Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

The word cancer can strike fear in the hearts of many. It’s a devastating disease that can take a toll on an individual and their loved ones. There is another set of diseases that can cause as much devastation, but typically don’t receive the same amount of focus as cancer. This can result in a lack of preventative care, identifying symptoms and finding appropriate treatment. Autoimmune diseases are those where the body literally attacks itself because it sees itself as an intruder. Autoimmune diseases can be difficult to diagnose and go a long time without being detected. Multiple-Sclerosis, MS,  is one such disease whose devastating effects can last for decades before one succumbs to MS-related complications.

Once again, a disease that is believed to primarily affect whites actually affects more African-Americans. According to a 2013 study conducted by Kaiser Permanente published in the journal Neurology, black women were more susceptible to MS than white men and women.

What Is Multiple-Sclerosis (MS)?

MS is a disease that attacks the central nervous system. Signals are carried from and to the brain through a complex system of nerves, which are protected by a fatty sheath called myelin. The disease somehow triggers the erosion of myelin. Once myelin is stripped away a scar forms, not unlike when you cut yourself. The scarring is referred to as sclerosis. Scarring prevents and disrupts signals to and from the brain resulting in a variety of symptoms. The reason MS is considered to be an autoimmune disease is because it is believed the body itself is attacking its own myelin.

Signs, Symptoms and Diagnosing Multiple-Sclerosis (MS)?

Unfortunately, MS can be hard to spot because the symptoms could be attributed to any number of things. MS is a differential diagnosis. This means that a doctor will rule out other possible diseases before arriving at a diagnosis of MS. Symptoms can include fatigue, walking difficulty, tingling/numbness, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, bladder control, depression, emotional changes, etc. MS can often be mistaken for Lyme Disease, brain tumor, Syphilis, and HIV among several other conditions. This is why it’s critical to have a thorough exam to determine MS so the appropriate treatment is administered.

Causes of Multiple-Sclerosis (MS)?

While scientists are not able to say there is a definitive cause of MS, there are several theories. Aside from familial predisposition, MS has been connected in research studies to the consumption of aluminum and artificial sweeteners. It has also been connected with leaky gut syndrome. The highly-simplified underlying assumption of these theories is that MS is a symptom of aluminum and/or artificial sweetener poisoning. It’s thought that these substances attack the nervous system directly. Remove these substances and the progression of myelin erosion will slow. Unfortunately, once it has started, it doesn’t stop. The theory behind leaky gut syndrome is that because foreign objects, i.e. food, are passing into the blood stream through holes in the gut, it causes the body to attack. Eventually, the body can’t tell what is and isn’t foreign and turns on itself. One school of thought says that we are all born with MS or other autoimmune diseases,  it is what we do that triggers them to advance.

It’s Not a Death Sentence, but it is a Life Sentence

I lost my father to end-stage MS after 20 years with the disease. He was diagnosed in 1995 at age 41 when he was suddenly struck blind and paralyzed. He literally woke up one morning unable to see or move. Both his sight and mobility returned, but not without severe damage. His dream job of being a special events photographer was over. Slowly, over time, he was confined to a wheelchair, then to bed, and then the muscles in his throat atrophied. He was gone within weeks thereafter. I believe, had he made critical changes to his lifestyle, he would still be here today. He had a slow-progressing form of MS.

It can be difficult to know where to go for help. One of the biggest champions for living with MS is Montell Williams, who has lived with the condition for nearly two decades. People are living a long time after an MS diagnosis, especially with new medications and radical lifestyle changes. Again, while there’s no definitive proof that aluminum, artificial sweeteners, or leaky gut syndrome lead to auto-immune diseases such as MS, there is no definitive proof it doesn’t. There is no harm in cutting use of these things out of your life. Aluminum is consumed indirectly through antiperspirant and food/beverage containers such as foil or soda cans.

From experience my best advice to seek medical care from a physician who specializes in treating MS and surround yourself with a strong, loving community. Engage in radical lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and plenty of rest.

What You Can Do

Don’t wait for a diagnosis. Starting today use glass, steel or BPA-free containers to store food/beverages. Ditch the aluminum-containing antiperspirant, which has also been linked to breast cancer. Avoid artificial sweeteners altogether and heal your leaky gut. Even in 2017 there is little research into how many diseases, conditions, and medications impact African-Americans differently than our white counterparts. Much of this is due to a lack of focused study in the community. Clinical trials tend to focus on the white population. But also, given the medical atrocities committed against the black community, many of us opt out. But because of this, we often go un/under-diagnosed, un/under-treated and die in greater numbers with the same diseases that impact white people.

There is a current study being conducted by the Multiple Sclerosis Genetic Project to identify the markers of Multiple Sclerosis. Read more about it and decide if it is something you would like to participate in. Visit the National MS Society web page for more resources, including a symptom tracker and how to live with a diagnosis. If you found this information useful, please share with family and friends. Please take a moment to share this post, mention #BlackEVEolution, and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Google+. We know you’re looking for more great content like this. Connect with us now to receive original and informative content that will help you be healthy, wealthy, wise and woke.

Nile Harris
Nile Harris, the Chief Chick, is a word weaver and dream believer with 20 years of experience in healthcare, finance, and education. This aspiring motivational speaker, TED presenter and LinkedIn Influencer is committed to valuing people, driving healthcare access and innovation, and weaving words that move people to action. Her views are her own.
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