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.