MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS: Western Science and Traditional Chinese Medicine Jeff Kingham

Table of Contents

Abstract Introduction Western Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis What is Multiple Sclerosis? Etiology Signs and Symptoms Diagnosis Prognosis and Western Medicine Treatments History of Multiple Sclerosis Medicine Significant American Multiple Sclerosis Organizations History of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis Use of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Multiple Sclerosis Community Traditional Chinese Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis Syndromes of Multiple Sclerosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis Syndromes in Traditional Chinese Medicine Special Issues Regarding Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine Other Issues and Research Outside the Mainstream


In the temperate climates of North America and Europe-Scandinavia MS occurs in about 1:2000 in the population whereas in tropical countries it is about 1:10.000. received. there are hereditary factors that can make a person more likely to contract the disorder. The occurrence of the disease increases in countries that are further from the equator. This can create extreme exacerbations of symptoms. The most popular theory current today holds that the disease occurs in individuals with a preexisting genetic susceptibility who suffer exposure to some environmental attack (perhaps a virus or a toxin) that disturbs the blood-brain barrier. This attack results in an inflammation that could then serve to set off an autoimmune attack on nerve tissue. The scarring creates a pattern of what is called demyelination. for uncertain reasons. Although sclerotic tissue may undergo instances of re-myelination. this disease is not. According to the data it seems that development of the disease is linked to where an individual spent the first 15 years of life. with lower incidences of the disease appearing among Latinos. Conservative estimates place the number of MS sufferers in the world at more than 2. represents a crude description of the theory. x. Because of this. a hereditary disease. making the United States disproportionately represented. in the case of MS. Caucasians are the more likely suffers of MS.000 Americans affected. with most researchers believing that numerous disease and disharmony patterns converge in MS patients. nerve signal communication is impaired. When scarring of the myelin occurs. with the first generation blood relatives of an MS-sufferer being 30-50 times more likely to manifest the disorder than people in the general population. ETIOLOGY MS is classified as an autoimmune disease. meaning that a person who grew up in the tropics and moved to a temperate zone after the age of 15 or so retains the incidence rate of those who live in the tropics. with more than 500. who probably suffer from the manifestation of not just a single disorder. several theories are widely supported. with only 2 men contracting the disease for every 3 women. and interpreted by the brain and body. . Interesting data about who suffers from MS continues to provoke debate about the disease. Significantly more women than men are diagnosed MS. in which. and African-Americans. strictly considered. Nearly all diagnoses of MS (90%) are made in individuals between the ages of 16 and 60. Myelin is a whitematter protective tissue covering and insulating nerve fibers and enhancing the conductive capabilities of the nerve cells. While there has been no consensus in the medical community as to a specific cause of this autoimmune dysfunction. but a degenerative cascade initiated by numerous external assaults that eventually set off a preexisting genetic trigger. the body’s immune system begins to attack seemingly healthy body tissue—myelin. Rather. Asians. MS is classed a “familial” disease instead of a genetic one. as researchers describe it.Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an illness characterized by more than one site of inflammationscarring (sclerosis) of the myelin tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This.000.500. especially in long nerve tracts. Despite the genetic theories about the causes of MS. however. Demyelination is the primary factor contributing to the common symptoms that people with MS suffer. The loss of healthy nerve myelination reduces the speed and accuracy with which sensory and motor impulses can be sent. after several episodes of a scarring-healing cycle the nerve axon itself often becomes irreparably damaged.

which served perhaps to destabilize the immune system to such a point that the already lurking MS disharmony pattern was able to fully manifest. In addition. Four different clusters of MS outbreaks arose on the Faroe Islands between 1943 and 1989. Some of the implicated toxins include: carbon monoxide. x. numbness. An MS patients whose sensory nerve tract is scarred often experiences incorrect interpretations of sensory stimuli. No two people with the disease have exactly the same experience. Some or most of the symptoms may be unremitting or may cease at times. During this time various groups of British soldiers were garrisoned on the island. When the cerebrum and cerebellum are affected. A 2001 study suggested that T-cell immune factors active in type 1 diabetes target the same self-attacking-antigens as in MS. occur in the nervous system. vision problems. there are viruses that bear a strong resemblance to the myelin protein and may confuse the immune system. solvents. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS Not all the common symptoms affect all MS patients.Considering the genetic angle of this theory. the MS patient tends to have different experiences with the disease. Occasionally symptoms may disappear completely. This view is based on several epidemiological rationales. resulting in a body’s T. speech problems. and bowel problems. etc. When it is the motor nerve tracts that bear the brunt of the assault people are likely to suffer muscle weakness. Interestingly. paralysis. plastics. and tremors. burning sensation. This views holds that repeated exposures to an assortment of environmental toxins over many years overloads or damages the body’s immune system eventually triggering antibody reactions in the MS sufferer. MS patients have been found to have seven times the normal amount of mercury in their cerebral spinal fluid. Advanced diagnostic tests utilizing what are known as microarray technologies now make it possible to scan hundreds of genes and pinpoint the ones that are more likely to give rise to MS. several historical MS-clusters have been argued to evidence the likelihood of viral causation. Viruses are considered a primary suspect in setting off the autoimmune attack that results in MS. some recent research has been argued to show that all autoimmune diseases can be traced back to a shared genetic error. With many patients the initial episodes of manifested MS symptoms occurred following events of great stress or emotional trauma. Depending on where the lesions. Another indication of possible viral causation has been suggested by what some researchers argue is the biological similarity between some viruses and myelin. some research has linked both these diseases with cow milk protein. Symptoms and severity both vary widely. The geographical distribution of the disease primarily in the temperate zones is argued to suggest a viral agent. Interestingly. coordination. spasticity. Another major suspect in the etiology of MS is the toxic load that burdens the body of an MS patient. prickling. Most patients have episodes of attacks and remissions throughout their life with the disease. bladder. leaving little permanent damage. A link with emotional health has also been noted. outgassing from furniture. This has led researchers to consider that a disease-agent brought to the Islands by the troops and possibly thereafter spread through sexual activity led to the outbreaks. aerosol sprays. the scleroses. carpets. the MS sufferer tends to predominantly suffer balance problems. According to this theory. diesel fumes. .cells attacking its own myelin in addition to the viral antigen that initiated the attack.

The spinal fluid of MS patients has some dissimilarities with the general population including elevated mercury levels. noted three symptoms of the disease. The three main systems of nervous communication looked at by EPTs in the MS patient are visual. The first is an MRI of the brain and spinal cord. Researchers have learned that the way MS manifests and develops during the first 5 years or so in the newly diagnosed patient provides significant clues as to how the disease will likely progress in subsequent decades. For a proper diagnosis. a confirmed clinical diagnosis of MS in many cases takes years. any possible causes for the present lesions other than MS must be ruled out to make the final diagnosis. and motor-sensory connections to the extremities (i. MRIs can show areas of sclerosis. In the early stages of the disease these symptoms often cannot be corroborated by diagnostic tests. as well as higher levels of gamma globulin. tingling. bladder and bowel control difficulties. clonus test. past surgeries. Recent studies show that 90% of MS-sufferers with minimized symptomology 5 years after onset were still ambulatory 15 years into the disease. Martin Charcot. This is done by means of a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). x. the different lesions must be determined to have occurred at different times. etc. illnesses. Those patients whose symptoms and degeneration can be slowed and moderated in the early course of the disease will be more likely to retain greater neurological health later on. eye-tracking.In order of prevalence among MS affected individuals the most commonly acknowledged symptoms are: fatigue. lymphocytes.. Lastly. tremors. Like the MRI. A third primary diagnostic tool used is analysis of the cerebral spinal fluid (CFS). and protein. and. and 70% remain amulatory . and balance tests. electrodes are placed on different parts of the body to determine if and where delays in normal nerve transmission occur. general intake questioning. or fatigue. tingling. etc. the French neurologist who first described MS in 1868 as a distinct disease. Doctors further develop the diagnosis with the use of neurological examinations. PROGNOSIS AND WESTERN MEDICINE TREATMENTS In the beginning phases of MS. balance/coordination problems. including Babinski’s test. spasticity. With EPTs. Important in the intake and history are inquiries about family neurological disorders including MS. low-tech neurological testing) and paraclinical (high-tech analysis and tissue testing) evidence. feet and hands). geographic locations where the patient has lived. burning sensations. these are painless. There are three main paraclinical diagnostic tools used. whether heat adversely affects the symptomology. though the microarray technologies discussed above can pinpoint if some suspected genetic triggers are present in a person’s genetic makeup. noninvasive procedures. may be negative but the patient may feel subjective sensory symptoms. diagnostic tests. Generally. auditory. which are known as Charcot’s triad and are still important in diagnosing the disease: nystagmus. These initial symptoms often include numbness. scanning speech. The second form of paraclinical testing are evoked potentials tests (EPTs). numbness.. For these reasons and many more. x. about 75% of those with MS never need to make use of a wheelchair. vision loss. such as MRIs. A definitive diagnosis of MS must be made using both clinical (history. intention tremors. DIAGNOSIS As of yet there are no tests in particular that can be said to prove a person has MS or is likely to have it in the future. evidence must be found of neurological lesions in at least two distinct areas of myelin in the central nervous system.e. Most crucially for an accurate diagnosis. allergies. depression.

Steroidal drug therapies are used for brief times during acute flare-ups of the disease. x. In the MS patient it suppresses the immune activity of the T cells and B cells which attack the myelin. atrophy disorder. Glatiramer acetate chemically looks like myelin and suppresses the autoimmune attack on the body’s own myelin. A Canadian study and one conducted in the United States both found that around one-fifth to one-quarter of their survey respondents acknowledged receiving acupuncture in the treatment of MS-related symptoms since their diagnosis. SYNDROMES OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS IN TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) MS is considered among a category of disease called wei zhong. there are four main classes of drugs employed in accepted standard treatment today. HISTORY OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS x. HISTORY OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS MEDICINE x. This surpasses the use of acupuncture by general population by approximately 10%. While many experimental drug therapies are being studied. Most of those who received acupuncture reported that the symptoms that were most improved as a result were pain. The golden rule in the successful management of MS is early treatment makes the difference. treating each in unique and different ways based on their unique and different characterizations. x. A lucky 40% of the MS community experiences few disruptions to most normal activities. A number of drug therapies are Western Medicine’s (WM) primary strategy for combating the effects and progression of MS. This can serve to decrease relapse rates. Among the patterns of disharmony associated with MS are: Phlegmheat depleting the yin. Beta-interferons are used to stop the inflammation of myelin lesions through various biological mechanisms including affecting the blood brain barrier. It would seem that TCM is better able to fully acknowledge the distinct common patterns of manifestation and progression. It is becoming clear that if the disabling ravages of the disease can be held off in the first few years then permanent disability can often be avoided.20 years after their diagnosis. USE OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE IN THE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS COMMUNITY Two large surveys have suggested that acupuncture use among the community of MS suffers is higher than among the general population. decrease the intensity of exacerbations. Damp-heat damaging the sinews. AMERICAN MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS ORGANIZATIONS x. Steroids can shorten the duration of acute exacerbation by reducing the swelling and inflammation in the myelin lesions. increase time between exacerbations. spasticity. Blood deficiency with stirring of . Mitoxantrone is used in chemotherapy. and parasthenia. recognizing the several unique presentations of MS. and slow the development of sclerotic tissue.

Kidney yang deficiency. Sophora flavescens. 2003). Ultimately the yang-ming also provide the nourishment for the spleen. Some of TCM’s commonly-used immune-stimulating herbs include: American ginseng(Panax ginseng). Deficiency of liver blood and kidney yin. TREATMENT OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS IN TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE The treatment of MS according to TCM principles varies widely based on which of the above patterns is elicited by the patient. special issue <http://www. and licorice. University of Maryland Medical Center website (www. and kidney. OTHER ISSUES AND RESEARCH OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM References: Essentials of Chinese Medicine: Internal Medicine.msfacts. February/March>) March 2005. and jing.internal <http://www. . coix. Qi and yin deficiency. 2001). by Anshen Shi. The yang-ming is the source of qi. the treatment strategies for wei syndromes emphasize the strengthening of yang-ming channels and organs.unm. Artemisia annua. Epimedium sagittatum.>) March 2005. Published by NMSS Research Programs Department Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine. by Bob Flaws and Philippe Sionneau.garynull.msif. liver. But. x. dong quai (Angelica sinensis). Because of the autoimmune nature of the disease. Multiple Sclerosis International Federation website ( <http://www. all of which are to some extent out of healthy balance in the wei zhong patient. a stimulated immune function could possibly lead to exacerbations in the progression of the disease. blood. Artemisia myriantha. x.msfacts. (Bridge Publishing Group.msif. (Blue Poppy Press.SPECIAL ISSUES REGARDING TREATMENT OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS IN TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE Like acupuncture. astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus).unm. in general. TCM herbal medicine treatment will differ widely depending on which disharmony pattern presents in the patient. x. Gary Null’s Natural Living website (www. green <http://www. Acanthopanax obovatus. reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum). National Multiple Sclerosis Society Research Highlights. Multiple Sclerosis Foundation website (www. it is important for the TCM practitioner to refrain from stimulating the immune system in the MS>). shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes). Salvia>) March 2005.

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