. Swank’s dietary plan has six basic guidelines to follow:
1. No more than 15gms of saturated fat per day.
2. Keep unsaturated fats to 20-40gms per day.
3. No red meat for the first year, then after the first year you can have 3oz red meat once a week.
4. Dairy products must have 1% or less of butterfat.
5. No processed food containing saturated fat.
6. Cod liver oil, 1 tsp or capsule equivalent, multivitamin and mineral supplement every day.
Exercise not only improves your overall health it improves strength and mood and reduces fatigue. There are a variety of exercise programs that benefit patients with MS including Tai Chi and Yoga. A physical therapist can help you create a program that fits you depending on the severity of your MS.
Stress management is also a very important component of any MS treatment plan as increased stress triggers acute attacks of severe symptoms. There are numerous strategies for managing stress so it’s important to find one that is a fit for you.
Acupuncture is a treatment that stimulates our body’s own healing power by altering the energy flow throughout the body. There have been numerous reports by patients with MS that the use of acupuncture has relieved many of their symptoms including pain, fatigue, numbness and tingling. However, there have been no clinical trials to document it’s effectiveness.
Massage therapy is used by many MS patients for relaxation and stress reduction to reduce the severity of symptoms and number of acute episodes through there is no evidence that massage therapy alters the disease process.
No matter what therapy you choose to use whether conventional, alternative or a combination of both it’s important to approach it with a positive attitude. A positive attitude may not cure MS but it will help you approach life with MS much more optimism and hope.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.