If you think Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a rare disease, think again. Over 2.5 million people across the world have MS. Interesting fact here is MS is not as common in Indian subcontinent as in western countries.
Multiple Sclerosis affects the nervous system. This unpredictable disease upsets communication between various organs and the brain. Effects of this break in communication can be mild or destructive. Plaque deposits on nerve tissues, caused by MS, leads to destruction of the protecting covering of nerve cells – myelin. Symptoms of MS could be fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, break down in motor skills, inability to speak, walk or write, pain, tremors, mood disturbances, memory loss, loss of bladder control or heat sensitivity.
Causes of MS are not known although it is theorized that it could be due to environmental factors or genetics leading to this autoimmune disease. Hereditary causes, those living in cold northern latitudes for the first part of their lives, those in the ages of 18-45 or immune response genes are some of the risks of developing MS. There is no cure. Treatment could be using drugs, surgery, acupuncture, massage or alternative therapies.
Turmeric and Multiple Sclerosis
There have been numerous studies to test the efficacy of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant agent. Its neuroprotective abilities are said to provide benefits for Alzheimer’s disease, heal wounds, help in the treatment of various cancers, multiple sclerosis etc.
Curcumin is the key active ingredient in turmeric. Initial studies have found that curcumin could block progress of MS. In laboratory tests, mice where bred with illness resembling multiple sclerosis symptoms called EAE – experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. EAE also erodes the myelin sheath similar to multiple sclerosis. They were injected with 50-100 micrograms curcumin thrice a week for about a month and showed few signs of the symptoms. Animals not given curcumin developed severe paralysis within 15 days. The mice given 100 micrograms showed the least symptoms of MS throughout the study.
It was estimated that the dose given to the mice was the same as that consumed by an Indian in his or her daily diet. This could be the reason why autoimmune diseases are rarely found in countries like India and China where turmeric is widely used in cooking. The way that curcumin works to prevent multiple sclerosis could be by inhibiting manufacture of IL-12 protein, the main cause of damaging the myelin sheath. Feeding the mice with curcumin also dramatically reduced IL-17, IL-6, TGF-beta, IL-21, RORgammat and STAT3 expression. Production of TH 17 cells which causes various inflammatory diseases was inhibited.
Breakdown in immune system is the cause for autoimmune diseases like MS. Studies are increasing on using herbs to treat these diseases since they cause few side effects and are inexpensive. Curcumin in turmeric has long been touted as a chemical to combat autoimmune diseases since it can regulate inflammatory cytokines. Turmeric used in diets at low levels and for long periods does not cause any side effects. However large doses of turmeric supplements used for therapeutic purposes could crease side effects and hence must be used with caution.
According to some researchers curcumin could treat the pathophysiological progress of MS since it has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. MS damages the blood-brain barrier leading to injury of myelin sheaths and axons. Prophylactic treatment using turmeric could prevent this damage and prevent such damage. This could go a long way in preventing symptoms of multiple sclerosis before they appear.
As such there is no recommended dosage of turmeric for MS. This is true with most herbal supplements as they are never disease specific.
Capsules containing turmeric powder, fluids or tincture turmeric supplements are all commercially available. The dosage usually depends on the specific condition. Bromelain can improve the anti-inflammatory and absorption levels of turmeric and is often combined with this supplement. In fact 40mg thrice daily of bromelain is said to reduce inflammation and pain. 400-600mg thrice daily is the recommended dosage of standardized curcumin powder.
But I suggest using turmeric in your daily diet and not as a supplement. This ensures there is regular supply and also no overdose and related issues.
Since turmeric spice included in food does not cause any side effects, people are advised to use this as much as possible. Some people like those with diabetes, gallbladder problems and pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to avoid turmeric supplements. If you require surgery, avoid these supplements 2 weeks before the scheduled date since turmeric can slow down blood clotting. If taken in excess and for long periods, turmeric supplements could cause dizziness, nausea, diarrhea and indigestion. Always consult your doctor if you wish to include turmeric supplements to your treatment regime.