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December 23, 2011
Researcher: Multiple Sclerosis Is Not An Autoimmune Disease


An article to be published in the December 2011 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology argues that multiple sclerosis, long viewed as primarily an autoimmune disease, is not actually a disease of the immune system at all.

Dr. Angelique Corthals, a forensic anthropologist and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, suggests instead that MS is caused by faulty lipid metabolism, in many ways more similar to coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) than to other autoimmune diseases.


Dr. Terry Wahls learned how to properly fuel her body. Using the lessons she learned at the subcellular level, she used diet to cure her MS and get out of her wheelchair.

Framing MS as a metabolic disorder helps to explain many puzzling aspects of the disease, particularly why it strikes women more than men and why cases are on the rise worldwide, Corthals says.

Multiple sclerosis affects at least 1.3 million people worldwide. Its main characteristic is inflammation followed by scarring of tissue called myelin, which insulates nerve tissue in the brain and spinal cord. Over time, this scarring can lead to profound neurological damage. Medical researchers have theorized that a runaway immune system is at fault, but no one has been able to fully explain what triggers the onset of the disease. Genes, diet, pathogens, and vitamin D deficiency have all been linked to MS.

"Each time a genetic risk factor has shown a significant increase in MS risk in one population, it has been found to be unimportant in another," Corthals said. "Pathogens like Epstein-Barr virus have been implicated, but there's no explanation for why genetically similar populations with similar pathogen loads have drastically different rates of disease. The search for MS triggers in the context of autoimmunity simply hasn't led to any unifying conclusions about the etiology of the disease."

However, understanding MS as metabolic rather than an autoimmune begins to bring the disease and its causes into focus.

THE LIPID HYPOTHESIS

Corthals believes that the primary cause of MS can be traced to transcription factors in cell nuclei that control the uptake, breakdown, and release of lipids (fats and similar compounds) throughout the body. Disruption of these proteins, known as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), causes a toxic byproduct of "bad" cholesterol called oxidized LDL to form plaques on the affected tissue. The accumulation of plaque in turn triggers an immune response, which ultimately leads to scarring. This is essentially the same mechanism involved in atherosclerosis, in which PPAR failure causes plaque accumulation, immune response, and scarring in coronary arteries.

"When lipid metabolism fails in the arteries, you get atherosclerosis," Corthals explains. "When it happens in the central nervous system, you get MS. But the underlying etiology is the same."

The lipid hypothesis also sheds light on the link between MS and vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps to lower oxidized LDL cholesterol levels, so it makes sense that a lack of vitamin D increases the likelihood of the disease--especially in the context of a diet high in fats and carbohydrates.

Aspartame Linked to MS


Toxins in sweetners such as aspartame and other excitotoxins (such as MSG) have also been implicated as causative factors for MS. According to some experts, such as Dr. Russell Blaylock, a professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi, the damage caused by ingesting excessive amounts of aspartic acid from aspartame can cause serious chronic neurological disorders and a myriad of other acute symptoms.

Aspartic acid is an amino acid. Taken in its free form (unbound to proteins) it significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate and glutamate.

When the temperature of Aspartame exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood alcohol in 'aspartame' converts to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, which in turns causes metabolic acidosis. (Formic acid is the poison found in the sting of fire ants.) The methanol toxicity mimics multiple sclerosis: thus people were being diagnosed with having multiple sclerosis in error. The multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence, where methanol toxicity is.

Research Explains Prevalence

Corthals's framework also explains why MS is more prevalent in women.

"Men and women metabolize fats differently," Corthals said. "In men, PPAR problems are more likely to occur in vascular tissue, which is why atherosclerosis is more prevalent in men. But women metabolize fat differently in relation to their reproductive role. Disruption of lipid metabolism in women is more likely to affect the production of myelin and the central nervous system. In this way, MS is to women what atherosclerosis is to men, while excluding neither sex from developing the other disease."

In addition to high cholesterol, there are several other risk factors for reduced PPAR function, including pathogens like Epstein-Barr virus, trauma that requires massive cell repair, and certain genetic profiles. In many cases, Corthals says, having just one of these risk factors isn't enough to trigger a collapse of lipid metabolism. But more than one risk factor could cause problems. For example, a genetically weakened PPAR system on its own might not cause disease, but combining that with a pathogen or with a poor diet can cause disease. This helps to explain why different MS triggers seem to be important for some people and populations but not others.

"In the context of autoimmunity, the various risk factors for MS are frustratingly incoherent," Corthals said. "But in the context of lipid metabolism, they make perfect sense."

Much more research is necessary to fully understand the role of PPARs in MS, but Corthals hopes that this new understanding of the disease could eventually lead to new treatments and prevention measures.

According to Mercola.com, the conventional treatment plan for MS includes extremely toxic medications, such as:

  • Prednisone, a steroid hormone that can significantly impair your immune system, and cause diseases like osteoporosis and cataracts
  • Interferon. This drug is quite deceptive, because even though it's a natural substance, it's typically given in a dose that shuts down your body's natural feedback loop. As a result, it tends to do more harm than good.


Below is a summary of Dr. Mercola's lifestyle recommendations for MS.

  • Optimize your vitamin D levels - This is an essential step, and while the optimal level for general health lies between 50-70 ng/ml, when treating diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or autoimmune diseases, your level should ideally be somewhere between 70-100 ng/ml. The preferred method to raise (and maintain) your vitamin D levels is by regularly exposing large amounts of your skin to sunshine, or by using a safe tanning bed. If neither is available, you can use an oral supplement of vitamin D3.


    As a general guideline, vitamin D experts recommend 8,000 IU's per day for adults, and about 35 IU's per pound for children, but you should take as much as is necessary to elevate and maintain your blood levels within the optimal range.

  • Get plenty of animal-based omega-3 fats - Secondly, make sure you're getting a good supply of animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. You also need to avoid damaged, processed fats found in most all processed foods. Especially damaging are the omega-6 fats found in soy-, canola-, and corn oil. These are usually highly oxidized and also contain trans fats and cyclic fats that imbed themselves into your cell membranes, distorting the cellular functions. The majority of these three oils are also genetically engineered, which can have its own set of health ramifications.

  • Eliminate sugar, particularly fructose - Another crucial element is to eliminate as much sugar and fructose as possible from your diet. Cutting out processed foods and sweetened beverages will go a long way to reduce excess fructose, in addition to eliminating the majority of damaging fats in your diet. You simply must keep your daily total fructose intake below 25 grams.


    If you haven't yet grasped the toxic nature and profound health dangers of fructose, now's the time to get with it. Sugar can contribute to the development of a number of autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis. It also increases uric acid levels, which leads to chronic, low-level inflammation, which has far-reaching consequences for your health.

  • Eliminate pasteurized milk and dairy--This is another critical element. Studies have shown that cow's milk consumption is correlated with MS prevalence (Neuroepidemiology 1992;11:304-12, and Neuroepidemiology 1993;12:15-27).

  • Avoid aspartame¬†and commercial fruit juices. Aspartame rapidly metabolizes to methanol, a potent neurotoxin. Additionally fruits and vegetables are also loaded with methanol but when they are consumed fresh it is bound to pectin and your body does not have the enzymes to break it down. However when fruits and vegetables are processed and put into glass jars or cans the methanol dissociates and can be liberated in high quantities.

  • Eat plenty of raw food - This is an important principle for optimal health that I normally recommend for everyone. Some of the most dramatic improvements we've seen in patients using nutritional changes have come about as the result of eating a majority of their food raw instead of cooked.

  • Check your iron levels-- Excess iron can cause damage to the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels as well as create massive amounts of free radicals. It can also damage your DNA. Therefore, if you have MS it is very important to check your blood for iron overload, a process that is easily done through a simple blood test called a serum ferritin test. The healthy range of serum ferritin lies between 20 and 80 ng/ml. Below 20, you are iron deficient, and above 80, you have an iron surplus. Ferritin levels can go really high. The ideal range is between 40-60 ng/ml.


    If you find that your iron levels are high, simply donate your blood. Normally a person would require 1-3 blood draws per year, up to as many as one per month if your system can tolerate it, until your ferritin levels have been sufficiently lowered.

  • Low-dose Naltrexone and alpha lipoic acid - One of the newer treatment strategies for MS is low dose Naltrexone (LDN), along with alpha lipoic acid. Naltrexone (generic name) is a pharmacologically active opioid antagonist, conventionally used to treat drug- and alcohol addiction - normally at doses of 50mg to 300mg. As such, it's been an FDA approved drug for over two decades.


    However, at very low dosages (3 to 4.5 mg), naltrexone has immunomodulating properties that may be able to successfully treat cancer malignancies and a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis. As explained on the informative website www.lowdosenaltrexone.org, when you take LDN at bedtime -- which blocks your opioid receptors for a few hours in the middle of the night -- it is believed to up-regulate vital elements of your immune system by increasing your body's production of metenkephalin and endorphins (your natural opioids), hence improving immune function.

  • Mercury detox - Mercury is clearly a neurotoxic poison that should be avoided, so avoiding fish and refusing or removing mercury dental amalgams are also important aspects. Certain supplements can also help eliminate mercury from your system, such as chlorella, and OSR (Oxidative Stress Reliever) developed by Dr. Boyd Haley.

  • Address early childhood emotional traumas--Last but certainly not least, in my experience with MS patients, there is nearly always a precipitating traumatic emotional event that causes your immune system to crash, leading to the disease. Just as vitamin D deficiency seems to be present in most cases of autoimmune disease, there is also typically an emotional element involved. More often than not, some form of hidden emotional wound can be found in patients suffering with autoimmune diseases like MS.


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