The debate about cannabis has brought to mind how many people with Multiple Sclerosis found that the herb eases the discomfort and helps them to live a normal life. However, the fact that GPs are now prescribing CBD (cannabis oil) doesn’t mean that they will get it because it is solely available for children with severe epilepsy. CBD which is somewhat less potent is now on sale in health food stores though. This has probably more to do with cost than any other sensitivities, so it seems grossly unjust.
Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease of the nervous system affecting some 100,000 people in Britain and 3 million worldwide. It is incurable and potentially life-threatening and is more likely to affect women than men.
The average age at which symptoms start is from mid 20’s to mid 30s but it can develop at any time from the teens up to the mid 60’s.
- MS is an autoimmune disease which means that instead of defending the body from infection and illness, the immune system actually attacks healthy cells and tissues.
The disease occurs when there is damage to the thin membrane or myelin sheath which surrounds the nerve tracts in the brain and spinal cord. The inflamed sheath loses some of its covering and hard scar tissue or lesions form. Damage to these nerves means that the right signals do not reach various parts of the body nor are the right signals sent back.
As a result the muscles become weak and this may affect mobility, eyesight, bladder and bowel control, speech, and cause pain, numbness and tingling in all parts of the body. Symptoms vary from person to person and it is helpful to treat a person as an individual rather than as an MS case.
People’s experience of MS is often very different and some are confined to wheelchairs while others live a relatively normal life holding down a job and having a family.
Cannabis is controversial
Cannabis has been used in healing for over 2,000 years and smoked recreationally by young people since the 1960s. However, there is much controversy about the fact that young people who smoke too much cannabis may be susceptible to mental illness. And, it should be recognised, that the cannabis available in the 21st Century is far stronger than anything smoked in the 60s and 70s.
There is growing sympathy with the claims that cannabis can help MS and cancer sufferers, people with rheumatoid arthritis but its prescription is severely limited at this stage. Years ago I interviewed many people who smoked it to relieve their symptoms. From time to time they were charged by the police, but they felt that it was worth it to feel better.
Complementary therapies for MS
No one therapy is the right one but people may benefit from any or several:
• qi gong
• tai chi
• oxygen therapy
• Alexander Technique.
Tips for healthy eating:
All conditions improve with a healthy (preferably organic) diet made up of plenty of fruit and vegetables and Omega 3s and 6s in oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna, and sunflower, pumpkin and sesame oils and linseeds (or flaxseed).
There are some foods that should be avoided:
• Instant coffee
• Saturated fats – butter, cream, full cream milk, full fat cheese, red meat, peanuts
• Trans fats – these are in some processed foods and are made when vegetable oils are turned into solids (read labels on food or stick to fresh foods). See Trans Fats
There are other foods that are particularly good for MS sufferers including:
• Sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds and linseeds (or flaxseed)
• Brazil nuts and fish for their selenium content
Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Yoga helped me
Jane was a P.E. teacher when she was diagnosed with MS in 1983. She retrained as a business studies teacher but was forced to give up work six years later after a very bad MS attack.
She tried some 40 different ways of helping her MS and finally settled on three: homeopathy, yoga and acupuncture.
‘I used to have an attack every year for 11 years. It was like a creeping paralysis where my energy plummeted, my muscles would fall off me, I had chronic fatigue and it took so long to recover.
Jane takes three homeopathic remedies, Lureticum, Tuberculinium and Psorinum which all come under the nosode heading – a category of homeopathic remedies which are prepared from disease products.
‘I used to take these when I started to go downhill and once I even halted an attack completely with nosodes. I had dreadful side effects from steroids – a hyperactive thyroid, my skin would get so thin it scraped off in the bath, I was weak and kept collapsing. These do not give me any side effects so I have given up all drugs now and I haven’t even had to take the nosodes for 47 weeks.
‘I started yoga 13 years ago and now do it daily. The breathing in yoga is particularly beneficial and I also meditate. My condition is much better, my energy is markedly improved, I no longer have the brain fatigue which was so depressing and I haven’t needed antidepressants since I started doing it. Things that used to bother me don’t now.
CASE STUDY: Acupuncture is my 100 per cent lifeline
Peter was 42 when he started falling over a lot. As sales manager for a company he had been in Scotland on business. ‘I went into the motorway services to go to the loo on the trip home and the next thing I knew I was waking up in bed. That was the end of my working life.
‘I had MS attacks every 18 months and a number of different symptoms, but three years ago I started going blind. At this point I visited Richard Blackwell and started having acupuncture. Fairly soon after my sight came back and now I go every week to see him.
‘Richard completely eliminated the severe pain I was having in my neck and shoulders, and it never came back again. Another time he put a pair of needles at an angle between my scalp and skull. The effect was remarkable – the burning sensation that I had permanently on the skin on my feet and legs was switched off and stayed that way for 24 hours. Unfortunately the needles were so painful that I haven’t been able to repeat it.
‘Acupuncture is my 100 per cent lifeline. It is far more important than anything that Western medicine can provide.’
The Northern College of Acupuncture is on 01904 343305, www.chinese-medicine.co.uk
Exercise helps me
Susie, 48, spent the first 10 years of her illness in her 20s feeling frightened, confused and ashamed, but a trip to the Peto Institute in Hungary changed her life. She now walks with a stick, feels fit and healthy and oozes enthusiasm. She owns and runs The Cornell Centre, a health and fitness centre for everyone but with its own special MS programme, and she has written a book and made an exercise video.
‘I had been told by the doctors in England just to rest. At Peto I discovered that exercise made me feel much better. The doctors there taught me to use my brain while doing simple exercise – for instance to count while doing leg lifts.
‘When I got back from Hungary I wanted other people to benefit from what I had learnt so I started a clinic. Over the years I have developed the programme and also trained in reflexology, aromatherapy, anatomy and physiology, clinical homeopathy.
‘The gym is full of healthy people and those in wheelchairs too. All our MS members get a full physical assessment before they start on the programme. Once you are labelled with MS by the medical profession they never look at you again. If I had found my programme 25 years ago I wouldn’t have a problem now.’
The Cornell Centre can offer nutritional evaluation, MS assessment, exercise programmes, advice and nutritional therapy, 01245 268098, www.susiecornell.com
The Multiple Sclerosis Society provides support for anyone with MS, fundraising activities and information on research, 0808 800 8000, www.mssociety.org.uk
Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centres, gives details of all centres in the UK that offer high dose oxygen therapy, physio and counselling for MS people: www.msntc.org.uk
Multiple Sclerosis (Natural Ways), Richard Thomas
Cooking Without Made Easy, Barbara Cousins
The Complete MS Body Manual, Susie Cornell
Click on the Amazon ad on the right of the page to buy these books.