Multiple sclerosis is an irreversible autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. With no known cause to identify, doctors haven't been able to devise any plan to prevent this condition.
Newsflash...Scientists have achieved a breakthrough in the treatment of relapsing MS in mice. With the help of nanotechnology an antigen is injected into the body of mice which would keep the immune system from attacking the myelin sheath... Continued further
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
The central nervous system relays signals to the rest of the body via nerve fibers. These nerve fibers are insulated and protected by a fatty substance called myelin. This protective layer increases the rate at which signals are transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body. Due to certain reasons, the body's immune system deteriorates and destroys the myelin sheath thus slowing down the transfer of the nerve impulses or halting them altogether. With the protective covering gone, scar tissues begin to develop in the central nervous system; this condition is known as multiple sclerosis (MS).
Reducing the Risk
Doctors have a theory that certain factors, although not directly connected to multiple sclerosis, may have some contribution in its development. So recognizing or understanding these contributing factors may help people minimize the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Factors associated with this autoimmune condition include:
Living Away from the Equator
» Considering that people residing in Europe, northern United States, Scandinavia, southern Canada and New Zealand to name a few, are commonly found to have multiple sclerosis, doctors believe that the farther one lives away from the equator, the greater is his/her risk of developing the condition. Having said that, those who live nearer to the equator have the lowest rate of the same condition. So does this have anything to do with sunlight which is more in the equatorial regions? Some medical experts postulate that the ultraviolet light in sunlight helps protect neural tissue from diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Low Levels of Vitamin D
» Doctors believe that sunshine vitamin or vitamin D that the human body produces in response to sunlight, may act as a protective barrier against MS to some extent. So living away from the equator with less exposure to sunlight may have a major disadvantage - low levels of vitamin D. Although some doctors have purported that supplements of the same vitamin may help reduce the risk of this condition, there is no clinical evidence to support this theory.
» Multiple sclerosis is also linked with viral infection that affects the central nervous system. Taking into account what researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found out, infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is linked to higher risk of developing MS. EBV is a herpes virus that may lie dormant for many years in the human body before reactivating and triggering an autoimmune response that may affect the central nervous system.
» Doctors have also come across cases which may indicate that multiple sclerosis could be inherited. People whose siblings or parents are affected by this condition, may be at risk of developing the same. But because genetics cannot be related to the wide variations of MS, the condition is not labeled as hereditary.
» Through years of diagnosis, doctors have realized that white people could be more susceptible to MS; Caucasians of northern European ancestry in particular. Reports also indicate that people from Asia, Africa, and Native Americans are at a lower risk category.
What you can do...
☛ As you can infer, most of the factors that are linked to MS are out of your control; for example, you cannot undo your genetic heritage or your ethnicity. As far as vitamin D is concerned, it may be unrealistic to move permanently to a place closer to the equator. So a more reasonable approach is to boost your vitamin D levels through dietary intake, and by taking multivitamins that include vitamin D. Some of the best sources of this vitamin include goat milk, milk, eggs, mushrooms, salmon, and sardines.
☛ Speaking of viral infection, it may be impossible to avoid such diseases in our day-to-day life. But maintaining personal hygiene such as washing hands before eating and after visiting restrooms, avoiding people who are sick, and taking extra precautions during cold and flu season may help to some extent.
Breakthrough in MS Treatment
The conventional treatment of MS comprises medicines that act to suppress the entire immune system so that it stops attacking the myelin sheath. But this makes patients highly susceptible to various infections. So what scientists at Northwestern University did was they used nanoparticles to introduce myelin antigens in mice. And these antigens do not suppress the immune system but reset it so that it stops attacking the myelin sheath. This type of selective and targeted approach of treatment can be used not only to treat MS but a variety of other immune system-related disorders.
Although it is not definite that increasing your vitamin D intake or preventing viral infections will completely take you off the risk of developing MS, such practices do help improve overall health and the quality of life.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.