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Selected Complementary and Alternative Medicine Approaches for MS

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Updated October 06, 2011

All sorts of things fall into the category of "complementary and alternative medicine," or CAM. In fact, some people define CAM as anything that "wasn't taught in medical school."

Some of these methodologies may be beneficial to people with MS, others are neutral, and still others can be harmful under certain circumstances. Use this list as a starting point to your research into CAM for MS. A great place to get more information on a wide variety of CAM modalities and how they work (or don’t) for people with MS is Allen C. Bowling’s book, Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis.

Bee Venom Therapy for MS

I'm not really a fan of this approach. The idea is that your body will produce an anti-inflammatory response to the bee stings, which will in turn reduce the inflammation that is causing demyelination. Apparently, over 1,300 people with MS have sent testimonials to the American Apitherapy society in support of this treatment.

Read the full article: Bee Venom Therapy for MS

Biofeedback for Multiple Sclerosis

I think there might be something to biofeedback for MS. No, I don’t think that it can fully restore lost functionality or in any way affect disease progression. However, I do think that in many cases, we can use our minds to "calm down" some MS symptoms, resulting in less pain or greater control over our bodies.

Read the full articles: Biofeedback for Multiple Sclerosis; Biofeedback

Reflexology for Multiple Sclerosis

I love reflexology. Reflexology feels really good. I maintain that it is almost impossible to feel terrible when someone is rubbing your feet. I don’t know about the lasting impact of reflexology on MS symptoms, but if you want relief from fatigue, headache or even paresthesia, I can almost guarantee that you will feel better during your session and maybe for a little while afterwards.

Read the full articles: Reflexology for Multiple Sclerosis; What is Reflexology?

St. John's Wort Warning for People with MS

I’m putting this in here as a reminder that just because something can be purchased in the health food store, that doesn’t mean that it is safe for everyone to take or to combine with other drugs. In this case, I warn about St. John’s Wort (often taken for depression, a common symptom of MS) interacting with and lessening the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. However, always make sure that you check out anything that you are taking on our Drug Interaction Checker, as well as with your doctor, to verify that it isn’t impacting your other medications.

Read the full articles: St. John's Wort Warning for People with MS; St. John’s Wort

Yoga and MS

I am a big fan of yoga, and I am convinced that it can really help people with MS feel much better physically, mentally and emotionally. Yoga can be modified to fit anyone’s ability level. A good yoga teacher should be able to help you adapt any pose to your situation. There are also some classes offered by local MS Society chapters and yoga studios specifically targeted to people with MS.

Read the full article: Yoga and MS

Does Acupuncture Work for Multiple Sclerosis?

Acupuncture is an interesting one. I know from my own experience that it can help with some things -– I received acupuncture for severe migraine headaches many years before I was diagnosed with MS and they never returned (at least not as severely). However, some say that acupuncture may stimulate the immune system, and that it’s best for people with MS to avoid it. I would probably consider it to address a specific symptom (i.e., pain, headache, spasticity, paresthesia), rather than use it to try to "feel better" in a more general sense.

Read the full articles: Does Acupuncture Work for Multiple Sclerosis?; Acupuncture

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Multiple Sclerosis

I am a big fan of omega-3 fatty acids. I think they are just good for us –- not just the MS or brain parts, but also cardiovascular health, as well. Since I don't eat enough fish to meet the requirement, I get my omega-3 through flaxseeds on cereal and in granola, as well as through flaxseed oil in my smoothies. You can also take capsules with omega-3.

Read the full articles: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Multiple Sclerosis; Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

For people with MS, this is the big one in the vitamin world, isn’t it? Many things point to inadequate vitamin D as a reason that we got MS and many people swear by the therapeutic benefits of vitamin D supplementation. People with MS often do have a vitamin D deficiency. In addition, vitamin D is necessary to help with calcium absorption to prevent osteoporosis (which we are also more vulnerable to than other people). You can get tested for vitamin D levels, and supplementation is easy.

Read the full articles: Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis; How Much Vitamin D is Safe to Take for People with Multiple Sclerosis?

Vitamin B12 and Multiple Sclerosis

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause many of the same symptoms as MS. There is some evidence that people with MS do not metabolize B12 the same way as other people and that there is a higher likelihood that we may have a deficiency of B12 (although it is still not common). You can get tested for this and it is easy to treat. This is especially important if you are a vegetarian.

Read the full articles: Vitamin B12 and Multiple Sclerosis; The Benefits of Vitamin B12

The Bottom Line

Clearly, there are many CAM modalities out there. Those of us with MS, a chronic disease, often are willing to try just about anything in our quest to feel better. I know I have.

However, it is important that we approach any CAM modality that we want to try in a safe and practical way. We need to research each method fully, ideally discussing it with our doctor before proceeding. (For tips on making this conversation productive, read Talking About Complementary and Alternative Medicine with Your Neurologist).

It is also imperative that we are realistic in what our hopes are for CAM. Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for MS –- you should be highly suspicious of anyone that tries to tell you that there is (especially if they are trying to sell you something).

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