115 posts tagged “multiple sclerosis”

From tomatoes to turmeric: Can foods fight inflammation?

Posted October 26th, 2017 by

Inflammation is a hot topic. What’s it all about? And what’s the scoop on certain diets, foods and supplements, such as turmeric, when it comes to fighting inflammation?

What is inflammation?

Not all inflammation is “bad.” Acute inflammation is part of the body’s natural way of defending itself from foreign substances like viruses, bacteria, cuts and splinters. It may cause redness, swelling, heat and/or pain. The upside is, these symptoms are a sign that the body is responding after an injury or infection by triggering white blood cells and disease-fighting chemicals.

But some “other” kinds of inflammation — like chronic inflammation (which may include constant low-grade or systemic inflammation) and inflammation from autoimmune disorders (where the body attacks its own healthy cells as if they’re foreign) — doesn’t always show visible or obvious symptoms and can play a more long-term and complex role, according to Mayo Clinic.

Which diseases or conditions does it affect?

Mounting research shows that inflammation is a common underlying factor (and possibly a cause) in many — perhaps even all — diseases.

You’ve probably heard about the role of inflammation in arthritis or heart health. But researchers and doctors have also studied inflammation’s link to a wide range of other diseases and conditions, including cancerdiabetesAlzheimer’s diseasemultiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease (PD), major depressive disorder (MDD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ALS (note: in the case of ALS and some other conditions, researchers are still determining whether some inflammation may be protective rather than harmful, so more research is needed).

Over the past decade, scientists have also started to identify certain genes associated with inflammation, and research on that front continues.

What can food do?

Some people follow an “anti-inflammatory diet,” but the science behind these particular diets does not clearly support the theory that they thwart inflammation, and doctors advise being wary of the health claims they make.

That said, taking steps to maintain a healthy weight and eat a variety of foods with anti-inflammatory properties (rather than follow a certain “Diet” with a capital “D”) may benefit your health.

“Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The team at Harvard says these foods have anti-inflammatory properties:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and collards
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges

On the flip side, they say, some foods promote inflammation — so try to avoid or limit these (hint: they’re already foods with a pretty bad rap):

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • French fries and other fried foods
  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
  • Margarine, shortening and lard

Talk with your doctor or a registered dietician about a healthy eating plan with your health condition(s) in mind.

What’s the deal with turmeric?

There’s currently a lot of buzz around turmeric and some other supplements believed to help fight inflammation. Turmeric, a plant related to ginger, is a common spice known for its gold color and use in curry powder.

On top of being used as spice, it can be taken as a supplement. The main anti-inflammatory ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is available as a supplement on its own (the content of curcumin in turmeric spice is only around 3%, so curcumin supplements may pack more of an anti-inflammatory punch). One study found that curcumin may have the same anti-inflammatory effects as NSAID pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofin, (Advil/Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

Preliminary studies have shown promise for curcumin’s use in people with ulcerative colitismultiple myelomalupus and depression. However, there’s still a lack of conclusive research on the effects of turmeric or curcumin in people with many other conditions, so these supplements typically aren’t recommended as part of a treatment plan at this point. Additional studies on curcumin are currently underway for people with some forms of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, MS and PD.

Talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new vitamin, supplement or treatment.

What about other supplements?

Overall, the potential role of dietary supplements is “largely uncharted when it comes to carefully done clinical trials for safety and effectiveness,” according to Brent Bauer, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness. Keeping that in mind, here are some other supplements with possible anti-inflammatory effects that researchers have studied to some extent, the Mayo Clinic says:

  • Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) — This could ease rheumatoid arthritis joint pain and osteoarthritis knee pain during activity, but more research is needed.
  • Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) — It’s commonly used in Europe and may be effective in the short-term treatment of osteoarthritic pain.
  • Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) — Made from the mangosteen fruit, this supplement may have anti-allergy, antibacterial, antifungal, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities, but more research in humans is needed.
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) — This may help improve organ function in people with cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease. It may also be helpful in treating chronic hepatitis. But more research is needed before it can be recommended.

“My best advice concerning chronic inflammation is to stay tuned,” says Dr. Bauer. “This is a huge area of interest in the medical world and there are bound to be discoveries down the road that can improve well-being and the quality of health.”

On PatientsLikeMe

Hundreds of patients report using turmeric for a wide variety of health reasons — see what they have to say. Join the community for even more details on the treatments patients have tried and to learn and share about nutrition with your condition.

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Marijuana and MS: Get the scoop

Posted October 23rd, 2017 by

From legality to availability, recreational use and potential use as treatment, marijuana is a hot topic. In the MS forum, members are talking about marijuana and its potential to relieve symptoms of MS like pain, tremor and spasticity. We wanted to know more, so we asked our Health Data Integrity team to take a look at this topic. So, what is marijuana and how can it impact health and MS? Take a look.

First, a quick refresher: What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a mixture of dried flowers from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. The marijuana plant contains over 85 cannabinoids that are found in the leaves and buds of the female plant. Cannabinoids are classified as:

  • Phytocannabinoids: found in leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the plant.
  • Endogenous: made by the human body.
  • Purified: naturally occurring and purified from plant sources.
  • Synthetic: synthesized in a lab.

Cannabinoids create different effects depending on which receptors they bind to. These chemical compounds are responsible for marijuana’s effects on the body with the most common being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Different strains with different combinations and levels of the various cannabinoids along with different methods of consumption give users varied effects.

How does marijuana impact MS?

Despite currently available FDA-approved treatments, many patients with MS still have symptoms. Recent studies suggest treatment with smoked cannabis and oral cannabis extract may improve patient perception of pain and spasticity.

The American Academy of Neurology, conducted a literature review and released a guideline on the use of marijuana in MS patients. This guideline reviews a number of studies where marijuana is used for MS and the findings of this review include:

  • Oral cannabis extract and synthetic THC may be effective for reducing patient-reported symptoms of spasticity and pain, but not bladder symptoms and neuropathic pain.
  • Nabiximols (Sativex®), an oromucosal spray, may be effective in reducing patient-reported spasticity, pain, and urinary frequency, but not urinary incontinence, anxiety symptoms, sleep problems, cognitive symptoms, or fatigue. However, it is important to note that this agent is not currently approved for use in the US.
  • There isn’t enough evidence to fully determine the safety or effectiveness of smoked marijuana in treating any MS symptoms.

If you are interested in reading more studies involving the use of marijuana in MS patients, check out these resources:

  • Long term effects of Sativex® on cognition (click here for more information)
  • Smoked cannabis for spasticity (click here for more information)
  • Dronabinol and pain (click here for more information)

So, what is the takeaway?

While preliminary research shows that marijuana may improve symptoms in patients with MS, more extensive clinical trials are in progress to evaluate the safety, efficacy, and dose of cannabis for patients with MS.

One of these studies is currently recruiting participants to investigate the effects of medical marijuana usage on physical functions on MS patients. To find out if you qualify and the location of the study, click here for more information.

Long-term safety of marijuana use for symptom management for patients with MS is not fully known. So, patients should be aware of the pros and cons of this treatment option and discuss the use of medical marijuana with their healthcare provider. While there are benefits that marijuana may provide for patients, there are many side effects that may limit the use of this therapy.

Most common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory disturbance
  • Changes in mood

Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

Want to know more?

Sources:

https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/http://www.neurology.org/content/82/12/1083.full.pdf+htmlhttps://www.leafly.com/news/health/how-marijuana-affects-the-brainhttps://www.nationalmssociety.org/Treating-MS/Complementary-Alternative-Medicines/Marijuanahttps://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana/nih-research-marijuana-cannabinoids

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