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Adventures In Acupuncture IX

Could it be THAT simple?

It seems almost too easy, yet intuitively true.  It also answers some nagging questions I've had in my own research.  But first, a little review...

I was diagnosed with MS about 2 1/2 years ago after going completely blind in a matter of minutes, while feeling like I had a severe flu (energy crashed, joint pain, etc.).  Since then, I've been on a mission to figure out what happened and more specifically, what can be done to fix it?

In short, multiple sclerosis is defined as a neurological problem, where the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath (insulation) on the nerves, causing plaques that more or less short-circuit the electrical signals.  This, in turn, causes all sorts of problems with muscle cramps, sensory loss, 'pins and needles' sensations, loss of balance/vision/hearing, cognitive dysfunction, and the list goes on.

Research shows that MS primarily affects northern Europeans, with a slightly higher occurrence in women than men.  First major symptoms tend to cluster around the age of 40, or so, though in many cases, lesser symptoms may show up beginning shortly after puberty.  It is not known what causes MS or triggers the first attacks.  There is evidence that supports both genetic and environmental causes.  There is no generally accepted cure and only a few treatments to control symptoms.

I was not interested in controlling symptoms.  I wanted to get at the cause and remediate the damage already done.  I was focused on nerve damage and the immune system, which is why I chose acupuncture, as a means to stimulate the nerves and reduce the various pains from that problem.  I also began a program of vitamins and supplements, in conjunction with dietary modification.  I cut out all MSG and carefully noted any positive or negative changes when I ate certain foods.

I noted that very spicy foods and overheating in the sun caused an increase in cloudiness in my vision.  Eating cassava root caused a major decline in brightness.  Both of these things lasted up to 24 hours, then subsided.

I began acupuncture, and this column, to test the modality for effective relief.  I found that it did increase my color vision and brightness, but played hell with my focus.  I definitely relieved muscle spasms, pins and needles, balance issues, sinus problems, and various other complaints related to neuro-muscular problems.  It was very effective to a point, but then it leveled off, and it certainly wasn't a cure.  For the neuro-muscular problems, reflexology massage is a helpful adjunct to acupuncture.  It offers a number of benefits that enhance what acupuncture has to offer.

Dr. Paolo Zamboni
All of this was helping manage the symptoms without nasty pharmacological pill-popping, and a lot cheaper, too.  But, it wasn't getting to the root cause.  That's when one of my readers, Larry, sent in a link to a story about Dr. Paulo Zamboni, who is having some remarkable success in treating folks with MS.

Zamboni's wife was stricken with MS and it prompted him to research the issue, looking for a cure.  That 73% of his patients are symptom-free after two years argues that he found at least part of the answer.

Zamboni reasoned that MS was caused by poor circulation in the brain, which was itself a result of blockage in certain veins caused by excessive iron in the blood.  Seems that excess iron causes a large number of free radicals to be produced in the body.  In turn, that oxidizes cholesterol in the blood, which makes it 'sticky'.  The sticky cholesterol binds to the walls of veins and arteries, causing plaques that cause strokes, heart disease and dozens of other problems.

Zamboni performs a simple angioplasy, and POOF!  Symptoms go away.

Well, that sparked a whole line of inquiry for me.  It resonated with something a friend had told me years ago, that a lot of Celtic folks get non-rheumatoid arthritis because of high iron content in the blood.  Seems the Celtic race doesn't have a way to easily get rid of excess iron, which builds up in the body and leads to arthritis, cancer, stroke, heart disease, and a dozen other health problems.

Here's where the eureka moment came in.  Too much iron is called hemochromatosis.  It's an actual disease, and it's hereditary, but it has environmental triggers.  It usually strikes in middle age  I causes all sorts of problems, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and so on.

What Zamboni figured out was that high iron in the brain from bad drainage was causing small tears in the arteries and veins that were allowing the immune cells to escape and start gnawing on the nerves.  By opening up the veins from the brain, he improved circulation, the arterial walls healed and the nerves were able to start repairing.

If we put multiple sclerosis and hemochromatosis side by side, the common factor seems to be too much iron in the blood.  They both have elements of genetic and environmental causes.  They both affect multiple systems in the body.  They both favor northern Europeans, and they both have onset of major symptoms in middle age.  The only difference seems to be that hemochromatosis favors men, and multiple sclerosis favors women.  Could it be that the symptomology varies by gender?

So, this opens up a simple blood test that will tell me the next step.  I just need to check the iron levels in my blood. If they are elevated, then I could be on to something here.  The only problem is there's no pill or supplement or treatment to get rid of the excess iron.  The best and, really, the only way to bring it down to normal is positively medieval.  Blood-letting.

Forturnately, there's a modern form of blood-letting that is not only more sterile, but uses the resulting blood to save other lives.  It's called donating blood, and I can do that once every couple of months.

Unfortunately, I need to also cut back on high iron foods in my diet, and eliminate supplements that have iron in them.  In fact, the only supplement that the literature talks about for this condition are strong anti-oxidants.  Seems all that iron is a major cause of free radicals in the body, which is where all the other health problems come from.

Celtic Warrior
The supplements don't bother me, but cutting out steak, dark green leafy vegetables, pork, and pate de fois gras puts a pretty massive hole in my comfort foods.  The other problem is cutting out soy, which in Asia is all but impossible. Hell, just the MSG problem keeps me running in circles.

At any rate, I have a new course of action, in addition to Dr. Cigarettes (see AIA VIII).  I'll get a blood test next week and we'll see where to go based on that.

Could all this be as simple as too much iron in the blood?  And could the solution be as elegant as donating blood and a regular basis?

Stay tuned!

This is part 9 of an on-going series of articles about the use of acupuncture in treating the effects of multiple sclerosis, especially blindness.  See Part 1 herePart 2 herePart 3 herepart 4 herePart 5 herePart 6 here, Part 7 here, and Part 8 here.  The standard Western medical approach gave no hope for recovery, and the use of life-long drugs (with distasteful side-effects) offered a ‘possible’ protection from further attacks.

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