Do Natural Remedies Really Help With MS Symptoms?
Last updated: December 2023
While a lot of Facebook ads can feel like spam or clickbait, some can be helpful and thought provoking. I saw one the other day that shared 9 remedies that are supposed to help tame MS symptoms. The remedies fell under the category of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which can be used in addition to traditional medicine to treat illnesses such as multiple sclerosis.
Natural remedies that have worked for my MS symptoms
It made me think about complementary therapies that I’ve found particularly helpful. Let me share them with you:
Supplements for managing bladder health
My first symptoms of MS were urinary. I couldn’t initiate flow, I couldn’t empty, and I always felt urgency. Forty five years later, those are STILL the most bothersome symptoms I have, and why a urologist is one of the most important members of my team of healthcare providers. I have been on several prophylactics for frequent urinary tract infections, but at my advanced age, I was having more infections and the prophylactics were no longer effective.
My current urologist referred me firmly to a local practitioner of pelvic floor therapy. This fine nurse practitioner taught me several helpful exercises, but in particular, she suggested I use several supplements. At the nurse practitioner’s suggestion, I started using Uqora, a system of D-Mannose supplements that are meant to help with urinary issues.
Additional treatment for managing bladder health
Unfortunately at my advanced age and solid postmenopausal status, Uqora wasn’t enough to prevent every urinary tract infection, and the nurse practitioner offered another, very solid aid to preventing recurrent UTIs. That was the use of vaginal estrogen cream. After menopause, a woman’s vaginal tissues thin and dry out, making intercourse more painful, and making UTIs more frequent. That is where vaginal estrogen comes in. You can apply the cream directly to the genital tissues to help make intercourse more comfortable and prevent recurrent UTIs.1-3
Since I started using Premarin as a vaginal cream applied three times a week, I have been UTI free!
I was a total couch potato until I lost the use of my left leg to a nasty exacerbation in 1992. It took 9 months of 3 times a week physical therapy to be able to even bend my left leg, much less use it. I wish I could tell you that physical therapy converted me to being a regular exerciser, but it didn’t. This is despite the fact that I have learned to walk 3 times in physical therapy.
What made me a regular exercise nut was working with a personal trainer in 1998, when I wanted to lose some serious weight. By 2000, I weighed what I had weighed when I married in 1972, and I was a total exercise hound! In the 23 years since, I have worked with a personal trainer at least 3 times a week.
Yoga and stretching
When I was evaluated for MS, the neurologist who made the final diagnosis told me about the benefits of yoga and stretching. He even referred me to a specific yoga practitioner, and I joined her class. The first day I participated, there was a young man in the class who was using a wheelchair. He and the rest of the class, all of whom had MS, went through a sequence of various asanas and breath work.
Forty-five years of doing yoga and I still am not all that flexible. Your body is always your body. Yoga helps you to accept it, to do the poses with attention and forgiveness, and to relax into what your body wants to do with the practice.
A lot of what challenges us the most when living with a chronic illness is the loss of identity. Who are we, now that we are permanently sick? Who are we now that we no longer recognize ourselves? Not to mention, how do I learn to live with constant pain, insomnia, and the inability to do what I used to do routinely, like walk, or work, or play tennis?
That is what psychotherapy is all about. You can talk with a therapist to learn a particular skill, like falling asleep and staying asleep, or you can spend decades finding out who you are and what made you that way. I spent a long time in therapy, and I am very glad I did the psychological work of self-discovery and self-acceptance.
Some mentioned using oral cannabis extract, and this is as good a spot as any to discuss my adventures with cannabis and its various forms. THC does not agree with me at all, and I don’t like its effects. I do however, react very well to CBD, and have used CBD gummies for years to work with my insomnia.
There is something about working with someone who has undergone extensive training to manipulate your muscles, tendons, and bones, to loosen and relax the way you’re put together, that is deeply relaxing and soothing. When I was driving a car, my neck muscles had the tensile strength of steel cables and my massage therapist used her thumbs to unclench my neck on a regular basis. One of the great pleasures of not driving anymore is not having cello strings going up the side of my neck.
Once a month, I visit my chiropractor and he leans on my skeleton, and, in my favorite move, lifts my skull off its atlas, twists it slightly until it makes a loud POP! And resets it. I feel liberated! Unfortunately, given the structure, it doesn’t last long, but the adjustment is worth it.
These complementary medicines are how I manage a quiet case of MS. I have almost no exacerbations these days, but I do live with the damage that was done during the 22 years I had MS before I started using a Disease Modifying Therapy (DMT).
In the comments, let me know what complementary therapies you use to feel better! Thanks for reading!
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: