Health & Wellness

Reducing Inflammation in Multiple Sclerosis, Naturally

By Kimberly M. Sanders, ND
Once a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis has been made, medications such as interferon-beta are often started. This medication is used to reduce inflammation in the brain, and the positive results indicate that inflammation is a key contributor to multiple sclerosis severity. In addition, multiple sclerosis is characterized by increases in many different inflammatory chemicals, called cytokines. These inflammatory chemicals may disturb the blood-brain-barrier, which normally limits inflammation from getting into the brain. Once this barrier is disturbed, inflammatory chemicals can enter the brain with greater ease. Many natural substances can reduce the levels of these inflammatory chemicals and reduce disruption of the blood-brain-barrier.

The immune system in people with multiple sclerosis shifts towards a proinflammatory immune response. Certain inflammatory chemicals create this type of dysfunctional response. Evidence suggests that these inflammatory chemicals can be inhibited by natural substances, including resveratrol, St. John’s Wort, vitamin D, and alpha lipoic acid.

Resveratrol works by inhibiting one specific inflammatory chemical called interleukin-6, and it is found in sources such as red wine, dark colored berries, dark chocolate, and red grapes. St. John’s Wort also inhibits interleukin-6 and has the added benefit of reducing stress hormone in the body. Vitamin D is a powerful immunomodulatory compound that reduces the proinflammatory immune response and induces the production of certain cells that help calm down an over-active immune system. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is shown to reduce autoimmune inflammation, and it may even help prevent optic neuritis in those with multiple sclerosis. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce many of the inflammatory chemicals found in multiple sclerosis, and have been shown to reduce inflammation in those patients currently on interferon-beta therapy.

In addition to reducing inflammation in the body, it is also important to address blood-brain-barrier dysfunction in multiple sclerosis. One important contributor to this barrier disruption is an elevation in a compound called homocysteine. Homocysteine is easily tested in the blood, and it often indicates a deficiency in B vitamins, especially methylfolate, B12, and B6. Furthermore, an elevated level of oxidative stress in the body also contributes to barrier dysfunction in the brain. Oxidative stress is a normal part of aging and the “wear and tear” of living.

There are many ways to reduce oxidative stress on a daily basis. First, eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, especially dark-colored berries and dark leafy green vegetables, can help reduce oxidative stress. Avoiding simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, soda, white bread, white rice, white potatoes, and white pasta will also reduce oxidation. These simple carbohydrates trigger an inflammatory cascade in the body, ultimately leading to oxidative stress and brain inflammation. Lastly, incorporating green tea into an everyday routine can be a simple and powerful way to reduce oxidation. Green tea contains antioxidant compounds that fight off oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body. Early research on the active ingredient in green tea, EGCG, is showing promising effects on reducing immune attacks and inflammation in autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

People with multiple sclerosis can incorporate natural therapies into their health protocol in order to reduce inflammatory chemicals and reduce blood-brain-barrier disruption. Some of the most potent natural therapies to achieve these goals include resveratrol, vitamin D, fish oil, and a healthy diet. Ultimately, a healthy diet without simple carbohydrates is the baseline for health in those with multiple sclerosis. By increasing antioxidants in the diet and reducing inflammatory foods, many patients can gain more energy and feel well again.
Kimberly M. Sanders is a naturopathic physician and the owner of ArthroWell Naturopathic, located in Milford, Conn. Specializing in the management of autoimmune diseases with natural medicine, her passion in practice is to identify triggers for autoimmunity and modulate cytokines with natural agents. She graduated summa cum laude from the University Of Bridgeport College Of Naturopathic Medicine, where she also became resident physician. You can find more information about Dr. Sanders at