Multiple sclerosis is quite common chronic neurological disease affecting millions of people all over the world. It affects individuals between the ages of 20-50 years. It causes progressive neurological symptoms those worsen with time leading to varied disability. The symptoms include abnormal sensations, numbness, tingling, pain, visual disturbances, fatigue, weakness, hearing problem, speech problem, dysphagia, breathing problem, coordination problem, headache, seizures, itching, spasms, spasticity, gait abnormality, bowel and bladder disorders, and sexual dysfunction. The disease can be so disabling in some individuals that they have to take support of wheelchair.
Although, there is no cure for the disease, there are various FDA approved disease modifying therapies (DMTs) that modify the disease and help in slowing the disease process. These include interferon beta, mitoxantrone, glatiramer acetate, natalizumab, ocrelizumab, alemtuzumab, fingolimod, teriflunomide, and dimethyl fumarate. These medications are helpful in modifying the disease; however, despite the medications, some people do not benefit from them and continue to experience symptoms that affect their quality of life. Some of these people resort to supplements to reduce the severity of their symptoms.
What Vitamins Are Good For MS?
Although, there have been a lot of data regarding the use of supplements, such as vitamins, minerals and herbs, they are not vigorously researched and studied topics and are not FDA approved.
There are various vitamins available in the market and these include vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K and other supplements include curcumin, caffeine, creatine, lipoic acid, green tea extract, carnitine, coenzyme Q, ginkgo biloba, probiotics, resveratrol and PUFA.
Out of all these vitamins and other supplements, only vitamin D has proven effects in patients of MS. This could be due to the fact that one of the risk factors of MS is staying farther away from equator. This could be due to reduced exposure to sunlight in people who stay in northern and southern hemispheres. As we all know that direct sunlight is the source of vitamin D and reduced exposure to sunlight causes natural deficiency of vitamin D.
Vitamin D in the body plays an important role in bone growth, immune system, cell and neuromuscular function too. Foods rich in vitamin D include cereals, dairy products and fish. Sunlight is the natural source of vitamin D production in the body.
There have been studies that support supplementation of vitamin D in the reduction of the risk of MS and also reduction in relapses in patients who took vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D also alters immune function that has beneficial effect in the course of MS. Studies have also shown low vitamin D levels with risk of exacerbations of MS along with development of new lesions on MRI. Low vitamin D levels are associated with increased disability in MS patients.
The dose of vitamin D supplement is around 600-800 IU/d. The minimum dose is 400 IU whereas, the maximum dose should be 4000 IU/d. Doses over 4000 IU/d may lead to toxicity, which include hypercalcemia leading to kidney stones, cardiac arrhythmias, nausea and vomiting, frequent urination, bone pain, and weakness.
Other vitamins those can be considered are antioxidant vitamins (including vitamin C, A and E) along with vitamin B6 and B12. Antioxidants help in preventing cell damage and aging caused by free radicals. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamin A, C and E; however, B6 and B12 are mainly found in foods rich in proteins, such as meats. There has been some initial evidence that damage caused by free radicals may be associated with the MS disease process. However, the data provided for this is inadequate and there is not adequate support regarding the effectiveness and use of these antioxidant vitamins.
A small study has shown antioxidants to be safe for use in MS patients, but that study is very short to provide any conclusion. Therefore, it is better to consume foods rich in these antioxidants and consult a health professional before starting supplementation with antioxidant vitamins.
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