Can we actually cure MS?
Cures exist. But only for some, not all, of human disease. We love to say, "There's no cure for the common cold!" and we all know there's no cure for dying. We also know there isn't a cure for cardiovascular disease and stroke---there's only prevention, angioplasty and rehabilitation. Still, we expect science to figure it out. We think that researchers will create one pill, one solution, one therapy, one cure.
I would like to propose that this focus on the cure for MS is keeping us from actual healing.
How and when did our "cure mentality" begin? I believe it was during the 1930s and 40s, when penicillin and the vaccine to prevent polio were introduced to the general public. This was the era when all the big disease organizations were founded, to make sure these promising new scientific explorations continued.
I researched this period for an essay on the founding neurologist of the MS Society, Dr. Tracy Putnam. He was the researcher who showed the vascular connection to MS in an experiment where he occluded the venous sinus of dogs, and created MS lesions and disability. Yet his vascular theory of MS was tossed aside for "new" science and the autoimmune theory of MS, based on research by a co-creator of the polio vaccine, Dr. Thomas Rivers.
Why did this happen? Why didn't researchers follow up on Dr. Putnam's findings? Because the vascular theory of MS did not produce an immediate "cure." Patients and advocates expected nothing less.
Dr. Putnam used newly developed blood thinners to treat MS, and the disease still progressed in some. Patients and advocates grew weary and looked for new answers. They turned to the young and successful pioneering scientist, Dr. Rivers. He created the EAE mouse model of MS, which is still used 70 years later--even though, ironically, it has not produced a cure. Instead, EAE has been used to create a 20 billion dollar a year industry for pharmaceutical treatments for MS.
What if Dr. Putnam was right? What if MS is a cerebrovascular disease that can be treated, modified and possibly prevented?
Sadly, CCSVI treatment was touted as a potential cure by the press and many patients, even though Dr. Zamboni and all the pioneers had never claimed this. We knew it was a treatment and only part of a whole new vascularly healthy lifestyle. Jeff and I were so discouraged when the New York Times chose to portray us as cure-seekers, and completely misrepresented the research.
Today, we have a similar furor growing over stem cell treatment. Although stem cell treatments that require immune ablation and chemotherapy have proven harmful, and have not stopped disease progression or brain atrophy in progressive patients.
Why do we still look to immunologists and MS specialists for the cure?
We now know that MS is not a genetic disease. There is not one gene that causes MS. Scientists have located the MHC gene and other loci that raise the potential to develop MS-- but only 4% of people with MS have MHC, with over 200 risk loci identified. Not exactly a smoking gun. link
And we know MS is not purely autoimmune, like the EAE model used in mice, or we would have a cure by now. Because copaxone and other drugs have been touted as reversing EAE in mice, but not humans. link
We do know that MS is affected by environmental factors.
Proven, scientific links to MS susceptability and progression have been found in low vitamin D levels, low sun/UV exposure, eating processed foods and transfats, cigarette smoking, obesity, stress, lack of exercise and movement, lack of sleep, and hypoperfusion or slowed blood flow in the brain.
As these Australian researchers have published---prevention may be the best path to healing and disease prevention for MS.
In the face of imperfect and non-curative treatments, understanding the role and mechanisms of action of environmental exposures is highly important as these are potentially preventable. link
There are things to be done to improve our health.
Could we consider our goal to be prevention, disease cessation and healing, instead of a cure?
How about using that money to start buying more organic fruits and veggies--and skipping the MS Society hamburger and milkshake fundraiser? (yes, sadly, this is a real fundraiser.) link
What if we use our few good hours of daily energy to get physical therapy, take a walk, go to the gym and keep moving our whole bodies? link
Toss out the cigarettes, and chew on carrot sticks?
What if we went outside for 15 minutes, and soaked up some of those nitric oxide releasing UV rays and raised our vitamin D levels naturally?
How about meditation instead of frustration? Deep breathing and deep sleep?
Could we heal? Could we change our disease course? Science gives us a resounding "yes!!" As do many medical researchers including Dr. Terry Wahls, Dr. Ashton Embry, Dr. George Jelinek and the late Dr. Roy Swank.
Jeff would tell you these lifestyle changes work. And his MRI proves he is healing. His gray matter now looks normal on MRI. He is not cured--he still has some damage from his first bad flare and neuropathic pain, he still has damage due to "MS". But it is not getting worse. His MS is not progressing. His brain and spine are healing, using venoplasty for CCSVI and the Endothelial Health Program. link
When we simply sit and wait for a cure and don't change the things we know we can change, we abdicate our power. We give away our own innate ability for healing.
Wishing everyone who reads this blog hope and true healing,
Please stay in touch with me, and let me know what is helping you to heal.
It's not about blame for the past, it's about real hope for the future.
We're all in this together--and I remain a cheerleader,