MS patients

  1. Natural hope for MS patients

    The mainstream "solutions" to multiple sclerosis can be even worse than the disease itself: Of all the dangerous meds MS patients are told to take, not a single one of them can stop or reverse the damage.

    And they all come with some horrific side effects.

    One recently approved drug that does little more than boost walking speed -- and only in about a third of MS patients -- is actually a bird poison, for crying out loud.

    Now, there's finally some real promise on the horizon -- and no... it's not a drug. It's a natural supplement that's very similar to the glucosamine safely taken by millions of arthritis patients every single day.

    It's called N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), and researchers say it can help correct the problems that cause the immune system to start attacking itself in MS patients.

    The secret is in the sugars: Cellular proteins react to sugar molecules, and recent studies have shown that those sugars could be triggering the message that causes immune system T-cells to go haywire.

    Glucosamine, as the name suggests, is also a form of sugar -- and researchers say the N-acetylglucosamine form is powerful enough to change that message and replace it with a new one: Stop it. Now.

    That's the theory. To test it, the researchers bred mice with an MS-like condition that was causing leg weakness to the point where the rodents should have eventually suffered from paralysis.

    When they were given N-acetylglucosamine, however, the march to paralysis wasn't just stopped... it was reversed.

    The researchers say human trials are needed to figure out if it really can deliver on the elusive promise of an MS cure or even relief, as well as key issues like the most effective dose.

    But if you don't want to wait, I can certainly understand -- and you don't have to, either: N-acetylglucosamine is inexpensive and already widely available. Just be sure to work with an experienced naturopathic physician who can help monitor your progress.

    The benefits may not end with MS. In fact, N-acetylglucosamine could open the doorway to new treatments for a host of autoimmune disorders.

    In one study, for example, eight of 12 kids suffering from inflammatory bowel disease saw significant improvements -- and no serious side effects -- after two years of N-acetylglucosamine supplements.

    These were kids who had a treatment-resistant version of the disease -- so once again, a simple natural supplement managed to pull off what a pharmacy full of meds could not.

  2. Worm your way out of MS

    I can't think of anything less appetizing than a drink filled with thousands of worm eggs -- but if it meant beating a serious and life-wrecking disease with limited options, I'd swallow it all without thinking twice.

    I know -- as far as the gross-o-meter goes, this one is off the charts... but a series of new studies finds that stomach worms can actually help defeat multiple sclerosis.

    In one small study, four of the five MS patients who drank a solution of 2,500 pig whipworm eggs every two weeks for three months had fewer of the brain lesions that mark the condition.

    In an upcoming study, 70 patients will let researchers infect them with hookworms. Instead of drinking eggs, these worms will burrow into the shoulder and wriggle their way to the stomach.

    Both lines of research are promising, but there's at least one big difference between the two: Your body will take care of whipworms on its own, but you'll need de-worming tablets to flush out the hookworms.

    So, of the two, it would seem as if the worm juice might be the better option -- but I'm sure most MS patients would eat a plate live earthworms if it meant a cure for the disease.

    I don't think a trip to your doctor's office will ever resemble an episode of "Fear Factor," but stomach worms might be part of the mainstream care for this disease soon enough -- because if earlier studies are any indication, the research under way now should get some serious results.

    In one study out of Argentina just a few years ago, researchers compared 12 MS patients who suffered a parasite infection to 12 with no worms. Those with the worms had just three relapses over an average follow-up of 4.6 years
    versus 56 among those without the parasites.

    The worm patients also had less disability, fewer brain lesions as revealed on MRI scans, and measurable beneficial changes in the blood.

    MS isn't the only autoimmune disorder that you can worm your way out of. Other studies have shown that the creepy-crawlies can help fight Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome along with asthma and even some allergies.

    These are all tough-to-beat conditions... yet some of the simplest creatures on the planet may be able to stop them cold.

    That's humbling... and yes, a little bit gross.

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