Pharmaceutical companies know that current MS drug treatments do not stop progression, nor do they stop disability. Because the MS brain continues to lose neurons. "Neuroprotection" has become the new target.
"Multiple sclerosis as the most common inflammatory demyelinating disease in Western countries, major therapeutic success has been achieved with regard to strategies targeting immunological master switches. These approaches effectively reduce inflammatory disease activity but fail to address ongoing neurodegeneration or disturbed regeneration. However, intense research efforts investigating molecular mechanisms of disease have identified 'druggable' targets for prevention of inflammatory neurodegeneration and disturbed regeneration. " link
While pharmaceutical companies search for "druggable targets" in order to sell the next wave of "neuroprotective" MS drugs, you can take matters into your own hands.
These are all scientifically proven means of maintaining gray matter, or neuronal mass, in the human MS brain, and they are available today. I've made sure to weed through animal models, to find actual evidence of gray matter maintenance in people with MS.
1. Exercise---move as much as you are able. The science is in, there is no doubt that it maintains gray matter. Get help if necessary, physical therapy or modified programs for people with limited mobility. But do all you can.
Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is a very important cerebrovascular protein which protects neurons and allows for neurogenesis, or the growth of new neurons. BDNF is created by shear stress, or the action of blood whooshing over the cells which line our blood vessels, called the endothelium. link BDNF is released into the blood stream when the cardiovascular system is most active by vascular endothelial cells. BDNF is vital to learning, memory and executive function.
BDNF is low in people with MS, but showed a huge improvement after 24 weeks of an exercise program.
Daily personalized physical therapy and exercise programs designed for people with MS increases BDNF, supports cell survival and brain mass, increases neuroprotective antioxidants, decreases inflammation and improves well-being.
Aeorobic exercise plus strength training designed for people with MS reduces inflammatory cytokines and is shown to be neuroprotective
Aerobic exercise helps people with MS maintain the volume of their hippocampus, and improves memory.
Exercise is neuroprotective for children with MS
2. Nutrition--- a whole food diet, full of long-chain omega 3 fatty acids from fish, olives and nuts and nutrients and antioxidants from leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables (phytonutrients) helps maintain brain volume. Removing processed food products with nitrates, salt and sugar and replacing them with nature-made food protects neurons. Maintaining a healthy weight is important.
3. Vitamin D--low levels of Vitamin D are correlated to loss of brain matter in MS, higher levels are shown to be neuroprotective. Clinical trials are ongoing.
That's it for studies in actual people with MS--- The following studies were done in healthy people, elderly and people with other neurological diseases, as well as animals---so we do not know if the benefits will confer for people with MS, but it's worth considering these studies---because gray matter was preserved.
1. Curcumin/Turmeric---- this orange spice used in Indian cuisine has been shown to be neuroprotective.
Curcumin is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-protein aggregate.
Curcumin modulates mitochondrial dysfunction, reduces oxidative stress, and reduces inflammatory cytokines. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22742420
2. Magnesium --this vital mineral is low in most humans. It has been shown to be neuroprotective, due to its affect on the endothelium.
Magnesium sulfate is neuroprotective for pre-term infants.
Magnesium status is low in those with Alzheimer's
Magnesium is neuroprotective in cerebral/ischemic injury in rats
3. Anti-oxidants found in all kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs are neuroprotective.
There are hundreds of studies on pub med on anti-oxidants found in food which are neuroprotective.
I love what Dr. Wahls says about picking fruits and veggies to eat. The darker the color, the more powerful the antioxidants. This is why blueberries, leafy greens, and beets pack so much anti-oxidant power.
4. Yoga--those who practice yoga, which combines posture, breathing and meditation, have healthier gray matter and more brain volume.
5. Lifelong learning. Learning a new, mentally challenging skill provides neuroprotection and returns brain to youth-like status, encouraging neuronal health.
6. Probiotics. The gut-brain link is being studied. Probiotics have been shown in animal studies to protect neuronal integrity.
7. B Vitamins --studies are ongoing looking at how folic acid and vitamin B12 are neuroprotective in humans. Plasmic levels of homocysteine, which become high when there is not enough Vitamin B, increases neurodegeneration. Higher levels of B vitamins in the blood are linked to neuroprotection.
This is why the current studies of high dosages of biotin (vitamin B7) has been shown to be protective in progressive MS. Studies are ongoing.
As I've said many time before, and will no doubt be saying again, it's difficult to trial a lifestyle---which is why published research focuses on one particular compound at a time. Be that a drug, or a supplement, or a particular exercise program, it's easier to test one specific thing against placebo and thereby have a "gold-standard" clinical trial.
It's much more difficult and costly to test a systems approach to MS treatment. Dr. Roy Swank, Dr. George Jelinek and Dr. Terry Wahls have come up against this bias in MS research--which is rigged in favor of pharmaceuticals.
Don't let this mentality stop you from doing all you can to heal your own brain, and provide neuroprotection for yourself! While we wait for science to figure out the disease aetiology of MS, there are things that are scientifically proven to provide neuroprotection. Today.