Multiple sclerosis is a chronic and progressive disease that impacts the central nervous system, especially the spinal cord, brain, and optic nerves. In people with multiple sclerosis, the immune system starts attacking the protective covering of the nerves, known as myelin. This ultimately leads to nerve damage and disrupts the communication from the brain to the rest of the body. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be mild to severe and cause permanent damage. There is no cure for the condition, but there are several alternative treatments such as supplements and vitamins, for managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Here are some vitamins and supplements for multiple sclerosis that can provide relief from your symptoms.
Vitamins and Supplements for Multiple Sclerosis
If you have multiple sclerosis, you already know that there is no cure for the disease, and you need to manage your MS symptoms with medications or other treatments.(1) All over the world, people with multiple sclerosis have been turning to complementary and alternative medicine to help manage their condition and slow down the progression of the multiple sclerosis disease.(2) Many people are today turning to various non-pharmaceutical treatments when they find conventional medicines not improving their symptoms. Others are trying out these alternative options after hearing about the promise of supplements and vitamins in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.(3)
Many people wonder if vitamins and supplements can help them feel better. While studies have shown that some vitamins and supplements may benefit from multiple sclerosis and slow down the disease progression to a certain level, the overall results of these studies are still mixed.(4,5,6,7)
If you want to take supplements and vitamins for multiple sclerosis, it is essential to know that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them as strictly as they monitor medications.(8) This means that you can never really be too sure about what are the ingredients present in the supplements you buy.(9) Additionally, certain supplements might not mix well with your multiple sclerosis medications, which is why it is important to consult your doctor before you start taking any vitamins and supplements.
Vitamins for Multiple Sclerosis
One of the most well-researched vitamins for the management of multiple sclerosis is vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for healthy bones and muscles, maintaining the health of the immune system, and for the nerves. Direct exposure to sunlight, fatty fish, and certain fortified foods and beverages are some of the common sources of vitamin D.
Several studies have shown that having high levels of vitamin D in the body can reduce the likelihood of getting multiple sclerosis.(10) Studies also suggest that if you are deficient in vitamin D and already have multiple sclerosis, you have a higher risk of experiencing frequent flare-ups.(11)
One study has even found that vitamin D may help in the repairing of myelin, the protective covering that coats and protects your nerves.(12)
The results of this study are significant because this disease damages myelin, which is what causes symptoms such as fatigue and muscle weakness. However, more research is still needed to firmly confirm these results.
Medical experts are now leaning towards recommended greater sun exposure and monitored vitamin D supplementation as a standard add-on treatment for multiple sclerosis.(13) However, more research is also necessary to understand what vitamin D strength affects the disease and how vitamin D works to help slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in maintaining reproductive health, vision health, and the health of our immune system.
Vitamin A is also critical for ensuring the proper functioning of the heart and other organs. (14) Vitamin A is found abundantly in many foods such as leafy green vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and organ meats. You can also take a supplement of vitamin A if needed, though keep in mind that it should not be taken in large doses as it can lead to an overdose. Always take vitamin A supplements under the advice of your doctor only.
Vitamin A has been associated with delays in disease progression of age-related macular degeneration. The antioxidants present in vitamin A are believed to help people with multiple sclerosis, though the exact link between vitamin A and multiple sclerosis is not yet properly understood.(15,16)
Thiamine or Vitamin B-1
Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is vital for ensuring proper brain functioning. The body also needs it for the proper functioning of nerves, muscles, and the heart. Vitamin B1 also ensures a healthy metabolism.
Deficiencies of vitamin B1 are linked with various neurodegenerative disorders, including multiple sclerosis.(17) Lack of vitamin B1 can also cause symptoms such as fatigue and weakness. You can get healthy levels of thiamine from foods such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Lean meats
Supplements for Multiple Sclerosis
Calcium is a vital mineral that the body needs for is overall health and functioning. Calcium is commonly found in many foods and is generally a part of our day to day diets. It is also a common supplement, especially in people over the age of 40.
Studies have shown that calcium has a vital role to play in ensuring the health of the cardiovascular system, bone health, and lowering the risk of cancer.(18)
Adequate levels of calcium are necessary for everyone, but people with multiple sclerosis who are taking medications or taking vitamin D, they should consult their doctor before adding calcium supplements to their routine because vitamin D is known to boost the body’s absorption of calcium, which can cause a potential overdose of calcium. An overdose of calcium can prove to be toxic.(19)
Bee Venom Or Pollen
Bee venom appears to be a clear liquid. Also known as apitoxin, it is used in the treatment of various health conditions, and this type of treatment with honeybee venom is known as apitherapy.(20)
Unlike some of the other vitamins and supplements discussed here for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and its symptoms, bee venom has been widely studied for the impact it has on this disease. Several small-level clinical trials have been carried out to know whether bee venom-derived treatment can be beneficial for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. However, there is still a need for more in-depth research to determine if there are any adverse health effects of using bee venom in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.(21,22)
Apart from bee venom, bee pollen is also being studied to find out if it can benefit people with multiple sclerosis. Bee pollen is already used as a dietary supplement for managing various conditions, though its exact beneficial properties are still under research. A 2013 study found that bee pollen contains powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, helping manage multiple sclerosis symptoms.(23) A 2015 study also found that bee pollen helps boost the immune system and helps fight against many chronic conditions.(24) However, the boosting of your immunity system may prove detrimental when you have multiple sclerosis, so bee pollen should never be consumed without consulting your doctor.
Cod Liver or Fish Oil
Cod liver oil or fish liver oil is a widely used supplement. However, these are not the same as plain fish oils that many people take for getting their daily dosage of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish liver oils not only contain a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, but it is also rich in vitamins A and D. However, this can cause an overdose, so you need to watch your daily dosage.
However, some research has indicated that cod liver oil is not as helpful as having fish regularly as part of your diet.
Research into such natural remedies for multiple sclerosis is limited, and therefore, you should not start taking these without a go-ahead from your doctor. Many of these vitamins and supplements also have other beneficial properties that can help your health, especially when you have multiple sclerosis. Nevertheless, many herbs, vitamins, and supplements may also interact with your prescription medications for multiple sclerosis. This is why it is necessary to consult your doctor before adding these to your routine.
- Ferguson, B., Matyszak, M.K., Esiri, M.M. and Perry, V.H., 1997. Axonal damage in acute multiple sclerosis lesions. Brain: a journal of neurology, 120(3), pp.393-399.
- Yadav, V., Shinto, L. and Bourdette, D., 2010. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Expert review of clinical immunology, 6(3), pp.381-395.
- Mojaverrostami, S., Bojnordi, M.N., Ghasemi-Kasman, M., Ebrahimzadeh, M.A. and Hamidabadi, H.G., 2018. A review of herbal therapy in multiple sclerosis. Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 8(4), p.575.
- Goldberg, P., Fleming, M.C. and Picard, E.H., 1986. Multiple sclerosis: decreased relapse rate through dietary supplementation with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. Medical hypotheses, 21(2), pp.193-200.
- Sintzel, M.B., Rametta, M. and Reder, A.T., 2018. Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis: a comprehensive review. Neurology and therapy, 7(1), pp.59-85.
- Stein, M.S., Liu, Y., Gray, O.M., Baker, J.E., Kolbe, S.C., Ditchfield, M.R., Egan, G.F., Mitchell, P.J., Harrison, L.C., Butzkueven, H. and Kilpatrick, T.J., 2011. A randomized trial of high-dose vitamin D2 in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Neurology, 77(17), pp.1611-1618.
- Muris, A.H., Smolders, J., Rolf, L., Thewissen, M., Hupperts, R., Damoiseaux, J. and SOLARIUM Study Group, 2016. Immune regulatory effects of high dose vitamin D3 supplementation in a randomized controlled trial in relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis patients receiving IFNβ; the SOLARIUM study. Journal of neuroimmunology, 300, pp.47-56.
- Frankos, V.H., Street, D.A. and O’neill, R.K., 2010. FDA regulation of dietary supplements and requirements regarding adverse event reporting. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 87(2), pp.239-244.
- Fontanarosa, P.B., Rennie, D. and DeAngelis, C.D., 2003. The need for regulation of dietary supplements—lessons from ephedra. Jama, 289(12), pp.1568-1570.
- Dörr, J., Döring, A. and Paul, F., 2013. Can we prevent or treat multiple sclerosis by individualised vitamin D supply?. Epma Journal, 4(1), p.4.
Ascherio, A., Munger, K.L., White, R., Köchert, K., Simon, K.C., Polman, C.H., Freedman, M.S., Hartung, H.P., Miller, D.H., Montalbán, X. and Edan, G., 2014. Vitamin D as an early predictor of multiple sclerosis activity and progression. JAMA neurology, 71(3), pp.306-314.
- Matías-Guíu, J., Oreja-Guevara, C., Matias-Guiu, J.A. and Gomez-Pinedo, U., 2018. Vitamin D and remyelination in multiple sclerosis. Neurología (English Edition), 33(3), pp.177-186.
- Holmøy, T., Torkildsen, Ø., Myhr, K.M. and Løken-Amsrud, K.I., 2012. Vitamin D supplementation and monitoring in multiple sclerosis: who, when and wherefore. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 126, pp.63-69.
- Ods.od.nih.gov. 2020. Office Of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A. [online] Available at: <https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/> [Accessed 6 August 2020].
- Besler, H.T., Çomoğlu, S. and OkÇu, Z., 2002. Serum levels of antioxidant vitamins and lipid peroxidation in multiple sclerosis. Nutritional neuroscience, 5(3), pp.215-220.
- Filippi, M., Preziosa, P. and Rocca, M.A., 2013. Vitamin A: yet another player in multiple sclerosis pathogenesis?. Expert review of clinical immunology, 9(2), pp.113-115.
- Jhala, S.S. and Hazell, A.S., 2011. Modeling neurodegenerative disease pathophysiology in thiamine deficiency: consequences of impaired oxidative metabolism. Neurochemistry international, 58(3), pp.248-260.
- Ods.od.nih.gov. 2020. Office Of Dietary Supplements – Calcium. [online] Available at: <https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/> [Accessed 6 August 2020].
- Kenny, J., 1994. Treating overdose with calcium channel blockers.
- Mizrahi, A. and Lensky, Y. eds., 2013. Bee products: properties, applications, and apitherapy. Springer Science & Business Media.
- Bowling, A.C., 2010. Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. ReadHowYouWant. com.
- Alqutub, A.N., Masoodi, I., Alsayari, K. and Alomair, A., 2011. Bee sting therapy-induced hepatotoxicity: A case report. World journal of hepatology, 3(10), p.268.
- Fatrcová-Šramková, K., Nôžková, J., Kačániová, M., Máriássyová, M., Rovná, K. and Stričík, M., 2013. Antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of monofloral bee pollen. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B, 48(2), pp.133-138.
- Komosinska-Vassev, K., Olczyk, P., Kaźmierczak, J., Mencner, L. and Olczyk, K., 2015. Bee pollen: chemical composition and therapeutic application. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015.
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