Sunday, September 27, 2009


Complementary medicines are those supplements or treatments that are used in addition to traditional medicines. Alternative medicines are used in place of traditional medicines.

Vitamin D is one of the few supplements that has some science to back it up. Early studies indicate its benefit, but the main question about it has to do with dosing amounts. There are some studies currently underway checking out the safety of mega doses. Right now, 2000 IUs is the recommended dose.

Special diet is another complementary treatment, but there are few studies and little if no long term follow up to determine their effectiveness. What is currently recommended is the standard low fat, high fibre type diet that also promotes heart health.

Steroid treatment is something most of us are familiar with and many of us continue to undergo with any flare-ups. Current studies are underway to determine differences, if any, between IV and oral steroid treatments. So even a current treatment used for years is still being investigated.

LDN is being touted as a wonder drug for a number of diseases, including MS. It may reduce cell death in oligodendrocytes, which are responsible for maintaining myelin. It appears to reduce spasticity, fatigue and depression. Side effects include liver toxicity, sleep disturbance, and GI problems. I've only come across two specific studies for LDN in relapsing remitting MS with mixed results. They were short term studies and involved only 100 people in total. According to Wikipedia, LDN is prescribed for off label use for MS to about 50,000 people in the US. It's hard to say at this point whether it will be a good drug for MS or not.

Marijuana is a drug that may be eaten, smoked, taken in pill from or a spray form. Putting aside the legality of it for a moment, side effects include decreased cognitive skills, dependency, and psychiatric symptoms. The benefits point to reduction in pain and spasticity. It is also only available legally after much paperwork with doctors and governments. Illegally, the cost may outweigh any benefit.

Before taking anything that is complimentary or alternative, discuss it first with your doctor. Some "natural" supplements can interact with medications. Ask yourself some questions, too: What claims are made by the product? Who recommended it? What are their qualifications? Who's tried it? How does it work? What kind of testing has been done on it? What are the medical risks? Side effects?

Remember, claims that a substance is natural mean nothing. Arsenic is a natural product, too, but we all know what ingestion of it will do. With few exceptions, everything we need nutritionally we can get from our food. The problem is that most of us don't eat what we should and too much of what we shouldn't. For example, you can increase your intake of omega 3s by eating more fish than beef. Choose in-season fruit and vegetables when possible, using canned or frozen when out of season. Increase your fibre intake by adding bran to your cereal or baked goods.

We all have well meaning friends who tell us about the latest health claim of a particular product. I thank them for the information with a promise to research it. Once I have I can go back to them and say "I checked out Product X and I'm afraid that not enough study has been done on it for me to take at this time" and that opens the door for me to tell them why.

I'm not saying that there isn't a place for CAMs in the treatment of MS, there must be a way for these compounds to be tested for safety and usefulness before we take them.

Next up, treatment outlook for PPMS.



Herrad said...

Hi Shauna,

You say there can be decreased cognitive skills, dependency, and psychiatric symptoms.

Psychiatric symptoms are often there before marijuana use.

Please consider the horrible side effects of much prescribed medicines (opiates) that are often incredibly addictive.

Drugs that damage the kidneys and liver to name just two, and what about the dependancy on sleeping tablets and tranquillers and other muscle relaxers.

What about the side effects from Baclofen and blood thinners and drugs that reduce blood pressure.

The drugs the doctors prescribe have horrendous side effects look at the medicines for MS.

The drug companies are as far as I can see drug dealers who want us all to be dependant on them for life.

That is why they do not concentrate on finding a cure for MS.

Some of the benefits of marijuana are pain relief (neuros here say it is the best pain relief) it helps with spasticity, gives a good appetite, helps sleeping, good for relaxation, to name a few benefits.

There is alot of negative publicity about marijuana this is because the other drug dealers, the drug companies have the franchise and want to keep it that way.

Shauna said...


I hope you didn't take from what I'd written any judgement on my part about people who use CAMs.

I understand what you're saying and agree that there are many nasty side effects on any number of drugs out there. I was simply outlining the good and bad of what we currently have and what is in development for drugs and treatment relating to MS.

Sadly, too many people don't ask about any side effects when they consider a CAM and they rely too much on anecdotal evidence rather than good science. Even with prescribed drugs, I ask about the side effects and possible interactions with anything else I may be taking if I am prescribed something new.

To say drug companies are drug dealers wanting us to be dependent on them for life isn't quite correct. They are in business to make money, which is the point of doing business. It's the same comment I've heard from some cancer lobbyists - "The drug companies don't want to find a cure because it would put them out of business". Quite the opposite is true. The company that comes up with a cure will be rich beyond belief. Just look at what Viagra did for Pfizer. And that was for only %50 of the population.

I believe that what I've presented, based on a seminar I attended this week, was pretty accurate. I only advise people to ask questions about whatever they are prescribed or whatever "concerned friends" suggest. It's too easy for desperate people to try anything at any cost that in the end may do more harm.

Personally, I haven't got a problem with folks using marijuana to relieve symptoms of MS. On this side of the pond, though, it's quite difficult to get the drug legally. There has been some discussion that the legal stuff isn't as strong as the illegal stuff, thus reducing or eliminating any benefit to be gained from using it.

Even when we take an aspirin for a headache we are risking death. It's a pretty small risk, but it's there just the same. I just want folks to be informed of the risks whatever they decide to do to treat their MS or its symptoms...even if they decide to do nothing.

Thanks for stopping by on your travels and giving me something to sink my mental teeth into.