The National MS Society replied to my October, 2014 letter in a manner that further concerns me about their true mission as a non-profit support organization. You can find a link to their reply attached.
Nutrition: Complementary and Alternative – OR – Functional and Therapeutic?
In my letter last October, 2014, I expressed concerns that the NMSS is not appropriately supporting the potential of nutritional therapies as a means to manage, and indeed for some, heal from the symptoms of MS.
In their reply, they categorize nutrition-based therapies along with “complementary and alternative therapies” (CAM), stating that many of these therapies “may actually pose significant risks by producing significant side effects”.
I’m very disappointed that this otherwise helpful, hopeful, and supportive organization wants their constituents to be wary that nutrition is risky, unsafe, and might make you worse.
While nutritional therapies often are categorized as “alternative”, they are also a lynchpin to the philosophies of The Institute for Functional Medicine started by Dr. Jeffrey Bland in 1990[i]. IFM trains and certifies medical doctors in Functional Medicine that includes education in biochemical individuality, using nutrition as medicine, and treating chronic disease by investigating the root cause, not just trying to eliminate symptoms[ii].
The thinking across the field of medicine is changing so rapidly that medical schools are actively introducing Functional Medicine courses into their curriculum and residency programs[iii]. According to their web site, thousands of practitioners from 92 different countries are participating in IFM’s training.
Perhaps it is just mincing words, but I think it’s time to re-categorize “nutrition” as therapeutic, foundational and functional, not simply “complementary”.
“Significant Risks” of CAM Therapies
Back to the reply from the NMSS…..
Their letter mentions the “significant risks” posed by complementary and alternative therapies. I can’t argue the point that all therapies and treatments are good for everyone, they’re not. But when considering this, we also have to look at the health risks that exist in individuals who are trying to manage disease symptoms on top of other common co-morbidity factors that a nutrition-based program would address, such as malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies, malabsorption, or Dysbiosis.
Another important consideration is the side effects from prescription medications used to treat disease symptoms. There are times when it is worth the risk of side effects from drugs to take advantage of the benefits they offer. There are also appropriate circumstances for focusing on the nutrition status of an individual to identify what deficiencies or excesses might exist and how they contribute to disease.
Clinical Trials Show Us the Way
I’d like to mention one other critical point mentioned in the NMSS’ reply to my letter regarding clinical trials.
“The only way to evaluate a treatment’s safety is to evaluate
it in a large number of people over a sufficient period of time.”
The National MS Society, Feb.2015
If clinical trials are the best way to determine the safety and effectiveness of a particular treatment, I say, great, let’s do it!
How about a clinical trial for nutritional therapy?
Why not evaluate a nutrition-based treatment in a “large group of people over a sufficient period of time”? Obviously a pharmaceutical company is not going to fund such research, but I think a large percentage of the growing MS community would be extremely grateful if the NMSS directed some funding dollars to this cause. Who knows, it might just change the direction of treatment protocols, and eventually the course of the disease.
Hopefully the day will arrive soon when paradigms, policies, and politics change to broaden the approach to research so it can include complementary or functional therapies that show promise for disease management.
Until then, my hope for everyone suffering with Multiple Sclerosis or any chronic disease, is that you:
- keep an open mind about the options available to you
- do your own research, educate yourself
- stay active and engaged in ongoing decisions regarding your medical care
- and most importantly, remain hopeful about your future
Wishing you health and happiness!
[i]The Institute for Functional Medicine (2015). Retrieved 3/6/15 from www.functionalmedicine.org/AboutFM/Initiatives/
[ii] The Institute for Functional Medicine (2015). Retrieved 3/6/15 from www.functionalmedicine.org/AboutFM/Education/
[iii] The Institute for Functional Medicine (2015). Retrieved 3/6/15 from www.functionalmedicine.org/AboutFM/Initiatives/ACMed