Multiple sclerosis usually referred to as MS, is an autoimmune disease that affects 2.5 million people worldwide, although the diagnosis rates are much higher within Europe and North America. This disease is more prevalent in women, and while it can affect people of all ages, it is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 to 40.
Perhaps most interestingly, the diagnosis rate is much higher above the 37th parallel than below it, meaning that it seems to affect people of northern climates much more so than people closer to the equator. There is no cure for MS at the moment and continued speculation about the possible causes. There are four known variants of the disease, all characterized by their differing speed of progression and whether the progression is disrupted by periods of relapse.
The current understanding of MS is that it is a dysfunction of the person’s own immune system (an autoimmune disorder), which begins to attack something called myelin within the central nervous system. Myelin is a protective nerve covering, which allows for the natural and smooth communication of nerve signals. If this nerve tissue is damaged, it can lead to interruption of the proper communication channels, and if the damage is severe, the signals are no longer able to travel to their destination and could also lead to damaged nerve fibers. This leads to increased issues with inflammation, pain and motor skills.
Unfortunately, all forms of MS are degenerative, which lead to progressively severe symptoms. While it is one of the most studied diseases in the world, it also remains difficult to diagnose with no one test leading to the positive result. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, some of the most common symptoms are:
- Muscle Weakness
- Muscle Spasms
- Issues with Balance and Coordination
- Bladder Dysfunction
- Problems with Vision
- Sensations of Numbness and Tingling.
If there is no cure for MS, what can people do to help relieve the sometimes excruciating symptoms of the disease? Thankfully, there are many drugs available that can at the very least lessen the daily disruption caused by the disease and slow its downward progression. There are also many lifestyle changes, and in particular, foods, which can also help to reduce the pain and improve quality of life.
One of the main foods recommended on a MS diet, is turmeric. Turmeric has long been known to provide effective natural relief from pain and inflammation, and is exceptionally beneficial for people suffering from MS. But what are the specific ways turmeric benefits people with this autoimmune disease? Here are five of the ways that turmeric is known to help.
1. Immune Support
Due to the cyclical nature of MS, between flare-ups and quiet periods, many people have noted certain circumstances can trigger a new relapse. One of the most common triggers is an onset of a cold or flu. This could be linked to the fact that MS is classified as an autoimmune disease. By using turmeric, one can help to boost the functioning of the immune system, and help reduce the risk of infectious disease such as colds and flus. This could therefore help reduce the risk of further relapse.
2. Supports Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a gene, essential for new brain cell formation, memory support, and increased cognitive function. Low levels of BDNF are associated with periods of relapse in people with MS. Thankfully, turmeric has been shown to actually increase levels of BDNF, which could potentially offer relief during MS flare-ups and also protect against further degeneration.
3. Powerful Anti-Inflammatory
Turmeric is most well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. They are so powerful that even though turmeric is a naturally occurring plant, its benefits are comparable to some anti-inflammatory drugs currently on the market. While there seems to be a myriad of ways that turmeric can counter inflammation, one of the ways goes to the heart of the cell. It inhibits the movement of a molecule called NF-kB which travels into the nucleus of cells and triggers an inflammatory response. It this molecule is prohibited from moving, it can reduce inflammation.
4. Protects Against Free-Radicals
Most dietitians will include antioxidant-rich foods in their recommendations for people living with MS. Not surprisingly, this also includes turmeric, one of the only species to have this quality. By including more antioxidants in your diet, you can help protect against free radical damage. When free radicals are left unchecked and are able to proliferate throughout the body over long periods of time, they are the primary cause of disease and illness. Because patients with MS are already suffering from a compromised immune system, it’s vital to reduce the risk for any disease in any way possible.
Finally, with any serious disease and illness comes an increased risk for depression as people try to cope with the symptoms and loss in quality of life. Studies show that by taking turmeric extract, people are able to better manage their depression just like they would with taking more traditional antidepressants like Prozac. And, turmeric comes without any of the harsh side effects so commonly associated with other mood stabilizers.